To err is human.
To genuinely foul things up takes a computer.
Think you can handle all the mess a computer can make?
Become an IT support technician!
Are desktop support jobs worth it in 2020?
Read on to learn everything about:
- Job description and responsibilities
- Salary breakdown
- The skillset you need for success
- Education and qualifications
- Freelance and remote work opportunities
- … and much more!
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What Are IT Support Jobs?
Computer support agents help out with computer-related troubles (big shocker, right?).
You buy a laptop and the desktop stops working within the first month? You call IT support.
A company’s network suddenly breaks down? IT support.
The printer at Accounting refuses to start? IT support!
They are, quite literally, the IT doctor. At all desktop support jobs you will have to:
- Listen to a description of the problem.
- Make out what the actual issue is – whether by looking at the broken-down hardware or by the description alone (ah, the beauty of a remote technical support job).
- Come up with a game plan to solve it.
- Fix the problem (or have the customer follow your steps)
The two main types of IT help desk jobs are computer network support specialists and computer user support specialists.
Now let’s see how you can land either of them:
Beginner to Desktop Support Pro
Looking for an entry-level position in tech? Here is our roadmap to success.
Psst! This is just a summary – we will get into a lot more details soon!
In computer network support jobs, you’d be helping out with the company’s networks. Network support technicians usually work under a system or network administrator that deals with more complex issues and implementations.
Computer user support, on the other hand, deals directly with non-IT people – either clients (if you’re in a software firm) or employees from different departments. These professionals recognize tech issues and instruct users on how to resolve them.
They are usually Level 2 support – clients will first call Level 1 (the call center) and problems would get escalated to you. In smaller firms, this structure might not exist and you’d be communicating with customers directly.
To get desktop support technician jobs: any postsecondary education is an advantage. More technical jobs need a bachelor’s (or at least associate’s) degree in a relevant field – Computer Science, Information Technology, Network Administration, Network Security, etc.
Do you have any skills that you got through experience? Consider getting certified – some of the options include CompTIA A+, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), and Apple Care Certifications.
How much do IT help desk jobs pay?
The mean annual wage (50% of workers make more than that, 50% earn less) in May 2018 was:
- For computer network support specialists – $62,770
- For computer user support specialists – $50,980
How do I find IT support jobs near me? Try our job posting directory!
Now let’s look at the details of an IT support job in depth:
Computer Support Specialist: Our Comprehensive Description
This is a general job description for this position. Every employer will have different criteria for hiring.
Desktop Support Jobs Description
There are two types of tech support. While both deal with computer-related issues, they serve different customers.
Computer network support specialists work within their company’s IT department. They are responsible for the upkeep of the business’ network and usually collaborate with other IT employees.
Network support workers usually:
- Evaluate and proactively monitor existing networks.
- Apply updates and participate in extending infrastructure.
- Perform maintenance to prevent potential hardware and software issues.
- Resolve local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN) issues.
- Work on configuration and troubleshooting of internet systems.
Since businesses depend on their networks, you’ll often have to think on the spot and resolve issues within very tight deadlines.
IT support specialist jobs that involve network administration tend to be more technical. They usually require some postsecondary education in computers in IT. If you don’t have that (or don’t have it yet), you might be better suited for a user support position.
Computer user support specialists provide support to non-IT users. They often have to:
- Receive customer requests and walk the client through the problem-solving steps.
- Set up new computer devices.
- Install new software.
- Execute hardware device service and repair (possibly, as a part of the warranty).
- Help and instruct users to work with new software or hardware.
- Provide companies feedback on the common issues that clients encounter.
Some of these technicians work within a support service firm or a software company. Others are employed by call centers and provide customer support to end-users.
What Will Your Day Look Like?
Desktop support specialists usually work with off-site customers or people within different departments of their own company.
But here’s the thing:
You might not meet clients face-to-face but communication is still a significant skill you’ll need. Technical competences only matter if you can understand the problem. You’d also have to work with other IT specialists, making teamwork skills key to success.
This is NOT an IT position suited to extreme introverts or people who get angry very quickly.
The other major kicker:
Depending on the company, you might have to cover late-night shifts. Because businesses depend on their networks and people use computing devices 24/7, tech support is usually round-the-clock.
Some IT support specialists also travel to a client’s office or home location. In this case, you might need a car (or a driver’s license as a minimum).
If you’re physically installing and repairing systems, the job might involve some reaching, bending, lifting, etc. Otherwise, desktop support is a sit-down job.
Finally, some paperwork is usually involved. The volume depends on the company’s internal policies, but they almost always expect you to document your activities and report them to a supervisor or manager.
Desktop Support Skills
To secure a job in IT support you generally need:
- Technical skills
- Soft skills
Computer skills can include:
- Hardware provisioning, imaging, troubleshooting, and software installation
- Operating system administration
- TCP/IP networking support
- LAN, WAN, and VPN implementations
- FTP and Web Services Integrations
- Information security understanding
Your desktop support tech skills can come from university education, training, or non-formal education. However, most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field.
You can also prove your skill with different certifications, such as CompTIA A+, Applecare Mac Technician (ACMT), and Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA). We will talk more about different certifications in a bit.
Some employers provide on-the-job training to help newcomers learn about company structure, internal procedures, and communicating with clients. These usually touch on soft skills and you might receive additional training during your employment.
The soft skills you’ll need include problem-solving, communication, time management, and attention to detail. Any experience working with other people will help here. The HDI Customer Service Representative (HDI-CSR) certificate is a formal way to prove your client management skills.
We will discuss these in more detail in a bit.
Are There Any Desktop Support Jobs I Can Do from Home?
Freelance and telework are an option for some IT support specialists. Help Desk technicians, in particular, can take advantage of remote work.
For other desktop support employees, this is virtually impossible – i.e., if they travel to client offices to do their job or if they have to troubleshoot hardware issues daily.
If you need flexibility, part-time technician support jobs might be the best choice for you. Large companies offer 4-hour and 6-hour shift positions, along with the full-time options.
What Are The Job Prospects?
Computer support specialists are in demand. The projected growth in the industry is 10% for the next ten years! This is above the national average for all occupations.
If you specialize in computer systems design, even better news for you:
The employment there will grow by 24% by 2028!
You’ll also have plenty of career growth opportunities. Within most companies, there are clear advancement paths. For example, computer network support specialists can progress to network and system administrators, as well as software developers.
In-depth experience, as well as a strong educational background, will provide the best opportunities. In some companies, your remuneration also depends on them (employees with more experience and higher education receive higher pay).
Is The Desktop Support Specialist Salary Lucrative?
Quick answer: yes, IT support technicians make good money.
The median annual wage of all occupations in the economy is $38,640. Compare this to:
- $62,770 for computer network support specialists,
- and $50,980 for computer user support specialists!
This means that 50% of all workers in those fields earned more than that and 50% earned less.
But there is more:
The lowest 10% of network support technicians earned less than $38,270… which is just $370 less than the median wage for the country.
In other words, even low-paid IT support employees make more than the average American.
What is the hourly rate for a computer technician?
The US median wage is:
What about state-by-state breakdown?
The highest number of both computer user support specialists and computer network support specialists work in California. The desktop support technician salary in California is:
- $66,350 for user support with San Francisco, San Jose, Salinas, and Napa among the top-paying metropolitan areas in the country.
- $75,640 for network support with San Francisco and San Jose as some of the top-paying American cities for this occupation.
New York has the third-highest employment level in the country. The median annual wage there is:
New York City is also one of the highest-paying metropolitan areas in America for both types of work. The average desktop support salary in NYC is $64,640 for computer user support and $86,100 for computer network support.
Here Is How To Boost Your Earnings
Earning numbers depend on experience and skill. Here is how the top earners in the field are made:
- Choose network support – they make nearly $10,000 more than user support technicians.
- Late career desktop support specialists earn 18% more with an average total compensation of $58,183. It’s worth sticking around to get the big money.
- Telecommunications, data processing, hosting, and computer systems design are the highest paying industries for computer network support specialists.
- Some skills can increase your pay – i.e. providing IT support, being a Tier 2 desktop support, and knowing Microsoft Active Directory.
- Top employers like IBM pay their computer support specialists $52,431 on average!
Remote IT Support Jobs: Opportunities & Challenges
The majority of computer support technicians work full-time, with many of them covering 24/7 shifts.
But what if you prefer telework?
It is definitely an option, especially for help desk positions. Even large companies like Shopify and Hubspot are happy to entrust their tech support to teleworkers.
However: most desktop support technician jobs are office-based.
Because as an IT support technician, the company might need you to install and configure the software, train employees on the floor to use new technology, monitor and troubleshoot network problems, and even deal with hardware issues.
These are all things that you need to be physically present for.
Desktop Support: Education
The requirements depend on the position you’re applying for:
- Computer user support specialists can start with no postsecondary education (although IT skills, formal education, or non-formal training and experience are an advantage).
- Computer network support specialists should have at least an associate’s degree, but a bachelor is usually preferred.
- To apply for remote desktop support jobs, consider getting certified for your skill. When employers look for freelancers, they don’t usually require a college degree, but they do want to see proof of your competence.
Computer science, engineering, or information science – these are the degrees employers favor. For less technical jobs, however, your field of study might not matter as much. Any computer-related classes that you have taken will be an advantage.
Some employers will also ask about your GPA – candidates with 3.0 and above are preferred.
Certifications and Licensing Programmes
Companies might require certification in the products they use. Some of the common ones include:
- CompTIA A+
This certificate is the industry standard for IT operational positions.
To receive it, you have to pass two exams – Core 1 (220-1001) and Core 2 (220-1002). Each of these costs $219.
They cover all major desktop support jobs requirements. This includes baseline security, device operating system configuration, client-based, and cloud-based (SaaS) software administration, troubleshooting and problem-solving applying best practices, fundamental IT infrastructure and networking support, hardware configuration and support, basic data backup and recovery methods application.
- Apple Care Certifications
They include the Apple Certified Mac Technician (ACMT) and Apple Certified iOS Technician (ACiT). While both of these will look great on your resumé, the ACMT is typically better for technical support roles.
To access ACMT, you first need to take the Apple Service Fundamentals Exam (SVC-19A or SVC-18A) and ACMT Mac Service Certification Exam (MAC-19A). You sit for both of these prerequisites through Pearson (online). Since the pricing changes, it’s best to consult the up-to-date cost on their website.
The passing score for both is 80%.
From there, you can sit the ACMT. To prepare for the testing, self-paced training is available at the ATLAS system. You can retake the test as early as 24 hours from your last attempt.
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)
The MTA proves your fundamental technology knowledge of Microsoft systems. They test a broad range of skills, including core software development skills, database fundamentals, and IT infrastructure.
There is no exam you need to take before sitting for the MTA. The MTA is also not a prerequisite for Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA) or Microsoft Certified Solutions Developer (MCSD). The MCSA and MCSD are certifications to consider further down the line, while MTA is perfect for entry-level desktop support positions.
Microsoft has a published exam preparation guide. They provide the certification through a third-party vendor and the price differs depending on the path you take.
.edu emails grant a significant discount on the MTA certification. Make sure to use yours!
The MTA, as well as other Microsoft certificates, can count toward college credit. If you’re still in school, contact your college to learn more.
- HDI Customer Service Representative (HDI-CSR)
This is not a technical certification and it’s usually not required by employers.
The HDI-CSR can give you an advantage over other candidates. Their certified training is also a great way to acquire customer service soft skills.
Is this a necessary certification, though? No, there are cheaper (and even free) ways to learn these things. Some companies have never even heard of the exam! Don’t waste your money.
Desktop Support Jobs: Technical Requirements
Working as IT support can require a wide array of technical skills.
Starting small, for call center positions, fundamental computer skills (Windows OC, email, possibly G Suite) are often enough. You will receive product-specific training before you begin on the job.
Tier 2 and above computer user support specialists will need some of the following:
- Strong knowledge of various software environments – Windows, Citrix, MS Office
- System integration and downstream impacts
- Computer/server hardware installation, configuration, maintenance and troubleshooting
- Basic network configuration and troubleshooting (not required for all positions but usually desirable)
Computer network support specialists should have some of these skills:
- Supporting a server-based multi-version, multi-user environment.
- Active Directory and Windows 10 operating system support and management.
- Knowledge of Local Area Network (LAN) and internet principles.
- Knowledge of Active Directory authentication, Domain Naming Server (DNS), and Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP), Transmission Control Protocol/internet Protocol (TCPIP) and Group Policy
- Virus/malware prevention, detection, and removal.
And Soft Skills?
Whether you’re an entry-level technician or a pro at your job, we can’t understate the importance of non-technical desktop support skills.
You are working with people, not just computers. Know your technical stuff but also develop:
- Listen to understand – you need to identify and clarify the issue efficiently. Being an active listener and asking the right questions is the key to success here!
- Problem-solving – more than simple troubleshooting. You need excellent analytical skills and you’d often have to use them on the spot (a.k.a. with the client on the line or over your shoulder)!
- Speak to be understood – once you figure out what the issue is and how to solve it, you have to tell the customer. Communication skills are essential here – speaking clearly, without using much tech jargon, and patiently explaining yourself if they don’t get it the first time.
- Write concise and clear – if you’re not working with people face-to-face or on the phone, you’d be communicating via email or live chat. Less nerve-wracking? Sure. But it’s also harder to get your point across. Solid writing skills are indispensable here.
- Time management ninja – some customers need extra time and explanations. At the same time, you will have targets and a limited workday. Time management and prioritization are the names of the game!
Companies often provide training to help you master these skills. This is usually the case if you:
- are a computer user support specialist
- work for a large company
In help desk positions, especially entry-level desktop support, employers put you through mandatory training. This is common for call center type jobs and it usually includes both hard skills (problem-solving for the specific field) and soft skills (customer handling).
IT Support Jobs: In Conclusion
Desktop support jobs are an excellent option for tech-savvy young people. Whether you hold a degree or opt for the certification + job experience route, there are ample opportunities for career development. The field is expected to grow in the following years, meaning you are less likely to experience job loss. Much like with any other job, the candidates with more experience, higher education, and additional soft skills (such as fantastic communication, problem-solving, and root cause analysis) get the best opportunities and the highest salaries.
Desktop Support Jobs: FAQ’s
Q: What Does a Desktop Support Technician Do?
A: Computer support specialists resolve software and hardware-related issues for companies or end-users. They also help set up new devices, install new programs, and train company employees or customers to use IT equipment.
Some, called computer network support specialists, maintain the firm’s local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and internet systems. Others, known as computer user support specialists, troubleshoot issues for non-IT consumers.
Q: What Is the Difference Between Helpdesk and Desktop Support?
A: It’s a difference in semantics and it depends on the company. Helpdesk is the general place people go to for information and assistance. Desktop support deals with IT issues only.
But what about IT Helpdesk?
This is where it’s pure semantics.
Helpdesk usually refers to supporting people by phone, email, or live chat (without leaving your desk). In a desktop support job, on the other hand, you might have to physically look over hardware, go out on the floor to resolve issues, install new software, and train people to use it. Sometimes, you can’t do desktop support jobs from home but you can do help desk as telework.
Q: What Does an IT Support Specialist Do?
A: This technician’s primary duty is supporting computer users by offering assistance with both hardware and software. They can also be tasked with maintaining and upgrading systems, overseeing client and internal data, as well as documenting and appropriately escalating more complex technical issues.
Q: Where Do I Find Desktop Support Jobs Near Me?
A: Browse through job postings on your preferred platform. IT jobs are rarely in papers, though (does anybody still look for jobs in the paper anyway?)
Our directory is a solid starting point!
Q: How Long Does It Take to Become a Computer Support Specialist?
A: You can apply today for entry-level IT support specialist jobs at a call center (with only high school). Most computer support jobs, however, require some postsecondary education.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science takes at least three years (but usually it’s four years). An associate’s degree, which some employers also accept, takes two years.
If you choose the high school + certifications (A+, MTA, Apple Certification) route, you can prepare and pass your exams in less than a year. This is also the cheapest option.
Q: What Education Is Needed for a Computer Support Specialist?
A: This is a popular question among those looking for desktop support jobs. High school is enough for Level 1 support (these are the first people a client will contact). Any IT-related classes will help you stand out from other candidates.
For Level 2 and above, as well as more technical jobs, an associate’s or bachelor’s degree is required. Employers prefer relevant fields such as Computer Science. If the position is not too tech-dense, other college degrees are also acceptable.
Also consider CompTIA A+, Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA), and Apple Care Certifications to prove your skills.