What is a Computer Systems Analyst?
A computer systems analyst is not simply an “I.T. guy.” That is, this is not someone that responds to calls for help with things like software and hardware. Instead, these workers have a deep knowledge and understanding of both computer systems and business principles and seek to merge both to maximize efficiency and productivity.
A computer systems analyst is an expert in computer technologies that specializes in making computer systems run more efficiently. This is done through a variety of means, such as designing IT solutions that allow companies to process, store, access, and retrieve data in a quick and efficient manner.
What Does a Computer Systems Analyst Do?
A computer systems analyst performs many job duties, each of which falls under the realm of studying a business or organization’s existing computer systems and developing solutions to make those systems more efficient. In that regard, workers in this field must be able to take their understanding of information technology and IT systems and merge it with their understanding of business operations to devise the best solutions for businesses to improve the effectiveness of their computer systems.
For example, a computer systems analyst might conduct research into new and emerging technologies that might be able to assist a company in operating more efficiently. Then, they would consult with managers, administrators, and executives to determine whether such changes are needed, and if so, how to implement them quickly and efficiently.
These workers complete many other tasks in a typical workday as well. Few of these are outlined below.
Improving Functionality of Computer Systems
Not all businesses and organizations can afford to implement brand new computer systems, so computer systems analysts are often asked to determine how existing systems can be upgraded. For example, a computer systems analyst might recommend a new suite of software to a financial institution that wants to have easier access to customer data.
Oversee Implementation and Configuration of IT Systems
Computer systems analysts are typically in charge of implementing and configuring new computer systems for businesses and organizations. What’s more, there is often a certain level of customization that must be done to computer systems to be most useful to an organization. Computer systems analysts are also in charge of making those customizations.
Preparing Cost-Benefit Analysis
Computer systems analysts also ensure that when implementing the new system or upgrading the existing system, cost associated with it is worth the expected benefits.
Computer Systems Testing
Whether it’s a brand-new bespoke computer system for a specific business or a small patch made to an existing computer system, workers in this field are responsible for testing their work to ensure everything works as it should.
Training & Education
When new hardware, software, and other system components are installed, computer systems analyst often provide training materials and educational opportunities to the people that use the system. For example, a manufacturing company that upgrades their shipping and receiving software would be trained by a computer systems analyst in how to use the new software to expedite the shipping process.
Many computer systems analysts spend part of their day writing computer code such that machines can understand the complex instructions contained in software and computer applications. This process involves not just writing thousands of lines of code, but also testing the code that’s written to ensure top performance.
What are the Working Conditions of a Computer Systems Analyst?
Computer systems analysts most often work in comfortable office settings with air conditioning, good ventilation, and good lighting. There is very little (if any) hard physical labor involved, though there is plenty of sitting and standing. Most computer systems analysts work for large businesses, though some work as independent contractors. In that case, an independent computer systems analyst would likely work from home or have a home office space that provides a quiet, comfortable place to work.
In most cases, workers in this field work full-time, or 40 hours per week. However, if problems arise or deadlines are pending, computer systems analysts can easily work 50-60 hours a week, or more. And though there is a lot of independent working time for people that follow this career path, there are also opportunities to work with other members of the IT staff as well as business executives, management, and other employees.
Why are Computer Systems Analysts Important?
Computer systems analysts are important for a number of very different reasons. On the one hand, they’re responsible for making sure that a company’s computer systems and related procedures are operating at peak performance. That, in turn, ensures that computer-related tasks are both efficient and effective, which helps improve productivity and helps the company’s bottom line as well.
On the other hand, computer systems analysts are on the forefront of innovation, learning about new computer systems, software, hardware, and other factors that enable them to put more capable and more powerful computer systems into operation. In that regard, they play an important role in keeping businesses and organizations on the cutting-edge of computer technology.
As noted earlier, many computer systems analysts are also charged with helping other people in the organization to understand how to use computer systems and their related components. Again, this only helps improve a business’ ability to conduct business and achieve its goals, because computer systems analysts are there to aid workers in utilizing computer-based tools to do their jobs more effectively.
What Do You Learn in a Computer Systems Analyst Degree?
Degree programs in computer systems analysis offer a broad-based learning experience that help students develop a wide range of pertinent knowledge and skills. Common coursework in this field of study includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- Object-oriented programming – Students learn various object-oriented programming languages like C++ and JAVA.
- Computer systems design – These courses revolve around the study of how to design the most efficient and effective computer systems for business applications, like manufacturing or finance.
- Programming analysis – Classes in programming analysis focus on the software side of computer systems, particularly how to design software and modify it to accommodate a business’ specific needs.
- Applied mathematics – This course helps students bring mathematical knowledge and skills together with computer science knowledge and skills.
- Calculus – Calculus is the branch of mathematics that specializes in finding the properties of derivatives as well as the integrals of functions.
- Computer and network engineering – Students learn how to integrate computer systems with other machines and systems, how to make computers faster and more capable, and how to build improved computer networks.
- Database management – This course offers insights in how to manage and maintain large quantities of data in a database system.
- Fundamentals of business – Since most computer systems analysts work for companies and businesses, degree programs in this field often require students to complete business, marketing, and economics courses.
- Computer ethics – Ethics courses provide students with insight into the ethical quandaries that might present themselves when working with technology and private data.
- Risk management – Coursework in risk management focus on developing skills related to forecasting problems that might arise with a computer system and devising strategies for mitigating those problems.
What are the Educational Requirements to Become a Computer Systems Analyst?
The minimum education requirements to work as a computer systems analyst is an associate’s degree in a computer-related field such as computer information systems. These two-year programs offer very basic introductions to concepts of computer systems analysis and are intended to prepare students for entry-level positions or for continuing their education in a bachelor’s degree program.
Because associate’s degrees are the most basic of college degrees, the admissions requirements aren’t usually stringent. In fact, at many schools that offer associate’s degrees, students might just need to have a high school diploma or a GED to enroll.
The most common level of education for computer systems analysts is a bachelor’s degree. These degrees typically require around 120 credit hours to complete and usually take about four years. Unlike an associate’s degree, a bachelor’s degree offers students the opportunity to study more focused topics in advanced classes during their junior or senior year.
For example, a student in a computer information systems bachelor’s degree program might take courses on software development, database management, information systems, and software project management, just as a few examples. In those courses, students take a deep-dive into these topics, spending an entire semester learning the intricacies of working with each technology, hardware, software, and so forth.
That being the case, the purpose of bachelor’s degree programs is to prepare students for entrance into the workforce, perhaps at higher than entry-level positions. This isn’t to say that having a bachelor’s degree automatically means that one can find a higher-paying job but given the greater degree of training and education one receives, it’s more likely to do so with a bachelor’s degree than an associate’s degree.
Though less common, some computer systems analysts hold master’s degrees. In some cases, it’s beneficial to continue one’s studies at the master’s-degree level, particularly if specialization is desired. For example, an analyst that wants to concentrate on the business side of computer system analysis might get a master’s degree in business administration (MBA).
Master’s degree programs vary in their course requirements, with some having just 30 or so credit hours to complete the program and others requiring upwards of 60 credit hours for completion. That means that these programs might be completed in a year or two or take as many as three or four years to complete.
What is an Online Computer Systems Analyst Degree?
One of the benefits of studying for a computer-based career is that it opens up the possibility of getting one’s degree online.
While some degrees would be difficult – if not impossible – to complete remotely, many computer science degrees are tailor-made for online studies. Students can complete their studies at home on their own schedule without missing out on having the appropriate hardware and software to learn the skills needed for careers in this field.
What’s more, given the huge advancements in technology over the last decade, online learning offers students all sorts of tools that make it more like an on-campus learning experience. Not only can students easily communicate with their professors and other students, but they can also participate in group chats, streaming video conferences, and the like, which gives them an improved and more connected experience.
Of course, one of the biggest benefits of studying online is the monetary factor. By living at home, a student can avoid paying expensive room and board fees that on-campus students often incur. Additionally, there’s no added expense of paying for gas or mass transit.
In other words, studying to be a computer systems analyst online is an ideal way to acquire the needed skills to become a competent and knowledgeable worker.
What are the Advancement Opportunities for a Computer Systems Analyst?
With an educational background in computer science and some experience working in this field, workers can advance to related careers and enjoy more responsibility and higher pay.
For example, a computer systems analyst that has focused their studies and work experience in the field of software implementation could advance to a position as a project manager. Likewise, if computer research is an area of interest, with additional studies in a master’s degree program and a year or two of relevant work experience, a computer systems analyst might be able to transition into a position as a computer research scientist.
Not all advancement opportunities come with added education, though. A prime example is working as a computer and information systems manager. Often, this position is attainable for computer systems analysts that have moderate work experience and on-the-job training, say, in the five to ten year range. Given that this is a management position, senior analysts that have a demonstrated record of performance and have shown the ability to manage other workers could find that advancement into a management position is possible.
In many cases, advancing one’s career in the IT field occurs after obtaining further training. This might be a result of getting a new educational degree, participating in continuing education courses, or getting certified in a specific area of computer systems, like network architecture.
What Skills are Needed to be a Computer Systems Analyst?
Being an effective computer systems analyst requires much more than computer-related skills. Instead, workers should have a broad base of personal qualities, traits, and hard and soft skills that allow them to do their job to the utmost effectiveness. Some of these skills and qualities include:
- System analysis experience – Workers in this field should possess strong analysis skills, especially as they pertain to analyzing the performance of computer systems.
- Research skills – Computer systems analysts must have excellent research skills with the ability to investigate problems, propose potential solutions that are based on research, and test theories.
- Collaborative skills – Workers in this field often work independently, however, having the ability to work as a member of a team is a critical skill to possess.
- Communication skills – Often, computer systems analysts must explain complex processes to laypersons. This requires that they have excellent verbal and written communication skills.
- Creativity – Computer systems analysts often have to devise novel solutions to problems that present themselves. Having the capacity to think outside the box is helpful in that endeavor.
What are the Benefits of Being a Computer Systems Analyst?
Working as a computer systems analyst has many benefits that range from excellent pay to good working hours to the possibility of traveling. Here’s a look at a number of the top advantages of working in this field:
- Solid job growth – As explored more below, this line of work is expected to continue to grow, meaning well-qualified workers should be able to find jobs in the near-term.
- Good benefits – Many computer systems analysts work full-time for large companies, which often means having benefits like insurance and retirement included in their compensation package.
- Good working hours – Most workers in this field work 40 hours per week with few (if any) nights, weekends, and holidays required.
- Opportunity for continued education – The technology field is rapidly changing, which means computer systems analysts have a breadth of opportunities to learn new skills.
- Ease of entry into the field – Some jobs in this line of work can be obtained with an associate’s degree, and even those that require more schooling usually only need a bachelor’s degree. That means workers need just 2-4 years of education to qualify for many jobs.
- Opportunity to travel – Whether it’s attending trade shows, trainings, or something in between, computer systems analysts can enjoy many opportunities to travel to different parts of the country.
- Opportunity for advancement – Like many jobs in the information technology sector, working as a computer systems analyst opens the door for advancement into related careers that might offer more pay, better benefits, and the like.
What is the Employment Outlook for Computer Systems Analysts?
The employment outlook for computer systems analysts is about average for all occupations. According to a 2021 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this career is expected to grow at a rate of 7 percent through 2030. While that number doesn’t indicate rapid growth, it’s encouraging in that this field should continue to provide plenty of job opportunities for well-qualified workers.
Certainly, workers in this field that have an advanced education or training or have experience working in this field will have better luck finding jobs – and better-paying ones, at that. Additionally, as businesses and organizations are increasingly reliant on information technology, computer systems analysts will be needed to design computer systems and install them for businesses of all sizes.
Another factor that should help maintain steady job growth in this sector is the expansion of information technology needs in the healthcare industry. Hospitals, HMOs, and other healthcare organizations will need qualified computer systems analysts to ensure that their IT systems are up to the task.