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

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

A system architect is responsible for the design of a system, while a software engineer is responsible for the development and implementation of software within that system. Both roles are important in the creation of a functional system, but the responsibilities of each position differ. In this article, we compare the job titles of system architect and software engineer, discuss the responsibilities of each position and provide helpful tips for those interested in pursuing a career in either field.

What is a System Architect?

System Architects work with an organization’s stakeholders to design and implement information systems that solve business problems. They analyze the current system to identify inefficiencies and pain points, then they design a new system that will improve workflow and increase productivity. System Architects work with developers to create technical specifications for the new system and ensure that it meets all the necessary requirements. They also create a migration plan to move from the old system to the new one. System Architects typically have a background in computer science or engineering.

What is a Software Engineer?

Software Engineers design, develop and test software programs. They work with other software engineers and computer programmers to create new applications. They also work with customers or clients to determine what kinds of software programs they need and how to improve existing software. Software Engineers typically have a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field. They may also have experience with specific programming languages and software development tools.

System Architect vs. Software Engineer

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

Job Duties

Both systems architects and software engineers have similar job duties, such as researching user needs, creating system requirements and designing solutions. However, their job duties differ in scope. A system architect’s job responsibilities are more broad, while a software engineer focuses on specific aspects of the design. For example, a software engineer might create coding algorithms, while a system architect determines whether those algorithms are necessary. Another key difference is that a system architect typically oversees the entire implementation process, while a software engineer implements the systems they create.

Job Requirements

System architects and software engineers typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or another related field. Some employers prefer candidates to have a master’s degree as well, but it is not required for entry-level positions. Additionally, many system architects and software engineers pursue certifications through the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Computer Society or the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM). These organizations offer training programs that teach professionals how to use various software development tools and other technologies they might need on the job.

Work Environment

System architects and software engineers both work in office settings, but they may also travel to meet with clients or attend conferences. Software engineers often spend more time working on computers than system architects do because of the nature of their job. System architects typically have a lot of interaction with people, including clients, users and other stakeholders. They may also need to travel for meetings and presentations.


Both system architects and software engineers use technical skills to perform their jobs. System architects need to have a strong understanding of computer systems and how they work together, as well as an understanding of the business goals of their company and how those goals can be met through technology. They also need to be able to create models and diagrams to explain their ideas to other members of their team.

Software engineers also need to have a strong understanding of computer systems and how they work, but they focus more on the individual software applications that make up those systems. They also need to be able to code, test and debug software programs. In addition, software engineers typically work with project managers and other stakeholders to ensure that the software they are creating meets the needs of the people who will be using it.


The average salary for a system architect is $125,591 per year, while the average salary for a software engineer is $106,619 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of company you work for, your level of experience and your location.


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