Help desk technicians provide technical assistance and support to computer users over the phone, through email or via the Internet. They answer inquiries from users regarding hardware and software issues involving printers, word processing, email, software installations and operating systems. In some cases, they may be required to setup and install equipment needed by employees and customers and ensure that cables, operating systems and software are functioning properly. In order to address technical issues at times they may make minor repairs to hardware or refer major problems and defective products to vendors or other specialized technicians for service.
Since help desk technicians work directly with customer’s technical issues, they are often valued as a source of feedback on products and services from the employers that they work for. In many instances, they are called upon to provide information on common customer issues and concerns.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science, information systems or computer engineering is preferred by most employers although some may hire applicants with a degree in another area combined with the required technical skills.
Certification can help jobseekers demonstrate their proficiency with a specific software or hardware technology.
As computer networks continue to expand, help desk technicians will increasingly be able to work remotely or from home.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment in this field is expected to grow about as fast as the average.
Work Environment for Help Desk Technicians
Help desk technicians work in well lit, comfortable office environments and computer laboratories. Technicians working for third party support companies spend time away from their employer’s main location and work at the client’s office. More help desk technicians will be able to work remotely or from home as network technology continues to expand. Technicians typically work 40 hours per week.
Although physical injuries in this profession are rare, like other workers who sit in front of a computer monitor typing on a keyboard for long hours, they may be at risk for back pain, eyestrain and hand/wrist complications such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Education, Training and Licensing
Due to the many types of skills needed for this occupation, there are different ways to gain an entry level position as a help desk technician. Many employers give preference to jobseekers with a college degree. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree in information systems, computer science or computer engineering can prepare an individual for this career. In certain cases, employers may hire an applicant with a college degree in a different major provided they have the required technical skills. Some employers may even hire an applicant who has certification and relevant work experience which can serve as a substitute for a college degree.
Most technicians are able to gain training on-the-job once they are hired and it can last from a week to a year, although typical training periods last 3 months. To stay current with new technology, many technicians receive training through their employers or in continuing education courses offered at colleges, universities and training companies.
Certification can help jobseekers gain entry-level employment and demonstrates their proficiency with a specific software or hardware technology. Many technology vendors provide professional certification programs. Certification can also be acquired through training programs offered by private training schools and different organizations.
Employment Figures, Projections, Outlook and Earnings for Help Desk Technicians
According to research published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer support specialists which include help desk technicians, held approximately 540,560 jobs in May 2009. Most of these jobs were for computer systems design and related services, elementary and secondary schools and management of companies and enterprises. Others were for colleges, universities, professional schools, professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers.
Employment in this field is forecasted by the BLS to grow faster than the average. Organizations and especially businesses will demand greater levels of support, as information technology has become essential in the business environment.
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.