Computer systems administrator vs. computer systems analyst: What’s the difference?

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So you know you want to earn your online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems from the University of Alabama, but you aren’t sure if you want to be a computer systems administrator or a computer systems analyst? Though the job titles sound similar, they are distinct career paths in the information systems sector and offer subtle differences in regard to professional responsibilities.

In the most basic sense, computer systems administrators are responsible for the day-to-day operation of their organization’s internal networks through troubleshooting and initial setup. Meanwhile, computer systems analysts study their organization’s current systems and procedures to design solutions that improve efficiency and effectiveness. If you need additional information about these two career paths, the following article will detail similarities and differences in daily life, required skills and knowledge, salary expectations, and job growth.

A computer systems analyst checks information on a tablet.

What is a computer systems administrator?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ computer system administrator job description, employees organize, install, and support their organization’s computer systems, which may include everything from intranets to wide area networks to local area networks. They may also be responsible for other data communication frameworks. Basically, they handle all critical systems operations on a daily basis.

On an average day, a system administrator may maintain network security, make needed upgrades or repairs, install network hardware/software, and evaluate and optimize a network or system for effective performance. They may also be responsible for adding users to networks, manage their organization’s servers, and solve user problems with the current network or system. For example, they may handle daily issues, such as email applications or data storage networks that are not working properly. Additionally, many administrators manage telecommunication networks.

What is a computer systems analyst?

In contrast, what are computer systems analyst duties? While administrators are more concerned with daily user performance, analysts (sometimes called systems architects) bring together information technology and business in their work by consulting with managers to determine the role of IT systems in their organization and using a variety of techniques to design these systems once a decision is made.

Essentially, analysts may research emerging technologies, prepare reports detailing the costs and benefits of new systems, devise new ways to add better functionality to their existing system or network, and implement new systems by selecting ideal software and hardware. They take on a more managerial role than administrators at times, such as when they may oversee the installation and configuration of new systems and train end users to operate the setup.

While a system administrator must have a broad understanding of a wide variety of systems and networks, analysts are usually experts in the frameworks that their organization employs, such as engineering computer systems at a major engineering firm. They are also usually responsible for helping other IS team members understand how to use their systems and best serve their organization with this technology.

What skills and knowledge are required?

Both jobs require a love of working on computer systems and ensuring that all computer equipment works properly for users. For computer systems administrators, however, they must also possess unique analytic skills so they can evaluate system and network performance and know the steps needed to fix any problems. Additional communication skills are beneficial for working with non-IT workers. Multitasking skills are also ideal because many administrators may have to balance multiple projects at once.

Meanwhile, computer systems analysts duties require analytical skills to interpret complex information and understand how to move forward on various projects. Many analysts also require communication skills to operate as mediators between the IT department and non-IT management personnel. They may have to explain difficult, technology-related issues so everyone at their organization can understand.

Creativity as an analyst is key, as they frequently have to discover innovative solutions to complex computer issues. Many analysts also need further knowledge about data modeling, designing computer systems, and calculating requirements for storage, memory, and computing power. They may also need data and other visualization knowledge to create charts and diagrams for other programmers or analysts to follow when building future systems.

While there are many general-purpose analysts, several in the field choose to specialize in certain areas. Two of these specialized roles include software quality assurance analysts and programmer analysts. QA analysts conduct in-depth testing of systems, while programmer analysts create and update their systems’ software and tailor any application to their organization’s specific needs.

What are the salary possibilities and job growth?

The pay expectations and potential job growth for both of these positions is relatively similar, but still varies depending on the organization and field. For computer systems administrators, the median salary was $81,100 in 2017, with 6 percent job growth projected between 2016 to 2026. Of these workers, 10 percent earned well over $130,200. The top-paying industries for administrators include information at $87,950, finance and insurance at $87,420, and computer systems design at $86,250.

Similarly, the median salary for computer systems analysts was $88,270, with 9 percent job growth projected between 2016 and 2026. Of these workers, 10 percent earned over $139,850. The top paying industries for analysts include computer systems design at $91,240, finance and insurance at $90,590, and management of companies and enterprises at $89,930. The information sector followed closely behind at $89,570.

How can you work toward these careers?

Do you want to learn more about the field of IS? Whether you want to become an administrator or analyst, an online BS in Information Systems might be the perfect path for you. To learn more about our specific program offerings, reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Readings:

Career opportunities to consider with a BS IS

What sets the UAB online BS IS program apart from the rest?

Sources:

University of Alabama – Online Bachelor of Science in Information Systems

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Network and Computer Systems Administrators by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Occupational Outlook Handbook: Computer Systems Analysts by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics