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Computer Support Specialists picture    Computer Support Specialists image

Computer Support Specialists are responsible for providing technical assistance and many forms of computer-related support to a wide variety of potential customers, clients, and employers. The field is rapidly growing, due to the fact that nearly every company now uses computers in some capacity (as do individuals) and needs specialists to support them. The explosion in the use of computers has created a big demand for specialists who provide advice to users, as well as those who troubleshoot problems and/or perform the day-to-day administration, maintenance, and support of computer systems and networks. Typical duties for a computer support specialist may include daily oversight of a firm's computer systems, responding to calls for assistance from the organization's computer users, repair of computer hardware and software, and training users in the use of newly-acquired computer programs.

Responsibilities

Simply put, computer support specialists provide technical assistance, support, and advice to customers. This general category of worker is comprised of both Technical Support Specialists and Help-Desk Technicians. The distinctions between these groups can be summarized as follows:

  • Technical Support Specialists provide support to other computer users within their organization. In addition to resolving problems, they install, modify, clean, and repair computer hardware and software. They also oversee the daily performance of their company's computer systems. These specialists are often called upon to write training manuals and to train computer users in the use of new computer hardware and software.
  • Help-Desk Technicians are responsible for fielding telephone calls and e-mail messages from customers seeking help with computer problems. They are required to discuss the problem with the customer carefully, fully understand it, and then patiently walk the customer through the problem-solving steps. As a firm's most direct link to its customers, help-desk technicians are highly valued as a source of feedback on the firm's products. They are looked upon as a valuable source of information about customer concerns and the things that are causing the most problems for customers. In most firms, computer support specialists start out at the help desk.

A partial list of the typical duties of a computer support specialist might include the following:

  • Answer telephone calls
  • Analyze problems by using automated diagnostic programs
  • Help clients with hardware/software installation, printing, word processing, e-mail, and operating systems
  • Resolve recurring difficulties
  • Provide assistance when computers crash
  • Provide advice to customers
  • Maintain records of daily communication, problems and remedial action taken, and installation activities
  • Read technical manuals
  • Confer with staff, users, and management to determine requirements for new systems
  • Train users in the proper use of hardware and software
  • Develop training materials and procedures
  • Refer major problems or defective products to hardware or software vendors for service

Job Characteristics

Computer support specialists typically work in comfortable environments, which most often include offices or computer laboratories. They usually work about 40 hours a week, but it is not uncommon for employers to require computer support over extended hours on a semi-regular basis. Many support specialists are often "on call" for rotating evening or weekend work and can expect to work overtime when unexpected technical problems arise.

As is somewhat common for those who are required to type on a keyboard for long periods, support specialists are susceptible to back discomfort, eyestrain, and hand/wrist problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome. In a profession which involves a lot of interaction with customers and fellow employees, specialists are also susceptible to both the good and the bad consequences of dealing with the public. Specialists who work as consultants tend to spend a significant amount of time away from their offices, sometimes spending weeks or months working at a client's locale. On the other hand, expansion of computer networks is allowing a growing number of support specialists to provide technical support from remote locations, reducing or eliminating the need to travel as often to the customer's workplace.

Individuals interested in becoming computer support specialists need to have strong problem-solving, analytical, and (most especially) communication skills in order to effectively troubleshoot problems and help customers. The need to continually interface with customers, employees, and other computer personnel requires a specialist to be able to communicate effectively in many different ways: in person, over the phone, via e-mail, and on paper. Strong writing skills are useful not only in communicating, but also in preparing manuals and instructions for employees and customers.

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics (USDL BLS), employment of computer support specialists is expected to increase at least as fast as the average for all occupations over the next decade. Demand for specialists will be driven largely by the need for support by organizations and individuals trying to adapt to increasingly sophisticated computer-related technology. As computers and computer software become more complex, support specialists will be needed to provide technical assistance to a continually expanding customer base. The influx of emerging mobile technologies will contribute to the demand for support. Consulting jobs for computer support specialists will be plentiful as businesses seek help managing, upgrading, and customizing their increasingly complex computer systems.

Support specialists who have strong computer skills but lack a college degree should continue to qualify for some entry-level positions. In general, however, job prospects will be rosiest for college graduates who possess the latest technological skills. Graduates who have supplemented their formal education with relevant work experience will be especially well-positioned in the job market. Employers will prize specialists who are able to combine strong fundamental computer skills with good interpersonal and communication skills. This type of employee will be in highest demand.

Although employment will continue to rise at a good rate, there are factors which will cause job growth to be less explosive than during the previous decade. One of these factors is a general maturation of the information technology industry. Another is a growing trend towards outsourcing of certain types of support jobs overseas where prevailing wages are lower. The fact that a physical presence is not always required for computer support work has opened the door to remote assistance which can be provided around the clock across time zones.

Computer Support Specialist Schools, Certification, and Licensing

Training requirements for computer support specialist positions vary widely depending on the position and the employer. Many positions require at least a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field, although others may require only an associate's degree or merely a diploma/certificate coupled with some level of relevant experience. Those companies which do show flexibility in degree requirements tend to insist on a high level of practical experience and/or certification for support specialist positions.

Certifications are important for all who wish to work in this field and vital for those with lesser educational credentials. A variety of certifications exist at many levels: general, product-specific, and application-specific. The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) awards an industry-recognized vendor-neutral certification known as A+, which confirms proficiency in the areas of installation, configuration, preventive maintenance, diagnosing, and basic networking. Candidates who would like to earn an A+ certification must pass an exam, for which there are numerous books and websites dedicated to test preparation. Vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco award their own certifications which establish proficiency in one or more of the vendor's products. Some of these certifications are prerequisites for certain support jobs where these products are heavily used.

Because the expertise required for this field of work is constantly evolving and expanding, computer support specialists need to continually strive to acquire new skills. Continuing education is a standard practice in the industry and many such programs are regularly provided by employers and also by colleges and universities, hardware and software vendors, and private training institutions. In addition, many computing services firms offer professional development seminars which provide a good opportunity for specialists to enhance their skills and strengthen their advancement opportunities.

Resources

Major Employers

The proliferation of computers and computer networks in all facets of business is leading to an ever-widening range of potential employers of computer support specialists. Specialists can be found in startup companies and also in offices of established industry-leading businesses. As things stand now, a large number of specialists work in the professional, scientific, and technical services industries, many of them employed by computer systems design and related services. Other major employers include financial institutions, insurance companies, health care organizations, administrative and support services companies, government agencies, educational institutions, software publishers, and telecommunications organizations.

Schools for Computer Support Specialists are listed in the column to the left.

Career Stories (Job Profiles) for Computer Support Specialists

To find out more about building a career as Computer Support Specialists, we spoke with professionals in the field across a variety of specialties. Learn about their experiences on the job, the steps they took to complete their education, and what it takes to excel in this industry. Click the link to see a story.

All Types

Most Popular Industries for :
Computer Support Specialists

Industries representing at least 1% of total jobs for the occupation.

Source: 2015 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2014-24 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Industry Jobs Percent Annual Median Salary
Professional And Technical Services 137,860 25% $44,150
Education 65,800 12% $41,350
Office Services And Staffing 36,610 6% $39,020
Government 30,870 5% $45,860
Business Management 28,000 5% $45,200
Durable Goods Wholesale 27,900 5% $47,920
Traditional Publishing 22,440 4% $46,070
Telecommunications 18,000 3% $41,120
Insurance 16,800 3% $45,350
Applicance Stores 15,210 2% $34,050
Banking And Credit 15,010 2% $42,640
Hospital 13,510 2% $42,670
Electronics And Computer 12,470 2% $53,180
Internet Service Provider 12,010 2% $39,420
Securities And Investment 8,250 1% $51,830
Medical Office 8,060 1% $41,620
Non-durable Goods Wholesale 5,730 1% $44,030
These schools offer particularly quick info upon request, and we have written detailed profiles for each (click school names to see the profiles). Request info from multiple schools, by clicking the Request Info links.
 
Results:  10
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Programs
  • Computer Repair
  • MCDST
  • CompTIA A+
  • An accredited computer training academy preparing students to enter the IT industry as Network Engineers, Software Engineers, Web Apps Developer, Website Designers, Programmers, Database Administrators since 2000.
  • Holds A+ certification from CompTIA.
  • Located in Los Angeles, approximately 10 minutes away from LAX.
  • Flexible class schedules offered during day times, evenings and weekends.
  • Helping students start a career in technology within 3 - 9 months.
  • Educates with the mission to serve the needs of the local community and graduates by matching opportunities to skills.
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Los Angeles
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Programs
  • Degree - Computer Systems Administration
  • Many programs require externships, allowing students to gain real-world experience.
  • Approved A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) since 1984.
  • Offers 22 accelerated, career-focused program options including business administration, medical assisting, and more.
  • Regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).
  • 11 campuses across California, with an online division as well.
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Visalia
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Programs
  • Computer Support Technician
  • A Better Business Bureau (BBB) Accredited Business, with an A+ rating.
  • Computer Support Technician program is based on guidelines set by the Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) and Microsoft.
  • Offers free student services, including tutoring, campus internet access, career placement, and a student lounge.
  • Accredited by the Council on Occupational Education (COE).
  • 2 locations in Cathedral City and Twentynine Palms, California.
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Cathedral City
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Programs
  • Applied Mathematics (Professional Science Masters) - Online
  • For the 12th consecutive year, Cal U was named one for the best schools in the Northeast by The Princeton Review 
  • Recognized by the U.S. News and World Report for: Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s 2017, Best Online Programs, Grad Education 2017 and Best Online Programs, Bachelor’s for Veterans 2017
  • Quality Online courses at Cal U have the same objectives, content and learning outcomes as campus-based programs and are taught by the same expert professors.
  • Offers private school amenities at a public school cost. Student-to-teacher ratio of 20:1
  • CAL U online programs complete an annual assessment of student learning to ensure outcomes are focused on your success in career entry, advancement or enhancement!
Programs
  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Information Technology
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • Which career path will you take – Business, Nursing, Education, Psychology? Something else? GCU offers more than 100 majors to get you started!
  • Colangelo College of Business: Features more than 25 programs from the bachelor through the master's level, including several high-demand MBA programs and an accelerated accounting degree.
  • College of Nursing and Health Care Professions: Rich 25-year history providing outstanding health care and nursing degree programs, including an RN to BSN program & master's in nursing degrees.
  • College of Education: Whether you are looking to start or advance your career as a teacher or administrator, GCU offers bachelor’s and master’s in education degrees in key areas.
  • College of Humanities and Social Sciences: Provides a job focused education and features a variety of programs from counseling and psychology to justice studies, history and English literature.
  • Does something else interest you? GCU also offers programs in Doctoral Studies; Theology; Science, Engineering & Technology; and Fine Arts & Production. Speak with an enrollment counselor today!
Programs
  • Information Technology (BS)
  • Online Bachelor's programs include BBA, Criminal Justice, Psychology, IT, Healthcare Management & Public Health
  • Over 115 years of delivering quality education and personalized attention to students
  • Provide a range of campus experiences and services online including advising, tutoring, student community, and career services
  • Give students and alumni access to career assistants who help with resumes, cover letters, job hunting, and more.
Programs
  • Mini MBA Certificate/Information Technology Management

See What’s Possible When You Earn a Degree at Florida Tech 100% Online

Whatever your motivation for considering an undergraduate or graduate degree, Florida Tech offers programs online that can meet your needs. Here are a few reasons Florida Tech may be the right choice for you.

Programs
  • Computer Systems Technician (10-Month Diploma Program)
  • Dedicated to providing  career training since 1975.
  • Has 13 campus locations in Southern California and a campus in Morrow, GA.
  • Provides flexible class times including weekends.
  • Offers curriculum that ranges from 8 month diploma programs to 16-month Associate of Applied Science degree programs.
  • Has admissions professionals available to help students decide which diploma or degree program they should pursue.
  • Gives job placement assistance strengthened by relationships with local employers.
Programs
  • Bachelors in Management Information Systems and Business Analytics
  • The first and only 100% online, fully accredited public university in the United States
  • No set class times or locations
  • Affordable tuition, guaranteed not to increase as long as you are enrolled
  • Accelerated eight-week terms
  • Classes start every month
Programs
  • Associate of Science in Information Technology
  • Has students attend one four-week class at a time and take their final exam before moving on to their next class.
  • Offers 24/7 online tech support, with a typical response time of 4 hours or less.
  • Has online help centers that offer assistance with writing, statistics, medical assisting, and more.
  • Provides job placement assistance to all its students and alumni.
  • Researches trends for growing fields to tailor a more effective curriculum.
CityTownInfo Career and College Resources

We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Computer Support Specialists.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.

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