Studying Computer Repair: Degrees at a Glance
Computer repair requires specialists knowledgeable about the electronic, networking, hardware and software components of today's computer technology. PC repair technicians install and maintain computers at consumer homes or for business employees. Certificate programs provide a basic knowledge in computer operating systems, customer service and help desk concepts. The associate's degree offers the opportunity to specialize in a specific area, in addition to taking general education courses. Both programs can prepare you for entry-level positions in the technical industry; however, many employers prefer candidates with an associate's or bachelor's degree for computer support specialist opportunities.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer, ATM and office machine repairers could expect slower than average growth, at seven percent, during the 2010-2020 decade. Despite this, the BLS reveals that computer repairers can expect continued demand for their services.
|Who is this degree for?||People interested in running a repair business or entry-level support opportunities||Individuals who want to provide PC or help desk support in a business environment|
|Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary)|| - Computer, ATM and office machine repairer ($36,000)*|
- Computer support specialist ($48,000)*
| - Career paths for the associate's degree are similar to the certificate program; however, associate's degree holders may experience advancement opportunities or access to more complex positions*|
- Software trainer ($35,000 - $76,000)**
|Time to Completion||Anywhere from several months to 1 year||2 years full-time|
|Common Graduation Requirements||- Roughly 4-9 courses or 180 hours|| - Roughly 60 credits|
- Satisfactory COMPASS test scores
- Approximately 15 credits in general education coursework
|Prerequisites||High school diploma or equivalent||High school diploma or equivalent|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010 figures), **Payscale.com (2012 figures - 10th-90th percentile).
Certificate in Computer Repair
A certificate in computer repair provides a foundational knowledge of computers, networks and operating systems. Some programs focus on preparing students to become small business owners and may offer well-rounded training in finance and technology through the completion of 4 to 9 courses. You will learn to install, setup and manage computer hardware and perform diagnostic testing to determine the cause of hardware or software malfunctions. While entry-level positions may not require a post-secondary education, employers prefer candidates with some training beyond high school.
Pros and Cons
- Installation, maintenance and repair technicians could expect average job growth (15%) during the 2010-2020 decade*
- Programs are typically short, provide the foundation for certification and prepare you for quick entry into the field
- Employers are seeking candidates who possess some post-secondary training or a non-degree award
- Some programs transfer to an associate's degree program offered through the same institution
- The program length may impact your ability to seek financial aid
- You will be competing with holders of an associate's degree
- Seeking certification can increase the length of time required to become competitive
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Common Courses and Requirements
Certificate programs provide brief training in the operation and repair of personal computers. You will learn the importance of customer service and study how hardware and software are interrelated. You may take the following common courses:
- DC electricity
- Introduction to computers
- Software management
- Computer configuration
- Information security
Online Course Info
Online certificate programs exist and provide an educational experience that may require approximately 180 contact hours. The program can prepare you for work as a field repair technician or upgrade technician. Programs may focus on Windows-based computer systems and may require online program orientation coursework before you begin your classes.
Stand Out with This Degree
Computer repair technicians can take advantage of industry certifications, such as the CompTIA A+ credential, to improve employment prospects. The CompTIA A+ certification confirms your understanding of computer systems and validates your skills in the maintenance and diagnostic and installation tasks required to perform well. In addition, the Microsoft Office Specialist certification can further enhance employment opportunities and may lead to entry-level software training or support positions.
Though computer repair technicians will experience continued demand for their skills, the BLS reveals that the median income for computer, ATM and office machine repairers was $36,000, as of 2011. In addition, job growth is expected to move more slowly than the average occupation. If you are a hands-on person, you may want to consider a career in electrical and electronics installation and repair. Electrical and electronics installers and repairers maintain communications, navigation and security equipment, and according to the BLS, specialists in the industry earned a median annual salary of approximately $50,000 per year.
Certificate programs in electronic analysis and repair may require a stronger foundation in mathematics, soldering and fabrication. The program will prepare you to analyze analog and digital electronics systems and perform maintenance and repair tasks. Programs include courses in calculus, trigonometry, statistics, analog and digital circuitry, circuit design and equations.
Associate's Degree in Computer Support Specialist
An associate's degree program takes computer repair training further by incorporating general education with technical coursework. The program can prepare you for opportunities as a computer support specialist or help desk technician. Technical and community colleges offer curricula that provide training in information management, programming and help desk environments. You will learn the fundamentals of troubleshooting, in addition to understanding how to diagnose and repair common computer problems through courses in hardware installation and maintenance, introductory computer concepts and programming. In addition to earning a degree, you may still need to earn certification with certain programs.
Pros and Cons
- Associate's degree programs offer a well-rounded general education in addition to technology coursework
- Employers are seeking job candidates with post-secondary education in addition to standard certifications
- Many programs prepare graduates to take the appropriate certification examinations
- You will compete with individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related discipline
- Seeking additional certifications to become competitive may extend the amount of time you spend on your education
- Associate's degree programs do not offer the ability to establish a deeper focus in a specific technology when compared to a bachelor's degree
Common Courses and Requirements
Associate's degree programs offer an in-depth general education and may provide the opportunity to specialize in data management or website design and development. Graduates of the program can utilize major software programs, execute network administration tasks, train end users on hardware and software and use programming skills to create low-level programs.
Programs typically include 60 credits in information technology project management, service skills, hardware and software fundamentals, website development and computer support concepts. Some programs require an internship in an information technology environment that provides the opportunity to apply information learned in the classroom.
Online Course Info
Several colleges offer the associate's degree as a fully online or hybrid program. Online computer information systems programs provide an accelerated learning environment that is designed for working professionals. The computer information systems degree offers training in databases, network administration and security, project management and programming. The program may prepare you for entry-level or assistant opportunities in network and database administration.
Stand Out with This Degree
In addition to CompTIA A+ certification, many programs can prepare you to take examinations, such as the Customer Support Representative (HDI-CSR) or the Desktop Support Technician (HDI-DST), which are offered by HDI and validate your technical skills in a call center or help desk environment. You can also achieve the Microsoft Office Specialist certification to prove to employers that you are a proficient user of common productivity software. Taking an internship with an information technology company or a business that requires in-house support can provide the exposure necessary to enter the field with some work experience.