When there is a problem with a computer software, an IT network or even a monitor or phone, a call goes out to technical support. Technical support specialists offer help and advice to those who are dealing with computer problems of all kinds. Some cater to businesses and organizations, while others are available to help individuals. Since computers and networks are employed around the clock, tech support must be available at all hours of the day and night.
Technical support specializations
The type of technical support offered depends upon the problem and the person who is asking for help. Computer network support specialists are there for those who work on a network, such as in a business or organization. They are not only available when there is a problem, but work preemptively with the company to test and evaluate the network, perform maintenance on a regular basis, and help the decision-makers choose the appropriate computer systems for their needs. They are also available for troubleshooting, often at all hours.
Computer user support specialists provide help directly to the user of the computer and software. Sometimes called help-desk technicians, these tech support professionals are available to answer questions about new software, troubleshoot problems with hardware that might be hindering the software use, set up repair services, and even work on computers remotely in order to provide diagnostic help and solutions. Most of these specialists work via telephone, and can walk customers through the process of diagnosing the problem and implementing a solution.
Some technical support persons work from a central office, while other work from home on a contract basis. Some might work directly for a company that produces a particular software, network or computer system, while others work in call centers and answer general questions from a variety of users.
Technical support certifications and degrees
The education requirements for technical support personnel vary. Some jobs require applicants to have some computer knowledge, but don't require a degree. Some employers look for those who have earned at least an associate degree in a computer-related field and have relevant experience.
A bachelor's degree is typically required for those who work with large software companies. Some simply require completion of a bachelor's degree, while others specifically require a degree in computer science, computer engineering, information science or a closely related field. Those who hope to advance in the field can enhance their chances with management and business courses, as well as in-depth certifications of certain computer and software systems.
Technical support salary and career outlook
Employment of computer support specialists is expected to grow by 17 percent from 2012 to 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS.gov). Those who cater to compute users are expected to see employment grow by 20 percent during that time. The growth will stem from the increased use of computers, networks and various software, which are all becoming increasingly complex as the years go by.
Firms that provide cloud-computing technology are expected to lead the pack at hiring time. Another significant area of growth will be for those technical support jobs in computer systems design and related firms -- growth in this area will reach a whopping 49 percent between 2012 and 2022.
Other areas that should see higher rates of employment include those in the health care industry, as the use of information technology ramps up to accommodate the need for electronic medical records. Those who work in call centers might see much slower employment growth, as many of those jobs can be outsourced to overseas companies with lower wage rates.
However, there are still numerous states where the employment will go up in the coming years. According to Projections Central, technical support specialists in the following states will see robust growth:
- Louisiana: 25.5 percent
- Washington: 20.6 percent
- Wyoming: 20.2 percent
- Utah: 19.3 percent
- Florida: 17.5 percent
Those who graduate from technical support schools have a choice in their career path. The BLS reports the following national median annual wages in 2013 for three areas of technical support:
- Computer support specialists: $43,450
- Computer user support specialists: $46,620
- Computer network support specialists: $60,180
Those who want to work in technical support can choose to pursue certificates or associate degrees through technical schools, vocational schools, trade schools or community colleges. Those who choose to pursue a bachelor's degree can seek the education they need at colleges and universities across the country.
Computer Network Support Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151152.htm
Computer Support Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2008/may/oes151041.htm
Computer User Support Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151151.htm
Computer Support Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm#tab-1
Long Term Occupational Projections, Projections Central, https://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm