Do you like the idea of helping companies do better business? Are you intrigued by the thought of helping organizations run more smoothly and effectively? Do you have lots of ideas for how to make things work better? If that sounds like you, a systems analyst role might just be perfect.
Systems analysts are information technology – and to a great extent, business – workers. They are involved heavily in the day-to-day operations of an organization, helping to ensure as few as possible hitches in the apparatuses that other workers take for granted: computer systems, databases, firewalls, communication media, programs and applications, and more.
The good news? Systems analysts can make a very comfortable living with only an undergraduate degree, with an average salary of $88,740 per year or $42.66 per hour. Job numbers are growing steadily as well, indicating that analysts should have a relatively easy time finding jobs upon graduation. With a master’s degree, salary numbers climb even higher, and give analysts the opportunity to take on leadership roles, academic positions and consulting jobs.
However, in order to work effectively and reach that salary (and beyond), systems analysts need a deep knowledge base – and that requires a degree. Today we’ll take a look at what degree might constitute a good foundation for systems analysts, starting with what such a role actually comprises.
What Does a Systems Analyst Do?
A systems analyst, as the name suggests, focuses on creating and streamlining systems in order to make them better. Typically this takes place in a business or information technology setting, where digital media are employed to enable a vast array of activities, including:
- Interfacing with clients, customers, vendors or business partners
- Tracking orders, payments and other transactions
- Ensuring that computers can network both with each other inside the organization, and with the outside world
- Manufacturing products
- Providing services
… and more. Systems analysts, while their roles may comprise many and varied duties depending on the organization and their exact job description, do share one thing in common: They all use computers, usually in a business environment – though some also work for governmental or educational organizations. Therefore, if you’re going to become a systems analyst, you must be comfortable with programming, data analysis and basic business concepts.
Luckily, a variety of degrees can get you there.
Master of Computer Science
Because systems analysts work so closely with technology, a master’s degree in computer science is an obvious place to start your search. These programs focus strongly on computer systems, programs and programming languages, workflows, data analysis, software and hardware. With such skills to hand, you will have a strong foundation indeed for systems analysis. Other benefits include:
- You can get a systems analyst role even if you don’t have a background of computer science. Because master’s programs in this area are so robust, you don’t have to worry if you have an inapplicable undergrad degree – say, liberal arts, which many people get in college when they haven’t yet decided what their career will be.
- There are tons of choices. Computer science master’s degrees are widely available, both around the country and online.
- Degree programs come in a variety of forms. Because computer science degree programs are so widespread, you can customize them to meet your current needs. Whether you’re already working, have family duties or need to be conscious of cost, you have many options: full or part time, online or off, etc.
Master of Software Engineering
Software engineering and computer science obviously share many common elements. You learn the fundamentals of computing, software and hardware, and other subjects discussed above. However, software engineers have a strong focus on the programming part of computer science. This makes it a great master’s degree for anyone who wants to work in a tech-focused organization. There, it’s not enough simply to know systems and analyze them; you also need to understand programming and software on a deep level. With a software engineering degree:
- You have a shot at big companies such as Apple and Google. These corporations require a depth of knowledge that most people don’t have. If you want to throw your hat in the ring as a systems analyst, you need that depth too.
- You will have the necessary skills to code fixes to problems. As a systems analyst with other degrees, you might be able to identify problems and fix some of them, but as a software engineer, you will have the background to develop integrated solutions that stand the test of time.
Master of Information Technology
Information technology refers to the entirety of the communications systems, both hardware and software, that make up an organizations technological infrastructure. That means computers, smart devices, and even “old” technologies such as phones and faxes. Organizations need people on hand who understands these systems inside and out, can update and patch them, and can respond to the needs of workers who run into problems. While systems analysts are not those IT workers themselves, they need a solid understanding of IT if they are to analyze workflows and processes and make them more efficient. This is a good master’s degree for several reasons:
- It is widely recognized as being useful in computing. With an IT master’s degree in hand, you don’t need to convince anyone that you know your way around a communications network. Because of this, you get a lot of trust when it comes to making recommendations.
- You are well set up for consulting positions. If your dream is to become a consultant or freelance, an IT master’s gives you a well-rounded knowledge base that can stand in for experience at another organization.
Master of Communications Technology
This is somewhat similar to the IT master’s degree, though there are some differences. The main one is that in addition to computers and digital systems, graduates have a thorough foundation in other forms of communication, such as satellite, radio and cable. If you are interested in a thorough understanding of all communications – as opposed to digital and network comms – this might be a beneficial degree for you. Perks include:
- A broader skill set. This can help you stand out against the masses of people receiving degrees that relate only to digital systems, potentially getting you noticed for more important roles or jobs at bigger companies.
- Out-of-the-box thinking. Because you’re not constrained to the technologies with which you’ve grown up, you again have a more nuanced take on systems, enabling you to think through problems and analyze them more efficiently than peers.
- You don’t have to rely on others as much. Due to your thorough understanding of both software and hardware, analog and digital technology, you will have the skills needed to address systems on your own much of the time.
Master of Business Administration
The MBA degree is a coveted one across the nation and globe. While many people assume it’s only for roles such as marketing, management or commerce, however, that’s not the case. Systems analysts need a strong understanding of transaction, marketing and communications if they’re to truly understand and optimize systems within organizations. An MBA also guarantees that:
- You’ll have the necessary leadership experience to be a good systems analyst. Though you might not think of it this way, systems analysts are natural leaders. They have to tell the top brass what is working and what isn’t, and what to do about it. That can feel intimidating for some workers, but an MBA will help you learn the right skills.
- It looks great on a resume. No matter where you want to work, having an MBA signals to potential employers that you have the chops to get the job done.
- It’s a recognizable degree across the world. If your goal is to work abroad, for government organizations overseas or for nonprofits, and MBA can help you get there. The degree commands global respect, and that can help you get where you want to go.
Master of Entrepreneurship
Think entrepreneurship and computer science have little to do with one another? Wrong-O. In fact, entrepreneurs are some of the most tech-forward people around, and new ventures are likeliest to embrace disruptive or cutting-edge technology. With all this, however, comes a strong need for systems analysts, who can study and redefine systems over and over again to maximize budget and help the company inch closer to profit. Just make sure your master’s has a computer science focus, or get it on top of a software-related bachelor’s degree. Benefits include:
- You will receive a thorough education in business principles. Many systems analysts are responsible for understanding and supporting business strategy, and this degree will help you do just that.
- You will get hands-on experience of entrepreneurship. Perhaps the best thing about a master’s program specifically geared toward entrepreneurship is that you will get the hands-on experience you need to understand exactly how organizations run from the inside out. This is very valuable when it comes time to get hired.