What Does a Software Architect Do?

Software Architect is a role that does not necessarily rank above the role of Software Engineer. However, it does require a great deal of experience and technical knowledge. For this reason, it’s common for a Tech Lead or Senior Software Engineer to assume the role of Architect.

person skeptical about software architect

Unlike the name indicates, a Software Architect is not simply responsible for drawing a few diagrams and barking orders at a development team. Instead, a Software Architect is responsible for careful planning of the software solution and most aspects of the process.

  • Creating Code Style Guidelines
  • Participating in development and code reviews
  • Designing the various parts of the project and how they must interact
  • Considering the pros and cons of any possible pattern and which are applicable to the current solution

Are you a developer? Check out 3 Types API Every Developer Needs to Know.

Which Role Makes More Money?

A quick Google search tells you that the average is very similar. This goes without saying that the range is HUGE within both roles depending on the specific industry and employer.

I know several Software Engineers that are making nearly double the average salary. Based on experience and expertise in specific technology or industry, the sky is the limit.

One thing I’ve found is that a Software Engineer with the same amount of experience as an Architect will be making the same or even more! The average salary in this comparison is likely reduced because there are a ton of jobs titled “Software Engineer” that are entry-level. Very few entry-level Software Architect roles exist.

Software Architecture Mindset

Breadth of Knowledge vs Depth of Knowledge

A primary reason that a more experienced developer or Tech Lead qualifies to be a Software Architect is their breadth of knowledge. These topics are covered extensively in the book, Fundamentals of Software Architecture. When you are an expert in software for a long time, you experience things like:

  • Development Practices / Methodologies
  • APIs
  • Frameworks
  • Languages
  • Enterprise Design Patterns
  • Deployment Proceedures
  • etc…

Although an architect is not necessarily an expert on all of these different topics, they have been around long enough to know that something exists. Just knowing that there are different roads to take when designing a system is a huge benefit over a less experienced person.

More often a Senior Software Engineer will have a great Depth of Knowledge with a subset of technical areas. For someone who is a Java Developer you might expect them to know every nook and cranny of:

  • Spring Framework
  • Stream APIs
  • Managing JVM Resources
  • Apache Maven

At the same time, you might not even expect the developer to know about something like Flutter, ScyllaDB, or Kubernetes. Likewise, a Software Architect might not be as well versed in Java Libraries to parse XML data.

Interpersonal Skills

Software folk are often stigmatized as being non-social cube/office dwellers. Although this may be true in some cases, it’s not a trait that spans all software professionals. In fact, someone with these personality traits may not be suited for the role of Software Architect. Yet could accel as an Engineer or Tech Lead.

Not because they couldn’t handle the technical side, instead because, a huge part of designing a system requires constant communication with development teams, customers, and leadership.

Business Specific Knowledge

expert engineer

If you’re striving for a Software Architect role, a MAJOR advantage is having expertise in the industry that you serve. Because of this, you will see that in almost all cases a Software Architect will already know, or will need to learn all the ins and outs of their customer industry.

Imagine trying to design an application that is used by technicians who perform house visits, yet, the architect has no clue about mobile development, PWAs, or the constraints of spotty network availability.