Are Software Architects Masters of the IT Universe?
If you're looking for new marketable IT certifications to add to your portfolio, then Florida-based Foote Partners has you covered. The IT analyst firm sifted through their data from the previous year and selected 10 champion certifications they expect to continue to gain market value this year.
Judging by the ordering of the list, if you were to knock on their door and ask for a career with legs, they would want payment up front. Once you had paid, however, they might tell you to go for Open Group Certified Architect. Or, if you prefer, Open CA.
Right now, this certification focuses mostly on a crucial but often-overlooked profession, the software architect. Chances are, if you're a software developer you've worked under a software architect of some kind or other, even if they weren't formally recognized by that title. They're the big picture people, the blueprint-pushers, the ones who hand out assignments and set standards. If the average developer is a construction worker, the software architect is ... well, the architect.
Architects are most commonly found in the development of multi-tier applications. It's common for bigger dev teams to be broken down into smaller teams with unique assignments. In these circumstances, It's the architect's job to ensure that everybody is operating on the same standards, using the same tools, and that everybody's piece of the puzzle will fit in perfectly — and that takes planning. A good architect can be invaluable to an overwhelmed project manager, taking the application and breaking it into smaller chunks that the dev team can swallow without choking.
It's also the architect's job to see that the dev team never duplicates work. The architect is expected to know and understand the applications inside-out, so that if all or part of an application can be used elsewhere, it will be. Good architects will pay for themselves this way, saving the company time and money by knowing when to develop new applications and when to recycle.
It's a valuable, powerful, white-collar position with plenty of room for growth, and it's been on the rise for a while now. In 2013, CNN Money ranked this position as the third best job in America, coming in behind Clinical Nurse Specialist and Biomedical Engineer (and with a median salary of $121K, it pays quite a bit better). For the experienced tech looking for the ladder up, all that's left is to know where to start.
Most likely, you'll start as a developer. Because architects oversee application development, it's always best if they have a firm grasp of the development process, as well as the code itself. If you don't program, then this might not be the right career for you.
An architect should also be familiar with the architectural "patterns" specific to their specialty, whatever that may be. A pattern is a reusable solution to a common problem, so in this way architects are responsible for helping their projects avoid potholes.
Finally, a savvy aspiring architect should arm himself (or herself) with as many certifications as possible. Luckily, there are a few to choose from. The previously-mentioned Open CA is a fairly prestigious one, with three attainable levels of certification; Certified, Master and Distinguished. These do have experience requirements: two years for Certified and, three for Master. Open Group provides a useful guide to getting the certification here.
EACOE also offers architect certifications, as do IASA ( also know as IASA Glober and formerly billed as the International Association for Software Architects), IBM, Cisco, and Red Hat.