What is Computer Architecture?

An image of a computer architect for our article on what is computer architecture

Architecture is more than the act of building. Architects research, design, and create. They put their skills to the test to create habitable spaces. But computers also have architecture. Computer architects construct balanced and efficient computer and operating systems.

But what exactly is architecture in computer science? If you’re wondering what computer architecture means and want to learn more about a career in this unique field, this article will help. Read on to answer your questions what is computer architecture and is it an in-demand career?

Computer Architecture Definition

When you define computer architecture, it helps to understand what is meant by architecture of computer networks. It seems complicated, but its definition is easier than it sounds.

Computer architecture is a science. It’s a set of rules that states how computer software and hardware join together and interact to make a computer work. This science determines how a computer works. So, how do you explain computer architecture? It is the rules that a computer system performs and operates.

What is Computer Architecture?

Computer architecture is defined as a specification that describes how computer hardware and computer software technologies interact to create a computer platform or system. When you think of the word architecture, you think of building a house or structure. With that same principle in mind, architecture in computers involves building a computer and all that goes into a computer system.

There are three main categories of this type of architecture.

  • System design – Includes all hardware parts, such as CPU, data processors, multiprocessors, memory controllers, and direct memory access. This is the actual computer system.
  • Instruction set architecture – Includes a CPU’s functions and capabilities, programming languages, data formats, processor register types, and instructions used by computer programmers. This is the software that makes it run. Think of Windows or similar programs.
  • Microarchitecture – This defines the data processing and storage element or data paths. These include storage devices and related computer organization.

These three parts go together in a certain order to function the right way.

Computer Architecture Role

The role of computer architecture in any company or organization is to balance performance. What does this mean? For starters, it keeps things in check. From cost to efficiency. Computer architecture balances:

  • Cost
  • Efficiency
  • Performance
  • Reliability

Since computers understand binary language and computer users understand high level language, there must be a way for the two to communicate. This is where computer architects come in. They use instruction set architecture (ISA) to translate high level language to binary language.

An image of a computer architect for our article on what is computer architecture

What a Computer Architect Does

We discussed the computer architecture meaning above, but what does a computer architect do? A computer architect makes computer systems run and operate in an efficient and effective way. They identify computer problems and correct them. Their duties include:

  • Clean up a central processing unit
  • Create algorithms
  • Develop new tools
  • Direct memory access
  • Execute machine language instructions

Some computer architects work with software systems, while others focus on research. These specialized researchers create studies and run tests. They create reports based on their findings. Topics of research can include:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Cloud computing architecture
  • Computer architectures
  • Machine interface
  • Machine learning
  • Memory addressing modes
  • Memory controllers
  • Network security
  • Random access memory
  • System design

Research goals for computer architects include improving existing architecture or developing new systems and hardware. They help improve today’s modern computers in the business world and the personal computers we use everyday.

How to Become a Computer Architect

To become a computer architect, candidates should have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science. You can also get a degree in a related field, such as:

  • Computer engineering
  • Information technology
  • Information systems
  • Network security and design

The best programs for aspiring computer architects are computer-based fields. They offer students hands-on experience in database design and network security. These studies are important for computer architects working in a computer organization. These subjects teach students different technologies and operating systems used in various computer networks.

Computer Architects Courses

During your college years, you take many computer-related courses. Computer architecture consists of knowing how to troubleshoot computer problems. But besides computer courses, such as embedded programming language and system design, you can study other subjects that prepare you for a career.

Here are some courses for an aspiring computer network architect.

Business and Finance

If you want to work in banking or finance, plan to take one or more business courses. It helps to have knowledge of industry standards and business principles. These courses can help you show a potential employer you’re serious about working as computer architects in the field.

Data Science

Taking data science classes can help you as a computer architect. You learn computer program and design as it applies to data formats and processing. You also study methods and applications that can help you in computer architecture.

Public Health

Taking classes in public health administration can teach aspiring computer architects about:

  • Data processing and data bus systems
  • Medical terminology
  • Operating systems in health

You also learn about health standards and the technology that makes changes helpful.


If you want to work in a scientific field as a computer architect, it helps to take science classes. Courses in science help you understand the goals of the systems you create. Experience and knowledge in the field also helps you better communicate with colleagues.

An image of a computer architect for our article on what is computer architecture

Why Get an MBA

Some students choose to complete an MBA (master’s of business administration) with a focus on information systems or computer science. The advantage of this program is that it offers both computer and business courses. Some computer architects go on to become computer and information systems managers. Having a background in both business and computers helps leverage this career.

While there are many benefits to earning an MBA as a computer network architect, there are also some downfalls. The degree takes time. If you don’t have a lot of extra time to spend in school, consider an accelerated MBA pathway. These programs combine undergraduate and graduate studies and help you earn both degrees in five years.

Some programs also look at your experience and count it toward your education. This means that you can earn an MBA in one year if you have five years of relevant work experience.

Skills for Computer Architect Jobs

You can’t explain the computer architecture career without discussing what skills you need to work in the role. With a degree, you gain useful skills. You become proficient in computer and operating systems. You learn how to fix networks and solve problems. But there are other skills you should have to work in computer architecture.

Here are a few more skills you need to work as a computer architect.

  • Analyzation Skills – Whether you’re designing a graphics processing unit or troubleshooting a computer’s software systems, it helps to have strong analyzation skills.
  • Communication Skills – Computer architects communicate complex and technical information to non-tech workers. They must translate technical language so others can make sense of it. You need to have strong communication skills in this role.
  • Detail-Oriented – It helps to be detailed when working as a computer architect. The job includes creating extensive plans of networks. You have to keep track of cloud computing and the information shared between networks. If you’re detail-oriented, you can keep your systems straight.
  • Interpersonal Skills – Like communication skills, interpersonal skills help a computer network architect work successfully with different types of employees. From hardware engineers to administrative staff, you will work with many different people on the job. Interpersonal skills help you convey information and meet your goals.
  • Leadership Abilities – Computer architects oversee projects. They direct teams of engineers who build networks designed by them.
  • Negotiation Skills – A computer architect must advocate for their team and themself. You need good business and negotiation skills to do this.
  • Organizational Skills – When you work for large organizations, you coordinate different computer networks. You make sure they run efficiently. To manage projects and ensure data processors and programming languages work together, you should be an organized person.

Work Experience

You learn how to explain architecture of computer systems on the job. You also pick up useful skills that employers value. But how do you get work experience while you’re in college?

Employers look for computer network architects with at least 5-10 years of experience. If you’re in school for four years earning your bachelor’s degree, how do you get five years of work experience. Some employers compare education to work experience. For every year that you are in college learning about data processing and computer architecture, you gain the equivalent in work experience. This means that your bachelor’s degree can equate to four years of work experience.

But, how do you pick up that fifth year employers value? You have options.

  • Earn a master’s degree
  • Intern
  • Shadow a computer architect

A master’s degree in a related field can give you another two years of work experience. A potential employer will look at the classes you took. If they cover things like instruction set architecture and software and hardware systems, you’re in luck. They can count as work experience.

An image of a computer network architect for our article on what is computer architecture

Career Outlook

As long as we have computers, there should be a demand for computer architects. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports 4% job growth between 2021 and 2031. This rate means that about 11,800 openings for computer architect jobs will result each year, over the decade.

Many openings will result from the need to replace workers who leave the workforce or retire. Some will result from replacing those who transfer to another job. But there are also other reasons for the anticipated job growth.

As businesses and companies continue to build IT networks and hardware components, demand for computer architects will grow. The expansion of cloud computing in firms will also increase demand for experts in this role. As companies transition to new networks, they will need people who can do the job.

While the overall job outlook is favorable for this occupation, there are some limitations. Some computer network tasks will become automated due to improvements in technology. These tasks include monitoring systems and troubleshooting network problems. Some smaller businesses with limited IT resources find it more cost efficient to contract their computer system services. They contract with outside firms rather than hiring an in-house computer network architect.

To help improve your job prospects, you need skills and training. A degree in computer science helps.

Computer Architect Salary

You understand the definition of computer architecture, but what about the potential earnings of a computer architect? According to the BLS, the average salary for computer network architects is $120,520/year. But the highest 10% of earners in this field can expect over $168,000/year, on average.

Certain industries pay higher wages. As a computer architect, you can make more money if you work in the following industries:

  • Insurance and related activities: $127,710/year
  • Computer and digital systems design: $121,410/year
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $120,710/year
  • Telecommunications: $103,110/year
  • Educational services: $81,060/year

This article helps you explain the architecture of computer systems. It also discusses job duties career outlook. Now that we have computer architecture explained, it’s time to search for a program that will help you achieve your goals.

Advancement Opportunities

A computer architect can advance with education and experience. Most architects advance to become computer and information systems managers. In this role, you have more responsibility and manage larger teams and projects. Your job is to:

  • Coordinate
  • Direct
  • Plan

You oversee computer-related activities within the organization. Since you have more responsibility in this occupation, you earn higher wages. The average earnings for this job is about $159,000/year.

Most employers look for manager candidates with a master’s degree. You also need between 5-10 years of work experience. For top senior roles, you need at least 15 years of work experience.

This concludes our article on the meaning of computer architecture and a career as a computer architect. You now know what is architecture in computer science.

CSDH Staff

March 2023

Related Resources: