Systems Analyst Careers: Salary Information & Job Description

About this article
The median salary for a systems analyst is around $83,000. Is this worth the education and technical expertise required? Learn the truth about the job duties and career prospects to decide if this career path is right for you.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of Being a Systems Analyst

Systems analysts are needed in nearly all types of industries to set up computer systems and make existing systems more efficient. Weigh the pros and cons before making your career decisions.

Pros of Being a Systems Analyst
Favorable job prospects (expected 25% growth through 2022)*
High earnings (about $83,000 median annual wage as of 2014)*
Assortment of educational paths lead to this career*
Positions available in a variety of industries*
Opportunities for self employment (can work as a contracted consultant)*

Cons of Being a Systems Analyst
Most employers prefer a bachelor's degree*
Requires a high-level of technical and industry-specific knowledge*
Often requires long hours (many work overtime each week)*
Job may require travel*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

Essential Career Info

As a systems analyst, your goal is to identify the information technology needs of a company and design computer systems to meet those needs. This may involve developing new systems or configuring existing systems to increase productivity. You may perform tasks like data modeling and information engineering to determine the specifications of your design plan. After determining a system design strategy, you will implement the necessary hardware and software technologies. You'll then perform quality assurance tests to resolve any design flaws and to ensure things are operating as expected.

Some other responsibilities that are common for this position include linking computers via networks to maximize information sharing, making recommendations to improve systems and providing training to end users. You might also troubleshoot for computer program and system malfunctions. Additionally, the scope of your job may be limited to certain types of computer systems, such as those dealing with accounting, engineering or science.

These professionals often work for computer systems design firms, but many also work directly for companies and organizations in a wide range of industries or as self-employed consultants. You'll generally work a full-time schedule, though the job often requires you to work overtime and may entail travel to clients' places of business.

Job Outlook and Salary

Compared to other occupations, employment for systems analysts was projected to grow rapidly at a rate of 25% from 2012-2022, according to the BLS. Factors fueling this job growth include an increased demand for more sophisticated technology, such as mobile and wireless networks. The healthcare industry, in particular, will have a wealth of job openings due to growing prevalence of e-prescriptions and electronic medical records. Many other positions will be available in IT consulting firms, who hire analysts to go from company to company updating and designing systems.

As of May 2014, systems analysts earned a median salary of about $83,000, according to the BLS. Those in the lowest ten percent earned a salary of $51,000 or less, while those in the top ten percent earned $130,000 or more. During this time, the highest-paying jobs were in the support activities for mining industry, which offered on average about $119,000 per year.

What Do Employers Look For?

Most employers prefer to hire systems analysts with technology-related bachelor's degree, such as in computer science or engineering. Some employers prefer candidates who have completed industry-related coursework. For example, a financial institution may favor an applicant who incorporated finance into his or her college curriculum. However, having a bachelor's degree in field not related to technology would not automatically disqualify you for a systems analyst position. You can still be a desirable job candidate if you have relevant work experience or expertise in the field you're applying for.

In addition, employers are looking for applicants that are detailed-oriented, can be effective in managing multiple projects simultaneously and have strong analytical, interpersonal and problem-solving skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

As noted by the BLS, many employers are more favorable to candidates with bachelor's degrees. However, not all employers require applicants to have one. Some job postings request both education and work experience, while some only emphasize experience. Here are some March 2012 job postings for systems analyst positions that can help you understand what real employers were looking for:

  • A technology company in California seeks a senior systems analyst with a computer science or related bachelor's degree and five years of experience in systems analysis. The ideal applicant will have experience in software development and familiarity of the mortgage industry.
  • A mobile phone service provider in Virginia is looking for a systems analyst/administrator to maintain supply systems and workstations used by U.S. Army personnel. Candidates are required to understand software development procedures and technical terminology, have security clearance and meet physical demands like heavy lifting.
  • A Colorado electronic payment processing company is looking for an applicant to develop technical design documents and perform software testing. This employer requires a computer science or related bachelor's degree, at least three years of experience in business or system analysis and experience in Microsoft structured query language (SQL).
  • A technology staffing firm in Florida seeks a systems analyst with at least five years of experience as a business or systems analysis. Other qualifications include the ability to document and interpret workflow diagrams as well as proficiency in using SQL to generate queries.

How Can I Stand Out?

Earn a Graduate Degree

If you really want to impress employers, consider earning a master's degree. According to the BLS, jobs that require more complex duties often entail a master's degree in computer science. To better qualify yourself for upper-level management positions, you might earn a Master of Business Administration degree with an information technology concentration, which focuses on instruction in both business and IT management.

Get Certified

You can also set yourself apart from the competition right out of college by obtaining the Information Systems Analyst (ISA) certification from the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP). If you're a senior graduating with a bachelor's degree in information systems, you may be able to take the ISA exam at your college or university. A passing score between 50-70% qualifies you for the ISA-Practitioner credential, while a score of 70% or higher qualifies you for the ISA-Mastery level credential. You are then awarded the credential once you graduate from college.

Other Career Paths

Systems Software Developer

Similar to systems analysts, systems software developers evaluate companies' needs and design software to meet business objectives. They also configure existing software to work with new hardware, test software programs and make suggestions on improving technology. This job usually entails a bachelor's degree in software engineering or computer science. These professionals, however, tend to bring in higher salaries and have better job prospects; The BLS reports that employment was projected to grow by 32% from 2010-2020 and that the median salary for systems software developers was about $96,000 as of May 2011.

Information Security Analyst

These days, companies need to keep their networks secure to avoid cyber attacks more than ever before. While systems analysts design systems to help companies better run their businesses, information security analysts are needed to help keep those systems secure. In this position, you'll perform tasks like encrypting files, setting up firewalls, monitoring networks and updating software programs to protect against viruses. These professionals typically hold bachelor's degrees related to computer science. According to the BLS, the median salary for information security analysts was about $78,000 as of May 2011, and employment was projected to grow 22% from 2010-2020.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MS - Game Design (Campus)
      • MS - Game Design (Campus)
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS: Computer Science
      • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
      • BS: Computer Information Systems
      • BS: Cybersecurity
    Associate's
      • AA: Information Technology
      • AA: Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Information Technology
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity
      • B.S. in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Colorado Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Cyber Security, M.S.
    Bachelor's
      • Computer Information Technology, B.S.
      • Computer Information Technology, B.S. - Emphasis in Database Management
      • Computer Information Technology, B.S. - Emphasis in Networking
      • Information Systems Mgmt., B.S.
    Associate's
      • Computer Information Technology, A.S.
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Purdue University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
      • BS in IT - IT Management
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • BSIT: Network Admin
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BS in Cloud Computing and Solutions
    Associate's
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
      • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD in Business Admin - Computer and Information Security
      • PhD-TIM - Cybersecurity
    Master's
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • MBA - Computer and Information Security
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
      • MSTIM - Data Science
  • Campus and Online Programs
    8. Louisiana State University Shreveport

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Concentration
      • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Specialization
  • Online Programs Available
    9. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of IT: Project Management
      • Master of Science in Information Technology
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Intelligence
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • MS - Game Design (Campus)
  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Computer Science
  • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
  • AA: Information Technology
  • AA: Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • B.S. in Computer Programming

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Christian University

  • Cyber Security, M.S.
  • Computer Information Technology, B.S.
  • Computer Information Technology, A.S.

What is your highest level of education completed?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue University Global

  • MSM in Information Technology
  • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • PhD in Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?

Louisiana State University Shreveport

  • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Concentration
  • Master of Business Administration - Data Analytics Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?