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Computer support specialists, or computer support technicians, perform installation and maintenance, or solve problems people have with their computers. They usually start out as help-desk technicians — fielding calls and emails from customers with computer problems, then identifying the issue and walking the customer through the problem-solving steps. Technical support specialists support other computer users in their own organization. They oversee the daily performance of their company's computer systems and train users on how to use new hardware and software. Both types of specialists may work long hours, but keeping computers (and the companies that depend on them) functioning properly is rewarding.

Day in the Life of a Computer Support Specialist

On any given day, a computer support technician might perform the following tasks:

  • Installing, configuring and upgrading PCs, laptops and related equipment
  • Diagnosing and troubleshooting both common and unusual hardware and software problems
  • Performing preventive maintenance on computer equipment
  • Installing required software patches
  • Ensuring the connectivity of PCs, laptops, handhelds and other computing devices to both the local area network (LAN) and wide area network
  • Setting up and maintaining locally connected and networked printers
  • Connecting needed peripheral equipment

There are several different types of computer specialists, each with a particular emphasis. A partial list of some of the job designations in this field includes the following:

  • Desktop support specialist
  • Network administrator
  • Systems administrator
  • Computer forensics specialist
  • Help desk technician
  • Customer support analyst

Computer support technicians usually work in comfortable environments, such as offices or computer laboratories. Those who work as consultants tend to spend a lot of time away from their offices, sometimes spending weeks or months working at a client's locale. Employers often require computer support specialists to work extended hours on a regular basis, and to be "on call" for rotating evening or weekend work. They are also expected to work overtime when technical problems arise.

Important Characteristics for Computer Support Specialists

A successful computer support technician has strong problem-solving, analytical, and communication skills. In addition to troubleshooting technical problems, a computer support specialist should be able to communicate clearly with peers as well as non-technical clients and co-workers. Communication takes place in person, over the phone, via email, and on paper (such as when preparing manuals and instructions for employees and customers). This job requires patience and the love of a good challenge!

Typical Steps for Becoming a Computer Support Specialist

Training requirements for computer support technician jobs vary depending on the position and the employer. Here are some typical steps one might follow to enter this field:

  1. Learn about computers. If you have an aptitude for electronics, math and computers, and are interested in becoming a computer technician, begin by taking some classes in high school. If you have already graduated from high school, consider taking some introductory courses on networks and operating systems at your local community college.
  2. Gain experience. Use your knowledge and high school diploma to find work as a customer service representative, helping customers learn about new and emerging hardware and software. These jobs are excellent training for other work in the field.
  3. Earn an associate degree in an area of computer technology. This two-year degree qualifies a student to become a computer support technician.
  4. Earn a bachelor's degree in computer and information technology. A bachelor's degree can open the door to more challenging, higher-paying jobs. While earning your degree, having an internship can provide practical experience and develop connections within the computer industry. Such connections often result in future employment.
  5. Get certified. Certifications are important for all who wish to work in this field and vital for those with lesser educational credentials. Employers may require a specific certification. Certifications may be general, product-specific, or 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. Vendors such as Microsoft and Cisco award their own certifications which establish proficiency in one or more of their products.
  6. Hone your "soft skills." Computer technicians at all levels need to be good communicators and have strong people skills. At higher-level positions, you'll also need to balance various jobs at once, and you'll need patience as you work with others to solve computer-related challenges.

Source:

  • Computer Support Specialists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm

Most Popular Industries for
Computer Support Specialist Education Overview and Career Guide

These industries represent at least 1% of the total number of people employed in this occupation.

Industry Total Employment 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
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  • 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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  • Computer Repair
  • MCDST
  • MS-Office
  • 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.
  • Military friendly school.
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Inglewood
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  • 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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  • B.S. in Applied Business Analytics
  • Love solving problems with technology? Make it into a career!
  • Our bachelor's & master's degree programs are designed to prepare you with the skills and experience you need to pursue a career in the tech field!
  • Choose your emphasis - information technology, computer programming, applied business analytics, business information systems & more.
  • Our transfer-friendly bachelor's & master's degree programs are designed for traditional campus and online students.
  • Whether your goal is to gain entry-level skills, switch to a technology career or simply strengthen your portfolio - GCU can help!
  • Speak to an enrollment counselor today and learn about our various technology-focused bachelor's & master's programs.
Programs
  • Media Arts & Animation (BS)
  • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
  • Dedicated career services team that helps students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas
  • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary
  • Program Coordinators focus on improving program content and ensure that students have the resources they need
  • Over 50 locations nationwide
  • Join our next Open House on 10/21 (10/28 @ select locations)!
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.
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Encino
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  • Information Technology Associate's Degree
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
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Anaheim
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  • Mobile Development, Bachelor of Science
  • Online and on-campus programs include Cloud Technologies (BS), Mobile Development (BS), and Web Design and Development (BS)
  • Curriculum designed to prepare students for a career in tech by immersing students in a project-based learning environment
  • Students can learn how to manage cloud technology or gain coding skills for apps, websites, and software
  • Full Sail offers accelerated programs, so a degree that would normally take four years takes 24 months on average
Programs
  • Information Technology (BS)
  • Online bachelor's programs include BBA, Criminal Justice, IT, Healthcare Management, Pscyhology & Public Health
  • Over 115 years of delivering quality education and personalized attention to students
Programs
  • Computer Programming (AAS)

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National City
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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Computer Support Specialist Education Overview and Career Guide.

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

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