What Does a Systems Analyst Do?
A systems analyst is the investigator of the digital realm.
Also called a computer systems analyst or a systems architect, a systems analyst studies computer systems and works closely with company executives and IT to find more efficient ways to use computer technology. An analyst often also works with individual users. As a result, being able to work with many different types of people is an important skill for this high-paying profession.
A systems analyst improves computer systems and develops new ones with better productivity in mind. This includes analyzing the cost and benefit of purchasing new hardware and software and the time necessary to train staff on new programs.
Depending on the size of an operation, this role may include the work of a business analyst, but only if the system programming is done by someone else.
A systems analyst is crucial to an organization. It's a good pathway for a computer specialist to learn about any industry because the solutions an analyst provides are so specific, not just to the computer system but to the industry. This career is needed across many industries, so there is plenty of opportunity for growth.
If this combination of skills sounds intriguing to you, keep reading.
- Determine IT infrastructure needs
- Monitor and improve existing computer systems
- Evaluate new technologies
- Analyze costs and benefits
- Plan IT infrastructure from the ground up
- Evaluate and select hardware and software solutions
- Oversee and document installation of new systems
- Test systems
- Train users
- Write instruction manuals
How To Become a Systems Analyst: FAQs
What are the educational requirements to become a systems analyst?
A high school diploma or equivalent is the starting point of an in-depth educational and training journey.
Traditionally, employers have looked for candidates with a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information technology (IT). However, that trend is changing as companies remove that requirement and instead focus on skills. Employers may accept entry-level systems analysts who have an associate degree or certificate in computer science or an unrelated bachelor's degree if the candidate has completed computer-related coursework or has solid hands-on experience. Someone with an unrelated degree, for example, could start as an IT support specialist and work their way up.
Even though this is a computer-focused role, many successful systems analysts have a liberal arts background combined with credentials. That broad background comes in handy because this career requires communicating well with people at all levels of an organization.
Most systems analysts continue their education through on-the-job training and continuing education. Some go on to earn a master’s degree in business administration (MBA) or computer science to give themselves a competitive edge.
What other qualifications do I need?
Business classes and knowledge can be helpful because systems analysts are often involved in both the technical and business sides of a company. Industry-specific knowledge can also give candidates a leg up because it makes communication easier.
As mentioned, there are many opportunities to specialize in this role, either in the type of industry served (financial or healthcare, for example) or in the analyst's primary focus. For example, one analyst might focus on data modeling and computer system design while another might focus on gathering user feedback. Programmer analysts focus on coding and may work more closely with software developers. IT project managers supervise the project of rolling out a new system and making sure deadlines are met.
Learning a speciality will require more training or hands-on experience. For example, a software quality assurance (QA) analyst will spend time focusing on diagnosing and testing software.
What about certifications?
Continuing education is a must in this line of work. Program-specific certifications, such as Microsoft, may be something you pick up along the way. Programming languages, such as Structured Query Language (SQL), will be necessary for a hands-on role like building a website. Other credentials are a way for systems analysts to specialize, such as a Certified System Administrator or Professional Business Analyst certificate.
Where do systems analysts work?
Systems analysts may work for one company, or they may consult with several clients. They are needed at large corporations, small startups and government institutions.
How long does it take to become a systems analyst?
An associate degree takes two years, but as explained above, additional education and training may be required.
Is there a demand for systems analysts?
Yes. Job openings are expected to grow 9% from 2021 to 2031, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That translates to about 44,500 jobs opening per year over the decade.
What skills and qualities would make someone a good fit for this job?
- Excellent listening and communication skills
- Strong analytical skills
- An eye for detail
- A knack for finding creative solutions
- Proficiency in programming languages
- Curiosity about learning new computer skills
- Typically extroverted and open
- Can analyze both business and technical demands from a company perspective
If you want the kind of career that makes you indispensable to a company’s overall strategy, consider this role. Systems analysts make an impact at big and small companies because they focus on increasing productivity and reducing costs.
If you’re hands-on kind of person, consider a small company. If you’re a big-picture person, a bigger company where you lead a team may be a better fit.