A computer support specialist assists users who are having problems with software, computers or peripherals such as printers or scanners. Some—called computer user support specialists—assist companies' customers, while others—known as computer network support specialists—provide in-house support to an organizations' information technology (IT) staff. Computer support specialists are also known as technical support specialists. Those who provide help over the phone, via online chat or email, are called help desk technicians.
There was a total of approximately 723,000 computer support specialists employed in 2012. 548,000 were computer user support specialists and 175,000 were computer network support specialists. A variety of industries employ these technology workers. Some work for companies that provide technical support to many different companies on a contract basis. Technical support specialists sometimes work from home, but others travel to clients' offices.
Most people in this field work full time but not always during typical daytime hours. Computer users need support 24/7 and therefore support specialists can have schedules that include evenings, nights, weekends and holidays.
All employers require that those they hire have computer expertise but many are flexible regarding how they get it. While some will only hire computer support specialists who have a bachelor's degree, that is not usually the case. Some employers prefer job candidates who have an associate degree in computer science, but many others will hire workers who have just taken some computer classes.
In addition to their technical skills, a computer support specialist must have certain soft skills, or personal qualities, to succeed in this field. Strong active listening skills are a must. Without them he or she won't be able to understand peoples' needs. Good speaking skills allow a computer support specialist to convey information to those he or she is trying to help. Also required are good critical thinking and problem solving skills.
After spending time helping customers or inhouse users, some customer support specialists are promoted into positions where they help improve the design and efficiency of future products. Those who work for software and hardware companies often advance very quickly. Some people who begin in this position later become software developers and network and computer systems administrators.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of computer support specialists will increase about as fast as the average for all occupations through 2022.
Median annual earnings were $46,420 and median hourly wages were $22.32 in 2012 (US).
Use the Salary Wizard at Salary.com to find out how much a computer support specialist currently earns in your city.
A Day in a Computer Support Specialist's Life:
These are some typical job duties taken from online ads for computer support positions found on Indeed.com:
- Support common business and productivity software.
- Assist callers with requests for information technology services, repair or support requests, complaints, and inquiries and direct to appropriate IT personnel via computer tracking system.
- Document user calls, issue resolution, and related processes and procedures.
- Answer questions or resolve computer problems for clients in person, via telephone or from remote location.
- Recommend changes or updates in programming, documentation, and training to address system deficiencies and user needs.
- Develop and assist in maintaining required technical documentation.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Computer Support Specialists, on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm (visited February 4, 2014).
Employment and Training Administration, US Department of Labor, O*NET Online, Computer User Support Specialists, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/15-1151.00 and Computer Network Support Specialists, on the Internet at http://www.onetonline.org/link/details/15-1152.00 (visited February 4, 2014).