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Help Desk Technician Jobs: Career Options and Requirements

Help desk technicians require little formal education. Learn about the degree options, job duties and certification to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Help desk technicians are trained to address computer problems through e-mail and telephone instruction to customers. They may possess education from a technical school or hold an associate or bachelor's degree in a major related to computer science. In addition to a deep understanding of computer systems, help desk technicians should possess satisfactory customer service skills.

Required Education Associate's degree or technical diploma suggested for all but the lowest-level positions
Other Requirements CompTIA A+ Computer Troubleshooting Certification recommended
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022) 20% (for computer user support specialists)*
Average Salary (2013) $50,450 (for computer user support specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Help Desk Technician Career Options

Help desk technicians provide help with technical problems experienced by computer users. Technicians are versed in customer service techniques as well as technical experience and must be prepared to handle a variety of technical issues and customer complaints. Generally, help desk technicians work on the telephone or via e-mail to resolve hardware and software problems for customers. They are trained to diagnose technical issues and instruct customers on how to fix the problem. This process requires technical knowledge, the ability to troubleshoot and the patience to work with potentially upset or angry customers. Trained help desk technicians may find work as:

  • Call center representatives
  • End user support personnel
  • Hardware or software support technicians
  • Application specialists

Help Desk Technician Education Requirements

Help desk technician training is offered though programs at technical schools, community colleges and universities. A program may be a 1-year technical diploma, a certificate or a continuing education credit that can be earned in six weeks or two semesters. Many educational programs feature help desk internships which allow students to practice their new skills in a work environment. Courses that prepare students to handle the variety of problems encountered at a help desk may include:

  • Configuring software and hardware
  • Information systems
  • Installing upgrades
  • Network fundamentals
  • Troubleshooting and repair
  • Customer service
  • Communication
  • Spyware

Certification

Some technical schools and colleges design their curricula to prepare students to take the CompTIA A+ Computer Troubleshooting Certification. The CompTIA credential meets industry standards and is a compulsory requirement in many corporations, including Microsoft, Cisco and Hewlett-Packard. Certification is earned after technicians pass two exams and complete 500 hours of technical field experience.

Career Advancement

Help desk support professionals may expand their career options by acquiring an associate or bachelor's degree in computer science, systems or network administration or other computer-related majors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for computer user support specialists, including help desk technicians, is expected to increase 20% between 2012 to 2022 (www.bls.gov). The BLS warns that the corporate practice of outsourcing jobs might diminish job growth in this area. However, this trend may soon be reversed as many companies in recent years have begun establishing call centers in lower-income areas in the United States. Employees who possess college degrees in a computer science or related major may have the best chance to secure jobs and advancement in the field.

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