IT Support Specialist Careers

NUMBER OF JOBS

607,100

JOB OPENINGS

101,100

JOB GROWTH

18%

AVG. SALARY

$47,260 /yr

$22.24 /hr

All Stats from BLS.gov

IT support specialists help computer users with software, hardware, peripherals, and other computer-related systems and equipment. They may test, troubleshoot, and monitor existing networks or systems; perform maintenance; install and update new software and equipment; and help train employees in the use of new systems.

Computer Support Specialist Job Description

Essentially, there are two broad categories of IT support specialists: technical support specialists and helpdesk professionals.

Technical support specialists usually work to support the IT department within a company—although they may work for an outside vendor who provides this service as well. Their job usually includes working with a company’s IT personnel to troubleshoot and repair computer network issues; maintain networks and assure consistent up-time; and ensure the optimal working order of the technical systems the company depends on.

IT support specialists in this capacity may provide remote support—especially if they work with a third-party company—or they may provide the support in person.

Help-desk technicians usually work with non-technical users in solving computer problems. They often work in customer support centers for companies that sell software, equipment, and services to the general public. They often take customer calls, diagnose the technical problem, and guide customers through the steps required to solve it.

Help-desk professionals may deal with a company’s customers, or they may work with more non-technical end users within a company. They may set up or repair technical equipment, provide training to employees, and analyze internal systems to help identify opportunities for improvement.

How to Become a Technical Support Specialist

This is a very broad field, so it’s difficult to identify a single path to success for all IT support positions. Many employers look for applicants with Bachelor’s degrees, preferably in a computer-related field.

If you’re planning to work in a more technical IT support position, working with high-tech business clients or within a company’s IT department, you may need a Bachelor’s degree in computer science or information science to land an entry-level job.

If you’re interested in a lower-level computer support position within a call center or a company help-desk—usually supporting non-technical users with more basic tasks—you may not need more than an Associate’s degree.

For more technical positions, the IT industry offers a wide range of certifications that can help you develop specialized expertise—and potentially land a more technically challenging and high-paying position. Some useful certifications within the industry include the Microsoft Certified IT Professional [http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcitp.aspx#tab2], Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist [http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/certification/mcts.aspx#tab2], Cisco Certified Network Associate [http://www.cisco.com/web/learning/le3/le2/le0/le9/learning_certification_type_home.html], or the Certified Sonicwall Security Administrator [http://o-www.sonicwall.com/us/en/support/Certification.html]. Which one is right for you depends on what area of IT you plan to specialize in and what your employers are looking for.

Becoming an IT Support Specialist With an Online Degree

Online computer science degrees [http://www.distance-education.org/Degrees/Computers-and-Technology-3/ ] are respected and recognized in this field, and earning one isn’t likely to hold you back. Whether you’re earning your certifications online—and it’s more common to find certification programs entirely online than in person—or an entire Bachelor’s degree from an accredited online college [http://www.distance-education.org/Schools/], it’s likely to be seen as equal to a more traditional degree by most employers

Computer Support Specialist Salary

Computer support specialists made an average wage of $46,260 as of 2010 according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Those in the lowest 10% earned under $28,300, while those in the top earning bracket earned over $76,970.

Generally, the more technical the support job, the more you’ll get paid. Those supporting high-tech business clients and internal IT departments usually earn more—and have higher education requirements—than those in more basic help-desk positions.

Job Outlook for IT Support Specialists

Computers and software systems are becoming more and more important for businesses in every industry. Because of this, the Occupational Outlook Handbook predicts an 18% growth rate between 2010 and 2020. The growth rate is projected to be particularly strong in the health care field, where an increase in the use of technical systems and data management software is expected.

It should be noted that many companies outsource lower-level help-desk positions—those dealing with non-technical customers—to countries where costs are lower. This may cause a general reduction or slower growth in lower-level helpdesk positions in the next ten years. However, many companies have recently begun moving their helpdesk positions to regions of the US where costs are also low—which may provide more jobs to US workers in the future.

Pros and Cons of Becoming a Computer Support Specialist

If you have a technical background and an interest in computers, it’s not difficult to break into this profession. With outsourcing, however, it may be more difficult than in earlier years to find a more entry-level position that doesn’t require a Bachelor’s degree.

The field is not extremely high-paying; if you have higher-level technical certifications and a Bachelor’s degree, you’re more likely to be able to find a job in a higher-paid region of the industry.

While many IT professionals work a nine-to-five schedule, this job can be fairly high-stress. Because technical systems and software are so crucial to business, many companies require IT professionals to work past normal hours to ensure a problem is fixed. Some companies require 24/7 support. Still, if you can handle the pressure and love technology, this may be an ideal field for you.

 

Where to Find Computer Support Specialist Jobs:

 

Indeed.com

CareerBuilder.com

SimplyHired.com