Data Communications Analyst Career: Pros and Cons
The U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics classifies data communications analysts in the category of computer systems analysts. Check out the pros and cons of a data communications analyst career to decide if it's right for you.
|Pros of Being a Data Communications Analyst|
|High earning potential ($82,710 median salary, May 2014)**|
|Very high job growth (about 21% expected during 2014-2024)**|
|Can work in many industries (education, healthcare, government, etc.)*|
|May not need a college degree; education requirements vary from high school diplomas to bachelor's degrees***|
|Cons of Being a Data Communications Analyst|
|Employers usually require many years of work experience***|
|Requires extensive technical knowledge***|
|No variety in daily tasks***|
|Complex tasks require excellent reasoning skills and attention to detail***|
Sources: *PayScale.com, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***CareerBuilder.com Job Postings (Feb 2015).
Data communications analysts work for a variety of organizations that rely on computer network systems to operate, such as hospitals, insurance companies, government agencies and schools. Network systems allow data to be shared among multiple computers and include wide area networks (WAN), local area networks (LAN) and intranet. As an analyst, you evaluate the needs of an organization, design a network system and oversee the installation of routers, network drivers, cables and adapters. These analysts also test and analyze a company's existing network system to see if all its components are operating efficiently. If any problems are identified, analysts recommend software or hardware that will increase performance and improve network security.
Salary Info and Job Growth
According to the BLS, as of May 2014, the mean annual wage for data communications analysts was $87,320. Annual salaries vary depending on several factors, including work setting. For example, analysts working for in mining and securities and commodity exchanges have the potential to earn more than those working in the oil and gas or IT industries. The BLS expects job opportunities for data communications analysts to increase 21% during 2014-2024.
What Are the Requirements?
There are no standard education requirements for data communications analysts, but the BLS states that analysts with 4-year bachelor's degrees are usually qualified for the majority of positions. Most employers require or give preference to analysts with bachelor's degrees in information science, computer science and management information systems. The curriculum of these degree programs may include advanced courses in areas like network security, database management, wireless networking and programming. Although degree requirements may vary among employers, all require work experience using specific computer applications.
Data communications analysts need to use specialized knowledge and a range of analytical and technical skills to complete daily job tasks. Based on job postings found in June 2012 on CareerBuilder.com, qualifications to be a data communications analyst include:
- Experience using different operating systems (Windows, Linux, Solaris, etc.)
- An ability to work independently
- Knowledge of Microsoft LAN
- Experience using Integrated Computer-Aided Software Engineering tools
- Strong oral and written communication skills
Job Postings from Real Employers
Because data communications analysts can find jobs in any industry that uses computers, the main requirement for getting a data communications analyst job is to have the required experience and skills. Below are a few examples of jobs postings for data communications analysts found in June 2012:
- A community college in Tallahassee, FL, sought a data communications analysts with at least eight years of experience working as LAN administrators. Although only a high school diploma was required, preference would be given to applicants with bachelor's degrees in fields such as computer science and information studies. Other qualifications included having knowledge of different operating systems, technical terminology and email systems.
- A New Orleans, LA, company wanted a candidate with a bachelor's degree and experience working with LAN and network architecture. The job required that candidates be able to to work independently and as part of a team in a high-pressure setting. The employer preferred applicants with Cisco Certified Network Professional certification and knowledge of government network operations.
- A banking company in Kentucky was looking for candidates with excellent customer service, communication and analytical skills. Applicants must have had experience working with Cisco routers and structured cabling systems.
How to Beat the Competition
Professional certifications are not typically required by employers, but can give applicants a competitive advantage and allow them to show their expertise in specific areas of technology. Software developing companies often offer certifications to individuals who demonstrate a high level of competence using their products. For example, Cisco awards the Cisco Certified Network Professional credential to those with knowledge of wireless networks, network security and WAN.
Since data communications analysts need experience using different operating systems, you might consider earning certifications from Microsoft and Red Hat because, by having them, you demonstrate your knowledge of Windows and Linux systems. These certifications can help you land jobs and receive a higher salary.
Other Careers to Consider
Computer and Information Systems Manager
If you love working with computers, but a data communications analyst career doesn't sound right for you, you might consider working as a computer and information systems manager. In this career your duties may include recommending computer updates, overseeing software installation, ensuring that a network is secure and supervising other IT staff members. While a bachelor's degree is the most common education requirement for this career, some employers may require a master's degree in business administration. According to the BLS, in 2011 the median annual salary for computer and information systems was around $118,000. The agency expects job positions to grow by 18% during 2010-2020.
Computer Systems Analyst
You might also consider working as a computer systems analyst. Computer systems analysts work to improve an organization's operations by improving its computer systems. However, unlike data communications analysts, these analysts work to improve the entire computer system, instead of concentrating solely on the network. Computer systems analysis is a high-growth field, and the BLS projects a 22% increase in jobs during 2010-2020. Although bachelor's degrees are typically required to work in the field, computer systems analysts earn relatively high median annual salaries of approximately $79,000.
Computer Support Specialist
If you want a job that offers on-the-job training and doesn't require years of experience, consider working as a computer support specialist. These specialists provide support for computer-related problems to people and businesses. Entry-level positions, such as those at call-centers and help desks, can be obtained with certificates or associate's degree, but more advanced positions usually require bachelor's degrees. The BLS reports the 2011 median annual salary for computer support specialists was around $48,000.