What Is Computer Systems Analysis?

A computer systems analyst plans and oversees implementation of the computer systems that businesses use to conduct their operations. If you're adept in computer technologies and have strong problem solving skills, read on to find out if this field may be right for you. Schools offering Business Systems Analysis degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Description

As computer systems become more complex, businesses and organizations call on computer systems analysts to design systems that will meet their individual needs and yield a good return on their investment. This career requires a combination of technical and business expertise. Most analysts have specialized knowledge in the field for which they design systems, whether it's accounting, finance, healthcare, science or engineering.

Important Information About This Occupation

Licensure Not required
Work Environment Government, information technology firms, consulting, various industries
Similar Occupations Computer programmer, actuary, computer network architect
Online Availability Some programs available online

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Duties

Computer systems analysts need to understand the uses and end objectives of a system, so the first step in the design process is gathering this information from managers and system users in the organization. Once you understand an organization's goals, you'll devise a system according to specifications, confirm its financial feasibility and oversee its execution. Although some of this execution falls into the hands of programmers, systems analysts work with them in every step of the project, including debugging the final product. You might even be responsible for training users on the finished system or writing the instruction manual for its use.

Required Skills

If you understand computer technologies, including both hardware and software, you may be on your way toward becoming a systems analyst; however, you also need to be committed to keeping up with ever-changing technology. In addition to understanding computers, systems analysts usually have the ability to think logically, multitask and solve problems effectively. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that it is not unusual for systems analysts to work in teams, so potential systems analysts need strong interpersonal and communication skills (www.bls.gov).

Education Options

As the BLS notes, most employers look for systems analysts who hold at least a bachelor's degree; however, for more complex, technical jobs a graduate degree may be required. You may choose to study a computer-related field, or you might choose to study the field for which you wish to design systems. In either case, you will need to demonstrate an understanding of computer programming and technology in general, and you can expect to continue learning throughout your career.

Undergraduate Study

Many computer-related degree programs, such as computer information systems, computer science and information technology, may lead to careers in systems analysis. Course topics often include:

  • Data structures
  • Computer programming
  • Operating systems
  • Statistics
  • Project management
  • Networking
  • Information systems management
  • Systems analysis and design
  • Database management

Systems analysts sometimes hold degrees in fields unrelated to computers, though they must still exhibit computer proficiency, often gained through taking computer courses as electives.

Graduate Study

At the graduate level, potential systems analysts study the field for which they will design systems, such as business or science. They usually take courses or fulfill a concentration in a discipline that is related to systems analysis. For example, if you choose to study business by pursuing a Master of Business Administration, you could take a concentration in information systems that will prepare you for work as a systems analyst in a business context.

Job Outlook and Salary

Computer systems analysis is a field that is expected to have very fast employment growth between 2012 and 2022, according to the BLS. Employment is expected to increase by 25% over this decade, largely due to companies needing to make technology installations or upgrades. The most employment growth is likely to be found in the information technology consulting industry and healthcare. Having a business background might improve your employment prospects, and field-specific knowledge is valuable.

According to the BLS, the median annual income of a computer systems analyst was $82,710 in May 2014, with most of them earning between $50,780 and $129,980 a year. Computer systems design and related services was the top industry employing analysts and offered an average wage of $91,150. Management of companies and enterprises had the second highest level of employment and paid these professionals $87,310 a year on average. Support activities for mining had the highest average income of $118,770, although the industry only employed 790 systems analysts.

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