Systems Analyst

The Job and What's Involved

Systems analysts are responsible for creating IT solutions for commercial and public sector organisations. They aim to improve business efficiency and productivity.

The role can be broken down into three main areas:

  • Investigating and analysing the initial problem or requirements from a business perspective.
  • Designing a suitable system.
  • Implementing and testing the new system.

The process involves:

  • Working closely with programmers, designers and commercial staff, and discussing IT problems and requirements.
  • Interpreting the project and the client's requirements to create detailed project plans.
  • Looking at the options for possible solutions and assessing their merits on a business and technical basis - for example, deciding whether a new system is cost effective and compatible with existing systems.
  • Agreeing on a schedule to oversee the installation and testing of the system.
  • Liaising with staff to ensure the project deadline will be met.
  • Testing the system and identifying any bugs or glitches.
  • Providing staff training on the new system and manuals for users.

A systems analyst works as part of a team of IT professionals. They try to implement successful IT solutions that meet the business needs within budget and on time. A systems analyst may work for the organisation itself or be part of a specialist company.

It is important to note that the role of a systems analyst can vary greatly depending on the employer. In some organisations the job may be more technical or systems analysts may be referred to as IT consultants. The size and budget of the project will also determine how much the systems analyst is responsible for.

A systems analyst works between 37 and 40 hours a week, from 9am to 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Additional hours may be required to meet deadlines, including weekend and evening work.

They usually work in an open-plan office environment. Smart-casual or business dress is normally expected. Site visits may be required to gather information or to speak with users of the software. There may be a limited amount of travelling so a driving licence will be useful.

The average starting salary for a systems analyst is around £23,000.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The IT industry is rapidly expanding. Systems analysts are employed across all industry sectors, from commerce and retail to public organisations. There are job opportunities throughout the UK, with a higher concentration in south-east England. There are also opportunities overseas.

Vacancies are advertised on company and recruitment websites and in trade publications such as Computer Weekly. The local and national press also advertise positions.

Education and Training

Systems analysts are usually educated to degree-level. Many have relevant work experience and vocational skills, for instance as part of a sandwich course.

There is a range of qualifications which provide a good grounding in IT. These include:

BTEC National Diploma in Computer Studies or IT. Applicants need four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. These courses normally last two years full time.

SQA National Certificate in IT. Entry requirements are four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) or equivalent, and courses normally last two years full time.

BTEC/SQA higher national diplomas. Applicants normally need one A level/two H grades and four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or a BTEC/SQA national certificate/diploma. Courses can be full or part time, or sometimes sandwich courses with one year of work experience.

NVQ's/SVQ's in IT at Levels 2 to 4.

Degrees in IT, computing, programming, software engineering and other subjects. Applicants need at least two A levels/three H grades, or equivalent qualifications. Employers consider applicants from traditional academic degree courses such as computer science, maths and physics, as well as graduates of business and arts/humanities degrees who have a flair for problem-solving in a logical manner.

Degree in Information Technology Management for Business (ITMB). This new degree has been designed by universities in partnership with premier IT companies.

Degree courses usually last three years full time or four years for sandwich courses. In Scotland they last three or four years full time, or four or five years as a sandwich course. Check with individual universities for entry requirements.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Most training is on the job and includes in-house training courses and qualifications.

Professional qualifications can be obtained from the British Computer Society (BCS), the Institute for the Management of Information Systems (IMIS) or The National Computing Centre (NCC). Many private sector suppliers offer training and qualifications in specific aspects of IT.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A systems analyst should:

  • Have strong IT skills.
  • Have a good understanding of the business environment.
  • Have good interpersonal and communication skills.
  • Have a logical and enquiring mind.
  • Be adaptable and able to pick up new IT packages and techniques quickly.
  • Work well on their own or in a team.
  • Be able to work to tight deadlines.
  • Be thorough and precise in their work.
  • Be able to use their initiative.

Your Long Term Prospects

Systems analysts can choose whether to specialise in a technical, hands-on role, or move into people management. The career structure will vary from one organisation to another.

One promotional route is to become a senior analyst and then to progress to project manager. Experienced analysts may also use their business experience and knowledge to find work as a consultant.

They may move into lecturing or training, or become self-employed and work as contractors.

Get Further Information

The British Computer Society,
1st Floor, Block D, North Star House,
Swindon, Wiltshire SN2 1FA
Tel: 01793 417417

e-skills UK,
1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel: 020 7963 8920

Institute for the Management
of Information Systems (IMIS),
5 Kingfisher House, New Mill Road,
Orpington, Kent BR5 3QG
Tel: 0700 002 3456

The Institution of Analysts and Programmers,
Charles House, 36 Culmington Road,
London W13 9NH
Tel: 020 8567 2118

The National Computing Centre (NCC),
Oxford House, Oxford Road,
Manchester M1 7ED
Tel: 0161 228 6333

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