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How to Become a Database Architect

Do you love building databases? Can you model and predict changes in an organization? As a data architect, you will need to take data from multiple sources and then combine those sources into a more cohesive, easier-to-use framework. After this, you’ll develop the systems to store and manage that data. 

Other responsibilities include designing and managing data systems, setting policies for how data is stored and accessed, coordinating various data sources within an organization, and integrating new data technologies into existing IT infrastructures. You will need strong mathematical skills, data visualization skills, and data modeling skills. Occasionally, you may need to be able to code. If you have all of these skills, consider becoming a database architect.

Sample job description

Database architects use their analytical and organizational skills to develop and implement databases for their respective businesses. These architects must develop an understanding of what it is the business is looking for, and set up ways to store, organize, and access the data needed for vital day-to-day activity. Are you an excellent organizer? Can you visualize and anticipate the needs of others? If so, [Your Company Name] is looking to hire a talented database architect! These architects use their proficiency with applied math and statistics in combination with applicable programming skills like fluency in SQL, Python, and Java. Together, in combination with these hard technical skills, these architects use soft skills to develop a better understanding of the needs and pain points of their clients to develop the perfect software solution needed.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Provide development and administration support for various databases, primarily SQL server databases, in a client-server development environment including stored procedures and triggers, SQL, and index performance tuning, and database design and file storage
  • Develop, deploy, and maintain Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) scripts and schedules
  • Develop and implement all database indexing, maintenance, back-up, transformations, and stored procedures
  • Expose data to application in various business tiers
  • Assist software developers in implementing appropriate data access permission schemas
  • Participate in the refinement and development of user stories, assessing the impact of new development on current database implementation
  • Communicate with technical and product owner stakeholders to help them anticipate and mitigate configuration management issues

Education and experience

A bachelor’s degree in MIS, information technology, computer science, or data analysis, and multiple years of development experience in an Oracle or Microsoft SQL Server database environment, are required for this position.

Hands-on work experience in database design, architecture, development, and production support for enterprise applications are strongly preferred.

Required skills and qualifications

  • Experience developing reports using Crystal Reports or SQL Server Reporting Services
  • Experience using database tools such as TOAD, Oracle’s SQL Developer, or MS SQL Server Management Studio
  • Knowledge of developing analytic reports and dashboards using Microsoft Power BI or other similar tools
  • Excellent command of the SQL language with the ability to write and optimize complex queries
  • Solid knowledge of relational database architecture and concepts

Preferred qualifications

  • Passionate about technology and delivering solutions in integrated data environments
  • Current on event processing, Data API, and recent emerging data technologies
  • Strong database architecture, engineering, and design skills

Typical work environment

Database architects work in an office environment, sometimes with a team. They should expect to spend many hours seated at a computer working and occasionally having meetings in an office environment to discuss client needs.

Light travel may be expected, but will vary based on circumstances. This position can be done remotely and adds more flexibility due to the opportunities for freelancers and agency workers.

Typical hours

The typical work hours in an office setting for a database architect are usually from 9 AM to 5 PM. Freelance workers are usually able to set their own workdays and hours.

Available certifications

As database architects work in a variety of industries, there are many institutions that offer certifications, including:

  • Cloudera Data Platform Generalist. This certification will verify proficiency within the general Cloudera platform. You’ll be tested on data administration, development, analysis, and architecture principles. This will give employers confidence you have a foundational understanding of the problems you’re being tasked with solving.
  • Amazon Web Services – Certified Data Analytics. AWS Certification verifies the user understands the intricacies of AWS data analytics, life cycle, and integration of one of the world’s most widely used services in the world. The candidate should generally have something close to 5 years of experience with data analytics and two years hands-on experience with AWS directly.
  • Data Science Council of America – Associate Big Data Engineer. Obtaining this certification demonstrates one’s understanding of popular data platforms such as Spark and Hadoop, and gives a foundational understanding of both proprietary and open-source tools like HiveQL, Hive, Hbase, and Pig.
  • DSCA – Senior Big Data Engineer. This certification builds on the previous ABDE foundation, demonstrating a high-level understanding of all things big data. By continuing this track one demonstrates a deep knowledge of database architecture, and the tools and languages associated with database management and administration.

Career path

Database architects usually have educational backgrounds in computer engineering, computer science, or related fields with coursework in application design, systems development, and information management. They also study subjects like computer programming, web development, operating systems, systems analysis, and technology architecture. Students are encouraged to take as many courses in database-related specialties, including Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SQL, and ETL as possible.

As students, people starting on the path to become a database architect do internships in IT fields where they can learn network management and application design. Database architect is not usually an entry-level position, so many candidates often begin their careers as database administrators and work on their skills database management, data modeling, and data warehousing.

It’s also important for a database architect to pursue professional certifications like the CDP (Certified Data Professional), offered by the Institute for Certified Computing Professionals. Other certifications are available based on specific database software platforms. Companies like Microsoft, IBM and Oracle offer certifications on the products they make, including Microsoft Certified Database Administrator (MCDBA), Microsoft MSCE Certified Data Management and Analytics, Oracle Database Certifications and IBM Certified Database Administrator – DB2.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1241

2020 Employment165,200
Projected Employment in 2030174,200
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 5% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift9,000 increase

Companies are increasingly looking for more sophisticated software scripts, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI) so they can get even more in-depth data about their businesses. Business owners are hoping that machine learning and AI can help them look at trends and anticipate the evolution of customers’ tastes and opinions.

Many organizations are transitioning to storing their data in the cloud, and creating plans for cloud migration is a growing trend in the database architecture and development field. Also, as organizations attempt to become more agile and responsive, they desire real-time analytics, which requires a database architect to design faster and more flexible systems.

According to a survey of subscribers to the trade publication Database Trends and Applications, database performance is becoming a more common concern for database architects and developers. In 2019, 64 percent of subscribers surveyed reported spending more time on database performance. Machine learning, the use of data lakes, and using data engines like Spark, are also becoming more common in the field.