Computer Systems Programmer/Analysts


Employment Prospects


Computer systems analysts hold approximately 633,900 jobs. They work for all types of firms and organizations. Such companies and organizations may include manufacturing companies, data processing service firms, hardware and software companies, banks, insurance companies, credit companies, publishing houses, government agencies, financial institutions, Internet service and content providers, and colleges and universities. Many programmer analysts are employed by businesses as consultants on a temporary or contractual basis.

Starting Out

Since systems programmer/analysts typically have at least some experience in a computer-related job, most are hired into these jobs from lower-level positions within the same company. For example, programmers, software engineering technicians, and network and database administrators all gain valuable computing experience that can be put to good use at a systems job. Alternatively, individuals who acquire expertise in systems programming and analysis while in other jobs may want to work with a headhunter to find the right systems positions for them. Also, trade magazines, newspapers, and employment agencies regularly feature job openings in this field.

Students in four-year degree programs should work closely with their schools' career services offices. Companies regularly work through such offices in order to find the most qualified graduates. Since it may be difficult to find a job as a programmer analyst to begin with, it is important for students to consider their long-term potential within a certain company. The chance for promotion into a systems job can make lower-level jobs more appealing, at least in the short run.

For those individuals already employed in a computer-related job but wanting to get into systems programming and analysis, additional formal education is a good idea. Some employers have educational reimbursement policies that allow employees to take courses inexpensively. If the employee's training could directly benefit the business, companies are more willing to pay for the expense.

Advancement Prospects

Systems programmer/analysts already occupy a relatively high-level technical job. Promotion, therefore, usually occurs in one of two directions. First, programmer analysts can be put in charge of increasingly larger and more complex systems. Instead of concentrating on a company's local system, for example, an analyst can oversee all company systems and networks. This kind of technically based promotion can also put systems programmer/analysts into other areas of computing. With the proper experience and additional training, they can get into database or network management and design, software engineering, or even quality assurance.

The other direction in which programmer analysts can go is managerial. Depending on the position sought, formal education (either a bachelor's degree in business or a master's in business administration or computer science) may be required. As more administrative duties are added, more technical ones are taken away. Therefore, programmer analysts who enjoy the technical aspect of their work more than anything else may not want to pursue this advancement track. Excellent project managers have both a solid background in various forms of computing and a good grasp of what it takes to run a department. Also, having the vision to see how technology will change in the short and long terms, and how those changes will affect the industry concerned, is a quality of a good manager.

Some programmer/analysts can advance to top executive positions such as information technology director or chief technology officer.

Tips for Entry

Join professional associations such as the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities. The ACM has Special Interest Groups on Programming Languages, Software Engineering, Multimedia Systems, Management Information Systems, and other fields of interest to programmer/analysts.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:


Read ACM Career News at to keep up to date on career trends and get job-search tips.