Computer Support Specialist Careers: Salary & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a computer support specialist career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a computer support specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career as a Computer Support Specialist

Computer support specialists, also known as help-desk technicians or technical support specialists, assist customers with minor and major computer-related issues. Continue reading to learn some of the pros and cons of working as a computer support specialist.

Pros of a Computer Support Specialist Career
Good earning potential ($48,000 median salary for user specialists, $62,000 for network specialists in 2014)*
Decent job outlook (17% increase in jobs from 2012-2022)*
Work in a comfortable atmosphere*
Technological advances allow for less traveling*
Various educational opportunities*

Cons of a Computer Support Specialist Career
May need a bachelor's degree
Certification may be required*
Field may be susceptible to job outsourcing*
Some positions may still require you to visit customer's homes *
Technical language barrier when assisting with problems*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Computer support specialists fulfill an essential role in businesses, government offices, educational institutions and medical facilities. When computers encounter glitches, it's the job of the computer support specialist to interpret the problems and find solutions, including helping customers and staff replace hardware, reinstalling software and making system adjustments. In some cases, computer support specialists may troubleshoot a business' network systems. Support specialists may also lend advice to management on crucial information technology (IT) decisions. Other duties found within this field include installing cable, running systems diagnostic programs, explaining usage techniques, monitoring computer performance and understanding user manuals.

Career Outlook and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer support specialists are expected to see faster than average job growth from 2012-2022. Most of this job growth can be found with companies that are adapting to updated technology and computers. Healthcare industries may also have an increased amount of openings, due to the use of electronics health records. Other than outsourcing, the only problem this field faces involves companies hiring specialists for lower wages. The median salary for employees in this field in 2014 was about $48,000 for computer user support specialists and $62,000 for computer network support specialists.

Requirements and Skills

Education Requirements

Due to the variety of functions performed by computer support specialists working in different capacities, employees come from various types of backgrounds. Employers may hire individuals with relevant associate's or bachelor's degrees.. Computer support specialist associate's degree programs may include courses in programming, networking, IT and desktop support. Some programs may even include internships where you could gain practical experience. For applicants with little college experience, certification and practical experience will be helpful in gaining an edge.

Useful Skills

Like many careers that involve working with people, you need to know how to communicate properly. This involves being able to relay computer support jargon and directions that users of all levels can understand. Other beneficial skills may include computer programming, network administration and computer system debugging. According to recent job postings, the following general requirements may be needed for success in this field:

  • An associate's or bachelor's degree in information technology, business systems or computer technical support
  • Microsoft certifications
  • Ability to recognize system flaws and solve problems
  • Ability to work alone and as a member of a team
  • Demonstrated leadership skills

Job Postings from Real Employers

When job searching, you may find that positions in this field are offered by almost any type of company. Many career opportunities may require you to have some sort of knowledge of database administration software or networking tools. Here are a few examples of real job postings from March 2012:

  • An Atlanta-based accounting firm was looking for a computer support specialist proficient in SQL and network security. Candidates were required to hold a bachelor's degree.
  • A telecommunications company from Florida was looking for a computer tech support specialist experienced in desktop computer and end-user support. Candidates needed an associate's degree or a combination of three years of education and experience.
  • An energy company located in Minnesota advertised for a computer support specialist with an associate's degree and three years of experience or an equivalent amount of education and experience. A bachelor's degree was preferred. Proficiency with Microsoft Office applications and Windows operating systems was required.
  • An IT company based in New York was looking for a help-desk support specialist certified in A+ and MCP. Candidates were required to have a bachelor's degree or five years of experience.
  • A Miami university was searching for a computer support specialist who could troubleshoot websites and update Web pages. A high school diploma and four years of experience was required.

How to Make Your Skills Stand Out

If you would like to further exemplify your talents, you may be able to earn certifications from computer, database and network providers. The Microsoft Certified Desktop Support Technician credential is offered by Microsoft and intended for technicians with 6-12 months of experience (www.microsoft.com). You could then upgrade to the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist or Microsoft Certified IT Professional credentials.

Continuing Education

If you would like to advance your career, you may want to pursue a bachelor's degree. Computer support specialist bachelor's degree programs are uncommon, but you could select a major such as computer information systems, computer science or IT. During these programs, you may develop additional skills in information retrieval, data security structures, database design, Web design, quality management and engineering software. A bachelor's degree could help you earn management and leadership positions.

Other Fields to Consider

If you're still interested in working with businesses and computers, but you're looking for a more involved positions that offers a higher salary, you could consider becoming a network and computer systems administrator. A bachelor's degree is common in this field, but an associate's degree may be enough to find an entry-level position. Your duties might include establishing computer network systems, designing client-specific systems and managing servers. The BLS reported that network and computer systems administrators earned a median salary of $71,000 in 2011, and jobs in this field were expected to grow 28% from 2010-2020.

If you want to find start a career a step above a computer network administrator position, you might consider becoming a computer and information systems manager. This position would allow you to be in charge of employees, such as computer support specialists, programmers and analysts. You could also assist in rolling out system upgrades, writing programming code, maintaining computer systems and giving direction to employees. A bachelor's degree may be enough to find a position in this field, but a master's degree can improve your chances. Jobs in this field were expected to grow 18% from 2010-2020, and the median salary for computer and information systems managers was $118,000 in 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Purdue University Global

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      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
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      • BS in IT - IT Management
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      • BS in Cybersecurity
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    Associate's
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Saint Leo University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • BS: Computer Science
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      • AA: Information Technology
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    3. Regent University

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      • M.S. in Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity Policy
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    4. Colorado State University Global

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    5. Full Sail University

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      • MS - Game Design (Campus)
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    6. Grand Canyon University

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      • B.S. in Information Technology
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    10. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

Featured Schools

Purdue University Global

  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • BS in IT - IT Management
  • AASIT: Network Admin

Which subject are you interested in?

Saint Leo University

  • BS: Computer Science
  • BS: Computer Science - Information Assurance
  • AA: Information Technology
  • AA: Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Regent University

  • M.S. in Cybersecurity - Cybersecurity Policy
  • M.A. in Law - Cybersecurity Law
  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • BS - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • MS - Game Design (Campus)
  • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • PhD-TIM - Computer Science
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MSTIM - Computer Science

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • B.S. - Information Technology: Security Technology Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Information Technology Admin and Management

What is your highest level of education?