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Confused over Terminology?
A computer analyst job description is intricately tied to a company’s current information technology needs and planned growth. Putting together available hardware with suitable software solutions, computer analysts (the Bureau of Labor Statistics(1) also refers to them as ‘computer systems analysts’) devise new and expand current computer systems. If the professional primarily works on hardware, software and peripheral selection – but less on actually configuring these tools -- she would be termed a system designer.
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Basic Job Tasks
- Become familiar with a business’ current and intended future IT setup. The computer analyst takes stock of hardware and software currently in use, planned upgrades and purchases, as well as foreseeable phasing out of peripherals and programs.
- Pinpoint an area of desired IT improvement. Measure current performance against short-term and long-term business goals.
- Design a new IT system to meet the goals. In some cases the system analyst may be constrained by financial concerns and will have to reconfigure existing hardware and software to adapt to changes in usage. While designing or reconfiguring, the expert draws up flow charts to track the processes and make it easier for programmers to follow the logical steps.
- Prepare a return-on-investment analysis. The professional not only knows the ins and outs of hardware and software, but also whether the expense is worth it in the long run.
- Coordinate system changes with management. Depending on the number of computer analysts and the length of time on the job, senior professionals may be called upon to present proposed systems upgrades to the business’ management. Highlighting benefits and offering advice, the analyst functions as an advisor.
- Debug a new system. Testing takes place whenever a milestone is hit and after the entire system is in place.
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Specialized skills and even basic computer analyst skill sets vary by organization and business. Even so, the average computer analyst must understand data input and output, stay up to date on technology advancement and also recognize system flaws and the potential for data leaks. The BLS also advises that skills sets required include “structured analysis, data modeling, information engineering, mathematical model building, sampling, and a variety of accounting principles.”
In addition to the theoretical aspects that go into system design, a highly effective computer analyst knows the current cost of the equipment and whether the expenditure is likely to yield the desired results. Professionals frequently have a bachelor’s degree in computer science, engineering or mathematics. Remaining competitive in today’s challenging business environment also necessitates a master’s degree with a business computing emphasis.
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Computer forensics(2) is a field that is very close to basic computer analysis. Rather than working on changing an information technology setup to meet new goals, the professional traces its current and former functionality to recover data. Deconstructing system architecture is of paramount importance.
IT support on the analyst level(3) is another offshoot of basic computer analysis. In this case the professional is on duty when senior analysts are off duty.
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It is apparent that there is a lot of room for growth in the computer analyst job description. Given the rapid advancement of information technology and also the technological neck-to-neck competition between China, India and the United States, it stands to reason that a continuously changing IT landscape necessitates a highly flexible workforce.
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Photo Credit: “Blue screen of death” by Praseodymium/Wikimedia Commons at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Windows_XP_BSOD.png