As an application analyst you'll maintain IT services and have face-to-face correspondence with users who need your technical support

Application analysts are responsible for the administration, monitoring and maintenance of software infrastructures and applications.

You'll oversee practices and processes to ensure integrity, safety and availability of all data and applications as part of an organisation's information systems. You'll make sure that the processes needed for a business to function and succeed are running smoothly, acting as a technical point of contact to fix application and systems issues - usually on an immediate basis.

In this role, you'll 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 and include titles such as problem analyst, technical adviser and system analyst. Although there may be slight variations in responsibilities, the core activities between these are likely to be similar.

Types of application analyst

Application analysts can specialise in operating systems, applications and languages, such as:

  • Java
  • Oracle
  • SQL
  • UNIX.

Responsibilities

As an application analyst, you'll need to:

  • identify organisational need for new applications
  • prepare technical specification as a roadmap for software
  • implement, test and integrate new applications
  • perform routine system backups and upgrades
  • install new operation systems and releases
  • provide instructions and training to staff when necessary
  • monitor, record and respond to requests for support
  • investigate and diagnose system faults and errors
  • resolve technical issues
  • analyse error trends aimed at reducing or minimising down time
  • communicate messages regarding systems issues to users promptly
  • liaise with software suppliers to fulfil the requirements of the organisation
  • manage storage servers
  • schedule and run regular tests to enhance the current systems and applications
  • identify and develop functionality changes
  • maintain documentation of key databases and linked applications
  • 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 at this stage you won't come across application analysts with more than 20 years' experience.

  • Average starting salaries range from £29,000 to £32,000. For the first few years you can expect 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 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'll 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'll 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'll 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 ability
  • 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

Applicants with prior work experience are sought after by almost all employers. Many companies offer 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 receive advice on placements and find internship opportunities.

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 and these often run their own graduate schemes.

Look for job vacancies at:

Networking and personal contacts can provide opportunities for freelance work. Competition is strong, as 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, which are 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 and application analysts usually manage their own training needs.

Career prospects

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

Once in a post, it's common to develop in-depth knowledge of an application or language to become an expert. With experience, this leads to higher remuneration and salary increases.

One career option is to move from the support side of IT into the development side, i.e. into software development and testing. It can also be possible to progress into a business analyst or project manager role.

Self-employment, on a contract basis or even through setting up a consultancy company, can be possible too.

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