As an application analyst you'll combine the maintenance of IT services with working face-to-face with users who need your technical know-how and support

Application analysts are responsible for the administration, monitoring and maintenance of software infrastructures and applications. As an application analyst, you will oversee practices and processes to ensure integrity, safety and availability of all data and applications as part of organisations' information systems. You'll make sure that the processes needed for a business to function and succeed are running smoothly. You'll act as a technical point of contact to fix application and systems issues, usually on an immediate basis.

Application analysts work within IT departments alongside application developers and software engineers. You could also be involved in:

  • the training and support of staff in using applications
  • analysis and diagnosis of application errors
  • problem resolution in both the long and short term
  • design and development of existing and new applications
  • road testing and implementation of new applications.

Job titles vary. You may find titles such as problem analyst, technical adviser and system analyst, however the core activities are likely to be similar.

Application analysts can specialise in operating systems, applications and languages. Examples include:

  • UNIX analyst
  • SQL analyst
  • Oracle analyst
  • Java analyst.

Responsibilities

As an application analyst you will be responsible for:

  • identifying organisational need for new applications
  • preparing technical specification as a roadmap for software
  • implementing, testing and integrating new applications
  • performing routine system backups and upgrades
  • installing new operation systems and releases
  • providing instructions and training to staff when necessary
  • monitoring, recoding and responding to requests for support
  • investigating and diagnosing system faults and errors
  • resolving technical issues
  • analysing error trends aimed at reducing/minimising down time
  • communicating messages regarding systems issues to users in a timely manner
  • liaising with software suppliers when needed to fulfil the requirements of the organisation
  • managing storage servers
  • scheduling and running regular tests to enhance the current systems and applications
  • identifying and developing functionality changes
  • maintaining documentation of key databases and applications linked to them.

You'll be expected to attend regular internal and external meetings to provide updates on the progress of your task and to present to users the application solutions you are proposing.

Salary

Salaries vary and are based on qualifications, certifications, specialisms and experience.

This is a relatively new job, so you won't come across people with more than 20 years experience:

  • The average starting salary is between £29,000 and £30,000. For the first few years you can expect to get a steady pay increase.
  • For specialist activities, such SQL, UNIX or Bash Scripting, the average starting salary can reach £45,000 to £48,000.

Additional benefits may include life insurance, private medical cover and dental plans and a company car. Bonuses are also offered.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours are usually 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday. You may need to work extra hours or at weekends depending on the project you are working on. There may be some flexibility with your employer on taking time off following a long day.

Contract work on projects is possible, which can be on a part-time or freelance basis.

What to expect

  • You'll need the ability to switch between tasks quickly and stay in control of problematic situations.
  • The job involves working on multiple projects at any one time, often within a team.
  • You'll be dealing with both internal and external clients, so you need to be able to communicate effectively both verbally and in writing.
  • Working at computers for prolonged periods of time is a feature of the role. You may also need to move and carry equipment.
  • You will need to keep your knowledge up-to-date as this is a fast-paced environment and new applications are being introduced constantly.
  • The dress code can vary depending on the organisation you work for and the type of project you're involved in.
  • The sector is male-dominated but ethnically diverse.

Qualifications

Although formal university qualifications are not always required, you will be competing with others who have degrees in:

  • computer science
  • engineering
  • information systems
  • information technology
  • mathematics.

Strong technical skills are essential as is knowledge of, and certification in, the relevant computer language (this might be HMLS, CSS, #C, Microsoft SQL etc.) and applications.

Technical experience is highly valued and can be the deciding factor at the interview stage. Any previous relevant support experience can increase your chances of success when looking for a job.

You might be asked to provide a portfolio of your work prior to, or at your interview.

Skills

You will need to demonstrate:

  • excellent communication and interpersonal skills, both written and verbal
  • the ability to relay technical information to non-technical users and elicit clients' needs
  • customer service skills
  • problem solving
  • analytical skills
  • the ability to establish rapport with stakeholders
  • attention to detail
  • patience and understanding
  • the ability to work independently but also as a part of a team
  • project management skills
  • a proactive attitude
  • ability to work to deadlines and give realistic estimates
  • willingness to learn.

Work experience

Work experience is sought by almost all employers. There are many companies, offering internships and placements, which will help you to enrich your skills and understanding of the role. Charities also look for volunteers to support their work.

Getting relevant work experience during your university studies is crucial; it is very hard to get an interview without this experience.

Get in touch with your university's careers service to get advice on placements and to find internship opportunities. Alternatively more information on current opportunities is available from Graduate Talent Pool.

Employers

Opportunities for application analysts exist in all sectors of employment from financial services, education and public administration, to healthcare and retail. You can work across the UK and for any size of organisation.

The main players are the big organisations with well-developed IT systems. They will often run their own graduate schemes.

Look for job vancancies at:

Networking and personal contacts can also provide opportunities for freelance work. Competition is strong, as the advertised jobs attract specialists from all over the world. However, the demand for jobs in IT is growing, with further growth expected over the next ten years.

Information technology is booming with new websites, applications and products. Another factor contributing to the high demand for IT specialists is the increased awareness of cyber-crimes and their prevention.

Professional development

Continually updating your skills and knowledge is a requirement throughout the IT industry. This can be done through:

  • in-house training courses - more typical in larger organisations
  • specific application, language or operating system courses, usually provided by the product vendor
  • additional qualifications relating to the job such as IT service management, software testing and business intelligence. For qualifications look to the BCS - The Chartered Institute for IT.

The Institution for Analysts and Programmers can suggest opportunities for further relevant training.

Informal training takes place among colleagues. Application analysts manage their own training needs.

Career prospects

As an application analyst you can be promoted within your organisation and take on more responsibility for managing projects and/or teams. You may become a team leader or senior application analyst.

Once in post it is common to develop in-depth knowledge of an application or language to become an expert. This will lead to a higher remuneration and salary increases with experience and development of specialisms.

One career option for application analysts is to move from the support side of IT into the development side, i.e. software development and testing.

Depending on aptitudes and opportunities available, some progress to become business analysts or project managers.

An alternative path for application analysts is self-employment, mainly on a contract basis or even setting up a consultancy company.