What Does a Programmer Analyst Do?

Written by Coursera Staff • 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 programmer analyst job duties

As a programmer analyst, you can expect to engage in various job duties and responsibilities, which may vary by company. Programmer analysts typically have solid coding skills and can 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 repair and maintain software and systems. Ultimately, your goal will be to assess what the company needs and develop programs and systems to help it 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 on 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 can remain organized, motivated, and set your own deadlines.

Connect with others: Meet your typical teammates.

Because of the nature of the job, you’ll typically work across departments with many other teams. You'll frequently work with supervisors and management as you assess company needs. You'll also often collaborate 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 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 everyday challenges of a programmer analyst.

Like many technical careers, working as a programmer analyst can be incredibly fulfilling while still presenting you with a few challenges. You'll likely have to deal with periods of pressure and work against tight deadlines. You may also have to solve challenging problems quickly, or your code might not work exactly as you expect. You’ll need to be flexible.

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 in helping you best manage potential stress. Other common challenges you might experience 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 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 at a desk. Like many jobs in computers and IT, a programmer analyst spends a lot of time seated and working on computers. Regular exercise outside of work, practicing good posture, and outfitting your workstation with ergonomics in mind will help keep you comfortable and safe.

  • It’s a fast-paced field. As a programmer analyst, it's important to update your skills regularly. This is an ideal field for you if you are passionate about learning and open to 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 expect steady job growth. The Canadian government ranks programmer analyst job prospects as moderate or good in most provinces and territories [1].

The average annual salary for programmer analysts in Canda is $68,065, according to Glassdoor. Salaries typically range between $59,000 and $78,000 [2]. Many factors can impact your programmer analyst salary, including experience and location. 

How to get started as a programmer analyst

You can launch your career as a programmer analyst without formal higher education. However, many employers look for candidates with bachelor's degrees in computer science or related fields like information systems, business, or information technology. You may also want to consider a post-secondary degree if you want to specialize in certain programming for fields like engineering or science. 

Having experience can also help in your job search, although the amount of experience you'll need will vary with each company or organization’s needs. Some businesses look for candidates with a few years of experience 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 launching your computer programmer analyst career, you’ll have a few decisions to make. Some questions to ask yourself include:

  • What is your current experience level?

  • Would you prefer to start 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 you've completed during your studies to highlight your key skills and 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 the University of Toronto’s Learn to Program: The Fundamentals or the University of Michigan’s Python for Everybody. 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.

Article sources


Job Bank. “Programmer Analyst in Canada, https://www.jobbank.gc.ca/marketreport/outlook-occupation/22529/ca.” Accessed May 3, 2024.

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