Program Analyst Career Path

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Program Analyst Career Path

Becoming a program analyst is a great way to jump-start your career in the tech industry. Program analysts are responsible for the planning, developing, and executing of computer programs and applications. They work with teams of developers to create software that meets the specific needs of their company or clients. If you’re interested in becoming a program analyst, here’s what you need to know about the job and how to get started on your career path.

1. What Is a Program Analyst?

Program analysts work in all areas of the tech industry, including advertising technology, energy, finance and insurance, healthcare, software development, and more. Analysts are responsible for many tasks within their company or department. The primary responsibilities of a program analyst include strategy forecasting, application design, and architecture coordination to support business objectives. They also facilitate communication between technical teams and other departments, such as marketing and legal.

Analysts work closely with vendors and other departments to ensure the quality of each product. For example, an analyst may design a marketing campaign in coordination with a vendor to make sure their product is accurately represented. The program analyst often works closely with upper management teams such as chief information officers (CIOs) or chief technology officers (CTOs).

2. What Does a Program Analyst Do?

Program analysts spend their day’s planning, developing, and executing computer programs and applications. Analysts work closely with technical teams to create software or updates for existing software that meet the specific needs of their company or clients. They may also answer questions from non-technical team members such as marketing managers or legal teams.

Program analysts with more experience may be responsible for supervising junior members of their technical team. They will also work to continually learn about new computer programs and systems to design better products for the future. As with most jobs, experience is likely to lead to greater responsibilities in this field.

3. What Skills Are Needed to Become a Program Analyst?

Program analysts need to be detail-oriented, organized, and good communicators because they always work with several other departments to ensure the best product possible. Analysts should also know how to prioritize tasks to meet deadlines. They must think strategically about how their projects can help their company or clients improve business practices. Analysts should also be proficient in the technology used by their company. Several colleges and universities offer Bachelor’s degrees in computer science.

Some employers may also require program analysts to know specific software development languages, like C++ or Python. Knowledge of project management tools is also helpful for this position.

4. What Is the Difference Between a Program Analyst and a Software Developer?

Program analysts are generalists who plan, coordinate and oversee technical teams. They focus on the strategy behind technology within their company or department.

Software developers focus specifically on the creation of software programs and applications. Software developers work closely with other members of their technical team to design, test, and release new products for clients or businesses. Like program analysts, software developers are technical generalists. However, they tend to focus specifically on programming languages and tools that may be different than the ones used by program analysts.

5. How to Become a Program Analyst?

To become a program analyst, individuals must have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer science. Many companies also require analysts to hold certifications, primarily on proprietary software or technology. There are several certification options available through the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA), including International Software Quality Certification (ISQC) and Project Management Certification (PMP). Some companies also require analysts to have industry-specific knowledge, such as insurance or finance. The American Bankers Association offers a Certified Financial Services Technology Professional certification.

In addition to formal education and certifications, many companies look for program analysts who have previous experience in their field. Some examples of relevant work experience may include project management or technical support positions that involve solving problems with computers or software programs. Internships are another way to gain hands-on experience with computer science and prove your interest in the field.

6. How Much Does a Program Analyst Earn?

According to May 2015 data from PayScale, the median salary for a Program Analyst is $62,000 per year. The bottom 10 percent of earners make less than $34,000 each year, while the top 10 percent of earners in this field make more than $99,000 annually.

Program analysts who work for the federal government have a median salary of $80,100 per year. Those working in the financial services sector have a median salary of about $73,500 each year. Most program analysts (53 percent) report an average salary of between $49,000 and $75,000 per year.

Program analysts in California earn a median salary of about $100,500 each year, while those in Texas make a median salary of about $71,700 annually.

7. What Are the Job Prospects for Program Analysts?

According to the BLS, computer and information research scientists are expected to see little or no change in employment opportunities through 2024, with an estimated 6 percent job growth over that time. However, there will be more competition for these jobs because many individuals pursue careers in this field. There were 149,500 program analysts employed in the United States as of May 2015, with a 1 percent increase in employment since this time last year.

The job outlook for analysts is good because organizations are increasingly relying on technology to develop new services and products. In addition, many organizations have difficulty finding qualified individuals to serve as program analysts, so there will be high levels of competition for these positions.

8. What Are the Benefits of Being a Program Analyst?

Some of the benefits of being a program analyst:

  • Individuals who hold this job typically work standard business hours.
  • The salary is generally higher than that of individuals in similar positions, such as technical support specialists.
  • Employment opportunities are expected to grow over the next several years.
  • This career path offers the opportunity to use technology and software daily.
  • Analysts help organizations improve their efficiency and profitability.
  • This position serves as an entry point for individuals who want to work in project management, information technology, or other computer science-related careers.

9. What Are Some of the Challenges Program Analysts Face?

Some of the potential challenges of being a program analyst include:

  • Individuals in this career typically have to work extended hours when deadlines are approaching or during essential projects.
  • This is not an entry-level job, so applicants may need some previous experience in the field.
  • Many organizations have trouble finding qualified individuals for these positions because there are so many applicants for each job opening.
  • Program analysts often have to work on teams with individuals who may not share the same level of interest in technology as they do.
  • This career path has a high turnover rate due to the fast pace and stress levels associated with the job.

10. Which Kind of Companies Hire Program Analyst?

Many organizations and companies hire program analysts to help with their computer and information technology needs. Some of the types of companies that typically hire individuals for this position include:

  • Insurance providers
  • Telecommunications companies
  • Banking institutions
  • Digital media producers
  • Government agencies, such as public sector consulting firms or research offices

11. Where Do You Start as a Program Analyst?

Individuals interested in becoming program analysts can begin by earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. Some programs that individuals may consider pursuing include computer science, information technology, information management, and mathematics.

Other educational options for prospective analysts include certificate programs focused on project management, technology consulting services, or databases. Most undergraduate programs in these areas include a concentration in technology or information management.

12. What Qualities Does a Program Analyst Need?

Individuals who want to be program analysts should possess several traits, such as:

Problem-solving skills – This job requires individuals to analyze problems and find solutions. Analysts must look at situations from many different angles and think quickly on their feet.

Patience – In addition to solving problems, analysts must be able to work through a list of tasks that may seem impossible at first glance.

Detail-oriented – Analysts need to pay attention to detail and be capable of following through with minor yet essential details. It’s the little things that often separate average businesses from successful ones.

Communication skills – Program analysts need to communicate their findings and recommendations, both inside and outside the organization. They must also be capable of expressing themselves clearly in writing and verbally.

Leadership skills – As employees advance into more senior positions, they eventually take on leadership roles that require them to coach and mentor less-experienced workers.

Creativity – Analysts need to constantly think outside the box to come up with innovative yet practical ideas that can improve an organization’s bottom line.

Organizational skills – Program analysts must manage their own time effectively and be well organized. They also need to manage multiple projects at once without losing sight of each one’s requirements and goals.

Team player – Analysts work closely with teams to solve problems and implement new ideas. They need to be comfortable working in this environment and communicate openly with others throughout the organization.

13. Best Colleges to Study Program Analysis

Listed below are some of the top schools in the U.S. where students can pursue a program analyst degree or certificate.

The University of Maryland – Founded in 1856, this public research university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in computer science, including information technology. The university also provides graduate certificates in project management, information management, and business intelligence.

University of Central Florida – This university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in computer science with concentrations in IT management, cyber security, networks and systems administration, software engineering, and data science. The university also provides graduate certificates in project planning, Microsoft dynamics enterprise solutions, or information security.

Simmons College – This private, not-for-profit university offers a bachelor of science in information technology with a concentration in project management.

Strayer University – Students can choose from various IT degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis in information systems or a bachelor’s degree in project management. The school also offers master’s degrees in project management or information security and assurance.

Southern New Hampshire University – This private, not-for-profit university offers a bachelor’s degree concentrating in business information systems. The school also provides master’s degrees in project management, healthcare administration, and cybersecurity.


The program analyst career path is an interesting and exciting one. It can be challenging to break into, but it’s worth it. If you want to become a program analyst, make sure you have the right skills and effort to network with other professionals in the field. With hard work and dedication, you too can enjoy a successful career as a program analyst. What are you waiting for? Start your journey today!

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