On Becoming a Computer Systems Analyst
The general information, facts and figures below are to help you determine if a career working in the U.S. as a computer systems analyst might suit you.
Computer systems analyst is a general job title. Alternate, general titles include computer systems developer and computer systems architect. Specific job titles vary by organization.
Computer systems analyst job duties also vary by organization. But, generally, they customize computer systems to meet specific information-technology needs.
Broadly, computer systems analyst job duties include:
- Planning, designing, installing and developing new computer systems
- Revamping existing computer systems for new tasks
- Networking computer systems with others
- Preparing cost-benefit and return-on-investment (ROI) reports for management
- Testing and debugging new or revamped computer systems and the networks on which they communicate
A computer systems analyst typically performs his or her job duties by coordinating with other information-technology professionals, such as network-security specialists, programmers and software engineers.
Many employers require computer systems analysts to be formally educated. The typical minimum is a bachelors degree. Some employers require an advanced degree for more-complex jobs and senior positions. Others require dual degrees for highly-specialized jobs, such as designing computer systems for biotech applications.
Common degrees required include those in computer science, information science or management information systems. But, systems analysts hold a variety of degrees. Consequently, some employers require only a relevant degree without saying which type.
Instead of a degree, some employers might accept equivalent experience or experience plus computer certification. Other job qualifications vary greatly by employer, but generally include:
- Knowledge of a specific computer system
- Strong analytical and problem-solving skills
- Good interpersonal and communication skills
- Background in the employer's industry
- Empathy for the financial bottom line
Typical experience required is two years or more. But, some employers accept advanced degrees instead, while others offer entry-level jobs and internships that require no experience. Certain computer systems analyst jobs require a security clearance, such as those at government agencies or corporations that serve the government on contract.
One of the best ways to discover specific job qualifications for computer systems analysts, is to "average" what several employers require. To do so, perform a trial job search starting in Computer Jobs and study the job descriptions. Another good way is to schedule informational interviews.
In May 2004, U.S. computer systems analyst jobs paid $66,460 as the median annual salary. Annual salary was distributed as follows.
- Ten percent paid more than $99,180
- Fifty percent paid between $52,400 and $82,980
- Ten percent paid less than $41,730
According to Robert Half International, 2005 starting salaries for systems analysts ranged from $61,500 to $82,500. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), 2005 starting salaries were from $44,417 to $62,727, depending on the degrees that systems analysts earned.
Computer systems analysts held about 487,000 jobs in 2004, with the computer systems design and related services industry employing the largest concentration. It serves the information-technology needs of other industries, on contract.
Career advancement for computer systems analysts with leadership skills includes promotion to middle-management positions, such as project manager or manager of information systems, or even executive positions such as chief information officer (CIO).
Some systems analysts eventually strike out on their own, by becoming self-employed independent contractors (consultants) or small-business owners. That's because computer systems analyst jobs are often contract gigs, which suits the self-employed. Consequently, about 28,000 systems analysts were self-employed in 2004. Many of the jobs are also suited for telecommuting, at least part time.
Thanks to increasing information-technology needs in virtually all industries, computer systems analyst jobs are forecasted to grow faster than the average for all jobs through 2014. As in 2004, the computer system design and related services industry is likely to be the largest provider of computer systems analyst jobs.
Increasingly, companies are hiring computer professionals only temporarily as specialized consultants, which is why the computer systems design and related services industry is blossoming. Consequently, a computer systems analyst would be wise to specialize in a niche that relies heavily on information technology, such as government, business, finance, e-commerce, engineering, science or healthcare.
As do most computer professionals, systems analysts must hone and update their skills to take advantage of a favorable job outlook.