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IT analyst career paths: Understanding your options

June 25, 2024
Two IT analysts look at a computer

Information technology has evolved by leaps and bounds this century, as the internet becomes the primary vehicle through which businesses and governments operate and people connect. The ever-increasing need for security, and the development of diverse online computer networks, has led to a steady increase in the number of IT career paths.

The demand for skilled IT analysts is on the rise, reflecting in impressive job growth statistics and making a career in IT analysis not only desirable for its high salaries and job stability but for the diverse opportunities it presents. Pursuing a career as an IT analyst opens a world of potential, paving the way for a fulfilling and dynamic professional journey.

Qualifications for an IT Analyst

To embark on a successful career as an IT analyst, a well-rounded education in computing or a related field will provide an ideal launchpad. A master's degree, such as Marquette University's online Master of Science in Computer and Information Science, equips candidates with advanced technical knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary for the role.

Beyond formal education, a successful IT analyst also embodies a blend of soft and hard skills. Analytical prowess, problem-solving capabilities, and effective communication are indispensable, enabling analysts to dissect complex data and convey actionable insights. Technical acumen in programming languages, database management, and cybersecurity best practices further enhance an analyst's qualifications. Certifications or concentrations in areas like data analysis, network security, and specific technologies or platforms can also provide a competitive edge in the job market. Together, these qualifications shape the versatile and dynamic professionals in demand in today’s rapidly evolving IT landscape.

You might think you need to know several computer languages and be skilled at coding before you apply to get an advanced degree in Computer and Information Science, but fortunately, that's not the case. Many programs now offer a preliminary course that teaches students the basic information they will need to excel in a graduate-level IT program. So even if you've never taken a course on information systems, cybersecurity or computer networks before, you can enter a whole new field and change your career with a master's program like Marquette's.

Common IT Analyst Roles

From safeguarding data to optimizing business processes, there are a number of analyst jobs to consider. Here's a closer look at some of the most prevalent IT analyst positions in the industry.

  • IT Business Analyst: An IT business analyst is responsible for maintaining and upgrading the computer applications and hardware that are used by employees to ensure cost efficient choices are made and that new systems are added when necessary to respond to business needs. This career path could be ideal for someone who has a good understanding of business administration and how an organization can utilize technology to improve its performance. The average salary for this role is about $80,000.1
  • IT Cybersecurity Analyst: An information security analyst, also known as IT cybersecurity analyst, plans and executes strategies to secure the computer networks of their organizations and prevent security breaches. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects cybersecurity analyst roles to grow 32% over the next decade—a much faster rate than average for jobs overall . The median annual salary for an IT cybersecurity analysts was $120,360 in 2023.2
  • IT Support Analyst: The job duties of a computer support specialists can vary depending on the organization. These folks provide help to customers using a company's software or website or they could work internally in an IT department and focus on troubleshooting and supporting the employees of a company with their technology issues. While the median pay for a computer support specialist is relatively low for the field at $60,810 per year, your salary could be higher with increased responsibilities and advanced education like a master's degree.3
  • IT Systems Analyst: IT systems analysts, also called computer systems analysts or systems architects, work on a broader scale than IT business analysts to make sure the network and computer systems of an entire organization operate at peak efficiency. They analyze technology used by an organization to ensure customers are able to access business services as expected and look for opportunities for improvement of operations using data modeling and the like. IT systems analysts might specialize in the computer systems used in one industry, for example, you could specialize in financial software, health care software or manufacturing software. Computer systems analysts average salaries of $103,800 annually and have a healthy projected job growth rate of 10%.4

Specializations and Advanced Roles

IT analysts can find many opportunities for specialization and advancement in the field. As you accrue experience and refine your skills, you can navigate towards more complex and high-impact roles. Specialization can help you find leadership roles or advance and take on greater leadership and strategic responsibilities. Here are a couple of specialized/advanced paths:

  • Cloud computing architect
  • Network administrator
  • Web developer
  • Full stack developer

The journey to these advanced roles often begins with a solid foundation in IT analysis, augmented by continuous learning and specialization. Programs like Marquette University's M.S. in Computer and Information Science not only lay the groundwork but also offer pathways for students to explore these advanced disciplines. Through specialized coursework and real-world projects, students are prepared to ascend to high-level roles within the IT industry, ready to tackle contemporary challenges with innovative solutions.

Educational Pathways and Continuous Learning

In the ever-evolving tech industry, lifelong learning is not just encouraged; it’s essential. For aspiring IT analysts, advancing their education and skills ensures they remain at the forefront of innovation and industry trends to be indispensable to their organizations. Here are options for those looking to deepen their expertise and propel their careers forward as IT and data analysts:

  • Advanced degrees: Enrolling in an graduate degree program, such as the M.S. in Computer and Information Science from Marquette University, provides a comprehensive understanding of both theoretical and practical aspects of technology. Plus it will put you in touch with faculty with years of hands-on experience within the industry and will help you build your network of IT professionals.
  • Certifications: Obtaining industry-recognized certifications can significantly enhance an IT analyst's credibility. Noteworthy certifications include Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP), CompTIA Security+, and Certified Data Professional (CDP).
  • Workshops and webinars: Participating in relevant workshops and seminars keeps IT analysts current with the latest trends and technologies. Discover new data analysis tools and security measures or expand your understanding of the industry through discussion of ethics and computer science.

When it comes to hard technology skills, there's quite a few that will come in handy as an IT analyst, including:

  • Network design including wide area networks and local area networks
  • Software development
  • Data analytics
  • Information security
  • Visual analytics
  • Machine learning
  • Artificial intelligence

Practical Applications and Real-World Examples

Now that you have a sound understanding of the role of IT analysts, you might be curious as to how these systems analysts make a tangible impact on their organizations. Here are some real-world examples:

Handling customer help tickets at Uber:

In 2018, the ride-hailing mobile app, Uber, developed a machine learning and natural language processing tool to help their customer support agents improve their speed and accuracy when handling tickets. The engineering team found that using this tool reduced ticket resolution time by 10 percent and went on to iterate on the tool to expand its capabilities.5

Improving user experience on gov.uk:

In 2019, the data science team and developers from the Government Digital Service (GDS) branch of the United Kingdom government worked to improve the user experience of gov.uk, a group of pages that comprises the best place to find government services and information. Using multiple information technology strategies like network analysis, machine learning and A/B testing, the team was able to reduce the number of steps it took for users to find the information they were after.6

Consolidating tools at Ossür:

Ossür, a prosthetics and mobility company, had separate tools for everything from customer relationship management (CRM) to project management and more. Analysts at Atlassian helped team members to automate the process of requesting prototypes, optimize application management, and more using Jira Service Management.7

Prepare for an IT analyst career with Marquette University

Embarking on a career as an IT analyst opens the doorway to a world of dynamic opportunities, diverse paths, and compelling challenges. From driving digital transformations to safeguarding sensitive information and enhancing business operations, IT analysts in all industries play a crucial role in shaping their organizations. As the demand for qualified IT professionals continues to climb, the journey from aspiring analyst to industry leader is fraught with potential for growth, innovation, and meaningful impact.

Marquette University’s online M.S. in Computer and Information Science is more than just a degree; it's a launchpad for professionals aiming to develop an understanding of the complexities of IT analysis, emerge with advanced skills, and step confidently into leadership roles. Marquette's online CIS program allows working professionals the flexibility they need to complete a graduate program that can advance their career. Choose from a specialization in Information Assurance and Cyber Defense (IACD), or concentrations in solution architecture, software and systems development, analytics and artificial intelligence, or IT management. Schedule a call with an admissions outreach advisor to learn more about how the M.S. in CIS can help you reach your career goals.