Programmer-analysts are a hybrid of two separate functions, programming and computer systems analysis. They combine their business acumen and analytic insight with their programming skills to develop applications tailored to a company's specific needs. Working closely with management, programmer-analysts determine the required applications and then set about writing the necessary code and testing the software.
Computer Programmer Skills
Based on the initial design created by computer system analysts and other professionals, programmers write the computer code to create the program. Programmers also update existing programs either to correct errors or provide enhanced functionality. There is often an overlap between programming and analysis. Programmers work closely with analysts to clarify the program's concept, identify potential problems and suggest changes. Often, they are one and the same person, or are part of a team of individuals carrying out similar functions. Programmers are also responsible for documenting the development of the program on which they are working so that others can understand and modify the program, if needed.
Computer Systems Analyst Skills
Computer systems analysts use their analytic skills and computer knowledge to improve business work-flow using computerized systems. This high-level occupation requires working closely with an organization's leadership and IT department to ensure their computer system meets business demands. Analysts consider both hardware and software issues when developing new systems or expanding existing ones. A broad grasp of emerging technologies and a solid background in the particular business help computer systems analysts to develop appropriate computerized systems. Analysts ensure that programmers create programs that match the needs of the business.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS, tracks employment data separately for computer programmers and computer systems analysts. Computer systems analysts, in general, earn more than computer programmers. They can earn up to 18 percent more than computer programmers on the low end of the programmers' scale, but the difference falls to just 4 percent on the high end. BLS reports that the mean annual wage in 2011 was $78,770 for computer systems analysts and $72,630 for computer programmers. Annual earnings for computer systems analysts for the same period were between $49,370 and $120,060, versus $41,710 and $115,610 for computer programmers.
BLS reports that job growth for computer systems analysts is expected to remain strong between 2010 and 2020 -- 22 percent. The increasing conversion of medical records and other health care activities into computerized systems is a contributing factor to this increase. A business background with experience in a specific field may provide better prospects, since this occupation requires a great deal of business analysis. Computer programmers, on the other hand, will have to contend with average job growth of 12 percent for the same period. The increasing use of offshore programming labor is a limiting factor for U.S. job growth in this field.
- O*NET: Summary Report for Computer Programmers
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook; Computer Programmer
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment and Wages; Computer Programmer
- O*NET: Summary Report for Computer Systems Analysts
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Outlook Handbook; Computer Systems Analysts
- U.S. Department of Labor: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Occupational Employment and Wages; Computer Systems Analysts
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