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Systems Analyst

Systems Analyst  careers

Systems Analyst

Tell me about it
Systems analysts are Information and Communications Technology (ICT) specialists, who design tailor-made computer systems for larger users such as banks, supermarkets, insurance companies, utilities, government departments and defence systems. It is their job to investigate and analyse a business problem or need in detail, in both a commercial and technical context, and specify one or more designs for computer systems to provide possible solutions.

Systems analysts begin by discussing the nature of the ICT requirement with managers and other users in order to establish exactly what is needed. They then plan the structure of the new system, setting out in detail the data to be used, input and output files needed and the mathematical and logical operations to be performed. They may also prepare a cost-benefit analysis to help management decide whether the proposed programming project is worth undertaking.

Once the project is approved, they specify the particular files and records to be used by the program, determine the sequence of processing, and design how the final output will look. After the program is written, often by a software engineer, they oversee the testing and evaluation process and make sure that any problems are corrected.

The final stage is to draw up a detailed implementation plan, write relevant user manuals and set up staff training programmes.

Entry level
The computer industry is flexible about qualifications and many employers find that relevant experience can be a greater asset than formal academic qualifications. Many people develop computer skills, for example, when working in other fields such as financial services, insurance, banking or accounting.

There are a great many computer-related courses available at universities and there are significant differences between them, so it is important to read prospectuses carefully.  Several universities are now offering the Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) degree. This has been developed by e-skills UK and employers to meet specific industry needs, for example project management skills and business awareness.

You might also consider the ICT Higher Apprenticeship, a new approach to developing degree level skills. Using this self-earning alternative route to a degree, you can gain a foundation degree from three years’ employment combined with part-time study, which can be converted into an Honours degree with a further year's commitment.

Making the grade
When in employment, you would be able to work towards professional qualifications offered by bodies such as the British Computer Society, the Institute for the Management of Information Systems, the Institution of Analysts and Programmers or e-skills UK.

Personal qualities
You would need good overall awareness of computer systems, hardware, programming and software. You must also fully understand the needs of business and industry. Good communication skills would be essential to liaise with programmers and hardware providers as well as end users. You would have to develop good investigative and presentation skills, the ability to communicate well with staff at all levels, report writing, planning and negotiating skills.

A logical and analytical mind is essential, together with a systematic approach to problem solving. Accuracy and attention to detail are equally vital.

Looking ahead
Systems analysts are employed across the whole range of commerce and industry, public services, utilities, defence and research. Because the possible uses of computers are so varied and complex, you might choose to specialise in business, scientific, engineering or microcomputer applications.

Despite difficult economic conditions from 2008 to 2011, the ICT sector continues to make a major contribution to employment growth in the UK. Employment has reached record levels and demand for employees is outstripping supply. Access to skilled individuals is critical if we are to achieve the economic potential for the UK.

ICT professionals now account for 4% of the total UK workforce.

Promotion to senior or principal analyst and then to project manager is a possible career progression route. An alternative, with the right experience, is to become self-employed and work on a contract or consultancy basis. You could also work in ICT training or technical writing. Many opportunities occur overseas.

Alternative suggestions
There are many new job titles emerging in the computer industry, making it important to keep in touch with latest developments. You might consider training as a helpdesk administrator, multimedia programmer, network manager, software engineer or webmaster.

Take-home pay
Typical starting salaries range from £26,000 to £30,000, rising with experience to £40,000 to £60,000. Salaries tend to be higher in some sectors, especially the financial sector, and in London, the South East and Midlands, where they may exceed £85,000.

Most systems analysts have a normal working week of between 37 and 40 hours. However, the intense nature of the work, which often involves deadlines and emergency problem solving, can lead to overtime and weekend working which will be reflected in the salary earned. If you work as a consultant, you would spend much of your time on clients’ premises. This may involve local travel or being away from home for lengthy periods.

Sources of information
British Computer Society:
British Interactive Media Association:
e-skills UK:
Institute for the Management of Information Systems:
National Computing Centre:
Institution of Analysts and Programmers:
Big Ambition:
Skills Framework for the Information Age:




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