The Systems Analyst: Helping Technology and the Business Work Better Together

The systems analyst helps bridge the communication gap between the worlds of IT and business. Those who work in this crucial position need a solid combination of technology and business knowledge and insight.

Systems analysts analyze, document and communicate technical solutions, so they also must be process-driven and detail-oriented. “Companies are looking for systems analysts who have previous programming experience,” explains Robert Half Technology’s Minneapolis–St. Paul Area Division Director, Tim Stormoen. “They are required to gather requirements from users and stakeholders, and then translate those requirements into a technical document that a developer (programmer) can understand.”

Systems analyst salaries on the rise in 2014

As organizations continue to require more efficient digital solutions, a knowledgeable systems analyst who can help ensure technical excellence remains a hot commodity. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of computer systems analysts is projected to grow 25 percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS also predicts that growth in cloud computing, cybersecurity, and mobile networks will increase demand for these technology professionals. Given these trends, it’s easy to see why the starting salary for a systems analyst in the United States is expected to increase 5.1 percent in 2014. Starting compensation is projected to range from $76,250 - $108,750.* (You can use the Robert Half Technology Salary Calculator to find salary information specific to your city.)

Systems analyst job description

So, what does it take to become a systems analyst? Here are some key qualifications:

  • Excellent analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Effective verbal and written communication skills
  • Analysis and user acceptance testing (UAT) skills
  • Broad knowledge and experience with hardware and software systems, including their installation, maintenance and life cycles
  • Bachelor’s degree in information systems, computer science or a similar field
  • Five or more years of experience working with specific applications and/or operating systems
  • Ability to understand applications from programming and business perspectives, and to gather and communicate requirements

As noted earlier, previous programming experience is also frequently required. In terms of responsibilities, a systems analyst must analyze systems hardware and software problems and develop technical solutions. A systems analyst is also typically expected to translate user and/or systems requirements into functional technical specifications, and write and maintain detailed systems documentation, including user manuals and technical manuals. Additionally, a systems analyst will often serve as a liaison between developers and end users to ensure technical compatibility and satisfaction.

How to become a systems analyst

A detail-oriented developer who loves process and prefers translating developer-speak to programming code will find transitioning to a systems analyst role a natural process. While you can still break into this field without programming experience, Stormoen advises that even an entry-level systems analyst “master the technical programming aspects first” before venturing into this career. Nevertheless, add proven analytical and communication skills to hands-on technical experience, and you'll likely be strong candidate for this in-demand IT role. Look to Robert Half Technology’s latest Salary Guide for job descriptions and starting compensation trends for a wide range of IT jobs — including systems analyst. *Systems analyst salaries in Canada are projected to increase 5.1 percent in 2014, with a starting salary ranging from $77,250 - $104,500.