The prevalence of Internet and network systems in the 21st century has created a wide range of job prospects for technical support specialists. If you have technical and customer support skills, then you might be interested in becoming an IT support specialist.
In this in-depth guide on how to become an IT support specialist, you will find essential information regarding the job description, the average salary, viable educational pathways, and crucial skills needed to become an IT support specialist.
What Is an IT Support Specialist?
An IT support specialist offers technical support services by maintaining and developing an organization’s information technology and network systems. This position requires an array of skills, including an ability to work with software systems, computer hardware, and client computer systems.
IT support specialists also design operating systems, perform system upgrades, maintain system security, and provide tech training for entry-level IT staff. Additionally, an IT support role involves customer service duties like troubleshooting and connecting networks.
IT Support Specialist Job Description
As an IT support specialist, you will perform IT system troubleshooting and maintenance, educate business users and customers on new technological products, deploy software modifications, and apply data recovery methods.
Responsibilities also vary depending on your specialization. However, all duties require technical expertise, problem-solving skills, and customer service skills.
IT Support Specialist Salary and Job Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), computer support specialist jobs are projected to see nine percent growth between 2020 and 2030. The BLS report also mentions that the average salary for computer support specialists was $55,510 in 2020. The salary range goes from $40,620 at the 10th percentile to $110,450 at the 90th percentile.
Additionally, ZipRecruiter states that senior IT specialists earn an average salary of $80,821, so there’s definitely room to grow in this profession.
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Top Reasons to Become an IT Support Specialist in 2021
There are many great reasons to become a tech support specialist in 2021. In addition to a great job outlook and plenty of career advancement opportunities, there are a few more reasons you might want to pursue a career as an IT support specialist.
- It’s an in-demand career. Today, almost everything uses information technology in one way or another. As long as businesses and services run on computers, employment projections for IT support specialists will remain high.
- There are job opportunities in a variety of industries. Several major goods and services need IT support. Within the tech industry, IT support specialists primarily work for software companies and in the field of computer systems design. Outside of tech, you’re likeliest to find them in educational services and business management.
- It prepares you for several other tech professions. Many of the skills required of IT support specialists are also required for other tech-related professions. Through pursuing a career as an IT support specialist, you gain many of the skills necessary to achieve more ambitious career goals.
- The work environment is stimulating. A lot of the knowledge, skills, and duties of IT support specialists are challenging to learn, and the requirements often change as technology advances. This is a field that requires you to be adaptable and up for a challenge.
IT Support Specialist Job Requirements
The job requirements for IT support specialists vary depending on the company and job level. Companies will often have their own expectations for educational qualifications, level of experience, and technical knowledge.
You can learn more about some of the standard requirements for becoming an IT support specialist below.
- Education. Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field of study is typically one of the first requirements for becoming an IT support specialist. However, some employers may accept an associate degree with additional training.
- Professional certification. Professional certifications are required for some areas of IT work. Regardless, they’re a great way to stand out to employers. Some of the more popular professional certifications for IT experts include those by CompTIA, Google, and Cisco.
- Technical background. The industry requires IT support specialists to have excellent technical skills including analytical skills, advanced computer skills, disaster recovery skills, and strong writing skills.
- Customer support and interpersonal skills. Your duties as an IT support specialist will involve assisting computer users in a variety of IT areas, training people on updates made to systems, as well as answering questions and addressing technical issues. These tasks require lots of interaction, so listening skills are crucial.
Types of IT Support Specialist Careers
There are tons of career paths for IT support specialists. From entry-level tech-support jobs to senior tech-related positions, this field offers a variety of focuses. Below are some of the most common types of IT support specialist positions.
Network Support Specialist
Similar to IT support specialists, network support specialists deal with network-related tasks such as troubleshooting, maintaining network security, and analyzing network issues. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for network support specialists is $65,450.
Computer User Support Specialist
A computer user support specialist is essentially a customer support specialist who deals with customers’ questions, responds to email requests, and assists users with technology issues. According to BLS, the average salary for computer user support specialists is $52,690.
Senior Technical Support Specialist
A senior technical support specialist manages and leads the IT support teams. The job also includes several administrative tasks like project management, recruitment, and job training for junior IT support staff. According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual salary for a senior technical support specialist is $65,086.
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IT Support Specialist Meaning: What Does an IT Support Specialist Do?
IT support specialists’ main responsibilities include analyzing, troubleshooting, and maintaining current computer systems. The list below further explains the tasks performed by IT support specialists.
As an IT support specialist, your primary responsibilities include devising system development and maintenance plans, troubleshooting systems, and suggesting system improvement solutions that follow industry-standard guidelines.
IT support specialists also work as help-desk technicians who provide customer support by sending email responses, chatting online, and calling clients to respond to tech queries. Depending on the industry of employment, IT support specialists also train users and provide recommended problem-solving steps for business-specific computer programs.
Data Backup and Recovery
IT support specialists conduct regular database maintenance and perform file backups and other data recovery duties.
Essential IT Support Specialist Skills
To succeed as an IT support specialist, it is crucial to have a certain set of skills. The wide range of skills used in this profession is relevant in several fields. Some of the main skills required are as follows.
The most essential skills for an IT support specialist are IT skills, which can include network security, maintenance, data skills, knowledge of wide area networks (WANs) and local area networks (LANs), and system troubleshooting skills.
Customer Support Skills
Many of the duties required for this profession involve working with people. Customer support skills enable IT support specialists to communicate about tech-related issues, which can be a difficult and confusing task when it involves people who are not familiar with this field. You should be prepared to answer all questions and concerns customers have.
IT support specialists require excellent communication skills, not only to provide great customer service but also to collaborate with software developers and business clients.
How Long Does It Take to Become an IT Support Specialist?
Typically, it takes between three to five years to become an IT support specialist. However, the amount of time it takes mainly depends on the level of education you’re aiming for. It also depends on the requirements of the company you want to work with, as requirements will vary.
If you’re aiming for an Associate Degree in Computer Science, it will take about two to three years from the time you start your education to the time you’re ready to look for a job. If you decide to go for a bachelor’s degree, you would be looking at about four to five years until you’re job-ready. You can also attend a coding bootcamp, which can accelerate your preparation.
Can a Coding Bootcamp Help Me Become an IT Support Specialist?
Yes, a coding bootcamp can help you become an IT support specialist. A coding bootcamp is a short, technical skills training program that helps get you ready for a job in the tech world. Coding bootcamps offer an array of job preparation services including interview prep, resume review, and portfolio-building assistance.
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Several bootcamps also provide a job guarantee. This means they offer a full tuition refund if you fail to secure a job within six months of graduation. Check out some of the best information technology bootcamps to get started.
Can I Become an IT Support Specialist from Home?
Yes, you can become an IT support specialist from home by getting an online Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or attending an online coding bootcamp if you already have a degree or tech experience. You can also enroll in relevant, online computer-related classes offered by MOOC platforms like Udemy and Coursera to acquire the needed skills.
How to Become an IT Support Specialist: A Step-by-Step Guide
If becoming an IT support specialist interests you, follow the three basic steps provided below.
Step 1: Get an IT Education
The educational requirements for an IT support specialist vary depending on the industry and company you’re working for. Most companies prefer a bachelor’s degree or an associate degree with additional training. While any IT-related degree will suffice, most IT support specialists earn their degrees in computer science or computer engineering.
Step 2: Get Advanced Certification in the IT Field
The next step is to enhance your resume by taking different certification exams. You can get certifications in things like systems design, network troubleshooting, and other IT support specialist skills.
Step 3: Apply for an Entry-Level IT Support Specialist Job
Once you have the essential skills and educational background, it’s time to apply for an entry-level position in IT support. You can visit company websites or job search websites such as Indeed, LinkedIn, and Glassdoor to apply for jobs. You may not even have to go to work at an in-person office because, in many cases, all you need for the job is a stable Internet connection.
Best Schools and Education for an IT Support Specialist Career
There are many great schools and educational pathways for becoming an IT support specialist. Listed below are some of the different routes you can take after getting your high school diploma.
IT Support Specialist Bootcamps
IT support specialist bootcamps include information technology bootcamps like Coder Academy, DevBootcamp, and Atlanta Code. You can even tailor your search to look for a bootcamp that offers job placement assistance and payment plans.
Vocational schools are higher education institutions that provide skills training for jobs in hands-on fields. You can enroll in a computer science program at a vocational school to gain the education needed for this profession.
A community college is an alternative to a traditional university. Community colleges are much more affordable than four-year universities, and they offer a variety of associate degree and certificate programs. You can get an Associate Degree in Information Technology, Computer Science, or another IT-related focus, which would take about two years.
The best community colleges for computer science and other related subjects are Community College of Philadelphia and Massachusetts Bay Community College.
IT Support Specialist Degrees
The most popular educational route for becoming an IT support specialist is to earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology or Computer Science. The degree program will take about four years to complete, and will get you completely job-ready.
You can also get a Master’s Degree in Computer Science, which would take an additional two years. However, that isn’t usually necessary unless you’re aiming for a senior IT position right after graduation.
The Most Important IT Support Specialist Certifications
While some companies might prefer or even require certain certifications, typically it isn’t a mandatory requirement. However, pursuing a professional certification is a great way to stand out to employers, especially if you don’t have a postsecondary degree.
Below are some of the best IT support certifications you can get.
CompTIA Security+ Certification
The CompTIA Security+ certification is ideal for those leaning towards a career in information security or cyber security. The certification covers troubleshooting, cloud monitoring, security events, and security solutions. Once you’ve earned Security+, you’ll have to accumulate continuing education credits to keep the certification in good standing.
ETA Information Technology Security (ITS) Certification
ETA’s Information Technology Security (ITS) is an advanced credential that requires you to have a CompTIA Security+ certification, and is best suited for IT support specialists looking to advance their careers in cyber security. The cyber security topics that ITS focuses on include software security measures, cryptography, disaster recovery, and virus mitigation.
Google IT Support Professional Certificate
Not a professional certification but rather an online certificate program, this bundle of five Coursera courses provides you with entry-level skills required for an IT support position. You will learn about the network model and gain skills in debugging, customer support, Linux, troubleshooting, and cloud computing.
How to Prepare for Your IT Support Specialist Job Interview
To prepare for your IT support specialist job interview, you’ll need to brush up on your relevant IT knowledge and skills, and research your potential employer’s IT systems. Below are some of the most common questions candidates are asked during the interview.
IT Support Specialist Job Interview Practice Questions
- What projects have you done that involve network and hardware security and maintenance?
- Tell us about our IT products and systems and how you would provide optimal tech support for them.
- Are you aware of the latest information technology software and trends? If so, please provide us with some examples.
- How would you react to a frustrated customer in a real-time online chat?
Should I Become an IT Support Specialist in 2021?
If this is a field that interests you, it’s an excellent career choice. As technology continues to advance, and many aspects of life continue to move online, the demand for IT support specialists will continue to increase. This high-paying, future-proof career offers stability, opportunities for advancement, and a solid base from which you can explore other areas of IT.
IT Support Specialist FAQ
Yes, you can become an IT support specialist without a degree by attending information technology bootcamps, or enrolling in online computer science courses. You can also get a professional certification to start your career journey. However, it’s important to note that most employers will require either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree.
Opinions vary on whether or not it is hard to become an IT support specialist. However, it does require less formal education than many jobs in the tech industry. If this is a field you’re interested in, there is nothing stopping you from giving it a try.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary of a computer support specialist is around $55,510 per year. However, network support specialist jobs pay slightly more than user support specialist jobs. While the latter type of IT support specialist makes an average of $52,690 per year, the former earns $65,450.
IT support specialists are required to have skills of the technical and customer service variety, including analytical skills, interpersonal skills, IT understanding, and problem-solving skills.
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