Computer Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and design information systems solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

Interest Area: 
Thinking
Average Yearly Pay: 
$75500
Education Needed: 
Bachelor's Degree
Employment: 
Growing Much Faster Than Average
Job Growth: 
20%
Job Prospects: 
Excellent

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Job Duties: 

Computer systems analysts typically do the following:

  • Consult with managers to determine the role of the IT system in an organization
  • Research emerging technologies to decide if installing them can increase the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness
  • Prepare an analysis of costs and benefits so that management can decide if computer upgrades are financially worthwhile
  • Devise ways to make existing computer systems meet new needs
  • Design and develop new systems by choosing and configuring hardware and software
  • Oversee installing and configuring the new system to customize it for the organization
  • Do tests to ensure that the systems work as expected
  • Train the system’s end users and write instruction manuals, when required
  • Career Overview: 

    Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and design information systems solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.

    Duties

    Computer systems analysts typically do the following:

    • Consult with managers to determine the role of the IT system in an organization
    • Research emerging technologies to decide if installing them can increase the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness
    • Prepare an analysis of costs and benefits so that management can decide if information systems and computing infrastructure upgrades are financially worthwhile
    • Devise ways to add new functionality to existing computer systems
    • Design and develop new systems by choosing and configuring hardware and software
    • Oversee the installation and configuration of new systems to customize them for the organization
    • Conduct testing to ensure that the systems work as expected
    • Train the system’s end users and write instruction manuals

    Computer systems analysts use a variety of techniques to design computer systems such as data-modeling, which create rules for the computer to follow when presenting data, thereby allowing analysts to make faster decisions. Analysts conduct in-depth tests and analyze information and trends in the data to increase a system’s performance and efficiency.

    Analysts calculate requirements for how much memory and speed the computer system needs. They prepare flowcharts or other kinds of diagrams for programmers or engineers to use when building the system. Analysts also work with these people to solve problems that arise after the initial system is set up. Most analysts do some programming in the course of their work.

    Most computer systems analysts specialize in certain types of computer systems that are specific to the organization they work with. For example, an analyst might work predominantly with financial computer systems or engineering systems.

    Because systems analysts work closely with an organization’s business leaders, they help the IT team understand how its computer systems can best serve the organization.

    In some cases, analysts who supervise the initial installation or upgrade of IT systems from start to finish may be called IT project managers. They monitor a project’s progress to ensure that deadlines, standards, and cost targets are met. IT project managers who plan and direct an organization’s IT department or IT policies are included in the profile on computer and information systems managers.

    Many computer systems analysts are general-purpose analysts who develop new systems or fine-tune existing ones; however, there are some specialized systems analysts. The following are examples of types of computer systems analysts:

    Systems designers or systems architects specialize in helping organizations choose a specific type of hardware and software system. They translate the long-term business goals of an organization into technical solutions. Analysts develop a plan for the computer systems that will be able to reach those goals. They work with management to ensure that systems and the IT infrastructure are set up to best serve the organization’s mission.

    Software quality assurance (QA) analysts do in-depth testing of the systems they design. They run tests and diagnose problems in order to make sure that critical requirements are met. QA analysts write reports to management recommending ways to improve the system.

    Programmer analysts design and update their system’s software and create applications tailored to their organization’s needs. They do more coding and debugging than other types of analysts, although they still work extensively with management and business analysts to determine what business needs the applications are meant to address. Other occupations that do programming are computer programmers and software developers.

    Work Environment: 

    Computer systems analysts held about 520,600 jobs in 2012.

    Systems analysts work in many different industries.

    The industries that employed the most systems analysts in 2012 were as follows:

    Computer systems design and related services 27%
    Finance and insurance 14
    Management of companies and enterprises 8
    Information 7
    State and local government, excluding education and hospitals 7

    Computer systems analysts can work directly for an organization or as consultants. Consultants usually work for an information technology firm. The projects that computer systems analysts work on usually require them to collaborate and coordinate with others.

    Although technological advances have made telecommuting more common, many consultants still need to travel to see their clients. The length of an assignment can vary with the complexity of the job.

    Work Schedules

    Most systems analysts work full time. About a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

    Education and Training: 

    A bachelor’s degree in a computer or information science field is common, although not always a requirement. Some firms hire analysts with business or liberal arts degrees who have skills in information technology or computer programming.

    Education

    Most computer systems analysts have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. Because these analysts also are heavily involved in the business side of a company, it may be helpful to take business courses or major in management information systems.

    Some employers prefer applicants who have a master of business administration (MBA) with a concentration in information systems. For more technically complex jobs, a master’s degree in computer science may be more appropriate.

    Although many computer systems analysts have technical degrees, such a degree is not always a requirement. Many analysts have liberal arts degrees and have gained programming or technical expertise elsewhere.

    Many systems analysts continue to take classes throughout their careers so that they can learn about new and innovative technologies and keep their skills competitive. Technological advances come so rapidly in the computer field that continual study is necessary to remain competitive.

    Systems analysts must understand the business field they are working in. For example, a hospital may want an analyst with a background or coursework in health management, and an analyst working for a bank may need to understand finance.

    Advancement

    With experience, systems analysts can advance to project manager and lead a team of analysts. Some can eventually become information technology (IT) directors or chief technology officers. For more information, see the profile on computer and information systems managers.

    Important Qualities

    Analytical skills. Analysts must interpret complex information from various sources and be able to decide the best way to move forward on a project. They must also be able to figure out how changes may affect the project.

    Communication skills. Analysts work as a go-between with management and the IT department and must be able to explain complex issues in a way that both will understand.

    Creativity. Because analysts are tasked with finding innovative solutions to computer problems, an ability to “think outside the box” is important.

    Pay: 

    The median annual wage for computer systems analysts was $79,680 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,950, and the top 10 percent earned more than $122,090.

    Most systems analysts work full time. About a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.

    Job Outlook: 

    Employment of computer systems analysts is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.

    As organizations across the economy increase their reliance on information technology (IT), analysts will be hired to design and install new computer systems. Growth in cloud-computing, wireless, and mobile networks will create a need for new systems that work well with these networks.

    Additional job growth is expected in healthcare fields. A large increase is anticipated in electronic medical records, e-prescribing, and other forms of healthcare IT, and analysts will be needed to design computer systems to accommodate the increase.

    Employment growth is expected in IT consulting firms, where many systems analysts work. These analysts, who will be hired by organizations to design computer systems in a variety of industries, will move on to another assignment when they are finished. As more small and medium-size firms demand advanced systems, the practice of analysts moving between businesses is expected to increase. Employment of systems analysts is projected to grow 35 percent in the computer systems design and related services industry from 2012 to 2022.

    Job Prospects

    Job applicants with a background in business may have better prospects because jobs for computer systems analysts often require knowledge of an organization’s business needs. An understanding of the specific field an analyst is working in is also helpful. For example, a hospital may desire an analyst with a background or coursework in health management.

    For More Information: 

    For more information about computer systems analysts, visit

    Association for Computing Machinery

    IEEE

    Computing Research Association

    For information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

    National Center for Women and Information Technology

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