Becoming a Programmer Analyst: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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A programmer analyst's median annual salary is around $82,000. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a programmer analyst is right for you.
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The Pros and Cons of a Programmer Analyst Career

In spite of constantly changing technology and the need for continuing education, becoming a programmer analyst, also known as a computer systems analyst, offers perks that can make it all worthwhile. Choosing a career is an important decision, so it is necessary to learn all you can about the pros and cons about becoming a programmer analyst.

Pros of a Programmer Analyst Career
Faster than average projected growth in employment (25% for all computer systems analysts from 2012-2022)*
Higher than average salary potential (approximately $82,710 in 2014)*
Job mobility in the field*
Some positions only require an associate's degree**

Cons of a Programmer Analyst Career
Many employers require professional experience**
Can be stressful due to deadlines*
Travel may be required*
Overtime is often required*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*Net Online.

Job Duties, Salary and Career Outlook

Job Duties

Programmer analysts evaluate the management information system of an organization. Their goal is to determine the most cost-effective and efficient means to meet the organization's needs. They assess and install software, as well as teach users how to operate the system. They also develop the procedure for changing manual processes into computerized systems.

As a programmer analyst, you may be in charge of ensuring that hardware and software are integrated so that everything works together. Other job duties include preparing reports and cost analyses, supervising personnel and interviewing other employees to determine their computer requirements.

Salary and Outlook

In 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that computer systems analysts, including programmer analysts, earned a median annual salary of about $82,000. The BLS predicted that computer analysts would see a 25% increase in employment between 2012 and 2022.

Requirements

O*Net Online reported in 2011 that 41% of analysts held an associate's degree, along with professional experience. However, you will generally need a bachelor's degree and the ability to write computer programs. You may study through a computer-related field that offers courses in management, marketing, accounting, management information systems and finance.

The following abilities are essential for a programmer analyst:

  • Programming
  • Systems evaluation
  • Complex problem solving
  • Strong math skills
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading, written and oral comprehension
  • Active listening
  • Deductive and inductive reasoning
  • Speech and writing clarity

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers generally require a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field along with some job experience. Below are some examples of jobs postings open during April and May 2012:

  • A university in New York is looking for a lead programmer analyst with a bachelor's degree and at least two years of experience building web applications, as well as using Structured Query Language (SQL) and object-oriented programming. Although not required, experience with project management is preferred.
  • A company is seeking a programmer analyst in Columbus, OH, with at least six years of experience working for one of the Big 4 accounting firms or equivalent technical consulting firm. Job duties consist of selling financial software packages and ensuring they are delivered on time and within budget. A master's degree in management information systems or a related field and eight years of recent experience is required. This job may require a lot of travel.
  • A university in Illinois is looking for applicants with a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science or related professional experience. Ideal applicants will have at least one year of experience with the design and development of object-oriented programs.

How to Stand Out

Education

Technology changes rapidly, so a programmer analyst must continually study and stay on top of the latest advances in the field in order to beat the competition. Programmer analysts work in a variety of industries, so you may want to decide whether you are interested in working in a government, business or information systems environment and then plan your college degree and specialization with that goal in mind.

For example, if you want to work for a business, you may want to obtain a Masters in Business Administration (MBA). Some businesses that employ programmer analysts prefer someone with an MBA and specialization in computer science over someone with a degree in computer science. On the other hand, a hospital seeking a programmer analyst may want someone who has taken courses in the healthcare field in addition to computer science.

Join a Professional Association

Membership in a professional association demonstrates that you are dedicated to your career. There are a number of professional associations for computer professionals, including the Association of Information Technology Professionals, Society of Computer Professionals and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Computer Society. Membership in a professional association provides numerous benefits, including:

  • Networking opportunities
  • Discounts on products and services
  • Conferences and seminars
  • Educational resources
  • Certification

Obtaining certification from a professional association helps you stand out and can improve your employment opportunities. Certification generally requires passing an exam, as well as having a bachelor's degree and a certain amount of experience.

Other Career Paths

Actuary

If you like mathematics but the idea of programming and configuring computer systems doesn't appeal to you, a career as an actuary may be more to your liking. Actuaries also work with computers, but they use them to help determine the risks and probabilities of future events in order to determine the potential costs. Insurance companies, financial institutions and corporations are a few of the institutions that employ actuaries. A bachelor's degree and professional certification are common prerequisites to work in this field. Actuaries earned a median salary of about $91,000 in 2011. The BLS predicted a faster than average job outlook for these professionals, which was 22% from 2010-2020.

Computer Programmer

Computer programmers write computer code, also known as programs or software, using a programming language. There are a number of programming languages, and some popular ones are Java and C++. The software tells the computer which functions to perform. Computer programmers test the code and modify it whenever problems arise. A bachelor's degree is usually required for employment in this field, although some employers will accept someone with an associate's degree for entry-level positions. In 2011, the BLS reported that the median salary for these programmers was about $73,000.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Data Analytics - Qualitative Research
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      • Bridge (D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Data Analytics - Qualitative)
      • Bridge (D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Data Analytics - Quantitative)
    Master's
      • M.S. in Computer Science
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    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Master's
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      • AA: Information Technology
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    3. Purdue Global

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      • BS in Cloud Computing and Solutions
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    4. Bryant & Stratton College

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    Associate's
      • AS - IT Networking
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      • Information Technology Assistant - Diploma
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    5. Full Sail University

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    Master's
      • Game Design Masters - Campus
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  • Campus Locations:
    6. Universal Technical Institute

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    Certificate
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  • Western Governors University

  • University of Maryland Global Campus

  • Online Programs Available
    9. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • HS Diploma

Featured Schools

Grand Canyon University

  • D.B.A. with an Emphasis in Data Analytics - Qualitative Research
  • M.S. in Computer Science
  • B.S. in Software Development

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Leo University

  • MBA: Cybersecurity Management
  • BS: Computer Science
  • AA: Information Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Purdue Global

  • MSIT - Secure Software Development and Quality Assurance
  • BS in Cloud Computing and Solutions
  • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development
  • Professional Focus + Google UX Design Certificate

Which subject are you interested in?

Bryant & Stratton College

  • AS - IT Networking
  • Networking Technology - AAS
  • Information Technology Assistant - Diploma

What is your high school graduation status?

Full Sail University

  • Game Design Masters - Campus
  • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
  • Computer Science Bachelors with AI Concentration - Online

What is your highest level of education?

Universal Technical Institute

  • Robotics and Automation Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

University of Maryland Global Campus