Computer support specialists help customers and other computer users by providing them with technical assistance, support, and advice. They perform a range of duties, from answering telephone calls and resolving recurrent difficulties, to analyzing problems using automated diagnostic programs. The occupation is divided into two categories: technical support specialists and help-desk technicians. Technical support specialists answer telephone calls from users of their company’s computers. They may use automated diagnostics programs, write training manuals, train users, or manage the daily performance of their company’s computer systems. Help-desk technicians help computer users with some of the questions not answered in instruction manuals. They communicate with customers via telephone or email regarding hardware and software challenges. They listen to the customer, diagnose the problem, and guide the customer through a step-by-step solution to the problem.
Computer support specialists should be interested in helping others. They need to have good problem-solving and analytical skills, and they need to be able to communicate efficiently and effectively via email, in writing, or even face-to-face. Well-developed writing skills can prove valuable in preparing manuals for employees or customers.
In 2002, computer support specialists earned a median annual salary of $39,100. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $23,060, and the highest 10%, who earned more than $67,550. The following shows the median annual salaries for the industries employing the highest numbers of computer support specialists:
- Professional and commercial equipment and supplies wholesaler – $46,740
- Software publishers – 42,870
- Computer systems design and related services – 41,110
- Management of companies and enterprises – 40,850
- Elementary and secondary schools – 33,480
Training and Education
Computer support specialists enter the occupation from many different angles. Many employers prefer candidates with formal college education, such as a bachelor’s degree in computer science or information systems, or a related associate degree. However, a large number of companies are loosening these restrictions due to the extraordinarily high demand for these types of positions. For those candidates without a college degree, practical experience or certification will be essential. A variety of certification programs offered by vendors and product makers may help some candidates qualify for entry-level positions. In some cases, candidates with relevant, real-world experience may bypass formal education and certification requirements.
In 2002, computer support specialists held about 507,000 jobs. 35%, the largest percentage, were employed in professional and business services industries, mostly in computer systems design and related services. Others worked in bands, government agencies, insurance companies, educational institutions, and wholesale and retail vendors of computers, office equipment, appliances, and home electronic equipment.
Between 2002 and 2012, the number of computer support specialists is expected to increase faster than the average. Companies and other organizations will continue to adopt and integrate new computer-driven technologies, making the computer system design and related services industry one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S. economy. The increased need for technical assistance will stem from the increasing complexity of computers and software, while mobility technologies like wireless Internet will also add to this demand. Explosive growth in electronic commerce will fuel a strong, specific demand for employees knowledgeable about network, data, and communications security.
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