A systems analyst combines knowledge of information systems and business to develop computer systems that will meet business needs. The job is among the most advanced computer careers because of your need to be able to think strategically and to interact with professionals with a variety of skill sets. This career is the TopTenREVIEWS Bronze Award winner in computer careers.
Systems analysts work with various professionals in business and computer careers to select the most optimal hardware, software, internet and networking tools that will accomplish business goals. In this profession, you need to stay within a particular budget or provide an acceptable cost-benefit over a period of time. To do so, you will use various modeling techniques, accounting principles and business analyses. For example, to make a database the most useful, it needs to contain data needed by different departments within a company, and data needs to be presented in a way that end-users can most benefit. A system may be on a shared drive in a network, intranet or internet, and end-users may be employees, customers or a combination of both. The database may facilitate different security levels so that employees or customers may only access information or database fields to perform certain tasks. The system also needs to have the capacity to support multiple users simultaneously and enough memory to support growth over an acceptable period of time. Data stored in the system may range from a number or dollar figure to high-resolution aerial photos or detailed maps.
A systems analyst designs complex systems that will accomplish goals such as this. You may choose to use an existing retail system modify a retail system, or build the system from the ground up, depending on the funding and resources available. You then work with various computer professionals including computer programmers to build systems. After a system has been configured, you test the system to make sure it is performing properly. Systems analysts also work with computer programmers to debug, or remove, errors in the system.
Individuals in this profession may come from a technical or business background. They often specialize in a particular business area such as financial, accounting, scientific or engineering systems for which they have expertise. Often a master's in business administration is required, although some individuals are hired with a bachelor's degree in a technical field, as well as considerable on-the-job business training.
Demand for systems analysts will continue to increase as computers are utilized for more business functions; the field is expected to grow 20 percent over the next decade. One role of systems analysts is to enable systems with different setups to communicate with each other on both a hardware and a software level. Systems are more varied and advanced as tools such as wireless smartphones and internet-based applications continue to replace the functions of a regular PC computer. As a result, individuals in these kinds of computer careers should stay abreast of the latest technologies. They are also more in demand to provide systems security as more and more, confidential data is stored electronically on a network. Systems analysts should have an advanced understanding of the role computers play in business functions in order to help your company maintain its competitive edge.
Starting salary for systems analysts averages $53,600 annually, and you have the potential to earn $119,170 annually, depending on your location in the United States.
Presently, 532,200 individuals are employed in computer careers such as this, and 108,100 job openings are expected over the next 10 years.
You are most likely to be hired by mid-size to large organizations that utilize complex computer systems. Such organizations include governments, insurance companies, financial institutions, business management systems, merchant wholesalers and computer systems consulting firms. States with the highest concentration of jobs in this profession include Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia.
Systems analysts may advance to positions such as senior or lead analyst or to an executive position such as chief information officer. Those that specialize in a particular area of business and who gain considerable experience may choose to become independent consultants, which can be very lucrative business opportunities.
Systems analysts usually work in an office or laboratory, and although most work 40 hours a week, you may work more than 50 hours a week on a regular basis. You are likely to work overtime when designing a new system or when one is getting installed. You may be able to telecommute some of the time. Many of your tasks are performed alone, but you will likely work in a team environment most of the time. It is common for individuals in this profession to supervise other individuals in computer careers such as computer programmers.
You need to be able to see detail at close range, and you will likely sit at a desk for hours at time, so it is important to take regular breaks and to get adequate exercise to avoid repetitive motion injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome or back problems.
Basic Office Skills Required
Although you will likely have more advanced skills from technical and business training, systems analysts need to have basic spelling, grammar and punctuation skills as well as typing, data entry and 10-key skills. You also need to have a working knowledge of various business applications including MS Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Outlook. Verbal communication skills, reading comprehension and the ability to understand complex business processes are also essential to this profession.
Systems analysts play an important role in merging business skills and computer know-how. Few have these skill sets, so those that do are in high demand. You may come from either a technical or a business background, but you must have expertise in the business area in which you specialize. You also need to have good communication skills and the ability to explain technical subjects to non-technical individuals in a team environment. Computer careers such as this help the business world integrate new technologies that emerge into regular business tasks and utilize adequate security measures to protect confidential data stored on a network.
Lisa is a systems analyst for an athletic shoe manufacturing company that has developed a computer system that transfers the electronic blueprints of innovative shoes designed by industrial engineers in CAD and Adobe Illustrator to the assembly line. Her job is among a handful of computer careers that manage multiple computer processes.
The system she has developed manages a complex database that serves as the backbone of the assembly schedule in the manufacturing plant. The company's computer network includes special Mac computers for engineers and marketing professionals that are equipped with extensive RAM and ROM to support powerful graphics applications as well as special hardware devices including an enhanced mouse.
The network also includes large computerized assembly equipment. In addition to orders for producing large quantities of shoes to be shipped to suppliers, the assembly schedule also includes orders for producing demos or samples – shoes still in the development process. The shoes undergo rigorous tests that consider various criteria, such as durability of fabrics used and the level of comfort. The tests are performed both in a laboratory setting as well as with a focus group of consumers.
The system Lisa developed also keeps track of all the business processes in the company, which affect the schedules of the research and development teams and the marketing and sales teams. By coordinating their work, the accounting and financial departments are better able to budget for projects, as well as forecast their return on investments. The goal is for each shoe manufactured to be able to make a profit. Certain shoes, however, are considered "cash cows" – staples that pay for the development of others – while others are meant only for short-lived, seasonal fads.
Lisa has always loved shoes, and she is excited to be able to work for an athletic shoe company when advances are happening in fabrics and computer technologies that are improving shoes like never before. Her shoe company and its competitors have actually identified ways to alleviate common pressure points that people experience which are helping to make shoes more supportive and comfortable than ever. And technology advancements in industrial design and computer careers that automate more complicated assembly line processes have helped to make very comfortable shoes more affordable for everyone. This means her company is more competitive than ever.
Lisa started her career as a graphic designer and then went back to school a few years later to get an MBA with an emphasis in Information Technology. She was first hired by the shoe manufacturer as a database administrator and was later promoted to be a systems analyst when her insightful contributions to the database design helped save the company a lot of money. The computer system that Lisa manages is critical to the performance of the company, and she has developed many checks and balances to make sure if one part of the system fails, there is a back-up process to use as an alternate.
Lisa's job as a systems analyst requires both business and information systems know-how, and she works in a team environment with individuals in other computer careers, as well as business managers, to make sure the system meets the needs of the company's manufacturing and business processes.
A systems analyst enjoys a healthy starting salary.
Computer careers like this require additional education and on-the-job training.
People with expertise in computers and a business process excel in this job.