Pros and Cons of Business Analysts vs Computer Programmer Careers

Part 4 of 20 in the Series: How To Become A Business Analyst

Pros and Cons of Computer Programming vs. Business Analysis

Pros and Cons of Computer Programming vs. Business Analysis


[Ask IT Career Coach] is a Career Advice Column for Information Technology (IT) professionals looking for answers to their most challenging career, job or business situations.

I get a number of questions from computer programmers or software developers looking to change their careers to business analysis or project management.

I also receive questions about the suitability of business analysis, project management or computer programming as a career.

If you sent me a question along these lines, please use this post to evaluate your choices or decide on the best career for you!

This post highlights the pros and cons of “ business analysts careers compared to computer programmer careers or jobs“.

  1. Market Demand for Skills or Careers

    Finding a Software Developer Job is easier than getting hired for a business analyst or project management job because there is a lot of demand for software developers.

    As a matter of fact .NET Developers are in a class of their own because they get hired more easily than other computer programmers and definitely more than business analysts or project managers!

  2. Job Satisfaction

    A business analyst or project manager job spends a lot of time interacting with people (customers, stakeholders, management), projects, processes.

    The advice presented by a business analyst or project manager has a much better chance of being accepted by management than those of computer programmers who spend most of their time tinkering with computers and software products.

  3. Salary, Wages or Compensation

    Software Developers (especially .NET computer programmers) get paid more than business analysts or project managers in many projects.

    It is not untypical for good .NET computer programmers to bill more than $50/hr. or earn from the upper 90k to six figures even with junior to mid-level experience!

  4. Stress & Lifestyle After Working Hours

    Project Managers or Business Analysts are less affected by the pace of technological change than software developers.

    As a business analyst or project manager you may end up having more leisure or personal time after work unlike a computer programmer who is always learning new technologies after work (in the evenings and weekends)!

    Computer Programmers sometimes lose their jobs or burnout because of the stress associated with always learning new software tools or the rapid pace of technological change!

  5. Stress & Lifestyle During Working Hours

    Project Managers or Business Analysts are always bridging gaps between opposing or conflicting points of views or in-meetings helping different interest groups buyin to a common goal or strategy.

    So a business analyst or project manager’s day job is more challenging or stressful compared to a computer programmer’s who is given specifications or specific tasks and then left alone to get their job done!

    Business Analysts or Project Managers sometimes lose their jobs or burnout because of the stress associated with the high degree of conflict on their day job.

  6. Big Picture Thinkers

    Business Analysts or Project Managers tend to have a more comprehensive view of their projects or organizations.

    They are more exposed to the big-picture, organizational goals and objectives, strategy sessions, upper or senior management and they can influence things from that perspective.

    Computer Programmers are more likely to be focused on the minutiae or details.

    Computer programmers tend to obsess over small things and they are frequently on a need to know basis with their management team.

    In some organizations or projects, they spend all their time hunting down bugs, fixing them or improving the quality of their product one defect at a time!

  7. Portability of Skills

    Computer Programmers (especially .NET Software Developers) have very portable skills.

    They can switch industries easily (insurance to banking), migrate their skills to new software development platforms or jobs (mobile applications, internet applications, database applications, desktop applications) or even move to a new country and get a job easily!

    On the other hand, a lot of people want to be business analysts or project managers because of the hipness, coolness, job satisfaction and big-picture benefits.

    Finding a business analyst job may be harder because you have to stand out from this crowd of wannabes!

    Click here to read the post titled: 8 Tips for Business Analysts: How to Stand Out in a Crowded Job Market.

    Finally, a lot of business analyst jobs require domain specific business or industry knowledge which limits the ease with which a business analyst can migrate to a new industry or find a job!

  8. Authority & Control

    Computer programmers are frequently micro-managed.

    Their exists in many organizations an adverse relationship between the management team and the software development team.

    It is so bad that outsiders like me are hired to mediate or resolve the conflict which is what I was tasked with doing as an IT Director for a company in the Mid-Western, USA.

    The genesis of this distrust is that management often cannot see the progress made by software developers or understand their challenges because they are typically big-picture thinkers.

    On the other hand, Business Analysts or Project Managers are more likely to give directions software developers directions or supervise the work that computer programmers perform!

    Besides all this, the work performed by business analysts or project managers is highly visible to stakeholders, management or business teams!

  9. Soft Skills vs. Hard Skills

    Software Developers depend more on technical or hard skills to get their job done.

    Software developers are always learning new software tools or creating them using a number of technologies, platforms, tools or software development environments.

    Business Analysts or Project Managers depend more or soft skills or people skills to get their job done.

    They are always meeting with people in a one on one or group setting. They are skilled at presentations, communications, inter-personal relationships, conflict resolution, writing or speaking tasks.

    Answer this Question:

    What is your greatest asset, is it your hard skills or your soft skills?

  10. Career Security

    Software developers tend to have more career security than either business analysts or computer programmers because of the following reasons:

    • High Portability: Software developers can port their skills or careers easily across domains, industries, countries or jobs.
    • High Demand: Software developers are in high-demand because of the demand for internet, desktop, mobile applications or services.
    • High Salary: Software developers are amongst the first crop of professionals hired in startups and many of them have gone on to start their own companies and become wealthy in the process!
    • Intellectual Property: Software developers are more likely to patent or copyright their inventions, products or services! They tend to lead the pace of innovation and are more likely to take ownership for their products or services.

    Click here to read more about the job prospects for software developers in 2011.

Here is how to quickly find which career you’re better suited for.

Are you more concerned about finding a job quickly or getting paid very well than you’re about job satisfaction and do you like working with technology? If so, choose the .NET Software Developer Career Path.

Are you more concerned about the prestige, control, hipness, coolness or likeability of your job and are you good at resolving inter-personal conflicts or working with groups of people? If so, choose the business analyst or project management career path!

So there you have it, A review of the suitability of software developer and business analyst jobs.

What do you think of my advice? Do you agree or disagree? Do you have Any questions or rebuttals?




4 Discussions for “Pros and Cons of Business Analysts vs Computer Programmer Careers”

  1. Colin Kerby (Brea, California)

    Which Career Is Better For Me, Computer Programming or Business Analysis?

    Hello,

    I am currently a 1st semester masters student in 2-year management information systems program , though I have very little IT experience professionally and academically.

    I was a business/econ undergrad major and I am also a CPA candidate but I’m considering a career change.

    I’d like to know what job I would most likely have to take as an intern or at the entry-level.

    I understand that programming is important but I’m pretty sure I don’t want to be a programmer.

    With the background I already have, I’m looking into business/systems analysis, project management or systems auditing.

    Right now, I’m learning C# and decision modeling. I’m planning to get on board a customer management system project with my school’s AITP chapter and learn Java and HTML 5 during the summer at the recommendation of my peers and professors.

    Later on in my program, I will be required to learn SQL, SAS and probably ASP. I’m also planning on teaching myself UML as well.

    For my first tech internship or entry-level job, will it most likely be a programming-related job?

    I’m getting the feeling, though I may be wrong, that for a lot of tech jobs, programming seems to be the end-all, be-all of entry-level jobs and then you springboard into something else (business analysis, project management, data mining, telecommunications, database administration, etc.) I’d like to have an idea now, so I’ll know what to expect.

    I’m specifically asking this on this site because I’m getting different answers from different people. There’s just so much out there, I’d just like to know if I’m doing the right things right now so I’m not lost later on.

    I also plan on doing some heavy networking at tech seminars or events whenever I can.

    Thank you so much for your time.

  2. rakesh

    your review was the one i was searching for. It just answered all the questions and i should thank you. Many Many thanks.
    My career is a mix and match of everything, Call centers > Business Development >> and now Linux Admin. My next goal is BA, i am just amused to take up this one. My career path says everything, Communication skills > Business Idea > > Technical Idea , please relate this to the one i said above.

    From where i stand , i am thinking of start doing some business ideas , i mean some process oriented improvements in my office . Please advice me what are the improvements i can do or some kind of home work at office so that i can get to have the BA qualities imbibed in to me.

    Many thanks,
    Shekar Boopathy.

  3. NJ

    I am more concerned about finding a job quickly and getting paid well. But at the same time I am not very good at programming, in spite of being a software developer presently. That said, stability and job security is of utmost importance to me.

    What career out of Developer and Business Analyst do you think I should choose?

    • Have you thought about become a Software Tester? In a Software Testing career, your light to moderate knowledge of programming will still be relevant or useful or it may even stand out because you will not be required to write code primarily.

      In terms of Job Security, Software Developers are still paid more and hired more often but in terms of Job Satisfaction, Business Analysts may have a better deal.

      Business Analysts need to have strong written and verbal communications skill so make sure that you are not one of those introverted software developers, because if you are, Software Testing may be a better choice for you :-)

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