Pros and Cons of an Information Analyst Career
Information analysts are a type of computer systems analyst that work specifically with information systems. There are several pros and cons to a job as an information analyst, so you should refer to the table below before making your decision.
|Pros of an Information Analyst Career|
|You'll have the flexibility to work for a business or as a self-employed consultant*|
|Employment of computer systems analysts is expected to grow much faster than average, by 21% during the 2014 to 2024 decade*|
|The salary is relatively high; the 2014 average annual wage was about $87,000*|
|Information analysts may choose from a variety of different industries that require their services*|
|Cons of an Information Analyst Career|
|Information analysts often have to travel to meet their clients' needs, and the length of the stay varies widely*|
|Many information analysts work more than 40 hours a week*|
|Some positions require a master's degree in computer science*|
|To stay competitive, you must constantly keep up on new technological innovations*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Information analysts determine a company's IT needs and then they create a computer system meeting those needs. These systems involve both hardware and software, which provide platforms for internal and external communication. Information analysts also produce training materials and teach employees how to use each computer system. Information analysts merge business requirements with technological capabilities. Typical duties may include:
- Determining the role of information technology in a business
- Performing routine tests to analyze system performance
- Guiding the computer systems upgrade process
- Overseeing systems configuration
Job Outlook and Salary
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that employment of computer systems analysts will grow by 21% during the decade spanning 2014 to 2024. This is much faster than the average projected growth for all occupations. This surge in computer analyst jobs is partly due to growth in mobile, wireless and cloud-computing, all of which have a need for new systems to help them operate effectively. In 2014, the BLS reported that computer systems analysts made a median annual wage of about $82,000 while computer systems analysts in the 90th percentile of reported earners made about $129,000.
What Are the Requirements?
You must be able to create an IT system from scratch, so you'll need very strong computer science and programming skills. Customer service skills are also a plus since you'll be working with a variety of clients, counseling them on their IT problems and offering solutions. Information analysts must also be able to train employees and create informational material describing how to operate the systems they've designed.
You'll need at least a bachelor's degree in IT or computer science. Computer science programs often include core courses in calculus, linear algebra, advanced algorithms, data management, systems analysis and design, and various computer programming languages such as object-oriented, C and C++ or UNIX. Some bachelor's level IT programs focus on creating marketable technology matching the needs of society. Common IT program courses typically include topics like programming fundamentals, information security, wireless networks and e-commerce. Some of these programs also may require or offer independent study or an internship where you work for an IT business for a certain number of hours per credit.
What Do Employers Look For?
Employers require information analysts with a bachelor's degree or higher in computer science or information technology. An employer may ask for information analysts with experience in the company's specific industry. To give you a clear picture of what employers are asking for, here are some job postings from the April 2012 job boards:
- In Tennessee, an IT and software development company was looking for an information analyst to aid the development of radiology information systems. The employer required applicants to have a minimum of 1 year experience working with radiology IT and 2 to 5 years of experience working with medical IT.
- A wireless services company in New Jersey advertised for a senior information analyst to help create business systems for third party clients. Qualifications included up to date knowledge and experience using a number of programming languages and platforms, including MicroStrategy BI Suite, Java and Data Warehouse.
- An Ohio IT company wanted an information analyst to create high tech IT solutions in the global marketplace. Requirements included a bachelor's degree, knowledge of IT development and strong customer service skills.
- A management and IT consulting firm in Georgia was looking for a senior information analyst with a bachelor's degree in business or computer science and five or more years of experience in data management. Job duties included developing proposals for clients and counseling junior analysts.
- In South Carolina, a manufacturing company was looking form an information analyst to learn and then support the company's existing IT system. Qualifications included a bachelor's degree in IT or computer science and experience working in a manufacturing environment.
How to Maximize Your Skills
You should develop programming and IT platform skills using a variety of programming languages and IT software because different employers will require you to use specific tools to create their computer systems. You should also develop a portfolio of IT systems that you've worked on or made yourself. Finally, you should be prepared to travel and work in a flexible environment that changes as existing technologies advance and new IT systems become available.
While most employers require a bachelor's degree in computers or technology, some employers only require any undergraduate degree plus relevant experience. On the other hand, employers may prefer a master's in computer science (CS). Although a master's in CS might boost the tech side of your resume, business and finance employers often look for CS undergraduates with a master's in business administration (MBA).
Alternative Career Paths
Computer and Information Systems Managers
Also called IT managers, computer and information systems managers oversee a company's digital communications system. They recommend the upgrades that are often carried out by information analysts. The BLS projects that employment of IT managers will grow by about 18% during the 2010 to 2020 decade, an employment increase that's about as fast as average for all occupations. In 2011, IT managers made a median annual wage of about $118,000.
Computer and Information Research Scientists
Computer and information research scientists design and create new computer and communication technologies. They explore computer engineering and programming fundamentals to advance technology and solve complex issues. Demand for these research scientists is projected to grow by about 19% during the 2010 to 2020 decade. That's about as fast as average for all occupations. Computer and information research scientists made a median annual salary of around $101,000 in 2011.