Back to all articles

June 7, 2024 - 6 minutes

How to Become a Data Architect: A Career Guide

The Ultimate Guide to a Career in Data Architecture

Ironhack - Changing The Future of Tech Education

Data is an exceptionally valuable commodity so naturally, businesses are always looking to source, store, and analyze as much of it as possible. And with all this data to manage, there are a lot of essential job roles that demand skilled workers. 

Data analysts and data scientists are among the most prevalent, but what about data architects? These are the professionals who design, build, and manage a company’s data infrastructure. Their goal is to make sure data is handled in a way that is accessible, supports the objectives of the business, and abides by security regulations. 

The Role of a Data Architect

Let’s get into the finer details of what a data architect actually does. 

Day-to-day responsibilities 

The role is “named” architect for a reason; instead of designing buildings, a data architect creates and manages a company’s data infrastructure. Any data a business collects – be it customer information, transactional records, or results from employee engagement surveys – must be safely stored. 

A data architect designs and maintains this storage, such as databases, data warehouses, and any other solutions that are required. They spend a typical day mapping out data sourcing, movement, integration, and storage procedures. 

They also create policies for data usage and are responsible for making sure they are legally compliant. A data architect works with IT and other departments to achieve optimum data management and efficiency. 

Typical environments and industries in which data architects operate

Within any business that handles a lot of data, such as finance and healthcare, you’ll almost certainly find a data architect. Different environments place varying demands on this job. For example, the priority in healthcare is a high level of security, while finance requires speedy transactions. 

A data architect often works in tech companies, corporate offices, or remotely, collaborating with data science and analytics teams, as well as other connected stakeholders. They must be adaptable and able to work with different data management platforms and tools, integrating new technology solutions as needed to allow for maximum data accessibility and reliability. 

The challenges and rewards of a career in data architecture

A data architect is never done learning and developing, as it’s an area that is subject to constant change and innovation. Technological advancements are happening all the time and data regulations are regularly updated, which has an impact on data management. 

Cybersecurity threats are also an ongoing concern. As these concerns evolve, so must data architects adapt to protect the security of their organization's information. However, there is also much that's rewarding in a data architect's career. They make a significant contribution to an organization's success by supporting data-driven business decisions. 

Plus, they are a big part of the efficiency and performance of a business. For this reason, pay is usually competitive and there are a lot of opportunities for advancement in a data-intensive company.

Educational Pathways to a Data Architect Job

Whether you’re thinking about becoming a data architect as your first job, or want to pivot to a new career in tech, further education can give you the grounding you need. 

Bachelor’s degree

Not all companies will require an undergraduate degree, particularly in the tech industry where high-quality, targeted certifications are becoming increasingly accessible and well-regarded.

However, if you have time to take a more traditional route or want to gain broader skills, you might consider getting a Bachelor’s degree in a subject relevant to a data architect role. 

Fields like data science, computer science, and information technology will give you an overarching knowledge of data systems that will be beneficial. 

During your degree, focusing on these topics will help develop relevant analytical and data-handling skills:

  • Data modeling

  • Data structures

  • Database management systems

  • Mathematics

  • System analysis

  • Algorithms

  • Programming

  • Network theory

  • Statistics 

  • Machine learning

Master’s degree

A master’s degree is not essential to becoming a data architect, but it can certainly help advance your career and give you specialized knowledge that will expand your capabilities.

Studying data science or information systems would be the best option, as they will encompass advanced topics within data handling, governance, and security. 

Plus, they will provide the opportunity to work on practical projects that simulate the real-world challenges of data management. With this level of education, your job prospects will widen and you can reasonably expect a higher salary. 

Online platforms and institutions

There are many online platforms and institutions that offer courses and certifications that you can take at your own pace. These courses, in topics like data management and AI, are often designed and taught by experts in the field, giving you current and practical knowledge without having to commit to a full-time degree. 

Ironhack’s range of bootcamps prepare you for your dream data architect job in just three months. The information-packed virtual courses focus on the evolving needs of global tech companies and equip you with real-world skills for career development.

Acquiring the Necessary Data Architect Skills

We’ve covered education and the responsibilities of data architects, but what kind of skill set do they need? 

Technical skills

Database design and management are the core of a data architect’s job. They need to create efficient and scalable database schemas and have a thorough understanding of indexing. Plus, whether the data in question is sensitive customer financial information or personal data from internal processes like QR code attendance tracking, data integrity must be maintained. 

This requires proficiency in SQL to manage querying and relational databases effectively. Familiarity with programming languages such as Python and Java is also increasingly important, especially for automating data processes and integrating various data sources.

Expertise in data modeling is also a necessity, as data architects must construct data frameworks that fit perfectly to a business’s needs. This also extends to metadata management, where they will develop strategies to effectively catalog and maintain metadata so that all data operations run smoothly. 

Analytical skills

Data architects need to be able to analyze large amounts of data and get meaningful insights from the numbers. This means interpreting the patterns in the numbers, but also what the implications are for business strategy and operations. 

Add to this an understanding of machine learning algorithms, which will support a data architect’s ability to contribute to more advanced predictive analytics and automation projects within the company. Knowledge of how these algorithms work and their applications allows them to take raw data and use it to predict outcomes in the future. 

Soft skills

Being a data architect isn’t all technical. They also need to be good communicators, as they are often required to translate complex data-related concepts for colleagues who may not have a technical background. It is this ability that bridges the gap between data teams and decision-makers.

This is also a job that will test problem-solving skills and adaptability, as business needs, technology, and regulations will always change. A data architect’s ability to swiftly find solutions to unforeseen problems impacts the resilience and flexibility of an organization’s data infrastructure.

Gaining Practical Experience as a Data Architect

The next step to becoming a data architect is getting some hands-on experience. 

Internships and entry-level positions

An internship is a good place to start for an aspiring data architect. To find these opportunities, showcase your technical skills and enthusiasm for the field in applications, and actively network at industry events and online platforms like LinkedIn. 

Relevant entry-level positions include that of data analyst or database administrator, which will give you great experience in data handling and operations. Think of this first position as a stepping stone, once you’ve completed your onboarding document and got your first paycheck, you can focus on gaining the skills needed to progress into data architecture.

Building a portfolio

It's important to document projects and achievements in a portfolio to demonstrate your capabilities to potential employers. Include a variety of projects that display your skills in database design and data analysis. 

For each project, provide a concise description of the technologies you used and the impact of your work.

Advancing Your Data Architect Career

When you’ve got the education and skills for the job, it’s time to go out and find your data architect role. 

Landing your first role and career advancement

Be active on LinkedIn and attend industry events to make connections. You should also consider widening your search beyond geographical borders. The tech industry is global and many companies recruit remotely in different locations, so network with people far and wide on LinkedIn.

Pathways for growth within the field

When you've gained plenty of experience in a data architecture role, you can transition into senior positions such as chief data officer or data consultant. To get ready for higher responsibility, focus on developing your leadership qualities, learning everything there is to know about the industry, and contributing to data projects that have an impact on organization goals. 

Ready to Take Your First Steps as a Data Architect Professional?

Data professionals are in high demand right now and there are plenty of reasons to take the architecture path. You get to be a builder of the data world, creating the infrastructure to make sure this valuable commodity contributes maximum value to a business. 

It’s a job that requires a lot of skills and knowledge, but for all that investment in learning you can command a generous salary. It will also afford you a wealth of experience that will open doors for career progression. If you want to kickstart your career in data but you’re not sure where to begin, check out Ironhack’s Data Analytics Bootcamp.

Related Articles

Recommended for you

Ready to join?

More than 10,000 career changers and entrepreneurs launched their careers in the tech industry with Ironhack's bootcamps. Start your new career journey, and join the tech revolution!