How to Be a Systems Analyst

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Systems analysts are often referred to as business analysts or systems engineers.
Systems analysts are often referred to as business analysts or systems engineers. (Image: Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Systems analysts use computer hardware and software to design scientific, engineering, financial and other applications. Technology firms, financial institutions and other organizations hire systems analysts to make technology products and improve business processes. The analysts consult with managers and employees to define the requirements, and then develop and integrate the necessary hardware and software systems. To work as a systems analyst, you’ll need to meet certain education and experience requirements.

Plan your education so that you can become a systems analyst. Enroll in a diploma or degree program in computer science, applied mathematics, physics, engineering or business management information systems.

Look for institutions that offer co-op programs. They can help you in three ways -- you earn money to help pay for tuition and other expenses, you gain industry experience and complete your program requirements. Co-op placements at participating companies usually involve alternating work and study semesters. Co-op students typically work under the guidance of senior systems analysts and managers. They are usually assigned small projects -- developing and testing small software or hardware units -- that can be completed within a typical four-month co-op placement. After graduation, co-op students sometimes join these companies as full-time employees.

Join the industry as a junior systems analyst. Visit job fairs -- some are held on campus while others are organized by one or more recruitment agencies. Talk to recruiters from different companies to find the right fit in terms of technical challenge and compensation. Apply to advertisements on campus job boards and on online boards (such as Monster and Dice).

Diversify your skills portfolio. For example, if you are working on a systems analysis project for the financial services sector, keep your eye out for project opportunities in the energy or health care industries. In addition to enriching the work experience, working on different technical projects will increase the value of your resume in your search for more rewarding opportunities.

Explore career advancement opportunities. Companies often have dual tracks for employees – a technical track for those who wish to participate in the hands-on development of new products and services, and a management track. Both tracks require staying current on technological developments, including new product introductions by competitors and changes in technical standards. To pursue the management track, enroll in a management certificate program or a masters of business administration program, attend management seminars, and read the business press to stay informed on general business and economic conditions. To advance in the technical field, participate in technical conferences -- besides being learning experiences, they provide networking opportunities for business development and career advancement. You can also enroll in a post-graduate engineering or computer science program. Universities are always looking for masters and doctoral students to participate in their research programs, some of which are funded by corporations.

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