How to Become a Computer Systems Analyst

TBS Staff Writers
Updated May 23, 2023
Computer systems analysts analyze the computer systems and information systems in an organization.

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Organizations in every industry rely on computers and technology, and computer systems analysts help organizations operate this technology efficiently. Computer systems analysts enjoy lucrative careers, with the average professional earning $88,000 per year. This page explores how to become a computer systems analyst, including degree and certification options.

Essential Career Information

Median Annual Salary$88,740
Employment Growth Forecast from 2018-20289%
Annual Salary of the Highest 10%$142,220
Number of New Jobs from 2018-202856,000
Annual Salary of the Lowest 10%$54,360
Average Entry-Level Education RequirementsBachelor’s Degree

Source: BLS

Alternate Job Titles

  • Applications Analyst
  • Computer Systems Analyst
  • Computer Systems Consultant
  • Data Processing Systems Analyst
  • Information Systems Analyst
  • Information Systems Planner
  • Programmer Analyst
  • Systems Architect

What is a Computer Systems Analyst?

Computer systems analysts combine skills in business and technology to help organizations operate efficiently. They study an organization’s computer systems to create solutions that prioritize efficiency and effectiveness. Computer systems analysts benefit from a high median salary and strong job growth projections, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Business systems analysts differ from computer systems analysts because they study and recommend improvements for the processes of an entire organization rather than specializing in computer systems. As a result, computer systems analysts typically need a stronger IT background than business systems analysts.

Computer systems analysts draw on analytical skills to assess an organization’s needs and design solutions that increase efficiency. Because computer systems analysts coordinate with management-level employees and IT staff, they must bring strong communication skills to their role. Many computer systems analysts also rely on creativity and problem-solving skills to design innovative solutions to problems.

What Does a Computer Systems Analyst Do?

Computer systems analysts work in every industry, and many bring specialized training to their position. Computer systems analysts’ daily duties may include researching new technologies, consulting with managers on an organization’s long-term goals, presenting a cost-benefit analysis of IT system upgrades, and overseeing the installation of new computing systems.

Computer systems analysts also design new computing systems, conduct regular testing to ensure systems function properly, and train employees on how to use computer systems. They work closely with managers and executives to serve the organization’s needs while coordinating with the IT department on hardware and software solutions for an organization.

Computer systems analysts may specialize in a certain hardware or software system. Systems architects, for example, help organizations choose a computing system by considering the organization’s long-term goals. Application analysts test software systems to diagnose problems and develop programs for organizations, while programmer analysts create applications designed to meet an organization’s needs. These roles offer different levels of responsibility and earning potential.

How to Become a Computer Systems Analyst

Prospective computer systems analysts can begin their career by earning a computer systems analyst degree. During a computer systems analyst program, students gain transferable skills, including analytical and interpersonal skills, and receive training in specific software and hardware systems.

Many entry-level computer systems analyst jobs require a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information science, or a related field. Majoring in a business specialty, like management information systems, can also prepare graduates for computer systems analyst positions. Computer systems analysts can pursue career advancement by earning a higher degree, gaining work experience, or pursuing certification.

Prospective students should choose an accredited computer systems analyst program. During an accreditation review, independent accrediting agencies evaluate a college or university on its student learning outcomes, faculty qualifications, and graduation requirements. IT programs can also pursue programmatic accreditation from specialized agencies that assess the program’s qualifications. In computing, the ABET Computing Accreditation Commission grants programmatic accreditation. Some employers prefer candidates with ABET-accredited degrees.

Certificate Programs

A computer systems analyst certificate offers specialized training in database management, systems development, and network communications. Unlike an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree, certificate students do not take general education courses, so their training focuses entirely on IT and business skills.

Earning a computer systems analyst certificate usually takes one year. The certificate demonstrates foundational skills in computer systems architecture to employers, which helps candidates in the job market. In lieu of an IT or computer systems analyst certificate, prospective students can earn an information science, information technology, or business certificate.

Associate Degree Programs

Prospective computer systems analysts can begin their educational training with a computer systems analyst associate degree, Majoring in information science, systems management, information technology, or a related field prepares graduates for computer systems analyst jobs. Students take foundational courses in computer systems, IT, and management in addition to general education courses, such as math and English. The program may also incorporate business electives.

Most associate programs comprise 60 credits and take two years of full-time study to complete. Graduates can pursue entry-level careers in the tech industry or enroll in a bachelor’s program, often earning a bachelor’s degree in just two additional years of study.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs

A bachelor’s degree in computer science, management information systems, information science, or a related field prepares students for entry-level computer systems analyst careers. Graduates can take on roles such as programmer analyst, data processing systems analyst, and information systems analyst.

Students complete major requirements and general education coursework. The curriculum may include classes on topics such as database design, systems architecture, and management principles. In addition, many programs incorporate a computer systems analyst internship, allowing students to gain specialized training and build a professional network.

Applicants typically need a high school diploma and standardized test scores to gain admission to a bachelor’s program. Earning a bachelor’s degree generally takes four years for full-time students to complete. Transfer students with an associate degree or prior college credits can earn a degree in less time.

Master’s Degree Programs

A master’s degree helps computer systems analysts advance their career and pursue management-level opportunities. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a master’s degree, particularly for leadership roles. A master’s in computer systems management, information science, or management information systems builds advanced skills for computer systems analysts. Professionals considering a master’s degree may also benefit from an MBA with a concentration in information management or technology.

Students take classes on topics like computer systems administration, telecommunications systems management, and management theory. By blending business and tech courses, a master’s program prepares graduates for leadership roles in organizations. A master’s degree typically takes two years for full-time students to complete, though some online and accelerated programs offer a shorter route to the degree.

Doctoral Degree Programs

A Ph.D. prepares graduates for the most advanced roles in the field, including academic positions. Most tenure-track professors, for example, hold a doctorate. During a doctoral program in management information systems, information science, or business administration with an information systems concentration, students take advanced classes in their specialization. Doctoral students must also pass comprehensive exams and research, write, and defend a dissertation.

Most doctoral programs take 4-5 years to complete, and many require a master’s degree for admission. In addition to academic roles, a doctorate can qualify candidates for leadership positions like chief technology officer.

Professional Licensure, Certification, and Development

Computer systems analyst certifications, like the CompTIA cybersecurity analyst credential, demonstrates advanced skills and expertise to prospective employers. Most certifications require a minimum level of education, professional experience, and an examination. Many organizations offer computer systems analyst certification online.

Pursuing certification and researching professional development resources, like those offered by the Association for Computing Machinery and the IEEE Computer Society, helps computer systems analysts advance their careers.