Becoming a Desktop Architect: Job Description & Salary Information

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A desktop architect can make a salary of around $101,000 or more. Are the education and training requirements worth it? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a desktop architect is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Desktop Architect

Also known as systems architects, desktop architects provide technical expertise to organizations' computer users. Take a look at the pros and cons associated with this type of career to decide whether or not it's a good fit for you.

PROS of a Desktop Architecture Career
Potential to work from home*
Fast job growth*
Consulting opportunities available*
Opportunities to advance quickly*
High salary potential**

CONS of a Desktop Architecture Career
Several years of experience needed for most positions*
Prone to repetitive stress injuries or eyestrain*
Travel to clients' locations may be necessary*
Outsourcing could hamper job availability*
Requires learning new technologies to stay competitive*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Salary.com

Job Description, Salary and Career Info

As a desktop architect, you'd largely be responsible for analyzing, migrating and implementing computer applications, systems and network configurations to desktop client machines. You might deploy new software for existing systems, build workstations for end users or design enterprise-wide access profiles through technologies such as Citrix or Microsoft's Remote Desktop. You could need to ensure the security of computer networks, design mobile access for multiple platforms, analyze business technology needs and monitor system performance. In this role, your job duties could overlap with business analysts, network administrators, database designers, application engineers and desktop support specialists.

Job Growth and Salary

Though no single career option found in the BLS Occupational Outlook Handbook covers the full scope of a desktop architect job, it does offer projections for other related positions. For example, computer support specialist jobs were anticipated to increase 17% from 2022-2022, adding 123,000 new jobs over that decade. Additionally, the BLS expected nearly 128,000 new jobs would be created for computer systems analysts over the same period, resulting in a 25% growth in jobs. Computer network architect jobs were predicted to increase 15%, about 21,000 new jobs being created during the 2012-2022 decade.

Like job outlook, several occupational titles could apply to the job of a desktop architect, though the compensation you might earn could be substantial. In July 2015, Salary.com reported the median salary for application systems architects was about $101,000. Additionally, enterprise infrastructure architects, which would likely include both network architects and desktop architects, as well as systems architects earned a median income of about $115,000 at the time.

What Do Employers Look For?

A bachelor's degree in a related major is usually necessary, though employers place significant value on experience. Many require you have 4-10 years of experience to qualify for a desktop architect position. You could need familiarity with specific technologies, such as mobile computing, certain platforms or data migration. However, some of the most common technologies you'll need knowledge of include Microsoft's System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), network and data security, remote computing, Active Directory and virtualization.

A few relevant majors that can introduce you to some of these technologies include computer science, networking and telecommunications, information technology and computer engineering. These programs can familiarize you with such topics as computer architecture, database management, systems analysis and programming languages. Some schools might offer internship opportunities where you can gain practical experience in a real-world environment.

Useful Skills

In addition to technical skills and knowledge in particular technologies, many employers look for candidates with a proficiency in the soft skills. Proven organization, interpersonal communication and customer service abilities give insight into your compatibility with a particular organization or group. To show prospective employers you have a mastery of the soft skills necessary to complement your technical know-how, consider providing examples in the following:

  • An instance where you worked effectively as part of a team
  • A situation that required you to make critical decisions to solve a problem
  • A project where you analyzed and reported on a business/technical need
  • A strategy that you planned, documented and presented
  • An assignment that showcased your leadership and visionary skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

Your interests are usually going to dictate the types of desktop architecture jobs you apply for. While we've covered some common qualifications in both technical and soft-skills areas, here are some examples of specific abilities and knowledge employers looked for in February 2012 job posts:

  • A mining company in Phoenix wanted a desktop architect who could design enterprise-wide roadmaps that met the needs of the organization's strategy, its technical applications and business requirements.
  • A Philadelphia-area chemical manufacturer looked for a lead desktop architect with project management skills and five years of experience to help implement the use of mobile technologies for end users.
  • A company in Washington, DC, required a desktop architect with a bachelor's degree and at least ten years of experience to provide technical support for Windows 7.
  • A computer software services firm in Connecticut advertised for a desktop architect with significant knowledge of Citrix, virtualization, Active Directory and scripting.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

Earning certification could be as valuable as the technology education you receive in college. Though most credentialing organizations or vendors don't require any formal preparation for certification testing, acquiring a solid understanding of the comprehensive mechanics, theories and practical applications of a particular technology is necessary to pass a certification exam. A few credentials relevant to a desktop architect might include Microsoft's Certified Technology Specialist in its System Center application, the Citrix Certified Integration Architect offered directly from the vendor, or the Certified Associate, Support Professional or Technical Coordinator designations provided by Apple.

Other Careers to Consider

Though the job of a desktop architect could be lucrative and provide a variety of job duties, if you'd be more interested in mastering a single area, a few alternative job options could also offer a high salary potential, great job outlook and use much of the same knowledge and many of the same skills as a desktop architect position.

Computer Systems Analyst

If your academic background is closer to business, you could apply your business acumen to the technical field as a computer systems analyst, business analyst or technology analyst. In this type of job, you'd help organizations assess and implement the computer hardware and software that could meet their business needs. You'd also evaluate and revise existing information systems to make them more efficient and cost effective. Typically, employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree, but some positions require a master's degree. The BLS reported that the average salary for this job was $81,250 in 2010 and projected a 20% growth in job opportunities between 2008 and 2018.

Computer Software Engineer

If you'd like to develop business solutions, working as a computer software engineer allows you to design and create applications or systems software. Unlike a simple programming job, you'd work with systems analysts to determine a business need and develop an application to improve productivity, efficiency, and essentially, profitability. You'll find that a 4-year degree in computer science, mathematics or software engineering is required for most positions in this field. The BLS expected an increase of 32% in jobs during the 2008-2018 decade and stated that the average salary in 2010 was nearly $98,000.

Network and Systems Administrator

You could qualify for an administration position with a bachelor's degree in a technology field, though an associate degree and/or professional credentials could be sufficient for these jobs. In the role of a network or systems administrator, you'd manage the access, traffic and security of your company's systems, connectivity and data. You could maintain a small office network with a single server connecting a few PCs or a global enterprise comprised of hundreds of servers, thousands of networked clients and numerous applications. The BLS predicted a 23% increase in jobs for network and computer systems administrators from 2008-2018 and estimated the average salary in 2010 at $72,200.

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Featured Schools

Kaplan University

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • BBA: New Media and Internet Marketing
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

American National University

  • Network Administration - Associate

What is your education level?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Computer Science
  • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
  • AA: Information Technology
  • AA: Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Systems Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

South College

  • Associate of Science in Network Administration & Security

What is your highest level of education completed?

The Art Institutes

  • Computer Animation (MFA)
  • Web Design & Interactive Media (BFA)
  • Web Design & Interactive Media (AAS)
  • Web Design & Interactive Communications (C)
  • Web Design & Development (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?