Pros and Cons of a Computer Information Technician Career
Computer information technicians, also known as computer support specialists, are professionals who provide technical support and assistance to computer users. Reading the pros and cons of being a computer information technician can help you decide if this is the right career for you.
|Pros of Being a Computer Information Technician|
|Good wage (mean annual wage of about $47,000 as of May 2014 for computer support specialists)*|
|Advancement possible with training and experience*|
|An associate's degree or postsecondary courses may be sufficient for entry-level positions*|
|Work available in many industries (healthcare, IT, finance and telecommunications)*|
|Cons of Being a Computer Information Technician|
|May be required to work unconventional hours*|
|Work may require traveling to distant locations*|
|Must be comfortable communicating with others*|
|Certifications often required for employment**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Online job postings
Job Description and Duties
Computer information technicians (CIT) provide technical support to individuals and organizations using computers and computer-related equipment. As a CIT, your role might be as a technical support specialist, where you'll provide help to employees working in an organization's information technology (IT) department. Your duties may include testing, analyzing and performing regular maintenance on the network system to ensure it's working correctly. Often working under computer systems administrators, you may troubleshoot Internet systems, local area networks (LANs) and wide area networks (WANs).
If you work as a help desk-technician, you listen to customers describe computer problems they're experiencing, asking them questions and offering suggestions. You might help computer users fix the problem themselves by walking them through the steps needed. Other technician duties may include setting up and repairing computers and computer hardware, training individuals on how to use computers and related equipment and offering technology suggestions to the organization. Computer information technicians may work for an organization or may work independently.
Job Prospects and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer support specialists were predicted to see an employment growth of 17% between 2012 and 2022. Job growth will be primarily in computer system upgrades. The BLS reported that computer information specialists earned a mean annual wage of around $47,000 as of May 2014. The computer systems design and related services industry employs many of these workers.
What Are the Requirements?
Education and Training Requirements
To become a computer information technician, you typically need to complete formal training. Most employers prefer that their technicians have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a computer-related field, although some technicians are hired with an associate's degree and then receive on-the-job training. Many workers also complete on-the-job training after being hired. You might start work in an entry-level job and then work your way up as you gain hands-on experience. Training programs consist of coursework and hands-on training in computer labs. Course topics may include Cisco networking, PC troubleshooting, systems security, network fundamentals, wireless networking and computer concepts.
Job Postings from Real Employers
Although education and training requirements may vary by employer, all employers require knowledge of computer hardware and software systems and many prefer to hire CITs with related certifications. Here are a few real job postings to give you an idea of what employers were looking for in May 2012.
- An Seattle industrial sales and marketing company is looking for an IT technical support specialist to create and manage user accounts, inspect and install PC software and hardware, maintain PC equipment inventory, perform upgrades and train users. An associate's degree in computer science with related work experience or a bachelor's degree is required. The employer seeks applicants with A+ and Microsoft or Dell certifications. Good communication and documentation skills, ability to multi-task and technical skills are required. Experience in SQL, SharePoint, VMware and Hyper-V is a plus.
- A Missouri computer software engineering company is looking for an information systems specialist. Duties include installing and troubleshooting computer applications, setting up and maintaining technical hardware, training employees in hardware/software use and performing other tasks as required. Applicants must have bachelor's degrees or equivalent training and work experience. They must also possess knowledge of Windows OS, PC hardware, network technologies and database management.
- An Ohio manufacturing company is seeking a computer support specialist. Applicants must have high school diplomas or equivalent, A+ certifications, knowledge of computer hardware and software, experience with MS Office products, good communication skills and at least one year of experience in computer-related work; helpdesk experience is preferred. Job duties include diagnosing and fixing computer problems, assisting the IT help desk with computer-related activities, installing and configuring operating systems and PC software, communicating with customers and supporting the network service in providing customer service.
Top Skills for Computer Information Technicians
In addition to requiring education and training, you also need to be able to work independently. Some skills important to this job include:
- Good listening skills
- Good communication skills
- Critical thinking skills
- Problem solving skills
- Writing skills
How to Make Your Skills Stand Out
You can make your skills stand out by obtaining work experience and certifications. To become certified, you need to take certification exams. Some certifications you may want to consider include CompTIA certification, such as A+, Networking+, Security+. Cisco also offers various levels of certification for computer information technicians, such as Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), Cisco Certified Entry Networking Technician (CCENT) and Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP).
Other Careers to Consider
If you're not sure that a career as a computer information technician is an ideal choice for you, there are other careers you may want to consider. Some may require less training, may offer higher wages or may have a higher predicted employment growth. Following are a couple similar careers you may wish to look into before making a final choice.
Computer programmers write computer software programs. Although many employers prefer programmers to have a bachelor's degree, you may also become a computer programmer with an associate's degree and experience. According to the BLS, employment of computer programmers was predicted to grow 12% between 2010 and 2020 - slightly less than computer support specialists. However, as of May 2011, computer programmers earned a mean annual wage of around $76,000, a wage substantially higher than that of computer support specialists.
Computer Systems Analyst
If you enjoy working with computers and are looking for a career with a faster-than-average employment growth, you may want to consider a computer systems analyst career. These professionals ensure a company's computer and information systems are running as efficiently as possible. They determine a company's computer needs and install and configure the computer hardware and software. According to the BLS, computer systems analysts were projected to experience an employment growth of 22% between 2010 and 2020. As of May 2011, computer systems analysts earned a mean wage of around $82,000. Although you may need at least a bachelor's degree for this career, some employers hire individuals with an associate's degree and related work experience.