Programmer Analyst: How Soft Skills Fuel Salary Surge

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that developer / programmer analyst is one of the top five tech positions we expect to see grow this year.

This position requires both business and technical savvy because developers act as a bridge between business needs and technical builds. The demand for skilled programmers who are also adept at requirements’ analysis and client communication is continuing to grow, especially because user experience (UX) has moved front and center for end users.

“New developers are not going to get their foot in the door without core hard-coding and programming skills,” explains Robert Half Technology’s San Diego branch manager, Kimberly Hobscheid. “But what makes developers worth their weight in gold to many organizations is often their skills on the softer side.”

Programmer Analyst Salary: On the Rise in 2014

Given the growing need for their services, programmer analysts occupy a unique spot in the job market. It’s little surprise, then, that the starting salary for a programmer analyst is expected to increase 7.1 percent in 2014. Compensation ranges from $69,250 to $122,750.* (You can use our Salary Calculator to adjust the programmer analyst salary range for your city.)

Programmer Analyst Job Description

How can you land a career as a programmer analyst? These are essential qualifications:

  • Strong problem-solving and analytic abilities
  • The ability to understand applications from programming and business perspectives
  • Interpersonal and communication skills, and the ability to liaise with business managers and technical teams
  • Object-oriented programming skills in common languages, including C# / C++, Java Enterprise Edition / AJAX and Microsoft .NET
  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science or management information systems is often required
  • Background in UML modeling is often necessary

The job description for a programmer analyst typically includes:

  • Translating a need into a computer-based solution; programmer analysts analyze business application requirements for functional areas like finance, manufacturing, marketing or human resources
  • Writing code, testing and debugging software applications
  • Recommending system changes and enhancements, as well as modeling new applications
  • Documenting software specifications and training users

Along with core coding, Hobscheid says what matters are interpersonal abilities. Particularly with startups and small businesses, soft skills can make or break a candidate given the close working relationships within these organizations.

At the top of the list of desired soft skills? Communication. “Good systems analysis always begins with a strong foundation in both verbal and written communication skills,” Hobscheid explains. “This allows the developer or analyst to listen effectively and learn how to ask the right questions to ensure all of the relevant aspects of a business process are documented.”

She adds that a focus in UX is also valuable, as is the ability to collaborate and problem solve. “These qualities come into play with the design process, are critical during development, and are key during any problem analysis or debugging adventures,” she notes.

Advice to Aspiring Analysts: Develop Soft Skills

Hobscheid advises an entry-level programming analyst to develop soft skills to edge out the competition. Technical components are non-negotiable; bringing exemplary communication and business skills to the table makes for a well-rounded, in-demand developer.

In addition to more information on the developer / programmer analyst role, you’ll find starting compensation ranges and job descriptions for more than 70 IT jobs in 150 North American cities in our 2014 Salary Guide.

*A starting programmer analyst salary in Canada is projected to increase 7.1 percent in 2014, with a starting salary ranging from $75,250-$112,250.