What Does a Programmer Analyst Do?

Written by Coursera • Updated on

If you have a passion for technology and enjoy learning new things all the time, working as a programmer analyst may be a good fit for you.

[Featured image] A programmer analyst works at her computer workstation in an office.

Daily routines are seldom the same in the role, and you can be sure that life as a programmer analyst is rarely dull. 

There are many misconceptions about what a programmer analyst does because your day-to-day tasks may vary greatly. One day you might be developing and maintaining the software used by your company and flexing your coding skills to create interactive websites. The next day you might be meeting with managers of different departments to get feedback on what they need from programs, applications, and software.

As a programmer analyst, you’ll work closely with the IT department, but you'll also work with other departments across the company. It's a position that requires coding experience as well as the ability to test and maintain programs, adjust existing programs and develop new ones, and execute cybersecurity measures to keep the company's information safe. There’s no single path to becoming a computer programmer analyst, although gaining some formal education and experience is a plus. 

Common job duties of a programmer analyst

As a programmer analyst, you can expect to engage in a variety of job duties and responsibilities, which may vary depending on the company you're working for. Programmer analysts typically have solid coding skills and the ability to test and troubleshoot applications and software programs. You'll likely work for a corporation or a business to develop company-specific programs and systems. 

You'll probably also be repairing and maintaining software and systems. Ultimately, your goal will be to assess what the company needs and then to develop programs and systems to help the company maximize its operations. Some of the common job duties you may perform as a programmer analyst include:

  • Debugging programs when problems arise

  • Designing software programs for new systems

  • Developing front and back ends of websites

  • Managing and updating scripts for reporting purposes

  • Using programming languages to create programs to move business objectives forward

  • Analyzing, coding, testing, and documenting programs

  • Updating user web pages

  • Executing custom software requests

Typical work environment

If you’re unsure of whether life as a programmer analyst is a good fit, considering what your typical work environment is like is a good first step. As a programmer analyst, you’ll be able to work with a variety of organization types in industries such as software, computer system design, manufacturing, finance, and insurance. 

Depending upon the company, you might have a lot of flexibility in your workflow as long as you get everything done on time. Since a supervisor might not watch over you closely, it's important that you're able to remain organized, motivated, and able to set your own deadlines.

Connect with others: Meet your typical teammates

Because of the nature of the job, you’ll typically find yourself working across departments with many other teams. You'll frequently work with supervisors and management as you assess company needs. You'll also often work with the IT department and project managers as you start working on proposed systems, programs, and applications. 

You can also expect to work with the rest of the IT department as you design and test new systems before implementation. During that phase, and during the downtime when you’re drafting documentation or assessing business needs, you’ll likely interact with other employees across the organization. 

  • Common teammates: IT department, project managers, upper management

  • Common supervisor: IT Director, CIO, or CEO

  • Common interactions: Company-wide

Understand the common challenges of a programmer analyst

Like most technical careers, working as a programmer analyst can be incredibly fulfilling while still presenting you with a few challenges. For example, this can be a stressful position depending upon the company you’re working for and the nature of the job itself. You'll likely have to deal with periods of pressure, as well as working against tight deadlines. You may also have to solve challenging problems quickly, or your code might not work exactly as you expect it to. You’ll need to be ready for anything.

Choosing to work somewhere with a company culture that resonates with you and with managers who manage projects in a way that suits your style can go a long way to helping you best manage potential stress. Other common challenges you might come up against include the following: 

  • Experience is usually a plus. Employers often like to see that you’ve got experience, which you can gain by working as a computer programmer, software developer, or another coding or analyst-related position. Internships can also help you gain proficiency in both the necessary technical skills, such as coding and developing test cases, and workplace skills, such as flexibility, problem-solving, and stellar interdepartmental communication. 

  • You'll likely spend a lot of time sitting at a desk. Like many jobs in computers and IT, as a programmer analyst, you’ll usually spend a lot of time seated and working on computers. Getting regular exercise outside of work, practicing good posture, and making sure to outfit your workstation with ergonomics in mind help keep you comfortable and safe.

  • It’s a fast-paced field. As a programmer analyst, you won’t be able to just coast on what you've already learned. But it is the ideal field for you if you are passionate about learning and open to continually pushing yourself to keep your skills sharp. You can do this by taking advantage of opportunities to read and learn on your own, take online courses, and gain certifications to stay up on all the latest and greatest. 

Programmer analyst salary and job outlook

As a programmer analyst, you can currently expect to see steady job growth. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that computer systems analyst positions will grow by 7 percent between 2020 and 2030 [1]. Additionally,  Zippia projects that programmer analyst jobs will grow by 9 percent between 2018 and 2028 [2].

You’ll find that there are a variety of factors that impact your salary, including experience and location. The national average annual salary for programmer analysts is $75,745 according to ZipRecruiter [3]. Salaries typically range between $55,500 and $90,000. 

How to get started as a programmer analyst

It's possible to launch your career as a programmer analyst without formal higher education. However, many employers look for candidates with a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field like information systems, business, or information technology. 

Zippia estimates that 64 percent of programmer analysts hold a bachelor's degree, with another 20 percent having an associate degree [4]. Additionally, according to Indeed, having a master's degree in information technology or pursuing certifications in Azure, AWS, Red Hat, APEX, MTA, CCDH, or other similar platforms and applications is also a plus [5].

Having experience can also help in your job search, although the amount of experience you'll need will vary depending on the needs of each company or organization. Some businesses look for candidates with a few years of experience in developing applications, coding, or programming. Many hiring managers look for candidates who have worked with wire protocol debugging, MySQL, and HTTP protocol. 

Take action: Empower yourself 

Empowering yourself with education and experience is an effective way to launch your career. Whether you work toward a degree or take a self-taught path, the choice is entirely up to you. Either way, before you can launch your career as a computer programmer analyst, you’ll have a few decisions to make. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is your current level of experience?

  • Would you prefer getting started by taking online courses to build up the necessary skills like designing databases, coding, software development, and working with mainframes?

  • Do you want to pursue a formal degree? If so, do you want an on-campus or online experience?

It’s also helpful to create a portfolio you can share with prospective employers. Use projects that you've completed during your studies to highlight your key skills and to showcase your best work if you don’t have formal work experience yet. Consider choosing projects that emphasize your skills in areas like:

  • Multitasking

  • Taking a proactive approach to applications, security, and software

  • Strong communication skills

  • Self-motivation

  • Coding skills

  • Creating effective documentation

Next steps

Start building your programming skills with Learn to Program: The Fundamentals from the University of Toronto or Python for Everybody from the University of Michigan. Looking to transition to a career in software engineering? Earn your IBM DevOps and Software Engineering Professional Certificate to develop the skills companies are hiring for, all at your own pace.

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Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Computer Systems Analysts, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-systems-analysts.htm." Accessed February 15, 2022.

2. Zippia. “How to Become a Computer Programmer Analyst,  https://www.zippia.com/computer-programmer-analyst-jobs/." Accessed February 15, 2022.

3. Ziprecruiter. "Computer Programmer Analyst Salary, https://www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries/Computer-Programmer-Analyst-Salary,” Accessed February 15, 2022.

4. Zippia. “How to Become a Computer Programmer Analyst: Education, https://www.zippia.com/computer-programmer-analyst-jobs/education.”  Accessed February 15, 2022. 

5. Indeed. “Programmer Analyst Job Description [Updated for 2022], https://www.indeed.com/hire/job-description/programmer-analyst." Accessed February 15, 2022.

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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