Outlook & Growth
This career is expected to grow 20 percent—much faster than average—through 2018. As businesses expand their use of technologies, including Internet/web, wireless networks and mobile computers, demand for workers who can integrate the new technologies into existing ones will remain strong.
As with other information technology jobs, there is some risk that systems analyst jobs will be outsourced to foreign countries with lower wages and highly educated workers with strong technical skills. Despite this, job prospects should remain very good for candidates with advanced degrees in computer science or computer engineering or those who hold an MBA with a concentration in information systems or technology management.
Salary & Wages
In 2008, computer systems analysts enjoyed an average salary of $75,500. The middle 50 percent earned $58,460 to $95,810. The highest 10 percent earned more than $118,440. Wholesalers of computer equipment and suppliers paid the most; state government employers of computer systems analysts paid the least.
What is a Computer Systems Analyst?
Computer systems analysts solve computer problems and use computer technology to meet the needs of an organization. Sometimes that means designing and developing new computer systems and sometimes it means making existing systems work better on certain tasks. Most systems analysts specialize in a type of computer system—for example, business, accounting or financial systems or scientific and engineering systems.
To begin an assignment, systems analysts consult managers and users to define the goals of the system. Analysts then design a system to meet those goals. Sometimes they prepare cost-benefit and return-on-investment analyses to help management decide whether to implement the planned system.
Systems analysts choose the computer hardware and software needed to set up the planned system, test the system to make sure it performs properly, and work with programmers to “debug,” or eliminate errors, from the system.
Education & Degree Path
Employers usually prefer applicants who have at least a bachelor’s degree in managing information systems or network administration and design. For more technically complex jobs, people with graduate degrees are preferred.
If you are working in a business environment, it is helpful to have a business background; likewise, in a scientific setting, a science background comes in handy. Increasingly, employers are seeking individuals who have a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) with a concentration in the management of information systems.
Technological advances come so rapidly in the computer field that continuous study is necessary to remain competitive. Employers, hardware and software vendors, colleges and universities, and private training institutions offer continuing education to help workers attain the latest skills. Additional training may come from professional development seminars offered by professional computing societies.
There is no national licensing but many private product vendors offer certification on their systems that might help differentiate your resume or experience niche.
Entering the Field:
As technologies change, the “hot” technology of last year fades into the background. Employers often scramble to find workers who can work with the newest technologies. Workers with formal education or experience in information security, for example, are currently in demand because of the growing use of computer networks, which must be protected from threats. If you understand which technologies are up-and-coming it can give you an advantage in educating yourself to enter the field.
Continuing education is essential to keep up to date in the career niche.
If you’re new to this career area a basic certificate or associate degree in computer information systems or office computer management can help you lay a strong foundation for an advanced degree.
People who have bachelor's degrees in other majors may find employment as systems analysts if they also have related technical skills. Courses in computer science or related subjects combined with practical experience can qualify people for jobs in the occupation.
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Source for salary and growth data is the Bureau of Labor Statistics. For more information on careers as a computer systems analyst, salaries, and job prospects visit: U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition, Computer Systems Analysts.