Becoming a Computer Technician: Salary & Job Description

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A computer technician's median annual salary is around $47,610. Is it worth the education, training and certification requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a computer technician is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Computer Technology

Computer technicians help businesses, network technicians, and individual users troubleshoot and service computer systems. Before you decide if a computer technician career is right for you, consider the pros and cons below.

Pros of a Career as a Computer Technician
Good pay ($47,610 median annual salary)*
Good job prospects (17% from 2012-2022)*
Career has clear advancement opportunities*
Can work in various sectors, such as telecommunications, health care, education and IT*

Cons of a Career as a Computer Technician
Job can be stressful since jobs must be completed quickly because businesses depend on their computers*
Must train throughout your career to keep ahead of advances in technology*
Adverse working conditions - high noise levels and cool temperatures (65-70 degrees)**
May have to work weekends and nights and possibly travel*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ** job advertisement.

Career Information

Job Description

A computer technician or computer support specialist helps information technology workers and ordinary (non-technical) workers solve problems with their computers. They also maintain, upgrade and troubleshoot networks, Internet systems and computers.

Other computer technicians, called help-desk technicians, help an organization's customers or non-technical staff with computer problems. They may do this on the phone or by answering e-mails and making on-site visits. Other duties may include repairing and setting up computers and associated devices and training new users.

Salary Information and Career Prospects

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that computer technicians made a median salary of about $47,610 in 2014. The job outlook is good, with positions for computer technicians anticipated to increase by 17% between 2012 and 2022. Computer technicians are needed to help businesses upgrade and repair their systems, along with installing new equipment. According to the BLS, the computer system design industry employs the most computer technicians.

What Are the Requirements?

Because there are many computer support or computer technology positions, there are a variety of ways to train. Some positions may only require a high school diploma and basic computer knowledge and skills. Other jobs may require applicants to have an associate's or bachelor's degree in a subject such as information science, engineering or computer science. Most new employees get on-the-job training. Additionally, as a computer technician, you should have good interpersonal, listening, problem-solving, speaking and writing skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers tend to look for candidates who are experienced in the computers and software that they use in their operations. As a result, it maybe challenging to match your qualifications with the requirements of the employer. Below are three sample ads for jobs open in April 2012.

  • A school district in Delaware was seeking a computer technician to create documentation and resolve problems with PCs and Macs. Candidates should be familiar with Windows 7 and able to troubleshoot, maintain and install various software products on Macs and Windows PCs.
  • A technology support company in Texas sought a computer technician to check for cosmetic defects, send units for testing, order parts, run tests to identify problems with units and suggest solutions. The candidate needed experience in troubleshooting, fixing computers and using power hand tools. A high school diploma was required..
  • A repair service and computer support company in Kansas advertised for a computer technician to give clients software and hardware support. The candidate would also be responsible for repairing, configuring, upgrading and monitoring computers, workstations and networks.

How to Stand Out

To stand out, become certified. Certifications are available from Microsoft and Cisco. Microsoft, for instance, offers a Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) certification as well as a Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP) certification. Certification programs and exams are offered to IT professionals looking for these endorsements.

Get PMP (Project Management Professional) Certification

If you are planning to advance into management, then consider getting a PMI (Project Management Institution) certification. A project manager is in charge of specific computer projects. PMI's 2011 Salary Survey found that individuals with PMI certification made about 16% more than individuals without certification.

Familiarize Yourself with Various Industry Models

Become familiar with various models used in the computer industry. Models include software development life cycle and CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration). Become knowledgeable about PMO (Project Management Offices) methodology that an organization uses if they have several projects going at the same time. An employer may want a candidate who has experience working in a structured PMO setting.

Become Certified to Repair Popular Brands

Consider becoming certified in repairing popular computer brands, such as Apple or HP (Hewlett-Packard). Certification can prove to employers that you can troubleshoot and maintain a certain type of computer.

Other Career Paths

The BLS reports that candidates who have earned a bachelor's degree and have a solid technical background will likely experience the best job prospects. If you are willing to earn a bachelor's degree, then other career choices are possible. Instead of fixing computers, perhaps you would like to program them. A programmer generally needs a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related discipline. According to the BLS, programmers make a median salary of about $73,000 as of 2011 and are anticipated to see a 12% increase in jobs over the 2010-2020 decade.

Another position to consider is a network and computer systems administrator. Administrators generally need a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science, electrical engineering or computer engineering. However, BLS stated that some employers may consider an applicant with an associate's degree or work experience and professional certification. Administrators made a median wage of about $71,000 in 2011, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that jobs for administrators are anticipated to increase by 28% from 2010-2020.

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