U.S. News released a list of the 100 best jobs of 2014 and their number #2 pick for 2014. Computer systems analysts study an organization’s current computer systems and procedures and design information systems solutions to help the organization operate more efficiently and effectively. They bring business and information technology (IT) together by understanding the needs and limitations of both.
Computer systems analysts typically do the following:
- Consult with managers to determine the role of the IT system in an organization
- Research emerging technologies to decide if installing them can increase the organization’s efficiency and effectiveness
- Prepare an analysis of costs and benefits so that management can decide if information systems and computing infrastructure upgrades are financially worthwhile
- Devise ways to add new functionality to existing computer systems
- Design and develop new systems by choosing and configuring hardware and software
- Oversee the installation and configuration of new systems to customize them for the organization
- Conduct testing to ensure that the systems work as expected
- Train the system’s end users and write instruction manuals
Computer systems analysts use a variety of techniques to design computer systems such as data-modeling, which create rules for the computer to follow when presenting data, thereby allowing analysts to make faster decisions. Analysts conduct in-depth tests and analyze information and trends in the data to increase a system’s performance and efficiency.
Analysts calculate requirements for how much memory and speed the computer system needs. They prepare flowcharts or other kinds of diagrams for programmers or engineers to use when building the system. Analysts also work with these people to solve problems that arise after the initial system is set up. Most analysts do some programming in the course of their work.
Most computer systems analysts specialize in certain types of computer systems that are specific to the organization they work with. For example, an analyst might work predominantly with financial computer systems or engineering systems.
Because systems analysts work closely with an organization’s business leaders, they help the IT team understand how its computer systems can best serve the organization.
Many computer systems analysts are general-purpose analysts who develop new systems or fine-tune existing ones; however, there are some specialized systems analysts. The following are examples of types of computer systems analysts:
Systems designers or systems architects specialize in helping organizations choose a specific type of hardware and software system. They translate the long-term business goals of an organization into technical solutions. Analysts develop a plan for the computer systems that will be able to reach those goals. They work with management to ensure that systems and the IT infrastructure are set up to best serve the organization’s mission.
Software quality assurance (QA) analysts do in-depth testing of the systems they design. They run tests and diagnose problems in order to make sure that critical requirements are met. QA analysts write reports to management recommending ways to improve the system.
Programmer analysts design and update their system’s software and create applications tailored to their organization’s needs. They do more coding and debugging than other types of analysts, although they still work extensively with management and business analysts to determine what business needs the applications are meant to address.
Most computer systems analysts have a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field. Because these analysts also are heavily involved in the business side of a company, it may be helpful to take business courses or major in management information systems.
Some employers prefer applicants who have a master of business administration (MBA) with a concentration in information systems. For more technically complex jobs, a master’s degree in computer science may be more appropriate.
Although many computer systems analysts have technical degrees, such a degree is not always a requirement. Many analysts have liberal arts degrees and have gained programming or technical expertise elsewhere.
Many systems analysts continue to take classes throughout their careers so that they can learn about new and innovative technologies and keep their skills competitive. Technological advances come so rapidly in the computer field that continual study is necessary to remain competitive.
Systems analysts must understand the business field they are working in. For example, a hospital may want an analyst with a background or coursework in health management, and an analyst working for a bank may need to understand finance.
The median annual wage for computer systems analysts was $79,680 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,950, and the top 10 percent earned more than $122,090.
Most systems analysts work full time. About a quarter worked more than 40 hours per week in 2012.
Employment of computer systems analysts is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations.
As organizations across the economy increase their reliance on information technology (IT), analysts will be hired to design and install new computer systems. Growth in cloud-computing, wireless, and mobile networks will create a need for new systems that work well with these networks.
Additional job growth is expected in healthcare fields. A large increase is anticipated in electronic medical records, e-prescribing, and other forms of healthcare IT, and analysts will be needed to design computer systems to accommodate the increase.
Employment growth is expected in IT consulting firms, where many systems analysts work. These analysts, who will be hired by organizations to design computer systems in a variety of industries, will move on to another assignment when they are finished. As more small and medium-size firms demand advanced systems, the practice of analysts moving between businesses is expected to increase. Employment of systems analysts is projected to grow 35 percent in the computer systems design and related services industry from 2012 to 2022.
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