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Program analyst positions essentially combine the duties of a systems analyst and computer programmer. These professionals are responsible for designing and developing software and computer systems, and writing computer programs to implement those designs. They may also update and repair existing computer and software programs.
Program analysts may work with specific financial, scientific or engineering computer systems, depending on their employer's needs. Program analysts typically start their jobs by meeting with supervisors to discuss what the company needs, then designing an appropriate system. Through this process, program analysts might prepare cost analyses, design software programs, translate those programs into various programming languages, and test software for bugs and other issues.
Because program analysts must consistently check with their organization to make sure they create a product that meets the company's needs, these professionals should boast solid communication skills in addition to their design and development abilities. They may have to train other employees on the new systems and software, as well, which also requires communication skills.
Most program analysts work with computer systems design companies, though a handful also work in finance and insurance, software publishing, manufacturing or self-employment.
Becoming a Program Analyst
Most employers consider program analyst applicants with a bachelor's degree or higher, though some may permit an associate degree. Candidates who don't have their bachelor's might compensate for it in relevant work experience, but even so, most companies prefer a bachelor's degree in a computer-related subject, such as engineering or mathematics. Aspiring program analysts may hold a bachelor's degree in a non-computer related subject if they have also completed training through a professional organization, seminar or continuing education course.
The technology field is ever-changing, so those working in it must prepare for consistent adaptation to change. Program analysts can stay current on trends and innovations in their field through continuing education courses, professional development seminars, programming language classes or personal study. They might also obtain licensure or certification from a program-specific vendor, though this isn't required to work as a program analyst.
Ideally, program analysts should possess analytical skills, strong concentration, detail-oriented thinking and excellent troubleshooting skills. Most employers prefer candidates to have prior professional experience in addition to their education.
Program Analyst Salary
Program analysts in the United States earn a median annual salary of $65,217, according to PayScale. This breaks down to $25.95 per hour. Professionals in the lowest 10 percent of the program analysis field make approximately $46,000 per year (or $16.61 per hour), while those in the 90th percentile make as much as $98,000 annually (or $37.97 per hour).
Entry-level program analysts make a median salary of $59,000 annually, and late-career analysts make about $93,000 (and up to $124,000 each year for late-career program analysts in the 90th percentile). Program analysts may go on to become data analysts, project managers or program project managers later in their careers.
Washington, D.C. pays program analysts the highest salary in the country, with professionals in the district earning $90,321 per year. Idaho has the lowest annual wage for program analysts – $43,468 – but the state also boasts a relatively low cost of living, meaning, that a lower salary there would stretch farther than in other states.
Brenna Swanston is a freelance writer, editor and journalist. She previously reported for the Sun newspaper in Santa Maria, California, and she holds a bachelor's in journalism from California Polytechnic State University.