Computer Systems Analyst (Career Guide & Salary)
What is a systems analyst?
Systems analysts—at times called system architects—are one of many positions in the IT industry. These professionals assess an organization's computer systems to determine where improvements can be made. The integrity of a computer's cyber security system is just one of many aspects that they may evaluate. In general, systems analysts take a holistic look at an organization's computing systems to make sure they are running smoothly and meeting the needs of the organization or company.
As public and private organizations continue to expand their technological operations, IT professionals like computer systems analysts will be relied upon to contribute to and oversee these changes. Continue reading to find out more about what systems analysts do and how to pursue this particular IT niche.
What does a systems analyst do?
Systems analysts may have a wide range of duties depending on their particular position and company, but their goal remains consistent: evaluate the computer/IT systems that an organization uses and address any deficiencies. As a result, a systems analysts job description often include the following:
Establish the needs and goals of an organization's IT systems
Design and implement new systems, applications and procedures
Assess the IT systems to determine if they meet the needs and goals of the organization
Research the costs, pros and cons of new technologies to help managers decide whether upgrades are necessary
Research technological solutions to determine if they could better address certain issues such as usability, efficiency, security and more
Create standard operating procedures and other manuals on how managers and employees should use particular computer systems
Where do computer systems analysts work?
Most systems analysts work either directly for a given company or organization, or they work for numerous organizations as a security consultant or contractor. If they do the latter, they may freelance or work for an IT firm.
Any organization that utilizes computer technology may have need for a systems analyst, which means they can find work in just about every industry, be it healthcare, automotive, finance, government, tech, retail and even food—all these industries utilize computer systems in difference ways.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top five industries with the highest employment levels of computer systems analysts in 2022 are as follows:
- Computer systems design and related services
- Management of companies and enterprises
- Insurance carriers
- General medical and surgical hospitals
- Credit intermediation and related activities
The BLS also says the top five highest levels of employment by geographic location are:
|New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA||21,640|
|Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX||17,740|
|Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA||15,020|
How to become a computer systems analyst in four steps
Earn a tech-focused bachelor's degree.
Most IT positions that require a decent amount of technical know-how need at least a bachelor's degree to get hired. If you wish to be a systems analyst, you may want to consider getting a degree in business administration, computer science or a closely related subject such as a bachelor's in cyber security, data science, information technology or computer engineering.
Consider an advanced degree or alternative training program.
Although it may not be required for systems analyst entry-level jobs, a master's degree in information security, business administration, computer science or something similar could expand your job prospects even further or make it easier to get promoted later in your career.
A master's degree or a bootcamp may be especially useful for people who have a bachelor's degree in another field but want to make sure they get the technical knowledge and skills needed to switch to IT. For some people, it may make sense to get some work experience before committing to a master's degree or another program.
Apply for systems analyst jobs and gain experience.
Many jobs may need you to have a bit of experience first before you can get hired as a systems analyst. Roles such as a cyber security analyst, software engineer, QA tester, or IT consultant could be great options to get your feet wet in the field of IT. With enough experience, you can start applying to systems analyst positions.
Earn certification for systems analyst (or two).
With enough experience, systems analysts and other IT professionals should consider earning a certification. They are incredibly important in the IT field because they signify specific skills or competencies that the certification holder possesses.
This can be very enticing to employers who want to know they are hiring the right fit for the job, and may even be required in some cases. The Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP) and CompTIA Security+ certifications are just two examples that may be useful to a systems analyst.
Education and degrees for information systems analysts
There is no universal standard of education or computer systems analyst degree to become a systems analyst, but there are some best practices when it comes to earning an education that sufficiently prepares you for an IT career.
For example, a bachelor's degree is typically considered the minimum education needed for most IT-related jobs. For systems analysts, a degree in computer science or business administration are great options. As one may surmise, a computer science degree equips you with more technological skills, whereas a business administration degree may provide training in business analysis which is also important for systems analysts.
What college major to choose for a career as a systems analyst?
Some other relevant degree areas for systems analysts include:
- Information technology/information science
- Data analysis
- Cyber security
- Computer engineering
Some systems analyst roles may require a master's degree in computer science, business administration (MBA) or a similar subject. Even if it's not always a requirement, a master's degree could equip you with the advanced skills needed for promotion later on in your career or put you one step ahead of your competition.
System analyst skills required
The skills you must acquire to be a systems analyst may vary slightly depending on who you work for and your particular job scope. For example, a systems analyst for a healthcare insurance agency needs to have more than a basic understanding of how health insurance works, especially for programs like Medicare and Medicaid, in addition to the technical aspects of the job. That being said, most systems analysts need to have a grasp of the following if they want to succeed in the field:
Hard skills—Systems analysts should have knowledge of and understand:
- Common programming languages
- Business analytics
- Different types of operating systems
- Software and hardware development, how software and hardware interact
- Networks and databases
- Data modeling
Soft skills—Systems analysts should excel in:
- Critical thinking
- Attention to detail
- Teamwork and collaboration
- Project management
Career paths and roles of system analysts
A systems analyst's job may look very different depending on their employer and what they do on the job. While some may have experience evaluating all kinds of computer systems, others may fall into a particular niche or specialization. Some specialized systems analyst roles include:
- IT systems analyst:
- This is probably the role that we think of most when we think of systems analysts. Since IT systems could encompass practically anything, this is typically a generalist role.
- Business systems analyst:
- This role typically acts as a liaison between the technology team and any other departments responsible for overall business operations. Although they still need to have enough technological knowledge, more emphasis is usually placed on the business analysis skills required of the role.
- Software systems analyst:
- Software systems analysts focus specifically on software and evaluating, developing and implementing beneficial software programs for their particular employer.
- Financial systems:
- Financial systems analysts work at the intersection of accounting and IT departments by specializing in the development of financial systems, such as ones that conduct financial analysis, payroll and more.
- Healthcare systems:
- These systems analysts often work for large healthcare systems or health insurance companies to evaluate their electronic health records (EHR) systems.
A systems analysts responsibilities may change slightly as they reach mid and senior-level roles. For example, systems analysts with more experience may become team leads and manage a team of analysts. With junior-level systems analysts available to do more of the technical grunt work, a systems lead may be working more closely with other teams or departments to plan and prepare system overhauls which the team they lead would then execute.
Systems analyst salary and job growth
The median annual salary for computer systems analysts is $102,240 according to the 2022 Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics from the BLS. California has the highest median annual wage for computer systems analysts, followed by New Jersey, Washington, Colorado and Massachusetts.
Your individual salary can be influenced by many factors besides just location, including your experience and education. Since systems analysts positions are usually mid to senior-level roles, these potential salaries are perhaps a better reflection of what you can make with enough experience as opposed to entry-level IT jobs.
Median Salary: $102,240
Projected job growth: 9.6%
10th Percentile: $61,390
25th Percentile: $79,100
75th Percentile: $130,400
90th Percentile: $161,980
Projected job growth: 9.6%
|State||Median Salary||Bottom 10%||Top 10%|
|District of Columbia||$106,390||$76,530||$174,200|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.
In terms of job growth, the BLS estimates that the employment of computer systems analysts will grow 9.6% through 2032, which is faster than the average across all occupations and which translates to an estimated 37,600 new computer systems analysts job each year, on average, over the decade. With organizations showing no intention to cease their reliance on computer and information technology, computer systems analysts are needed to install and continually evaluate new systems.
How does a systems analyst wage compare to other careers?
Take a look at the table below to see how the median annual wage of computer systems analysts stack up against similar cyber careers and their salaries:
|Career||Median Annual Salary|
|Computer Systems Analysts||$102,240|
|Information Security Analysts||$112,000|
|Network and Computer Systems Administrators||$90,520|
Certifications for systems analysts
There are loads of certifications out there for IT professionals, and for good reason—certifications are a way to validate particular skills, experience and/or competencies within the field. Many IT roles require applicants to have certain certifications, but even if they aren't required to land a job, a certification could make you an especially competitive job candidate as you move up the career ladder.
Having a certification demonstrates your particular expertise to employers and may even pave the way to better roles with higher salaries. Here are several certifications for systems analysts to consider:
Certified Business Analyst Professional (CBAP) from the International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA): This certification is available to people who have completed at least 7,500 hours of business analysis work experience in the last 10 years. Candidates must pass an exam to earn the credential. The IIBA also has a few similar business analysis certifications for people who have less experience or are just starting their careers.
Microsoft certifications: Microsoft offers a ton of certifications that validate knowledge of specific programs or roles, such as an Azure Solutions Architect Expert or the Power Platform App Maker Associate, both of which may be useful to systems analysts.
CompTIA's ITF and A+ certifications: CompTIA is a leading provider of various cyber security and related certifications. Their IT Fundamentals (ITF+) and A+ certifications validate entry-level IT knowledge and skills. These certifications are best for people at the beginning of their career.
FAQs about systems analysts jobs
Is a systems analyst a good career?
If the idea of a job that combines technical know-how with business analysis appeals to you, then a systems analyst could be a great career fit. In addition, computer systems analysts should enjoy a relatively stable career with a projected job growth that is higher than the average across all occupations. They also tend to enjoy generous wages, with a six-figure median annual wage.
Can you become a computer systems analyst without a degree?
A computer systems analyst is not typically an entry-level position, therefore it would be incredibly difficult to get a job as a systems analyst without a degree. Degree or bootcamp programs in computer science and related fields are often necessary to learn IT system fundamentals necessary to do the job.
How can you go from systems analyst to a software engineer?
Systems analysts and software engineers have a decent amount of overlap in their job duties and expertise, so it may be fairly simple to make the switch to a software engineering job if you are a systems analyst. Systems analysts tend to have a broader job scope, however, which means that you may need additional training on software specifics to successfully make the transition. Attending a bootcamp could be a great option, as there are tons of software engineering bootcamps out there that teach you exactly the skills you need to enter the field.
Systems analyst vs. system administrator—what's the difference?
System administrators oversee the day-to-day operations of computer systems and networks to make sure they are running smoothly. Systems analysts are more focused on the big picture of how those systems are serving the organization, and helping make decisions on whether upgrades are necessary. Depending on the type of organization, systems analysts may also be the ones to install essential system upgrades, but this kind of task may more likely be delegated to someone like a system administrator.
Other careers related to systems analysts
If you don't think being a systems analyst suits your personal aptitudes and/or interests, consider these other careers related to systems analysts:
Software developers design and implement software application programs from start to finish. These can range from anything as simple as a gaming app on your phone to a sophisticated electronic health records system.
Network architects focus on building data communication networks such as local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and intranets, which are private networks contained within an organization.
Cyber security analysts are responsible for the digital security of an organization and perform a wide range of duties, including monitoring for security breaches, checking for vulnerabilities and proposing enhancements to cyber security issues.
Ready to get started?
The first step to becoming a systems analyst is to get the required education so that you have the skills for the job. For most people, this means getting a bachelor's degree in computer science, business administration or a related degree, but this isn't the only route you can choose. Depending on the skills, experience and education you may already have, a bootcamp or other training program may be more appropriate for you. Start researching programs today to see what they can do for your career in IT.
Published: June 20, 2023
Explore Cyber Security Careers
- Becoming a Cryptographer
- Cyber Security Salary
- How to Become a Cryptanalyst
- How to Become a Cyber Security Analyst
- How to Become a Database Analyst
- How to Become a Forensics Expert
- How to Become a Network Security Analyst
- How to Become a Security Auditor
- How to Become a Security Consultant
- How to Become a Security Engineer
- How to Become a Security Software Developer
- How to Become a Security Specialist
- SOC Analyst Career Guide