Systems Analyst

What Do Systems Analysts Do?

Computer systems analysts, or system architects, work with companies, institutions, and independent clients to survey and diagnose database program issues, resolve user complaints, and advise management about systems innovations to improve productivity. Whether formally associated with corporations or acting as freelance consultants, systems analysts work between program users and the platform itself to gauge issues. As a result, this role requires communication and interpersonal skills along with an understanding of standard and new technologies.

Systems analysts research the latest technologies in database and system design to upgrade infrastructures and train company employees, clients, or patients to access systems efficiently. These analysts can also specialize, in finance technology, engineering, or educational privacy law (known as FERPA) for example, to cater to client needs. Given that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects computer systems analyst jobs to grow at a rate matching the national average, a career in systems analysis is a solid bet for stable employment.

Key Skills

Systems analysts must consider both the technological needs of a company or corporation and the needs of users in the workforce. The position combines elements of specialized knowledge regarding information technology with strong interpersonal and communication skills. An effective analyst reads situations carefully to identify user issues and address problems. The following list details the primary job responsibilities and skills of professional systems analysts as listed by PayScale.

Key Skills for Systems Analysts

  • Systems Administration: Whether at a company, school, or government branch, these professionals monitor computer systems, including software and program configurations, user access, and security. They help community members access computer systems, troubleshoot issues as they arise, and upgrade or install new systems and translate relevant information or metadata between programs.
  • Business Analysis: Systems analysts identify the needs of businesses or corporations. They develop software systems and suggest program or security innovations to protect the company's sensitive data while maintaining easy access to support and improve productivity. These professionals investigate product options and find the most economical systems innovations possible, considering both short- and long-term results.
  • Technical Analysis: Financial and business technical advisers work with software and programs designed to forecast financial climates, while school administrative technical analysts focus more on innovations in information technology and education dissemination.
  • Microsoft Office: The Microsoft Office suite of computer programs is the dominant system for professional and educational centers worldwide. Learn how to use these programs and the structural coding language underlying them in order to identify and isolate issues and provide programming resolutions. Programs include Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Access, OneNote, Outlook, and Publisher.
  • SQL: Structured query language (SQL) is the computer language supporting and orienting all data management systems and programs, including Microsoft Office products. With SQL, you can build websites and connect datasets and web programs to provide compatible, complex search engines and platforms for company and institutional innovation.
  • Project Management: Beyond the technical, systems analysts need to hone interpersonal skills to manage large-scale changes to company systems while maintaining user access wherever possible. They diagram and outline necessary changes, create work timelines and schedules to orient and organize colleagues and assistants, and orient company professionals so they have the access they need to maintain productivity.

How Much Do Systems Analysts Make?

Salaries for systems analysts depend on several factors, like education level, work experience, and geographical location. Nationwide, PayScale reports the average annual salary for a systems analyst at just over $64,500. This figure increases with additional years of experience, as shown in the table below. Whether you work as a full-time company analyst or a freelance adviser, systems analysis can provide the means for a comfortable lifestyle.

Average Salary of Systems Analysts by Job Level

Entry-Level (0-5 Years) $59,000
Mid-Career (5-10 Years) $68,000
Experienced (10-20 Years) $75,000
Late-Career (20+ Years) $81,000
Source: PayScale

How Do I Become a Systems Analyst?

Earn Your Degree

The educational foundation for systems analyst careers varies. For most positions, a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field suffices. However, the interpersonal skills needed for analyst roles make them a good fit for liberal arts majors. Liberal arts majors may want to consider taking continuing education courses to gain a foundation in information technology and computer coding or programming. Large-scale corporations and financial centers often look for candidates with an additional master's degree in business administration. Students can complete these courses or degrees online, through programs designed for working professionals who wish to maintain part- or full-time employment.

No matter which field you choose, most systems analysts continue their education beyond formal schooling, both through on-the-job experience and continuing education seminars. They take courses and earn certifications from private companies like Microsoft or IBM or take classes through associations and continuing education schools to remain competitive on the job market.

Gain Experience

Most companies expect candidates to hold a bachelor's degree in a computer or information technology-related field. Some jobs require one to five years of prior professional experience in IT service or analysis. Other companies, particularly those in finance or business, often require an MBA.

To prepare yourself for potential job requirements, consider applying for internships at your school or local institutions, such as small businesses, schools, or healthcare providers. Whether paid or volunteer, these jobs reflect positively on your professional aspirations. More importantly, they offer a demonstrable record of professional IT work, and may result in public domain work you can use in a professional portfolio. These projects promote your work ethic and demonstrate real-world experience.

Earn Credentials

Many systems analysts maintain company-provided certifications, like those from Microsoft, IBM, and Adobe. Though not always required by employers specifically, these certifications prepare you to assess and troubleshoot issues, and provide access to company support systems and resolutions. Such certifications can boost your earning potential by increasing your demonstrable skill set and setting you apart from your competitors.

Beyond company certifications, other optional certificates in areas such as cybersecurity, like the global information assurance certification, offer supplemental proof of competency and professional acumen. A supplemental degree like an MBA is important for those interested in working for large-scale corporations and financial institutions. Even more important for an aspiring systems analyst is on-the-job experience. If possible, find a volunteer or part-time position to build practical skill sets, and enter the job market with a solid foundation.

Types of Careers in Systems Analysis

Systems analysis is relevant to many professions because productivity analysis improves output and user access, whether in the healthcare or finance industries, or in educational or government systems. The following table lists some of the professions open to those with a focus in systems analysis. Most of these positions require a bachelor's degree, though some, like computer and information research scientist, need supplemental education at the master's level. Additionally, various professions in systems analysis may require company or association certifications. No matter which profession you choose, prior on-the-job experience in IT services or leadership will set you apart from other applicants. Consider volunteering locally as you pursue your degree to bolster your practical skills and build a record of work history.

Computer Systems Analyst

Computer systems analysts work with individuals, companies, and institutions, monitoring extant systems. These professionals diagnose, design, and implement innovations to improve productivity, accessibility, and security. They also oversee technological changes and address issues as they arise to keep the company functioning and maintain uninterrupted information pathways.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree

Median Annual Salary

$88,270

Actuary

Actuaries asses financial risk through statistical analysis and complex metadata acquisition. They compile information on their company or institution and identify financial losses due to system redundancies and inefficiency. They advise replacements or upgrades to increase productivity and minimize cost. This position requires strong mathematical skills, as well as clear communication to translate results into lasting innovations.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree in mathematics, finance, or statistics including computer science coursework; membership and certification from the Casualty Actuarial Society or the Society of Actuaries

Median Annual Salary

$101,560

Computer and Information Research Scientist

Computer and information research scientists solve complex programming issues in order to accurately gather, assess, and present metadata for scientific research. Given the complexity of this field, professionals need a master's degree in computer science to learn how to design and execute experiments that troubleshoot computer systems.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Master's degree in computer science or a related field

Median Annual Salary

$114,520

Computer Network Architect

Network architects advocate and design digital framework systems to increase information accessibility. They survey and upgrade company or institutional software systems and refurbish databases to improve user compatibility and productivity. They must maintain relevance by staying up to date on the latest technological innovations.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering, or a related field; 3-5 years of IT experience

Median Annual Salary

$104,650

Database Administrator

Database administrators combine systems analysis with business management by organizing and consolidating company database systems. They gather, back up, and restore company datasets, maintain databases and security systems, and organize colleagues and IT professionals to merge information platforms and identify system issues as they arise.

Degree Level and Experience Required

Bachelor's degree; comprehension of SQL, Oracle, and/or UNIX/Linux

Median Annual Salary

$87,020

Where Can I Work as a Systems Analyst?

The need for computer systems analysts translates into nationwide opportunities for employment. Though job opportunities naturally concentrate in and around major metropolitan areas, systems analysts can find positions all over the U.S. in large and small-scale companies, schools and institutes, and different branches of government. The communicative nature of analysis and software innovation requires systems analysts to work on-site at least part time, though this depends on the form of analysis you pursue.

Locations

The areas surrounding New York City and Washington D.C. hire more systems analysts than the rest of the country. Given the banking, healthcare, and information technologies centers in and around Dallas and Houston, the state of Texas is also a center for systems analysts. Likewise, Chicago is the epicenter for employment in the Midwest. Though the West Coast offers fewer jobs per capita, they make up for the disparity with high salaries; San Francisco, San Jose, and Oxnard, California provide some of the top-paying positions in systems analysis. Analysts in New York City and Danbury, Connecticut also fair well, as the following tables demonstrate.

Metropolitan Areas With the Highest Employment Level of Computer Systems Analysts

Location Employment Annual Mean Wage
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 32,970 $114,760
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metropolitan Division 24,000 $104,180
Dallas-Plano-Irving, TX Metropolitan Division 19,950 $97,880
Chicago-Naperville-Arlington Heights, IL Metropolitan Division 17,990 $90,550
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX 14,990 $101,150
Source: BLS

Top-Paying Metropolitan Areas for Computer Systems Analysts

Location Employment Annual Mean Wage
San Francisco-Redwood City-South San Francisco, CA Metropolitan Division 11,450 $122,380
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA 13,600 $118,010
New York-Jersey City-White Plains, NY-NJ Metropolitan Division 32,970 $114,760
Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, CA 800 $111,940
Danbury, CT 180 $109,300
Source: BLS

Settings

The area of systems analysis you pursue will affect your earning potential. The table below lists the most lucrative sectors in the field and the percentage of professionals employed. Overall, computer systems design and related positions take the lead in position numbers and earning potential, with a median annual salary of over $91,000. Finance fairs nearly as well in terms of annual wages, though the field offers less than half the number of jobs.

The Five Largest Employers of Computer Systems Analysts

Setting Percent Employed Median Annual Salary
Computer Systems Design and Related Services 28 $91,240
Finance and Insurance 13 $90,590
Management of Companies and Enterprises 9 $89,930
Information 8 $89,570
Government 6 $77,460
Source: BLS

Continuing Education for Systems Analysts

Technological professions require ongoing education. Even with a bachelor's degree, systems analysts need to keep abreast of new software developments, malware threats, and productivity research results to maintain a competitive edge. Many professional associations provide ongoing education opportunities in the form of webinars, workshops, and national conferences. Additionally, software developers, such as Microsoft and Adobe, offer courses with certifications that help IT professionals demonstrate their technical acumen. Professionals can pursue most webinars and certifications online, using flexible or asynchronous coursework to earn certification or continuing education credits while continuing to work full time.

How Do I Find a Job in Systems Analysis?

Companies and institutions often advertise computer systems analyst positions online. Search online and sign up for notifications as positions become available near you. To set yourself apart from competitors, consider applying for internships or volunteer work while still in school. These positions could lead to full-time employment after graduation, but even if they do not, they will demonstrate your practical experience and work ethic to future employers. Join associations like those listed below to access private search engines and build networks at association meetings and conferences.

Professional Resources for Systems Analysts

Professional Organizations

  • Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society This worldwide association connects IT professionals of all skill levels and specializations. The community sponsors over 200 IT conferences worldwide and publishes extensively to increase community knowledge and maintain high professional standards.
  • Association for Computing Machinery Another large-scale association bringing analysts together across multiple fields, ACM maintains professional and student chapters to connect generations and bring young professionals into the field. They offer job search assistance and volunteer opportunities.
  • Computing Research Association CRA keeps members informed of issues in the field, including governmental initiatives relevant to database construction and information dissemination.
  • Data Management Association International DAMA is a global platform designed to connect data management professionals, including computer systems analysts. Members participate in continuing education webinars and annual conferences to build professional connections.

Professional Development

  • Casualty Actuarial Society For systems analysts intent on a career as an actuary, certification and ongoing education are pivotal to professional success. You can join CAS to sit for qualifying exams and access up-to-date, relevant coursework.
  • American Management Association AMA's professional development seminars cover issues regarding analytical and business skills.Members gain access to courses, online training, and the organization's Women's Leadership Center, which compiles networking opportunities and advice on how to enter traditionally male-dominated IT professions.
  • Project Management Institute Train and apply for project management certifications with PMI, a world-recognized association dedicated to ethical project management. You can study project and portfolio management, business analysis, and scheduling on their online platform.
  • User Experience Professionals Association This association unites local chapters with national initiatives to improve user experience across technological platforms. It provides local professionals with access to job boards and ongoing education opportunities.

Finding a Job

  • Association for Computing Machinery Career & Job Center As a center for technological engineering innovation, ACM offers a career and job center that includes listings for internships, early-career assistant positions, professorships, and research opportunities.
  • Project Management Institute Career Center PMI lists project management jobs across the nation, searchable by location and company to cater to member employment objectives. Browse by category, professional level, or specific criteria to find a job that meets your needs.
  • International Association of Software Architects IASA provides an advanced job search engine for software architectural jobs in the United States. This nonprofit association links professionals and sources talent for large-scale corporations.
  • Association for Information Systems Career Services AIS divides job opportunities into general fields, specifically academic and IT/tech industry professions. You can access their career development page for resume assistance, recent news and publications in IT, and conference panels regarding employment.

Continuing Education

  • Association of Business Process Management Professionals International This association offers coursework and certifying exams on business management techniques and institutional leadership. Additionally, they offer webinars relevant to current professionals and recertification benchmarks to help professionals remain relevant in the field.
  • Centre for Software Engineering CSE offers courses on subjects from software management to creativity and implementation. They also offer practical workshops on coding and software platforms that allow professionals to network.
  • International Institute of Business Analysis Professionals can certify their business analysis skills with IIBA and receive certifications across multiple business platforms. Regular webinars help maintain certification and offer opportunities to learn more about current business practices.
  • Object Management Group Webinars Through webinars and certifications, OMG qualifies computer systems analysts to work between vendors and companies. As a nonprofit consortium, the underlying objective behind OMG is technological accessibility across professional platforms.