Computer Systems Analyst
Systems analysts adapt and design information systems, to help organisations work more quickly and efficiently. They work closely with staff at all levels to find out the problems people have with the existing system, and what they hope a new system will achieve. Analysts produce a specification for a system that will meet the organisation's needs.
Also known as
- Systems Analyst
- Business Analyst, IT
Systems analysts use information technology (IT) to help organisations to work more quickly and efficiently. They investigate a business problem and then design or adapt a computer system to improve the way the business works. They are also known as business analysts or business systems analysts.
In many ways, systems analysts work as closely with people as they do with computers. At the start of a project, they talk to computer users and managers to find out what problems there are, and what the organisation wants to achieve by investing in a new or improved system.
For example, a business might want to reduce costs or increase the speed or scale of production.
Systems analysts carry out a detailed study of the organisation, its procedures and the needs of the people who use its systems. Analysts gather information by talking to staff at all levels within the organisation.
Next, they look at this information and design a computer system (or a number of systems) that meets the organisation's needs. Analysts then write a system specification, describing business rules, how the new system will work, the new equipment or software that the organisation will need to buy, and the level of training staff will need.
Once an organisation's management has picked and approved the system, the analyst starts to work closely with IT specialists, systems designers and developers to create the system.
Systems analysts are more likely to update or redesign an out-of-date system rather than introduce a totally new one.
Analysts might be involved in planning or carrying out the introduction of the new system, and in training users. They might write user guides.
When a project is complete, analysts look carefully at the new system to make sure that it does what it was supposed to and that users are happy with it.
Although systems analysts often have an office from which they work, they sometimes have to travel to visit users, departments or organisations that need their skills. They might also travel to meet representatives from companies that supply IT equipment.
In some organisations, a developer/analyst might be responsible for the whole process of analysing needs, designing an appropriate system, writing and developing programs.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a systems or business analyst, you'll need:
- To enjoy solving problems and weighing up the pros and cons of different solutions.
- A logical, analytical and investigative mind, together with creative abilities.
- An understanding of computing and programming techniques.
- Strong verbal and written communication skills.
- Interpersonal skills.
- A good general awareness of how businesses operate.
- Good listening skills and the ability to ask the right questions.
- Tact, diplomacy and good negotiating skills.
- The ability and willingness to find out about the particular department or organisation that needs your help.
- Good report-writing skills.
You will also need to be able to:
- Work closely with staff at all levels throughout an organisation.
- Explain your ideas confidently, clearly and concisely.
- Work under pressure to manage projects and meet deadlines.
Pay and Opportunities
Salaries for computer systems analysts vary depending on the range of their responsibilities, and the size and type of company they work for. The pay rates given below are approximate.
Systems analysts earn in the range of £20,000 - £28,500 a year, rising to £37,000 - £52,000. Higher earners can make over £55,000 a year.
Salaries could include performance-related pay, profit share or company bonuses.
Hours of work
Systems analysts usually work 35-37 hours, Monday to Friday.
Where could I work?
Jobs exist with employers in industry and commerce, including banks, building societies and insurance companies, and in the public sector, for example, with local and central government departments and the NHS.
Opportunities for systems or business analysts occur in cities and some towns around the UK. A significant number of vacancies for IT and telecoms professionals are in London and the South East of England.
What's happening in this work area?
The IT industry is predicted to grow much faster than the rest of the UK workforce over the next decade. The recession has affected the IT industry, but overall it has emerged in a very strong position.
One reason for this strength is the realisation, by the global economy, of the importance of IT in helping businesses to survive the recession and economic downturn. Investment in technology is also viewed by many as a way for public bodies to become more efficient.
There is a shortage of candidates with IT skills and qualifications in the UK.
Future skills needsTechnical skills are highly important in this industry. However, employers have also highlighted the need for the following non-technical skills:
- teamworking skills
- good communication skills
- business skills.
Opportunities occur for experienced systems analysts to work on a self-employed, consultancy basis - usually on short-term contract work.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised on specialist IT job boards and employers' websites, in computing magazines and professional journals, in local/national newspapers, on Universal Jobmatch and at Jobcentre Plus.
Short-term contract work is found through specialist IT recruitment agencies.
Entry Routes and Training
Most entrants are graduates.
However, a Higher Level Apprenticeship is also a great place to start.
A degree in a computing subject, such as business information systems, might give you an advantage. However, employers might also recruit graduates with a degree in another subject, providing all the necessary IT training. Business studies is one of the most relevant non-IT subjects.
Some applicants have programming or related skills, or postgraduate IT qualifications. E-skills has teamed up with employers and universities to offer a degree in Software Development for Business.
Full-time and part-time foundation degrees are offered in various computing and business subjects. These can be topped up to a full degree after further study.
A number of universities offer the Information Technology Management for Business degree that has been jointly developed with major employers. Some universities and employers offer internships or student placements that develop business, communication and interpersonal skills.
Some systems analysts study part-time for further qualifications, for example, the professional qualifications of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, or the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS).
They also attend short training courses on current techniques in IT and business analysis.
Experienced systems analysts can progress into project management, IT management or consultancy.
Most computer systems analysts are graduates.
The usual entry requirement for a degree in a relevant subject such as business information systems is:
- 2/3 A levels
- GCSEs at grade C or above in 2/3 other subjects
- English and Maths at GCSE.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- Edexcel (BTEC) Level 3 National qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
To get onto a Higher Level Apprenticeship, you will need at least two A Levels, or an Advanced Level Apprenticeship.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have relevant programming or IT project management skills.
Some employers, such as computer consultancies, prefer applicants with an IT/computing degree.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree course, a college or university Access course, for example, Access to IT/Computing, could be the way in.
These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.
Distance learning opportunities include the Open University's degree and postgraduate courses in computing subjects.
The University of Portsmouth offers degrees in Business Information Systems and also Computing and Information Systems by distance learning.
Queen Mary, University of London offers an MSc in Computing Information Systems by distance learning.
- 11% of people in occupations such as computer systems analyst are self-employed.
- 4% work part-time.
- 26% have flexible hours.
- 3% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutionsProfessional institutions have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
For more information on the institution(s) relevant to this career, check out the contacts below.
Queen's University Belfast
The Tech Partnership
Skills for business and information technology
Address: 1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Specialists in graduate careers
Address: Unit 6, The Quad, 49 Atalanta Street, Fulham, London SW6 6TU
Tel: 020 7565 7900
BCS: The Chartered Institute for IT
Address: First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue, Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 0845 3004417
Capita Learning and Development
Tel: 0800 0223410
Bring IT On
Address: Kings Place, 90 York Way, London N1 9GU
Tel: 020 3353 2000
Address: University House, Jews Lane, Gornal, Dudley, West Midlands DY3 2AH
Tel: 01384 458515
Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP)
Address: Boundary House, Boston Road, London W7 2QE
Tel: 020 8434 3685
Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS)
Address: Suite A, (Part) 2nd Floor, 3 White Oak Square, Swanley, Kent BR8 7AG
Tel: 0845 8500006
Professional Issues in Information Technology
Author: Frank Bott Publisher: Chartered Institute for IT (BCS)
Careers Wales - Welsh Apprenticeships
Tel: 0800 028 4844