Computer Support Specialist
What they do!
Test and evaluate existing network systems. Perform regular maintenance to ensure that networks operate correctly. Troubleshoot local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Internet systems. Computer user support specialists, also called help-desk technicians, usually provide technical help to non-IT computer users. They respond to phone and email requests for help. They can usually help users remotely, but they also may make site visits so that they can solve a problem in person. Help-desk technicians may solve a range of problems that vary with the industry and the particular firm. Some technicians work for large software companies or for support service firms and must give instructions to business customers on how to use business-specific programs such as an electronic health records program used in hospitals or physicians’ offices. Sometimes they work with other technicians to resolve problems.
Computer support specialists held about 766,900 jobs in 2014. They work in many different industries, including information technology (IT), education, finance, healthcare, and telecommunication. Many help-desk technicians work for outside support service firms on a contract basis and provide help to a range of businesses and consumers.
How to become one!
Certification programs are generally offered by vendors or from vendor-neutral certification providers. Certification validates the knowledge of and best practices required by computer support specialists. Companies may require their computer support specialists to hold certifications in the products the companies use. Customer-service skills. Computer support specialists must be patient and sympathetic. They must often help people who are frustrated with the software or hardware they are trying to use. Listening skills. Support workers must be able to understand the problems that their customers are describing and know when to ask questions to clarify the situation. Problem-solving skills. Support workers must identify both simple and complex computer problems, analyze them, and solve them. Speaking skills. Support workers must describe the solutions to computer problems in a way that a nontechnical person can understand. Writing skills. Strong writing skills are useful for preparing instructions and email responses for employees and customers, as well as real-time web chat interactions.
The median annual wage for computer user support specialists was $48,620 in May 2015. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,990, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,260. The median annual wage for computer network support specialists was $62,250 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,350, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $106,310.
Employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. More support services will be needed as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software. Computer support staff will be needed to respond to the installation and repair requirements of increasingly complex computer equipment and software. However, a rise in cloud computing could increase the productivity of computer support specialists, slowing their growth at many firms. Smaller businesses that do not have information technology (IT) departments will contract services from IT consulting firms and increase the demand computer support specialists in those firms. Employment of support specialists in computer systems design and related firms is projected to grow 31 percent from 2014 to 2024.