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Software Architect vs. System Architect: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

A software architect is responsible for the design and development of software applications, while a system architect is in charge of the overall design of a system. Both roles are important in ensuring the successful creation of a product, but there are some key differences between the two. In this article, we discuss the similarities and differences between software and system architects, and we provide tips for those interested in pursuing a career in either field.

What is a Software Architect?

Software Architects design and oversee the development of computer systems and applications. They work with teams of programmers to create custom software solutions for clients or businesses. Software Architects typically have a strong understanding of multiple programming languages and development platforms. They use this knowledge to create software that is efficient, reliable and easy to use. Software Architects typically work in the computer science or engineering field and may have a bachelor’s or master’s degree in computer science or a related field.

What is a System Architect?

System Architects are responsible for the design and implementation of computer systems. They work with clients to understand their needs and then design systems that meet those needs. System Architects often oversee the development of these systems to ensure they are built according to the specifications. Once the systems are up and running, System Architects may also be responsible for maintaining them and making sure they continue to meet the needs of the client.

Software Architect vs. System Architect

Here are the main differences between a software architect and a system architect.

Job Duties

Both system and software architects have similar job duties, such as researching user needs, creating technical requirements and designing solutions. However, there are differences in the tasks they perform. A system architect typically focuses on the technical aspects of an assignment, while a software architect considers both technical and non-technical elements. For example, a software architect might research user behavior and make suggestions to improve the system architect’s design. Alternatively, a system architect might create detailed blueprints for the software developer to follow when building the system.

Job Requirements

System architects typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science or engineering, though some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree. These professionals might also benefit from pursuing certifications, such as those offered by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society or the Open Group Architecture Framework (TOGAF).

Software architects usually need a bachelor’s degree in computer science as well. They might also pursue a master’s degree or earn certifications to make themselves more attractive to potential employers. The IEEE Computer Society offers several software architecture certifications, including the Certified Software Development Professional (CSDP) and the Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA).

Work Environment

Software and system architects work in different environments. Software architects typically work in an office setting, where they collaborate with other software developers to create new programs for their company or clients. They may also travel to meet with clients to discuss the needs of a project and how best to address them. System architects often work in data centers, which are large facilities that house servers and storage devices. They monitor these systems to ensure they’re running properly and troubleshoot any issues that arise.


Both software architects and system architects use technical skills to perform their jobs. They need to have an understanding of computer science concepts, such as algorithms, data structures and programming languages. They also should be familiar with multiple operating systems and hardware platforms.

System architects typically focus on designing and developing enterprise-level systems, which can involve working with databases, middleware and network infrastructure. As a result, they may benefit from having skills in those areas. Software architects usually design and oversee the development of software applications. They may work with web technologies, mobile technologies or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

Both software architects and system architects use soft skills, such as communication, problem-solving and critical thinking, in their jobs. However, because software architects often work closely with developers, they may need to have stronger collaboration skills than system architects. Additionally, software architects may need to be more creative in their job because they are responsible for coming up with new ideas for software applications.


Software architects earn an average salary of $136,732 per year, while system architects earn an average salary of $125,591 per year. Both of these average salaries may vary depending on the size of the company at which you work, location of your job and the level of experience you have prior to pursuing either position.


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