Systems analyst

PUBLISHED: 10:07 27 January 2006 | UPDATED: 09:30 06 May 2010

NAME: Steven Harris AGE: 27 PERSONAL: Steven has always been interested in computers and realised at school that he wanted to work in Information Technology, although he didn t know much about the different sorts of jobs available. He took A-levels in ma

NAME: Steven Harris

AGE: 27

PERSONAL: Steven has always been interested in computers and realised at school that he wanted to work in Information Technology, although he didn't know much about the different sorts of jobs available.

He took A-levels in maths, physics and business studies, which he really enjoyed, before studying for a degree in computer science.

Steven's love of IT, together with his interest in business, led him to pursue a career as a systems analyst. He began working for a small company shortly after graduation and has recently moved to a larger consultancy firm.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Systems analysts help to implement new computer systems within organisations, although their exact role can vary, depending on where they work.

The job usually involves a detailed understanding of how the organisation works and analysts often begin a project by talking to staff and observing the processes used while the organisation's work is in progress.

In some firms, a business analyst will undertake this initial assessment, while in other companies the roles overlap.

Systems analysts then try to find new ways to improve the computer system and explain these changes to the client.

The initial feasibility study for systems design will also involve considering the costs and benefits of the new system to the client. If the costs outweigh the benefits, the client may decide not to go ahead with the project.

On the other hand, if the system will benefit the organisation, the analyst will consider whether an existing system can be modified for the purpose or whether a new system must be built from scratch.

In some firms, the job of developing the systems will be taken on by a development team, which includes specialist designers and programmers. However, systems analysts can also take on some of these roles and are often closely involved in the design process.

Analysts oversee the implementation and testing of the new system and ensure that any problems are corrected.

Once the system is up and running, analysts may also write a manual for the new system or help train staff to use it.

The job is mainly nine to five, Monday to Friday, but some overtime and weekend work may be necessary to meet deadlines and the clients' needs.

SKILLS & PERSONALITY

As with all information systems professionals, systems analysts and designers must be methodical with good IT and problem-solving skills, and be able to keep up to date with advances in computer technology.

As much of their work involves liaising with clients, they also need to be able to get on with people, to listen to and interpret requirements, and have a good understanding of business practice.

Good communication and presentation skills are important, because systems analysts must be able to present their conclusions and persuade clients of the correct course of action.

They also need to be able to work with other members of the development team and be able to help others understand the new systems, including the members of staff who will actually have to use it.

TRAINING & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Systems analysts are usually graduates, and some employers prefer applicants to have a degree in an IT-related subject, especially for specialist software roles. A qualification in business studies may also be useful.

Other firms offer their own in-house training and accept graduates with degrees in any field, providing they have a genuine interest in computers. They may also be asked to sit an aptitude test.

HNDs are accepted by many employers, and postgraduates courses in IT are also available for people with unrelated degrees.

Entry without a degree or HND is difficult, but it may sometimes be possible for school leavers to start in a lower role and work their way up. Candidates with plenty of relevant experience may also be considered, and some larger firms may allow staff who work in different departments but have proven computer skills to take a sideways move in to IT.

EARNINGS & PROSPECTS

Salaries vary, but graduate systems analysts can usually expect to earn a starting salary of around £19,000. Experienced analysts can earn well in excess of £35,000.

Promotion depends on the size of the organisation, but analysts may be able to progress to the position of consultant, senior consultant or account manager. Others may prefer to set up as independent consultants.

Many analysts go on to specialise in a particular business sector or type of software, which can also improve their earning potential.

MAIN MOAN

"It can be very pressured, especially when the deadlines are tight and the client wants everything done yesterday."

MAIN SATISFACTION

"I love working with computers, but I think I'd go a bit mad if I just had to stare at the same monitor all day, every day. This job means I get to go to other offices and work with people as well, which is ideal."

MORE INFORMATION

The British Computer Society provides an information pack about work in the industry. Visit www.bcss.org/bcs

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