Computer support specialists are responsible for responding to inquiries from computer users and providing support, solutions and trouble shooting. In addition to finding solutions for many types of computer-related problems, they may be involved in training users on how to use computer software and hardware. A major part of their job involves finding solutions for technical issues connected to computer networks. Computer support specialists are divided into two main categories: help desk technicians and technical support specialists.
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Help desk technicians are involved in helping users solve computer issues through telephone, email and instant messaging. In order to solve these problems, they have to listen and ask the user questions to dig into the heart of the problem. Technical support specialists are responsible for running diagnostic software to solve technical issues and often work with local and wide area networks (called LANs and WANs, respectively).
Computer Support Specialist Job Summary
- Most employers prefer applicants with an associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree or certification.
- Due to advances in computer networking technology, many computer support specialists will have the opportunity to work remotely, which includes working from home.
- To stay up-to-date on changing technology, many specialists take continuing education courses.
- According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this field is expected to grow faster than the average.
Work Environment for Computer Support Specialists
Working in well-lit offices or laboratories, many computer support specialist work 40 hours per week. Some spend a lot of their time working at client sites when employed by consulting or computer support companies. With continued advances in computer networking technology and telecommunications, they may have more opportunities to provide support remotely reducing or eliminating significant travel time to a client’s location. This may also allow more specialists to work from their homes. Although physical injuries are rare, like other occupations that involve extended periods of time typing on a keyboard and sitting in front of a computer monitor, specialists may experience back pain, eyestrain or carpal tunnel syndrome.
Computer Support Specialist Education Requirements and Training
Employers prefer job applicants who possess some level of college education. Depending on the requirements of the position, employers may prefer applicants who hold a bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or computer engineering. Other positions may only require an associate degree in a computer related concentration. Applicants who hold a degree in a different subject may also obtain a position in this field so long as they have technical knowledge and skills. Some positions require previous work experience and IT certification may also be able to replace a computer-related degree.
Training received on the job is also available for many specialists and can take anywhere from a week to a year to complete, although about three months is most common. To keep up with changing technology, many of them take continuing education courses, professional seminars and workshops provided through their employers, colleges, universities or outside software and hardware vendors.
Certification in a specific computer technology may qualify an individual for certain positions, demonstrate their technical knowledge and abilities with specific software and assist job seekers in gaining entrance into the field. Certain vendors may require specialists to have certification, and many of them will pay for this type of training after hiring.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information for Computer Support Specialists
According to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer support specialists held approximately 540,560 jobs in May 2009. Most of these jobs were in computer systems design and related services, elementary and secondary schools and management of companies and enterprises. Others were in colleges, universities and professional schools, professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers.
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Employment in this field is forecasted by the BLS to grow faster than the average compared to other occupations. Demand will increase as organizations and consumers continue to adopt and use newer technologies.
BLS records for May 2009 indicate that the average annual wage for computer support specialists was $47,360. The middle 50% earned between $34,320 and $57,290. While the lowest 10% had a yearly salary of $27,200 or less, the highest 10% earned upwards of $72,690 annually.