Boxes and Arrows is an online journal dedicated to understanding the design of the architecture and structure of digital spaces, and often features articles on the craft of information architecture.
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What does an information architect do all day?
Because information architecture is so diverse, there isn't any one answer. Most information architects (IAs) work to understand business and user needs and then organize information to best meet those needs. That organization of content can take many forms, commonly documented as sitemaps and wireframes.
IAs usually apply user-centered design methods to their work, and often act as a key bridge in a project team between creative and technical development. Most IAs act at a tactical level, working to create designs that are approved by executives, but increasingly IAs are being asked for advice in setting the strategic direction of products.
Is IA doomed as a career by automated tools? The days of an IA manually creating a sitemap with each individual page may be numbered. But automated tools are still just that - tools - and organizations will need IAs for the foreseeable future.
How's the money?
According to the 2011 IAI Salary Survey the average salary was estimated to be USD$93,204, with starting salaries averaging just over US$60,000. IAs with at least 5 years of experience averaged between US$70,000s to US$130,000. These numbers are estimates based on salary ranges and will change as the state of the market changes and will vary with local conditions.
Who hires IAs?
Currently IA is a very web-centric discipline. Almost all IAs work on web sites (though some are working on mobile/wireless, database systems, etc.). Because of this, most IAs are hired by companies with a large enough web presence to support a full-time information architect, or by service firms and agencies that create web sites for clients.
Do I need an IA degree?
No, although most IAs have a college degree very few have a degree in information architecture, since IA programs are just starting to appear. Other common backgrounds for IAs include graphic design, human-computer interaction, and library and information science. If you are interested in IA courses, do check out our listings of Schools Teaching IA.
You could start by reflecting on your background and how you'd like to apply your skills in the future. IAs come from backgrounds focused on users, content, business context, and/or technology. A background in psychology is especially helpful for understanding users, while someone with a library science background brings strengths in specialized information organization.
With your background, what is your future? Of users, content, business context, and technology, what excites you the most? What sparked your interest in IA? Was it wanting technology to be applied in a more effective way, or seeing people's frustration with finding things, or seeing a more efficient business process, or wanting to straighten out a mess of jumbled publications? The answer might be a mix of these. Whatever your reasons for wanting to practice IA, it needs to be something you're passionate about.
At what level do you want to work?
Organizations operate on a spectrum of strategy to tactics. Most IA work is tactical - implementing the strategy in some concrete form, typically a web site. If you want to operate at a strategic level, experience or education in business administration (for example, an MBA degree) will be critical.
Innie or outie?
'Innies' support in-house projects. While you may act as an internal consultant, you will work on your employer's sites.
'Outies' work as consultants at professional services firms and interactive agencies.
Where can I learn more?
The IA Institute supports an active IA Network to help you explore the field. You'll also want to learn more about what you want from a career in IA through your interaction with practicing IAs and related professionals.
This page was last modified on June 4, 2012 07:34 PM.