What Does a Systems Analyst Do? (Plus How To Become One)
Updated July 9, 2023
Most organizations strive to optimize their technological systems to meet their needs and maintain their competitive advantages. Working as a systems analyst is a career within the tech field that allows you to use your computer skills and problem-solving capabilities to develop efficient information technology (IT) infrastructures. Reviewing the details of this career may help you learn if it suits you and create a plan to pursue it.
In this article, we explain 'What does a systems analyst do?', including details like types of systems analysts, job requirements and key skills, work environment and how to become one with a job description example.
What is a systems analyst?
A systems analyst is a technology employee who analyzes, maintains, improves and designs information systems for an organization. They may have further specializations such as business, software, data and applications they can develop to improve and maintain the systems they create. Sometimes, they're also referred to as systems architects, since they can build and design information systems.
Related: What Is a Computer Systems Analyst?
What does a systems analyst do?
Systems analysts ensure an organization's IT systems meet the needs of the business. They examine the needs of an organization and suggest or design new programs, devices and processes to meet those needs and help the business operate more efficiently. Some of their specific responsibilities include:
Maintain and troubleshoot data warehouses
Research and evaluate emerging technologies, including both hardware and software
Discuss users' needs, identify vulnerabilities and consider ways to boost productivity, efficiency and accuracy
Prepare cost benefits and analysis reports for technological upgrades
Communicate strategic decisions with other IT department employees
Train the end-users and write instruction manuals for employee or customer use
Types of systems analysts
Below are descriptions of the different types of systems analysts:
Product analysts survey projects and products and find ways to improve them. This can include how to improve processes to be more efficient or to create higher-quality products. Sometimes, a product analyst's role may overlap with a project manager's role.
Business systems analyst
Business systems analysts improve systems across an entire organization. Typically, this includes restructuring the hierarchies within the business and improving processes that already exist.
Data systems analyst
Data systems analysts use specific, targeted data to inform changes within a business. Typically, they collect data about specific changes and recommend ways to improve those changes or suggest how to stop those changes before they affect the organization.
Software systems analyst
Software systems analysts study software and programming to inform the changes they make. They may create proprietary software for an organization to use as part of its information technology system.
Applications systems analyst
Applications systems analysts create, maintain and improve apps for an organization or business. This can include creating an internal app for an organization's employees to use or an external app for the organization to sell or market.
Systems analyst requirements
Below is an overview of the qualifications that employers might require for systems analyst jobs:
Most employers require a bachelor's degree in computer science or IT. Employers may also accept candidates who have a four-year degree in a field outside of technology if the candidate has computer-related coursework and certificates. Because it's important for systems analysts to understand a business's needs, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree can also give candidates a competitive edge in the job market.
Systems analysts typically gain most of their training through coursework in a bachelor's program, certification programs and on-the-job training in previous positions. Most employers expect candidates to have substantial experience in an IT role before qualifying for a systems analyst position. This means aspiring systems analysts may want to pursue entry-level or associate-level tech roles to obtain the experience to qualify for a systems analyst position. While most employers offer orientation, systems analysts may begin handling responsibilities immediately upon hire with little on-the-job training.
While they're optional, many certifications can both validate a systems analyst's skills and demonstrate a desire to work hard and grow professionally. Some systems analyst certifications you can pursue include:
CompTIA A+: Many view this entry-level certification as a foundational certification for IT employees entering the industry. It verifies their skills and knowledge on a wide variety of issues, from networking and operating systems to mobile devices and security.
CompTIA Security+: This certification provides a benchmark for best practices in online security. Systems analysts help organizations build secure networks, so a security certification can be valuable.
CompTIA CySA+: This is an intermediate-level credential for those trained in cybersecurity, verifying that they have the skills and knowledge to perform data analysis and identify vulnerabilities and threats to an organization. It also affirms their ability to configure and use tools that detect threats and protect systems from cyber attacks.
CompTIA CASP+: Offered by CompTIA, this advanced certification validates critical thinking and decision-making across a variety of security disciplines. This credential can prove your soft skills to employers and show you know how to apply them to IT responsibilities.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Related: 5 IT Certifications for Your Career
Key skills for systems analysts
Several skills can help systems analysts succeed in their roles. Those skills include:
Analytical skills include the ability to gather and analyze information and identify solutions to problems. Systems analysts gather information about an organization's needs and use analytical and problem-solving skills to identify a solution.
Analysts use strong written and verbal skills to communicate between management, the IT department and non-IT employees. They explain complex issues and create written materials for end-users to use as training materials.
Creative thinking skills are essential in this role. Systems analysts often devise new and innovative solutions to computer problems.
Technical skills are the hard skills and knowledge necessary to perform complex tasks involving technology. These skills are also essential to evaluate technology solutions and design new solutions to meet an organization's needs.
Systems analyst work environment
Systems analysts typically work full-time in office environments with the following characteristics:
Sitting at a desk for extended periods
Using computers, printers and other office equipment
Facilitating communication between the IT department and senior management
Picking up heavy computer equipment
Systems analysts can work as independent contractors or for organizations directly. Many work for IT firms, while others work in finance and insurance, health care or government organizations.
Average salary and job outlook for systems analysts
Salaries for this position vary according to your experience level and geographic location, among other factors, but it's helpful to establish your expectations for pay. On average, systems analysts earn about $80,731 per year. Senior systems analysts, who typically have more experience and expertise, earn a national average salary of $90,214 per year.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the outlook for systems analysts is set to grow by 9% from 2021 to 2031. This is faster than the average for all occupations.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organization and a candidate’s experience, academic background and location.
Related: 20 Best Paying Jobs in Tech
How to become a systems analyst
These are the typical steps you might take to pursue a career as a systems analyst:
1. Obtain experience
Many employers require substantial experience to qualify for a systems analyst role. If you're still in college, search for internship opportunities where you can get real-world experience to accompany your degree. If you've completed your degree, search for entry-level or associate-level positions in an IT department to learn more advanced skills.
2. Update your resume
When you've obtained the required education and experience and pursued any additional certifications, update your resume. Include your highest level of education, relevant work history and skills. Remember to highlight your soft skills throughout your resume too by discussing times you solved problems, troubleshot technology and selected equipment and programs to meet client needs.
3. Apply for jobs
Perform a search in your geographic area for open positions for systems analysts. Identify the roles for which you qualify based on your education and experience levels. Apply using your updated resume and a cover letter highlighting any quantifiable results you have achieved in previous roles.
Systems analyst job description example
Below is an example of a job description for a systems analyst role at a fictional company:
Blue Ridge Health Center is seeking an experienced systems analyst to join its IT department. This person is responsible for the maintenance and support of the network, hardware and software. They also handle project design, implementation and execution. They're responsible for overseeing technical training and resource support for all end-users and perform as project lead under the IT director. When the help desk escalates their support requests, the systems analyst assists.
Requirements include a bachelor's degree in computer science or a similar field and a minimum of three to five years in an IT department. The ideal candidate has strong written and verbal communication skills and the ability to work independently, with strong attention to detail.
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to become a systems analyst?
If you're a recent high school graduate, it can take between five and seven years to become a systems analyst. This is because many positions require at least a bachelor's degree and many prefer candidates with a master's degree. Some time is also necessary to submit applications and attend job interviews.
What's the difference between a systems analyst and a software engineer?
A software engineer typically creates a program that meets requirements, while a systems analyst creates documentation about what the requirements are and how those documents can improve the system as a whole.
Is programming a requirement for systems analysts?
No. Working with computers is often part of a system analyst's duties, but programming or coding is typically reserved for software engineers and other employees. If you want to expand your skills, learning programming can help you increase your salary.
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