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What Is a Systems Analyst?

A systems analyst is a professional who studies and assesses a business' computer systems and determines where new solutions can streamline the business and thus optimize its financial outcomes. They match technological solutions to business needs, thus serving a vital function in today′s business environment. Systems analysts come from a wide range of backgrounds, but each successful professional has a deep understanding of information technology systems.

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Steps to Becoming a Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts are a well-paid, highly valued part of any business operation. If you aspire to work in this field, there are a few steps to take before you achieve your goal. First, computer systems analysts should have an aptitude for and desire to work with computers. The career doesn't require high level programming skills, but it will be helpful to know a few things about the Linux command line interface, the difference between various operating systems, and other items that will indicate technological proficiency beyond installing apps on a phone.

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Once you know this is the career for you, you'll need an education. Computer systems analysts come from a range of educational backgrounds but try to focus on majors that enhance critical thinking. A minor in Information Technology or Computer Science will also be helpful. If Philosophy is for you, take as many Formal Logic and Philosophy of Mind courses as you can.

  • Step 1: Is this for me?

  • Step 2: Education

  • Step 3: Certifications

  • Step 4: Graduate School and CEU


Step 1: Is this for me?

Computer systems analysts sit at the nexus of Business and Information Technology. As such, computer systems analysts need to have a strong understanding of both fields. That means that you need to be conversant in the two worlds. You should be able to articulate business needs to tech people then explain the technology to managers who might not have a strong background in IT.

Computer systems analysts should thus have excellent written and verbal communication skills. Computer systems analysts will also need to have an affinity for both business and technology. If you love reading the latest business and economic news, but then act as informal tech support for your friends, this could be the right field for you.

Step 2: Education

There is no specific academic background required for computer systems analysts, but it will certainly help when your resume reflects an undergraduate degree in computer information systems. Since computer systems analysts are somewhere between IT and business, you could major in one or both fields. However, if you have a humanities degree and some verifiable credentials with IT, you could find yourself working as a computer systems analyst.

Since the position is rather interdisciplinary, your communication skills will be put to the test. In your coursework, try to take as many technical writing and business communication courses as you can. You might also consider courses such as Introduction to Information Technology, Computer Programming, and Introduction to Management.

Step 3: Certifications

If you graduate with a humanities degree and feel your career needs a boost, look into achieving a certification in the IT field. CompTIA, Linux Academy, Microsoft, and Cisco are all great outlets for continuing education in the IT field. There are other online resources that will also give you a great introduction to IT but might not offer bona fide credentials. You can even find free online courses at universities such as MIT, though they don't offer college credit, only knowledge.

For many of these certifications you won't need much, if any, programming experience. However, if you do decide to add coding to your resume, many top professionals recommend Python. Python is relatively easy to learn, popular, and is great for handling Big Data. Plus, there are many free or very affordable resources to help get you up to speed.

Step 4: Graduate School and CEU

If you opt for any professional certifications, you will need to keep them current by taking additional courses from time to time. Each certifying body will have its own rules for this, but the additional knowledge will surely benefit you in the workplace. In fact, you should strive to be a lifelong learner who perpetually updates their knowledge base.

After you've been working as a Systems Analyst for a number of years, you will want to consider a graduate degree. Your experience will surely lead you towards the best program for you, but you can consider a masters degree in business administration (MBA) or even better, an information systems and technology MBA can be a great option. Alternately, if you enjoy the communications aspect of your work, there are graduate programs that focus on technical writing. All of the above programs can be found in online, on-campus, and in a hybrid degree form.

What Does a Systems Analyst Do?

A computer systems analyst sits in a unique position in the business world. In this position you will have feet in both the IT and management or administration ponds. Your overall duty will be to study your firm's technology picture and see where it can be upgraded, expanded, or even contracted. You will also study the firm's business goals and operations with an aim to helping that with ever more efficient technology.

In computer systems analysts daily work, they might convene meetings with managers or other workers to determine their overall IT experience. If, for instance, computer systems analysts are having some difficulties accessing certain parts of a database, they could address that. Computer systems analysts might also need upgrades to certain software packages. On the other hand, a new upgrade might be causing some conflicts or other problems. Computer systems analysts need to put on the detective hat to determine the root of the problem.

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If you've determined that your IT systems need upgrades, you'll need to create a budget. This budget must be then justified by showing the business benefits. That is, how will your firm benefit from the expenditure? To support your case, you might need to create a presentation for your Chief Financial Officer or other C-level executives so that they understand your point of view on the matter.

Once you've rolled out upgrades, you may need to train workers to implement them to their fullest potential. If nobody understands how to access the new features, the expense will not yield the intended benefits. You may even need to create a technical manual to help explain the new technology.

Skills to Acquire

To be the most effective computer systems analyst, you must have a full toolkit. First, computer systems analysts need to have keen analytical skills so that they can analyze the business and technical needs of the firm. Computer systems analyst then need to be savvy with the technology so that they can explain it to others. On the other hand, computer systems analysts will need business savvy so that they can explain your business needs to high-tech vendors and your IT team, too.

One of the chief skills to acquire and develop is communication ability. Computer systems analyst spoken communication must be suited to both business and technical audiences. Then, computer systems analysts will need to have excellent written abilities that can translate into technical documentation. Computer systems analyst should also be adept at presentation software and other graphical communications, such as web design. Computer systems analysts will need to sharpen your technical acumen, as well.

In particular, computer systems analysts will need technical skills related to databases, servers, and applications. These needs will change depending on the type of firm you work with. For instance, a customer support operation will have very different needs from a law firm or an architectural design group. Computer systems analysts need to understand the software and hardware needs of your specific environment.

Alternative Paths

There is no specific degree or set path to become a computer systems analyst. While a typical route might be to attain a bachelor’s degree with some mix of IT and business courses, that is not the only route. In fact, computer systems analyst don't need to have any degree beyond a high school diploma if you have the requisite experience.

That said, computer systems analysts will probably want to gain some formal training along the way. A computer systems analyst might start out with an associate's degree in either business or an associates in the computer science field. However, if you have a great aptitude for computers and technology, there's nothing to stop you from signing up to attain a certification such as Microsoft's MCSE. Computer systems analysts could also take any number of courses through Linux Academy. Their classes are reasonably priced and come with certificates that any hiring manager should recognize and esteem, provided the skills are applicable to their firm's IT system.

One skill set that computer systems analysts will likely need to acquire through traditional means is communication. Technical Writing is a specific sort of communication that will be a key to your success. However, it is not easy to master writing without outside help. While the academic setting isn't absolutely necessary, it is perhaps the most available and reliable.

Systems Analyst Career & Salary

Where Might You Work?


All sorts of organizations need computer systems analysts. computer systems analysts could work for city, state, or federal government agencies, private corporations of all sizes, or scrappy non-profit organizations. One popular way to get into the field is through consulting.

When you work for a consulting firm, your learning will kick into high gear. Computer systems analysts will need to analyze a new company's systems, arrive at one or more possible solutions, and make a presentation to upper management. If they approve your proposals, you will then need to oversee the rollout of new technology or upgrades. When you work as a consultant, you will probably do a lot of traveling since clients will want to see you on-site.

This is also a profession that is adaptable to any number of lifestyles or needs. Computer systems analysts could work in a large skyscraper downtown or consult remotely for global corporations. Other computer systems analysts scale down and work on a much smaller scale to help small businesses and even individuals solve IT and business problems.

Generally speaking, however, computer systems analysts typically work in office environments on a standard workday schedule. During special times, such as during a new tech roll-out, you might need to work overtime, or even log-in to the system remotely on your weekend time.

Potential Career Paths

When you embark on a career as a systems analyst, you will likely see an open field ahead of you. The position's interdisciplinary nature is such that it can allow you to forge your own niche. You could push ahead into a more IT direction, business administration, or even communications. Here are a few options for your future career path:

Database Administrator:
Businesses rely on stable, well-organized databases that are easy to query. Your IT skill and ability to meet business needs and protocols will be invaluable in this position. You will maintain user access privileges, monitor the database for security issues, and do periodic audits.

Computer Network Architect:
Depending on the size of your firm, this could be a huge job that might entail a full staff of IT professionals. In this position you will design, build, and maintain a network. You could create intranets that allow similar departments in distant locales to share information, or you might integrate cloud computing to assist with database management.

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Computer Programmer:
Where computer systems analysts are often heavily involved in inter-departmental communications, computer programmers typically spend time in darkened rooms, ardently writing code. If you love getting into the nitty gritty of computing, this might be your next move. You can self-teach or take formal classes to get started in your first language.

Information Security Analyst:
Cybersecurity is increasingly on the minds of managers everywhere. In this position, you will specifically analyze the security measures and vulnerabilities of your firm's computing systems. You will need to be fully steeped in what's known as ethical hacking so that you can perform security audits of the network.

Software Developers:
If you can explicitly describe how a particular business need can be addressed through a software solution, you might be a great software developer. To succeed, you will need to have a working knowledge of coding, hardware limitations, and also business needs.

IT Manager:
This might be the most natural next step for a systems analyst. As a professional IT Manager, you would oversee the information systems for your company, or at least its local offices, depending on the size of the corporation. Your job will be to match business needs with effective and efficient hardware and software solutions.

Systems Analyst Career Salaries

Occupation Entry-Level Mid-Career Late-Career
Computer Network Architects $83,000 $111,000 $131,000
Computer programmers $56,000 $70,000 $86,000
Computer Systems Analysts $56,000 $72,000 $85,000
Data Engineer $77,000 $104,000 $114,000
Data Architect $69,000 $110,000 $133,000
Information Security Analyst $60,000 $82,000 $102,000
Security Engineer $72,000 $101,000 $117,000
Information Systems Analysts $56,000 $71,000 $86,000
Game Designer $53,000 $77,000 $99,000
Web Developers $51,000 $67,000 $80,000
Data Scientist, IT $74,000 $98,000 $142,000
Mobile Applications Developer $61,000 $88,000 $108,000
Systems Administrator $51,000 $64,000 $76,000

**Salary info provided by PayScale

Career Outlook

Computer systems analysts are seeing growth in their field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the occupation will grow by 9% through 2026, which is average for most careers. However, when you consider other similar positions you will see that there is great growth potential. Information security analysts, for instance are expecting 28% growth in the same time frame, and their skill sets are comparable. Furthermore, if you work as a consultant, you might find greater average pay rates and far more occupational growth.

Currently, the median salary for a computer systems analyst is $88,300 and that is likely to increase over time. That figure includes neither bonus pay nor other compensation such as health benefits. This is an occupation that has much to offer diligent, dedicated employees.

Advancing From Here

With a strong background in systems analysis, the sky is the limit. You can advance up the corporate ladder in your current firm. You might wish to return to school for an MBA along the way if you desire a move into the C-suites. On the other hand, you could augment your skills to address security issues and receive a bump in pay for a field that is rapidly expanding.

You could also go to work for a high-tech vendor and sell software and hardware solutions the systems analyst in your old office. Yet another route is to delve into programming and become a software engineer so that you can work on computer solutions with a more hands on approach.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need a degree to become a computer systems analyst?

A degree is not generally required for most computer systems analysts. Many people obtain this position through experience alone. A bachelor's degree or certificate will create more job opportunities and possibly a higher salary.

What kind of degree should a systems analyst get?

Most systems analysts will want to earn a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, computer systems design, financial computer systems, management and business analysts, engineering computer systems, computer programs, or another computer related field.

What's the difference between a systems analyst and a software engineer?

A systems analyst analyzes a company needs and implement existing software to help streamline the process. Software engineers create computer programs.

What do entry-level systems analysts do?

Entry-level systems analysts generally begin their career working in IT support or software development. They may focus on database administration at the beginning of their career.

What is the job outlook for systems analysts?

Systems analyst jobs are expected to grow by 7% by 2030.

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