Computer Systems Analyst
Computer Systems Analyst
Education and Training: College
Salary: Median—$66,480 per year
Employment Outlook: Excellent
Definition and Nature of the Work
Computer systems analysts analyze business or scientific tasks and plan and develop the hardware systems and software that allow a computer to complete these tasks. These analysts, sometimes called systems analysts, may also work on improving computer systems already in use. They are employed by a wide variety of organizations, including businesses, universities, hospitals, and government agencies. Consulting firms that contract to develop new computer systems also employ systems analysts.
A typical type of problem for a computer systems analyst would be to develop software for a new computerized inventory system used by a large retail store. The analyst first discusses the current system with managers to establish what the new system should do. The analyst then breaks the system down into steps and collects information about what has to happen at each of these stages. The systems analyst uses cost accounting, mathematical modeling, and sampling techniques to plan a new system that will best keep track of the store's stock. The analyst then describes the new system to management and makes any necessary changes. After the system has been accepted, the analyst then prepares specifications, process diagrams, and system flow charts. These charts and diagrams are instructions that tell computer programmers how to program the computer to operate the system. The analyst then explains the system to the people who will be using it and decides on any computer hardware and additional software that is required to run the system. If a complex program is needed for the system, the analyst may enlist the help of a computer software engineer to design and write the program.
For systems already in operation, analysts work to develop more efficient or faster procedures. They also modify systems when changes are made in the task the computer has to complete. Computer systems analysts can develop systems to handle billing and payrolls, predict future sales, or build rockets. Because systems problems are so diverse, many analysts specialize in either business, engineering, or scientific applications. All analysts must keep up to date with current data processing methods, programming languages, and machines.
Education and Training Requirements
Most employers require that computer systems analysts have a college education. Many prefer an undergraduate degree in computer science or related subjects. A background in accounting and business management or even a master's in business administration (MBA) is helpful for those interested in business applications. Scientific organizations may require courses in physical science, mathematics, or engineering. Work in very specialized fields, such as scientific research, requires a graduate degree or training in the field. A knowledge of one or more computer languages is very valuable. Many colleges, vocational schools, and computer companies offer training in computer science, computer programming, and data processing.
Many systems analysts have transferred into this field from other occupations, especially computer programming. Increasingly companies are looking to hire programmer–analysts, who can both come up with solutions to computer problems and write software. Programmers usually continue their training for the rest of their careers as new programming languages and technologies continually arrive on the market.
High school students interested in pursuing this type of work should study mathematics, computer science, and physics. They should also take computer programming courses in school or study computers and computer languages in their spare time.
Getting the Job
A good way to find a job in systems analysis is to contact the larger computer manufacturers. The federal government has computer systems in operation in many states. Those who are interested in a government job should apply to take the necessary civil service examination. College placement offices can help graduating students to contact employers. Classified ads in newspapers and trade journals and Internet job banks are other sources of jobs.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
A junior systems analyst may advance to senior and then to lead systems analyst positions. Those who show management abilities may become department supervisors and managers. Some experienced analysts start their own computer firms.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 487,000 people worked as computer systems analysts in 2004. Employment was expected to grow much faster than the average through the year 2014. New openings will occur because of the development of new applications for computers and sophisticated technologies. The rapid growth of computer centers that sell computer services to other businesses will also provide jobs. Advances in telecommunications technology and scientific research mean that systems analysts with specialized science backgrounds will be in great demand.
Computer systems analysts often spend time working independently. They spend some time in the office and some time observing the systems with which they work. They meet with many people to define problems, discuss solutions, and explain new systems. Systems analysts usually work forty hours per week with occasional evening or weekend work to meet project deadlines.
Where to Go for More Information
IEEE Computer Society
1730 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20036
Society for Information Management
401 N. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60611
Earnings and Benefits
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median yearly wage for computer systems analysts in 2004 was $66,480. According to the "Computerworld Salary Survey 2005" (Computerworld, October 24, 2005), the median yearly wage for a systems analyst/programmer in 2005 was $67,685. Benefits generally include paid holidays and vacations, sick leave, and health insurance.