Desktop Support Specialist Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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A desktop support specialist's median annual salary is about $47,610. Is it worth the education and training requirements? Get the truth about job descriptions, salary information and more to see if becoming a desktop support specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Desktop Support Specialist Career

As a computer support specialist, you may be able to find entry-level work with only minimal training. Read on for more pros and cons to see if this career may be the one for you.

Pros of a Desktop Support Specialist Career
Potentially good salary (median annual salary of $47,610, with the highest-paid 10% making $80,180 or more as of May 2014)*
Advancement opportunities for qualified individuals*
Lower level jobs typically only require some technical training or postsecondary courses*
Several fields available for employment (information technology, business, education, etc.)*
Some specialists with a good high-speed Internet connection can work from home*

Cons of a Desktop Support Specialist Career
May have to work irregular hours (nights, weekends and holidays)*
Lower level specialists have relatively low wages (the lowest-paid 10% made around $28,280 or less as of May 2014)*
College degree is usually necessary for better jobs in the field*
May deal with frustrated customers and computer users*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Desktop support specialists provide technical support to computer users across a wide variety of industries and businesses. Technical support may include product evaluation and sourcing. Specialists also install and configure software and hardware. They research and troubleshoot problems with computers and network connectivity, make repairs, provide support at the customer's location or the help-desk and document problems or requests for help.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for computer support specialists were expected to increase by 17% for the decade 2012-2022. Those with a college degree, relevant work experience and certifications are expected to have favorable job prospects. Both computer industries and healthcare organizations need more support specialists to install and update computer systems.

In May 2014, all computer support specialists focusing on user-level systems made a median annual salary of about $47,610. The lowest paid individuals earned about $28,280 in that same time. The workers from the middle half of the group made annual wages ranging from $36,610 to $62,050. The highest paid 10% of workers made about $80,180 in May 2014.

Requirements for the Career

Entry-level workers need either a high school diploma with some level of technical training or an associate's degree. However, according to the BLS, many employers seek those with a bachelor's degree. Thus, if you want to be able to pursue the better jobs and advancement opportunities in this field, then you would usually need a bachelor's degree in a subject such as computer science or a field related to IT.

Useful Skills

An interest in computers, networks and the latest software and hardware upgrades are necessary for this job. In order to get the most of this career, you should possess some of these other qualities:

  • Good communication skills (both written and oral)
  • Ability to diagnose and solve technical problems described by customers
  • Willing to keep up with new advances in technology
  • Patient with customers
  • Wiling to work on weekends and nights
  • Knowledge of Microsoft products, Apple products, hardware and software
  • Attentive to detail
  • Willing to travel to customer locations

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers generally look for someone with computer experience. Additionally, some knowledge of specific software programs may be sought as well as specific certifications, such as the A+ certification. Here are some job postings from Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com from May 2012:

  • An eye research institute in Massachusetts asked for a desktop support specialist with a bachelor's degree and at least three years of working with computers. Applicants should know how to upgrade and maintain PC and Mac hardware, applications, audio/visual materials, printers and more.
  • A client in Virginia needed a desktop support specialist who could provide expertise on Windows PC desktops and applications. Applicants needed to have at least two years of experience and a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, the client would accept a master's degree holder with no experience.
  • A chemistry services corporation in Louisiana sought a desktop technology specialist with a bachelor's degree in information systems, Management Information Systems (MIS) or a related field. The candidates also needed to have at least five years of experience in desktop technology and Active Directory.
  • A healthcare organization in Connecticut asked for a desktop support technician with an associate's degree in computer science. They also preferred candidates with A+ and Microsoft certifications. Candidates needed to know how to deal with IBM and HP desktops and laptops. Experience with HP printers was preferred.

How to Stand Out from Others

One way you can stand out from the rest of the applicants is by receiving certification. Microsoft is one vendor that offers numerous certifications for IT professionals. These certifications demonstrate proficiency and knowledge in utilizing Microsoft applications. CompTIA also offers the A+ certification. Typically, you need to pass an exam to earn a certification and validate your knowledge of specific industry standards.

Alternative Careers

Network and Computer Systems Administrators

It's possible to advance from a desktop support specialist to a network or computer systems administrator. These workers tend to make more money, but they have duties similar to support specialists. They help organizations maintain networks and determine whether or not a company should update their systems and servers. These professionals usually need a bachelor's degree, though you can substitute this requirement with an associate's degree and work experience.

The BLS stated that these workers made a median annual salary of about $71,000 in May 2011. Furthermore, favorable employment growth of 28% was expected for these individuals in the decade of 2010-2020.

Computer Programmers

If you want a career that has better pay and the same basic requirements of a desktop support specialist, then you can become a computer programmer. Programmers work with computer languages to create new computer software for companies. Computer programmers need to have an associate's or a bachelor's degree in computer science and should have knowledge of several programming languages.

The BLS reported that computer programmers made a median annual salary of about $73,000 in May 2011. It was predicted that they would have a 12% employment growth for the years 2010-2020. Unfortunately, some computer programming jobs are becoming outsourced to other countries.

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Featured Schools

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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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

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Northcentral University

  • PhD Technology and Innovation Management Computer Science
  • Doctor of Business Admin - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MS Technology and Innovation Management Computer Science

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctorate: C.S. - Enterprise Information Systems
  • MS - Computer Science - Computer Systems Security
  • Bachelor: Information Technology

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Full Sail University

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

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Keiser University

  • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

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Grand Canyon University

  • DBA with an Emphasis in Data Analytics
  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology

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Brightwood College

  • Computer Support Technician
  • Computer Networking Technology

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