(8.2 out of 10)
|Number of Jobs:||120,400|
|This Job is Ranked in|
|Best Technology Jobs||#1|
|The 100 Best Jobs||#4|
Determining how a computer system can best serve a business or organization's needs is a key role of a computer systems analyst. As such, these professionals must be big-picture oriented and have a clear understanding of how the components within a computer system—hardware, software, and networks—work together. They're charged with analyzing that interaction and making recommendations that will ultimately help a company or organization operate more efficiently. Computer systems analysts juggle a lot of responsibilities, which can include choosing and configuring hardware and software, matching technology to users' needs, monitoring and testing the system in operation, and troubleshooting problems after implementation. Introverts need not apply: Collaboration is a big part of the job, as analysts frequently consult with management and users, as well as convey system requirements to software developers and network architects.
To succeed as a computer systems analyst, it's not necessary to know the nitty-gritty details of specific technologies, says David P. Bieg, chief operating officer for the International Institute for Business Analysis. "You need to understand how systems interact, but you don't really need to understand the core of every technology—it's really about how information and process flows through the system," he says. Although a quarter of analysts work for computer systems design firms, they are also employed in a range of industries, from science to healthcare to banking and finance.
Demand for computer systems analysts should grow at a steady clip this decade, as businesses and organizations increasingly rely on information technology. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 22.1 percent employment growth for computer system analysts between 2010 and 2020, faster than the average of all occupations. During that time period, about 120,400 jobs will need to be filled. The profession's strong growth prospects helped boost computer systems analyst to the No. 4 spot in our ranking of The Best Jobs of 2013.
The Labor Department reports that computer system analysts made a median salary of $78,770 in 2011. The highest-paid 10 percent in the profession earned $120,060 that year, while the lowest-paid earned $49,370. Some of the most highly compensated analyst positions support the mining and oil and gas extraction industries as well as scientific research and development. Two niche industries that pay computer systems analysts particularly well are animal slaughtering and processing and motion picture and video, but job seekers should note that there are relatively few positions available in these fields. Location-wise, the highest-paying jobs can be found in the Northeast region of the country.
Most employers prefer applicants with bachelor's degrees in a relevant field, such as computer science. For technically complex jobs, a master's degree may be preferred, and some employers seek applicants who hold a master's degree in business administration with a concentration in information systems. This is also a field that values technical skills, so people who have degrees in other areas may be able to snag a computer systems analyst job if they have courses in business systems analysis or related subjects under their belt. Practical experience also helps. "Someone may not think they qualify in this area, but depending on the curriculum taken, that may, in fact, qualify them," says Bieg.
Whether you're pursuing a bachelor's or master's degree, Bieg recommends taking courses that specifically pertain to business systems analysis. "[Students] need to learn about business systems analysis in order to determine if this is the type of thing they want to do, and also recognize the opportunities being offered," he says. Think of these classes as a gateway to the profession. "There's this gap that exists where students want to understand how to get into a career [as a computer systems analyst] and corporations want to identify students who want to be in that career ... and there's nobody bringing them together to make that happen," says Bieg.