Systems Analyst

    If you are wondering how to become a systems analyst, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers in this area of computing and the information technology industry, as well as IT job prospects in the UK.

    The Job Description
    Systems analysts, also known as business analysts, are IT specialists brought in by companies to assess their IT systems and processes. They identify problem areas, make recommendations for improvements and design more efficient systems that meet the needs of the business.

    Their work can range from integrating a telephony and computer network in a call centre to re-structuring customer account databases for a bank. Part of their job is to make sure that their solutions are flexible enough to evolve as the business develops (known as ‘future-proofing’).

    Systems analysts use a variety of computer assisted software engineering (CASE) tools and programming techniques in their work.

    Typical responsibilities:

    drawing up specific plans for a modified or replacement IT system
    carrying out feasibility assessments of proposals
    working closely with programmers and developers to build the system
    overseeing installation and testing
    correcting problems (‘bugs’) before the final version is rolled out
    providing staff training and instruction manuals for the new or upgraded system.
    Analysts work in a wide range of sectors as well as IT, including finance, local and central government, manufacturing, construction and engineering, and public bodies such as universities and health authorities.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of good IT systems analysts include:

    an extensive knowledge of hardware, software and programming
    a creative approach to problem-solving
    the ability to gather and interpret information
    excellent communication skills
    the ability to explain ideas clearly to technical and non-technical colleagues and clients
    good negotiating skills
    good teamworking skills
    the ability to work under pressure and to deadlines
    the ability to plan and manage a project
    a sound appreciation of wider business demands
    the ability to work to a budget
    a willingness to keep up to date with developments in technology.

    How to become a systems analyst
    You normally need a BTEC HNC/HND or degree and industry experience to work as a systems analyst. Relevant subjects include:

    computer science/studies
    information management systems
    business information systems
    operational research.
    If you hold a non-IT related degree, you can study for a postgraduate IT conversion course, although companies may still require some work experience to back this up. Employers recommend that you look for a course which focuses on business skills as well as technical knowledge.

    Several universities are now offering the Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB) degree. This has been developed by e-skills and employers to meet specific industry needs, for example project management and interpersonal skills, and business awareness. For more details, see the e-skills UK website in Further Information.

    Systems analysts use a variety of programming skills and analysis techniques in their job. Some of the most common are:

    Visual Basic
    Unified Modelling Language (UML)
    SAP business software applications.
    A working knowledge of some of these may be helpful when applying for jobs.

    Training and Development
    You will normally receive training in specific software applications from your employer, once you start working as a newly qualified systems analyst. The initial training period can be very intensive, especially if you are from a non-IT background.

    You can also continue to develop your skills by taking professional development courses with industry bodies. These include:

    e-skills UK Graduate Professional Development Award, developed with higher education institutions and employers, covering key skills required by the IT industry
    British Computer Society Certificate, Diploma and Professional Graduate Diploma with options covering systems design
    Institute for the Management of Information Systems programmes
    Institution of Analysts and Programmers (IAP) professional development courses.
    You will find more information about professional development options on the Skills Framework for the Information Age (SFIA) website. This has been developed by professional bodies and employers and allows IT professionals to identify career skills and development pathways.

    The Pay (a rough guide)
    Newly qualified systems analysts can expect to earn between £19,000 and £24,000 a year.
    Experienced analysts earn between £25,000 and £45,000.
    Senior analysts involved in project management can earn over £50,000 a year.

    Job Prospects
    Opportunities are good with systems analysts employed across the whole range of commerce and industry, public services, utilities, defence and research. The greatest number of job opportunities are found with companies in London and the south-east.

    You can also find work overseas, with UK-based organisations, foreign companies or multinationals.

    Your options for career progression will normally involve promotion to senior analyst jobs, although movement between companies is quite common to achieve this. You may have the option to become a specialist analyst in a particular field, for example finance or security. See the profile for IT Security Coordinator.

    Further options include moves into project management and strategic business planning. With sufficient experience, you can become self-employed and work on a contract or consultancy basis.

    Useful IT resources:
    Institution of Analysts and Programmers
    Charles House
    36 Culmington Road
    W13 9NH
    Tel: 020 8567 2118

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