It may not be enough to call yourself a technology architect. To get that $100,000-plus salary, you may soon have to prove you deserve it.
If you call yourself a technology architect, you may soon have to show proof. New professional certification programs from Microsoft and the Open Group consortium aim to set standards for distinguishing the skills and experience levels of professional technology architects.
This move toward professional certification of architects is welcome at Hewlett-Packard, says Tony Redmond, CTO of HP Services. In fact, HP, a member of the vendor-neutral consortium Open Group, plans to encourage the 1,000 architects in its services organizations to get certified over the next few years.
Nine HP employees already have earned their Microsoft Certified Architect status; Microsoft in the last month brought its certification program out of the pilot phase. HP also is working with Open Group to bring that organization's certification program to its architects.
"We're saying to our people: Show us, prove to us, show personal development," Redmond says. He expects the architect certification status will provide HP with a competitive advantage in IT services in the coming years. "We ask our other professionals to get appropriate certification, and up to now this wasn't an option for architects," he says.
The skills and experience required of the estimated 100,000 U.S. professionals who call themselves IT, enterprise, infrastructure, solutions, operations, and other types of architects hasn't been clear. The new certifications define the skills, experience, and other attributes needed to qualify for these positions, and they require testing or review by a board.
The first certifications available from Open Group are IT and enterprise architects. It has certified 1,200 tech pros since unveiling the IT architect certification last year. "Open Group is attempting to put the structure in place, its toe in the water," Redmond says.
And considering the high salaries, those hiring IT architects should know what they're paying for. The median annual salary for an IT staffer with the architect title is $100,000, according to InformationWeek Research's National IT Salary Survey of 10,425 IT professionals this past spring. While that's the same median salary they earned last year, and not much more than the $95,000 median for 2004, architects outrank all other staff-level titles for salary. The more-specific systems architect title earns a median salary of $91,000, same as last year, while sales support engineers rank No. 3 at $90,000, and project leaders are next at $86,000. Adding in bonuses and other nonsalary compensation, IT architects make $107,000 nationwide, up $103,000 from last year.
The main difference so far between the certifications offered by Microsoft and Open Group is philosophy, not so much the actual technologies. In fact, Microsoft's certification isn't fixated on Microsoft products.
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