Microcomputer Technician Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about a microcomputer technician's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a microcomputer technician.
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Pros and Cons of a career as a Microcomputer Technician

Microcomputer technicians, often categorized as computer user support specialists or computer support specialists, provide technical support for microcomputers, commonly known as PCs, by troubleshooting networking problems, setting up or repairing computer systems and equipment, walking customers through computer issues and performing regular maintenance. Read about the pros and cons of a career as a microcomputer technician to help you decide if it's right for you.

Pros of Being a Microcomputer Technician
Higher-than-average median salary ($48,000, as of May 2014 for all computer user support specialists)*
Technical training or associate's degree may be sufficient for entry-level positions*
Can work in multiple industries (education, finance, health care, etc.)*
Satisfaction of helping others solve computer-related problems*

Cons of Being a Microcomputer Technician
May be required to work evenings, weekends and holidays*
Could deal with extremely frustrated customers, employees or bosses*
May spend hours in front of a monitor, increasing the possibility of eyestrain or headaches*
Continued training may be required to keep up with technology*

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

Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Microcomputer technicians provide help and assistance to computer users in homes and organizations. They often work as technical support specialists or help-desk technicians. As technical support specialists, they collaborate with information technology (IT) departments to ensure the systems are running smoothly and efficiently. They test and analyze the networking system, while also troubleshooting and providing regular maintenance. Assistance may be provided in person, on the phone or through e-mails.

As help-desk technicians, they listen to customers describe problems and offer suggestions or solutions. They may attempt to walk users through troubleshooting a problem or set appointments for in-person support. Their duties could also include setting up or repairing computer systems and related equipment. Microcomputer technicians may work for large companies, call centers or independently. Since technical support is often essential for businesses, these professionals may have to work unusual shifts or be available 24 hours a day.

Job Prospects and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer user support specialists were predicted to experience 20% employment growth between 2012 and 2022. As organizations continue to upgrade their computers and equipment to keep up with technology, the need for computer support specialists will continue to grow. Although individuals with bachelor's degrees may find the best employment opportunities, having a strong technical background could also broaden your job prospects. The BLS reported that computer user support specialists earned around $48,000, as of May 2014.

Education and Training Requirements

Although some employers prefer to hire an individual with a bachelor's degree in computer science, information science or computer engineering, other employers may find technical training or an associate's degree program to be sufficient. However, to become a microcomputer technician, you're usually required to have some formal postsecondary training. Training, which may result in diplomas, certificates or degrees, often involves completing a blended curriculum of coursework and lab work. Course topics may include CISCO networking, fiber optics, network cabling, IT applications, Linux networking and security, technical writing, A+ hardware and software and Windows exchange server training. Lab work often provides students with hands-on experience fixing computers and computer systems.

In addition to meeting the educational requirements, microcomputer technicians usually complete several months of on-the-job training after being hired. Because technology often develops at a rapid pace, technicians are also required to continually update their knowledge and skills.

Useful Skills

Microcomputer technicians spend most of their time working with customers, on the phone or in person, so employers generally seek technicians with strong speaking and listening skills and the ability to interact well with others. Other desired skills often include problem-solving abilities and critical-thinking skills.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Employers often look to hire individuals who posses at least an associate's degree in a computer-related field and previous work experience. Industry certifications may also be desired. The following job posts obtained in April 2012 can provide insight into the qualifications employers seek:

  • An emergency medical services provider in Dallas is seeking a computer maintenance tech/system administrator with the knowledge to analyze, service and troubleshoot computer systems, hardware and peripherals. Experience working with Windows operating systems and computer applications, as well as knowledge of corporate data systems, network cabling and corporate help desk systems is required. Applicant must also have a strong knowledge of information technology and strong technical analysis, interpersonal and troubleshooting skills. The ideal candidate would also hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or engineering and have A+, MCP and MCSE certifications.
  • A South Carolina real estate/property management company is looking for a computer technician with at least one year of experience providing end-user technical support and a 2-year degree in computer science or management information systems or equivalent certification. A bachelor's degree in a technical field and Cisco, Microsoft or A+ certification are preferred, but not required. Job duties include installing, configuring and upgrading operating systems and software, troubleshooting computer systems, assisting users with resolving equipment problems, installing and assembling computer networking equipment and assisting with the planning, design and acquisition of new hardware and software systems.
  • A desktop support/IT technician is needed to work for a technology solutions provider headquartered in Virginia. Applicant should have at least three years' experience and a 2-year degree in computer science or a related field or equivalent experience/certification. Job duties include installing, configuring and troubleshooting computer networks and related computer hardware, installing and configuring network printers, peripherals and directory structures, establishing network security and providing network technical support.

How to Beat the Competition

Being a microcomputer technician can be a challenging career choice, but you can increase your potential to get a rewarding job by developing skills that help you stand out in the field. Completing an internship while enrolled in a postsecondary program can provide you with valuable experience in the field and help you hone your troubleshooting skills. After you've completed school, enrolling in additional training programs and continuing education courses can help you keep up with changing technology.

Get Certified

Obtaining industry certifications can be an important step in your career as a microcomputer technician. Although certifications may not always be a requirement for employment, they can demonstrate knowledge and proficiency in your field. Training programs may include courses that prepare students for various industry certifications, such as CompTIA A+, CompTIA N+ (Networking) and CISCO Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA). Microsoft also offers various professional certifications, such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA), the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist (MCTS) and the Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP), among others.

Other Career Paths

If you're interested in working in the information technology field but are looking to earn more money, consider a career as a software developer or a computer and information systems manager. Although the educational requirements are more extensive, the higher salaries may make the extra classroom time worthwhile.

Software Developer

Software developers are the masterminds behind computer programs. They analyze the needs of customers or organizations, communicate their recommendations and then design, create and test programs. To become a software developer typically requires completion of a bachelor's degree program in computer science, mathematics, software engineering or a similar area. Some employers may also require a master's degree.

The BLS reported that systems software developers earned a median annual salary of around $97,000, and applications software developers made a median yearly salary of about $89,000, as of May 2011. Software developers were predicted to see an employment growth of 30% between 2010 and 2020, according to the bureau.

Computer and Information Systems Manager

Computer information systems managers, also called Information Technology (IT) managers, have the task of determining the IT needs of a company and implementing systems to meet those goals. To obtain a job in this field, a bachelor's degree in information or computer science is usually required. Additionally, many employers prefer or require managers to hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA). The BLS predicted that jobs for these professionals would increase 18% between 2010 and 2020. While the employment growth predictions are similar to those for microcomputer techs, computer information systems managers earned a substantially higher wage. According to the BLS, they earned a median annual salary of about $118,000, as of May 2011.

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