Find out what skills and experience you need to work as a technical architect, a senior IT job that comes with lots of responsibility and high rewards
What is a technical architect?
If you want to combine your IT knowledge with elements of a managerial or leadership role, then you may want to consider becoming a technical architect.
You'll oversee small and large IT projects from start to finish, act as a vital link between managers and teams of designers and developers, and possibly have an input into an organisation's overall IT strategy and direction.
In most cases you'll work within the IT department of a large organisation, or for an IT firm that specialises in delivering assignments for business clients. The responsibilities of a technical architect include:
- working alongside managers or clients to agree their IT requirements
- identifying the hardware and software that will be needed
- explaining plans agreed with managers to designers and developers
- organising the workloads of the technical teams in the most efficient way
- monitoring progress of the project and ensuring it is completed on time
- reporting progress back to managers or clients
- carrying out some of the technical work, depending on your level of seniority
- checking IT systems work as intended
- advising and suggesting future IT developments to managers or clients.
Technical architects can earn anywhere between £30,000 and £80,000 per year depending on experience, with the possibility of higher salaries at senior levels. Jobs are available everywhere in the UK, with the majority in London.
You'll generally work standard office hours, but often with the expectation that you'll put in overtime or work weekends to ensure deadlines are met.
There is some crossover with the role of project manager, although these may work in other sectors such as construction, engineering or marketing.
Types of technical architect jobs
Technical architect is a general job title referring to the person who supervises an organisation's technical work. However, it can be divided into a number of more specific roles that fall within the same field. For example:
- Applications (or software) architects take the lead on individual parts of major IT projects and also carry out hands-on technical tasks.
- Solutions architects are more senior than applications architects and lead entire projects.
- Enterprise architects have overall responsibility for an organisation's IT strategy and direction.
- Infrastructure architects lead on projects involving hardware and infrastructure equipment.
Jobs advertised as 'technical architect' may combine some or all of these, depending on factors such as the size of the employer.
Bear in mind, though, these terms are not standardised across the IT sector. Always check adverts carefully to find out the details of a vacancy, as the duties and level of seniority involved can vary significantly even within the same job title.
What skills do technical architects need?
Technical architects must have a diverse range of skills. This is because the job combines both technical and managerial elements.
You'll need a broad and up-to-date knowledge of software applications, programming languages and hardware, as well as an understanding of quality standards, legislation and best practice in the IT industry.
For the most part you'll gain this knowledge over the course of your study and in your early career. Once you've moved into employment you should consider taking short courses that lead to professional qualifications in areas of particular relevance, such as Agile and ITIL methodologies. See IT training for an overview of your options.
In addition, you'll need advanced soft skills required for the management side of the job. In particular these include:
- Anticipating and solving problems - a key part of the role is seeing where problems might arise during an IT project and finding solutions before they go 'live' and disrupt the organisation.
- Communication skills - you'll need to be adept at listening to, understanding and explaining concepts to both managerial and technical colleagues.
- Dealing with pressure - technical architects have a lot of responsibility and you'll have to be able to deliver results in high-pressure circumstances.
- Prioritisation and time management - IT projects often have tight deadlines and missing them can have significant consequences for your organisation or client.
- Relationship-building - it's important to develop trust and understanding between the technical teams and managers or clients to ensure a project runs smoothly.
During your degree and early in your career, always keep in mind the skills that technical architects need. Take every opportunity to develop and gain evidence of these skills so you can use them later to persuade employers that you're ready to make the step up.
Qualifications and experience
Employers will expect you to have a degree or postgraduate qualification in a relevant subject, such as computer science, software development or business information systems. These courses will provide you with the necessary technical knowledge. Search for postgraduate courses in computer sciences and IT.
However, you're unlikely to walk into a job as a technical architect straight after leaving university. As mentioned, this is a more senior role and it therefore requires you to spend time building up experience of working in the IT sector.
Get your career started by looking for vacancies in areas such as systems development, programming or testing. You'll be able to climb the career ladder from there. Search for information technology jobs.
After making it to technical architect, you could then go on to become a senior architect or move into IT consultancy.