Analytical, solution-focused types, who are great communicators and team players, could enjoy working as a systems analyst
As a systems analyst, you will use computers and related systems to design new IT solutions, modify, enhance or adapt existing systems and integrate new features or improvements, all with the aim of improving business efficiency and productivity.
You must have a high level of technical expertise and clear insights into current business practices. Depending on the employer, clients may be internal, e.g. departments within the same organisation, or external.
Your role is to liaise between and report to internal and external clients and stakeholders, including colleagues and developers, throughout the development process.
You will conduct a cost analysis and agree the timeframe to implement the proposed solution. You specify and shape the system requirements and operations, the user interface and output and present the proposal to the client. You will work closely with the client team, including commercial managers and software developers, during both the report and implementation phase.
Job titles in the IT sector are fluid so look closely at job descriptions rather than job titles.
Fourth generation languages (4GL) and object-orientated programming simplify technological language, so traditional boundaries between systems or business analysis and programming have eroded. Overlap with project management is also common.
As a systems analyst, you'll work on an organisation's particular IT system but also with a client's legacy environment so you need to be able to adapt to different programming languages.
Work activities also depend on the size and nature of the employing organisation and the focus of clients' business demands, but typically involve:
Income data from IT Jobs Watch. Figures are intended as a guide only.
You'll typically work 37 to 40 hours a week. Overtime, including weekends, is possible in order to meet deadlines and deal with any technical issues. Longer working hours may be the norm in the financial sector and consultancy.
You don't need a degree for entry-level positions with training and development opportunities but most systems analysts are graduates in IT and business subjects.
If your degree is in a business-related subject, you'll need to demonstrate interest in, and a clear understanding of technology and information management systems, preferably with evidence of relevant qualifications outside your degree studies.
Analysts usually enter the profession as junior programmers, progressing to developer and/or consultancy roles. You'll need experience to progress.
The following degree subjects are relevant:
The Information Technology Management for Business degree (ITMB) was established by top employers and The Tech Partnership to address the skills gap and shortages in the industry.
For information about where you can study an ITMB visit IT Management for Business (ITMB).
Most new entrants to larger companies are graduates with a 2:1 degree. However, entry is possible with a HND if you have prior experience, although a lower starting salary is likely.
You can enter this field without a degree or HND but you would need well-developed IT skills and good previous experience in computing or business.
If you are a graduate from a non IT-related subject, you could take a relevant postgraduate conversion qualification. Search postgraduate courses in computer science.
You will need to have:
As a systems analyst, you will be expected to have a working knowledge of programming as well as analytical skills. Common programs include:
Gaining relevant pre-entry experience, IT-related vacation work, an internship or an industrial placement, could lead directly to graduate employment.
Start making applications to larger firms in the autumn term of your final year as competition for vacancies is keen, particularly with high-profile employers.
IT businesses in the UK range from industry giants like IBM to micro organisations, employing fewer than five people, so you should think about which type of organisation might best suit your needs.
Analysts work in almost every kind of organisation within the IT industry, including firms of management consultants, software and systems houses, and large manufacturers of computing equipment, who offer consultancy services.
Consultants' client companies are diverse and include:
Some IT companies specialise in one area, such as internet solutions, or produce software tailored to a particular market. If you are employed as an analyst, you will be required to have or develop specialist knowledge and experience in that area or about those products and client sectors.
Some end-user organisations with large IT departments may employ their own internal analysts. Increasingly sophisticated payment systems, information storage, client records management and compliance processes are growth areas.
Working with a small to medium enterprise (SME) may allow you to develop a broader range of skills, gain earlier responsibility and experience a variety of short-term projects.
Opportunities also occur overseas with UK and foreign companies, or with international organisations.
Look for job vacancies at:
You should bear in mind that virtually all companies recruiting for IT vacancies advertise them on the internet.
See the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) for companies employing consultants. You may be able to make prestigious and useful contacts, gain advice and even employment through membership of a professional organisation such as the Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP). They also have a Register of Consultants.
To develop your technical and business skills you will be expected to participate in on-the-job training and in-house courses.
These are likely to cover programming languages and the principles of systems analysis, plus specific training to cover the technical skills required for particular projects.
Organisations also run courses to develop inter-personal skills in order to enhance interaction with clients, such as:
Many large companies run mentoring schemes to ensure that you are exposed to different working environments and systems. They also try to tailor your training opportunities to the projects you're working on.
Top employers and The Tech Partnership have developed a qualifications framework, featuring links with qualifications vendors and awarding bodies including the BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT), to ensure professional standards and provide a platform for the recognition of skills.
The BCS also provides information and guidance to assist members to develop their expertise and recognise and plan their learning needs.
Equally, you may want to become a member of techUK to gain access to a range of courses, events and advice.
You'll need to keep updating and reviewing your skills as new technologies, products and services emerge.
Continuing professional development (CPD) is, therefore, all-important. Many technology vendors offer a range of solutions and training options, such as the SFIA Foundation (Skills Framework for the Information Age), which is supported by key professional bodies in the industry.
Useful CPD qualifications include the BCS Certificate in Enterprise and Solutions Architecture and Prince2.
As an analyst, your immediate prospects depend on the size and type of the organisation you work for, consequently movement between employers is common.
Analysts often develop expertise in a particular business sector and career progression depends on your ability to upskill in line with current trends in the sector, such as:
Your career advancement opportunities might include:
The size of the organisation that you work for is likely to have direct implications on the way that your career will progress, depending on its structure and business focus.
In a large organisation, you may have more opportunity to specialise in a particular client group, or to advance through the corporate structure. You may also get the chance to work in multidisciplinary teams or in overseas branches of the parent group.
In a small organisation, you might gain experience in a variety of associated functions across the business, feel closer to the front line of business activity and see the direct commercial impact of your contribution.