Pros and Cons of a Career as a Software Analyst
Proficient in both developing computer programming interfaces and interfacing with people, a software analyst works to develop solutions that fit a company's needs. Find out the pros and cons to see if a software analyst career is right for you.
|PROS of a Software Analyst Career|
|Favorable career prospects (25% growth expected from 2012-2022)*|
|High earnings (mean annual wage of $87,320 as of May 2014)*|
|Can work in various industries (management firms, computer systems design, financial institutions, etc.)*|
|Opportunities for advancement to team manager or lead analyst *|
|CONS of a Software Analyst Career|
|Often requires an technical bachelor's degree*|
|May require additional expertise in a specific industry (such as healthcare or finance)*|
|Long work hours (often more than 40 hours weekly)*|
|Continuing education needed to keep up with the constantly advancing field*|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Essential Career Info
A software analyst coordinates with other members of an organization to gather the information needed to determine requirements for applications that meet the company's business needs. In addition to maintaining the company's existing software, these professionals use a development lifecycle process to plan new applications, develop them and test them for any issues, which can require long hours. After the new software is in place, they may train users and update the program as needed.
Job Growth and Salary
The BLS expected favorable job prospects due to faster-than-average employment growth for computer systems analysts, which includes those specializing in software. Companies will continue to need workers who know the latest technological advances and can apply them to solving real business problems. The growth rate for computer systems analysts was projected to be 25% from 2012-2022, and jobs in the computer systems design industry specifically were expected to increase at nearly twice that rate.
The average salary for a computer systems analyst was more than $87,000 as of May 2014. The highest-earning software analysts worked in the mining industry, where the average salary reached nearly $118,000. Other top-paying industries included securities and commodities, oil and gas extractions, computer peripheral equipment manufacturing.
What Are the Requirements?
According to the BLS, many analyst positions require a bachelor's degree, and the major needed can depend on the industry in which you work. You'll usually need a computer science or related major to work for a technology company, but businesses may prefer management information systems majors. An individual with a degree in an unrelated major might be able to become a software analyst by taking computer science courses or gaining technical expertise on his or her own. Some jobs may also require a Master of Business Administration (MBA) with a concentration related to IT. Other qualifications you'll need for this career include:
- Project management skills
- Ability to analyze complex data
- Problem-solving skills
- Attention to detail
- Ability to work on a team
What Do Employers Look for?
While employers look for general software development and project management skills, some look for expertise in a particular industry, such as finance. You may also need expertise in software and development tools particular to the company you're applying for. Employers seeking software analysts posted the following job listings in April 2012:
- A real estate firm in California seeks a financial software analyst with 3-5 years of experience working with Crystal Reports software and education or experience in accounting.
- An aerospace company in Virginia advertised for a senior software analyst with a bachelor's degree and 15 years of experience in the field. The candidate should be familiar with Agile software development, project management, database design and software testing.
- A payment processing services company in Arizona is looking for a senior software analyst with either six years of experience or a bachelor's degree with four years of experience. Project management skills, advanced programming skills and an understanding of computer operating systems are required.
- A corporate law firm in Maryland seeks a software analyst with at least two years of experience and a computer-related bachelor's degree. The candidate should have experience fixing desktop application issues, and significant work experience may offset the degree requirement.
How Can I Stand out?
While technical skills are important, employers also look for candidates with business skills. Since software analyst design programs that fit the company's organizational goals, some coursework in business can help you stand out amongst candidates who only studied technology. In addition, analysts often need to have familiarity with the industries in which they work. For example, those in healthcare or finance sectors often need training specific to the industry to come up with effective software solutions. As such, courses in finance, accounting or healthcare management can give you a better idea of the industry and its technological needs.
As software gets outdated and technological needs change, software analysts need to learn new technologies through continuing education. In addition to keeping up with trends in software design, consider improving your skills in project management, computer operating systems, database design, programming and desktop applications support. Some employers even require you to learn about new development tools. Ways to obtain continuing education include self-study, coursework at a university, professional IT workshops or training courses at a company.
Alternative Career Paths
If a software analyst career is not right for you, there are alternatives that let you work with software, such as a computer programming career. Rather than designing programs, computer programmers usually focus on the coding and testing processes, but this can vary in some organizations. In addition to knowledge in programming languages, a bachelor's degree in computer science is a common educational requirement. The BLS projected about as-fast-as-average growth in the field at 12% from 2010-2020. As of May 2011, the mean annual wage for programmers was about $76,000.
Computer and Information Systems Manager
You can also consider a career as a computer and information systems manager if you prefer having a leadership role. Computer managers direct software analysts and other IT professionals as well recommending system upgrades for the company. In addition to previous work experience, a bachelor's or master's degree related to computers is usually needed for this career. According to the BLS, $126,000 was the mean annual wage for computer managers as of 2011. Jobs were predicted to grow at a rate of 18% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average compared to other occupations.