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Cracking the Code How To Become a Computer Systems Analyst
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Cracking the Code: How To Become a Computer Systems Analyst

11 minute read | May 31, 2023
Sakshi Gupta

Written by:
Sakshi Gupta

Ready to launch your career?

Say that you’re a business, and you’re looking to set up your computer systems across multiple departments and divisions. Who do you call for the job? That would be a computer systems analyst—professionals who combine their skills in technology and business to help companies set up, operate, and maintain their computer systems. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an employment growth rate of 9% for computer systems analyst jobs in the next decade, a rate that’s about double the national average. 

Despite the positive career outlook, aspiring tech professionals often overlook computer systems analyst roles in their job hunt. This is primarily because there is a general lack of understanding of exactly what the role involves, and how it fits into a larger organizational context, as computer systems entail facets of IT and cybersecurity, but is also a field unto itself. 

In this guide, we’ll tell you exactly what the job entails, the skills that you need to pick up, and where you can find vacancies in this field. 

What Does a Computer Systems Analyst Do?

Computer system analysts conceive and architect computer systems from the ground up. They carry out maintenance on those systems and train employees on how to use them. Their work also involves working with network architects, database administrators, and project management leads to gather requirements for new systems. 

How To Become a Computer Systems Analyst: A 6-Step Guide

Being a computer systems analyst means getting to contribute significantly to the functioning of digital organizations. It’s also a lucrative career with an excellent job outlook. If that sounds like what you’re looking for, here’s how you can plan your career trajectory in this field step by step.

  1. Meet the Educational Requirements (and Keep On Learning)

  2. Hone the Requisite Skills

  3. Get Practical, Real-World Experience

  4. Your Network Is Your Net Worth (and Can Also Help You Land a Job)

  5. Pursue an Internship

  6. Start Applying for Jobs

Meet the Educational Requirements (and Keep On Learning)

Computer systems analysis is a field where you need to have strong technical skills. There are a few different kinds of education courses that you can take to acquire those skills. 

A degree program is the conventional path to a career in this field. Computer science degrees give you a broad understanding of areas like business systems, network engineering, and systems management. All of those skills are relevant to computer systems analysis. An educational background in IT or software engineering will also give you similar skills. 

While college degrees are a common choice, you don’t necessarily need one to find work as a computer systems analyst. Nowadays, you can use online courses and bootcamps to gain deep knowledge in this area. Even bootcamps in related areas such as software engineering can give you a broad understanding of topics relevant to computer systems analysis, and without the high cost of a college degree program. 

Regardless of which education path you choose, it is imperative that you continue picking up new skills once you’re on the job. Computer systems analysis is a field that demands a broad skill set in areas like hardware systems, software systems, database design, and operating systems. The only way to gain a deeper knowledge of those topics is by continuing your learning journey after you’ve completed a basic degree. 

There are a few ways you can go about doing that. Professional certifications look great on your resume and teach you more advanced skills. You can find a list of systems analyst certifications here. You can also turn to good old books to learn more about things like malware analysis, systems engineering, and agile systems. 

Hone the Requisite Skills

Let’s take a look at the mix of skills you need to enhance your job prospects in the field of computer systems analysis. 

Technical Skills

The following technical skills are essential in the work of a computer systems analyst. 

Systems Analysis and Design

Professionals in computer systems are required to analyze existing systems and assess their ability to serve the needs of digital organizations. They also need to be able to conceive computing systems from the ground up and realize their critical requirements. 

Cost-Benefit Analyses

Computer systems analysts spend a lot of their time conducting cost-benefit analyses. Each enhancement or new system component that’s recommended is analyzed to determine its cost. Systems analysts then assess the benefits of that enhancement and produce cost analysis reports with their recommendations. 

Project Management

A computer systems analyst needs to be a good project manager. They are required to make informed decisions when it comes to assessing resources, prioritizing tasks, and coordinating between different team members. 

Networking Skills

In the age of the Internet, computer systems analysts are required to have a strong background in networking technology. They often find themselves assisting in the work of a network administrator by studying the networking protocols of different devices and setting up security measures for the network. 

Soft Skills

Here are a few soft skills that you will need to acquire if you want to work as a computer systems analyst. 

Analytical Skills

Computer analysts need to have strong analytical and critical thinking skills. Your ability to analyze project requirements and any proposed solutions to issues will help you make good decisions and explain them to stakeholders. 

Communication Skills

Effective communication skills are important in this field because it requires a significant amount of collaboration. You will often find yourself working within a large team and it’s essential that you’re able to communicate in a concise and clear manner each time. 

Get Practical, Real-World Experience

Here are a few ways that you can put your theoretical knowledge to the test. 

Consider Volunteer Work

Volunteering is an option that a lot of tech professionals don’t consider, but it is one that can give you the practical experience that you need. You can hit up nonprofits and small businesses in your area to check if they need help with their computer systems. It’s easy for computer systems analysts to find such opportunities because most organizations can use help with their IT infrastructure from a systems perspective. 

Pursue Freelance Work

Freelancing allows you to work on live projects without the pressure of working under the rigors of large-scale corporations. Make sure to pursue freelance roles that allow you to work on small parts of systems projects since you’re still early in your career at this point. All the better if you can shadow an experienced professional for a while and run your work through them. 

Find A Mentor

Mentors allow you to learn from their vast real-world experience and apply those learnings to your own career. So make sure to stay on the lookout for senior systems professionals in your company or personal circles who you can approach with a request for mentorship. 

Your Network Is Your Net Worth (and Can Also Help You Land a Job)

Networking can help you find job opportunities that aren’t out there on job boards. Let’s take a look at a few ways that you can grow your network. 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn allows you to easily find professionals across industries; in this case, you would connect with fellow computer systems analysts, as well as recruiters and managers in the field. Take some time to observe how members post content and interact with others in the community. 

Online Communities

Here are a few other online communities that you can participate in to make connections and keep up with the goings-on in the world of systems analysis: 

Conferences and Meet-Ups

There are two big advantages to attending in-person conferences and meetups. The first is that you end up making connections a lot quicker when you meet people in person. Along with that, you also get to attend seminars and sessions at these conferences, which can expose you to new ideas from the world of computer systems analysis. 

Meetup.com is a good place to start if you’re looking for local events that cater to computer systems analysts. Even if you don’t find one that caters to your exact role, you can visit meetups for tech professionals or adjacent roles like business intelligence analysts. This will give you a chance to flex your networking muscle and you’ll get to interact with the kind of professionals who you’ll find yourself collaborating with at work. 

Pursue an Internship 

Internships are an opportunity to learn how work is done and projects completed in the real world. This is especially valuable in a field like computer systems analysis, where there’s a big leap to be made from the books to actual systems. An internship will allow you to work under experienced professionals and see how they perform tasks and collaborate with team members. 

Internships are also a great addition to your resume. Since computer systems analysis isn’t the kind of field where you can rack up a portfolio of work, an internship can be exactly what you need to stand out from the crowd. 

Start Applying for Jobs

Once you’ve picked up the skills and gained some real-world experience, it’s time to throw your hat in the ring to land an entry-level computer systems analyst job. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you do that:

Tailor Your Resume to Each Role

Recruiters have only so much time to go through the many resumes they receive for each job opening. You can make their life a lot easier by customizing your resume for the job that you’re applying to. So if you’re applying to an entry-level systems analyst role, make sure that the educational background items and internship experience you mention are relevant to that role. 

Prepare for the Interview

Go over common questions that come up in technical interviews. This will give you a chance to reflect on the answers that you want to give and assess your body language and articulation during interviews. 

Follow Interview Best Practices

Here are a few things you should keep in mind as you prepare for your computer systems analyst interviews:

  • Prepare for the most common systems analyst interview questions
  • Keep your answers concise. Always take a moment to reflect on any question you’re asked and keep your answers to the point. 
  • Research the company well. Make sure that you know what the company’s core business is because that will help you assess how they use their systems analysts.

Becoming a Computer Systems Analyst: Real-Life Examples To Learn From

Here are a few posts you can turn to for inspiration and learn more about what computer systems analysts do at their job.

Paul Haze, Charity Matta: Computer Systems Analysts

This post from journalist Kerry Halladay, What Does a Computer Systems Analyst Do, contains interviews with computer systems analysts from a variety of large companies including Lockheed Martin and the insurance company Anthem. These interviews offer insight into the nitty-gritty of the job, including how meetings are conducted and the different responsibilities that analysts are assigned within organizations. 

ForrestKnight, (Now-Former) Computer Science Student & Software Engineer

YouTube video player for WHQtQGwTBNA

We’ve already talked about the importance of landing an internship in computer systems analysis. This video details how an internship in the field was structured at a Fortune 500 company. You also get to learn about the specific tasks and tools that were assigned as part of the internship. 

What Does the Career Path for Computer Systems Analyst Look Like?

As an entry-level analyst, you’ll be assigned the design and maintenance of specific parts of larger systems. For example, you might be required to analyze the performance of the IT infrastructure of your company or design a new internal network. 

Once you gain between three to five years of experience in the role, you will be considered for a promotion. If you want to continue working in your core role as an analyst, then you can make the move to a senior analyst role. This will allow you to take on bigger responsibilities in the same area. 

Another option that you will have at this stage is to move into the role of project manager. This usually happens because junior computer systems analysts gain experience in project management as part of their job and make good managers in broader tech projects. 

Candidates with eight to ten years of experience in systems analysis are eligible for roles as IT managers. This is a managerial position where you will oversee all of the IT operations at your organization. 

Once you have 15 years of experience in the field of computer systems, you’ll be in line for a senior managerial or technical role. In the former, you might be considered for a VP of Technical Operations role. Alternatively, you could become a candidate for Chief Technology Officer (CTO) at your organization.

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How Much Can You Earn as a Computer Systems Analyst?

Here’s what you can expect to make as a computer systems analyst at different stages of your career: 

Entry-Level Computer Systems Analyst

how to become a computer systems analyst, Entry-Level Computer Systems Analyst salary

The average salary of an entry-level computer systems analyst is just above $64,000. 

Mid-Level Computer Systems Analyst

how to become a computer systems analyst, Mid-Level Computer Systems Analyst salary

The average base pay across computer systems analyst roles is about $78,500 and that’s how much you can expect to make in a mid-level role. 

Senior-Level Computer Systems Analyst

how to become a computer systems analyst, Senior-Level Computer Systems Analyst salary

Senior computer systems analysts make $107,580 per year on average.

Resources To Find Computer Systems Analyst Jobs

Ready to start the job hunt? Here’s where to go:

Job Boards

The following job boards are great for finding systems analyst positions: 

Network

As we’ve already said, networking can help you find vacant job roles easily. You’re more likely to land a job if you get referred to it as opposed to taking the conventional interview route. 

Start networking among friends and family by letting them know about your educational background and the role that you’re looking to land. You can then move on to creating a profile on LinkedIn and mentioning that you’re hunting for computer systems analyst jobs in your profile header. 

Online Communities

Online communities allow you to quickly meet a lot of people who work in your field. Wherever there are social media platforms with groups or communities, you will find some that cater to tech professionals. So keep an eye out for such groups on platforms like Slack, Facebook, and LinkedIn. 

How To Become a Computer Systems Analyst FAQs

We’ve got the answers to your most frequently asked questions:

Are Computer Systems Analysts in Demand?

Yes! The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that almost 51,000 new jobs will be added in this field between 2021 and 2031.

Is Computer Systems an IT Job?

Computer systems analysts do work in IT departments in some organizations. However, their job goes beyond IT and often requires an understanding of business needs so that computer systems can be tailored to them.

Which Degree Is Best for a Computer Systems Analyst?

If you’re set on the degree path, a degree in computer science or IT is your best bet.

How Can You Become a Computer Systems Analyst Without a Degree?

Completing a bootcamp or online course is the best way to become a computer systems analyst without a degree. You can also get certified in this area to boost your chances of landing a job without a degree.

Does a Computer Systems Analyst Need To Know How To Code?

Not all computer systems analysts use programming as part of their daily job. That said, SQL is an important language to know in this field. You might also consider learning Python and Java for some of the work that you will do in networks and operating systems.

Since you’re here…
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About Sakshi Gupta

Sakshi is a Managing Editor at Springboard. She is a technology enthusiast who loves to read and write about emerging tech. She is a content marketer with experience in the Indian and US markets.