Systems Analyst Careers

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How to Become a Systems Analyst

How do organizations know how to use information technology efficiently and effectively? How do they decide how to incorporate new technology into their computer systems? That's where systems analysts come in. Computer systems analysts design computer systems to meet the needs of organizations. Sometimes they develop whole new computer systems by selecting and configuring hardware and software. At other times, they upgrade existing systems.

At the beginning of projects, systems analysts seek the input of management and computer users to identify the organization's information technology needs. They must design computer systems to meet those requirements in a way that is financially sound. That means they need to know about cost accounting along with the technical disciplines of structured analysis, data modeling, information engineering, mathematical model building, and sampling.

Often, systems analysts are experts in specific types of computer systems, such as financial, business, or engineering systems. Within these classifications, systems analysts' job titles may reflect specialization by job function as described below:

  • Systems architect career
    Systems architects select appropriate system software and infrastructure for organizations' information technology systems.
  • Systems designer career
    Systems designers are experts in developing and fine-tuning organizations' information technology systems.
  • Programmer-analyst career
    Programmer-analysts have both programming and systems analysis skills. They design and update computer software. They also create custom programs to perform specific tasks.
  • Software quality assurance analyst career
    Software quality assurance analysts specialize in in-depth testing of new systems or system upgrades. They test systems, diagnose problems, recommend solutions, and determine whether the systems projects have met their goals.

Degree Programs and Training for the Systems Analyst Career

Employers usually look for at least a bachelor's degree when hiring systems analysts. For technical or scientific systems, a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, applied mathematics, engineering, or the physical sciences is a solid education. In business environments, a bachelor's degree in management information systems (MIS) is good preparation. More and more employers require an MBA with a concentration in information systems.

Systems Analyst Career Certification and Licensing

No particular certification or license is required for systems analysts. However, keeping current in this fast-changing field is of the utmost importance, so continuing education is a given. Hardware vendors, software vendors, and professional organizations offer certifications in a variety of disciplines.

Systems Analysts' Earnings

In May 2006, the middle 50 percent of systems analysts earned between $54,000 and $88,000.

Systems Analysts' Employment Outlook

Employment for systems analysts is growing much faster than average, and job prospects are very good. Because technology is increasingly sophisticated, the trend is toward more advanced education in this field. Systems analysts with advanced degrees in computer science or computer engineering, or with MBAs with concentration in management information systems, have the best outlook. Candidates who combine strong technical knowledge with good interpersonal and business skills also do well.

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Source: Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2008-2009 Edition; Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.