Career Summary

Median salary as of March 2010        $46,260 ($22.24 per hour)

Educational requirement                   Associates degree of certificate

Required work experience                 None (internship recommended)

Number of jobs as of 2010                607, 100

Job outlook                                      Anticipated growth rate of 18 percent, which is average for all occupations

Employment change 2010-2020         110,000 additional jobs in this time period

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Computer Support Specialists,  on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm (visited June 29, 2013).

Career Overview

Computer Support Specialists may be broken down into two categories.  The first category of workers is referred to as technical support specialists.  They provide support to computer professionals within their company. The second category of specialists is called help desk technicians and they assist non-IT users in resolving computer issues. These are the people that you will routinely be put in touch with when you call a computer manufacturer to troubleshoot desktop/laptop issues.

Main Duties of Technical Support Specialists within the IT department include:

  • Analyze, test, and evaluate local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs) and internet systems to troubleshoot and resolve computer network problems
  • Perform daily maintenance of all network systems to ensure they are performing correctly and catch issues as they occur. Correcting problems in a timely manner is very important since network issues affect the efficient operation of systems throughout the company.
  • Technical Support Specialists may provide assistance to the company’s computer users via the phone, email or in-person. The often work under the supervision of network and computer systems administrators, who supervise the day-to-day operation of the company’s computer networks.

Main duties of Help Desk Technicians include:

  • Proactively listen to customers as they describe their computer issues and ask questions to clarify the issue and properly diagnose the problem
  • Provide step-by-step advice and guidance to customers to resolve the issue
  • Set up or repair computer devices and related equipment
  • Train end-users to use new computer hardware or software, including printers, word processing programs and email systems
  • Provide feedback to internal management regarding the most often cited customer issues
  • Provide customer  support via telephone, email, or on occasion, on-site customer visits

Help desk technicians solve a variety of problems depending on the industry and specific company. Some help desk technicians work for large software firms and for support services firms and must educate customers regarding how to use their programs. Other technicians work in call center environments and respond to simpler issues from individual consumers. Some technicians also work for a company and help non-IT end users resolve issues.

Education and Training

Since the duties of Computer Support Specialists require different skill sets, there is no one path to entering this field. In some cases, especially with those jobs of a more technical nature requiring analysis and troubleshooting, a bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer information systems will be necessary. For jobs of a help desk or customer service nature, an associate’s degree in a computer-related field of study or certificate should suffice.  After hire, many technical support specialists and help desk technicians participate in training programs that could last for three to six months depending on complexity of the job.

To better your chances of obtaining an entry-level job in either specialty, it’s a good idea to participate in an internship as part of your training. Not only will this provide you with real- world experience, but it could also lead to a permanent job if the employer is impressed with your work.

It’s important that both technical support specialists and help desk technicians keep up-to-date with regard to changes in computer technology throughout their career. You may also wish to enroll in further training to advance your career and earn a higher salary.

Certification

While certification is not necessary to work as a Computer Support Specialist in California, passing a certification exam increases your chances of finding a job and earning a higher entry-level salary. Many computer companies and associations offer certification programs, including Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) and CompTIA A+ certification.

As a word of advice, many training programs offer discounts to employees of certain firms. You might want to first obtain an entry-level job and then discuss the issue of further training with your manager. Aside from obtaining a discount, your company may well offer tuition reimbursement so that a good percentage, if not all of the tuition costs will be covered. In most cases, you will need to commit to remaining with the company for a specified period of time upon program completion.

Microsoft Certification:

There are six Microsoft certification tracks from which to choose, each with its own requirements.

  1. MCSA: Windows Server 2012
  2. MCSA: Windows Server 2008
  3. MCSA: Windows 8
  4. MCSA: Windows 7
  5. MCSA: SQL Server 2012
  6. MCSA: SQL Server 2008

For more information on Microsoft certification visit http://www.microsoft.com/learning/en/us/mcsa-certification.aspx#fbid=vWAe_EEplK8

CompTIA A+ Certification

From the Web site of CompTIA, there are two exams you must pass to receive certification:

  • CompTIA A+ 220-801 covers the fundamentals of computer technology, installation and configuration of PCs, laptops and related hardware, and basic networking.
  • CompTIA A+ 220-802 covers the skills required to install and configure PC operating systems, as well as configuring common features (e.g. network connectivity and email) for mobile operating systems Android and Apple iOS.

For more information on CompTIA A+ certification visit http://certification.comptia.org/getCertified/certifications/a.aspx

Salary Information

The below chart represents salary range for Computer Support Specialists with less than one year of experience in select areas of California

Los Angeles $32,763. – $35,011.
Oakland $33,856. – $36,120.
San Diego $32,217. – $34,427.
San Francisco $36,680. – $39,197.

Source Salary.com June 2013

Ready to move forward towards a career in computers?  Review our list of Computer Repair programs in California.  To find a school near you, enter the name of your city in the search box at the top of the page.