Every business has IT needs unique to its industry and market. Translating business needs into information technology solutions is an IT architect and systems manager’s specialty. They provide technical leadership and consultation to an organization – usually starting at the top, with strategic decision making. IT professionals seeking a career as an IT architect and systems manager can obtain the specialized skills required through a Master of Science in Information Technology degree program.

Job Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects substantial employment growth for the category that includes IT architects and systems managers. Growth will occur as the complexity of technology – along with its use as a business tool – increases, spurring demand for IT architect and systems managers’ expertise. Those with specialized technical knowledge and advanced degrees should have the best job prospects.

Job Duties

As a senior-level IT professional, an IT architect and systems manager primarily designs information systems to be implemented according to an organization’s goals, needs and objectives. They establish a system’s basic structure, defining essential design features and providing a framework for developers to follow.

In the beginning stages of a project, the IT architect and systems manager will participate in a variety of activities, including: defining requirements; assessing server, storage and infrastructure sizing; analyzing hardware sizing to meet application requirements; and designing load balancing and clustering solutions according to architecture standards. They often are required to prepare architectural design documentation, including diagrams and inventories.

Throughout the life cycle of system implementation, the IT architect and systems manager will typically oversee building business plans, strategic direction, and standards for procedures and policies as they relate to IT systems architecture. They work with IT teams to ensure application requirements are understood and translated to technical solutions.

Other typical duties performed by an IT architect and systems managers are: collaborating with staff, users and senior management on establishing business goals; reviewing new and existing IT projects, systems designs and plans, and conducting research on emerging technologies to support changes in infrastructure. They often design, develop and supervise implementation of test plans and report findings, in addition to making recommendations to appropriate stakeholders.

IT architects and systems managers usually work in offices, and a 40-hour week is standard. Travel to industry conferences and trade shows, or to vendor locations or satellite offices could be required.

IT Architect and Systems Managers’ Potential Salary

According to national salary data on PayScale.com, as of January 2011, IT architects earned a median total annual income of about $108,450, with those in the 25th to 75th percentile earning between $89,018 and $127,883 in total pay.

PayScale.com data also indicated that earning a master’s degree can significantly impact earnings. In fact, based on 75th percentile salary figures, IT architects with a Master of Science degree earned approximately $125,020 per year, while those with a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science earned $114,272 per year – a differential of over 9%!

With additional experience, IT architect and systems managers can advance into roles of increasing responsibility, resulting in higher potential annual earnings. A sampling of executive IT salaries on PayScale.com in January 2011 showed that IT directors and chief IT architects in the 75th percentile of earners brought in approximately $131,266 and $164,239 per year, respectively.

The data show that top salaries generally go to those with the experience and advanced education to help businesses compete in a changing global environment.

Education and Training Requirements

Education requirements for IT architect and systems manager positions will vary by employer and industry; however, a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field is usually the minimum standard. Many employers show preference to candidates with master’s degrees or advanced training.

Enrolling in a Master of Science in Information Technology program is a great way to obtain the knowledge and advanced skills top employers want. Coursework typically includes project management for information technology, management of software systems, advanced management of information systems, and database systems management.

Employers can be confident that professionals who have earned an MS in Information Technology are able to:

  • Provide a high degree of team leadership through complex projects.
  • Develop information systems as strategic tools to help businesses compete in a global environment.
  • Analyze emerging technologies and make recommendations for adaptation.
  • Implement a process-based approach to meeting organizational goals.
  • Leverage advanced knowledge and skills to succeed as an IT architect and systems manager.

Essential Skills for Success in an IT Architect and Systems Manager Career

To achieve success as an IT architect and systems manager, you’ll need leadership abilities and strong communication skills to complement an aptitude for computer systems. Creativity, flexibility and adaptability will also serve you well in this career’s often-diverse environment. Enrolling in a Master of Science in Information Technology program could be the first step on the path to your successful career as an IT architect and systems manager.

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