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How to Become a Technical Support Engineer: Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a technical support engineer. Research the education requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in technical support. View article »

  • 0:00 Technical Support Engineer
  • 0:53 Career Requirements
  • 1:42 Career Steps

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Video Transcript

Technical Support Engineer

Technical support engineers, also known as computer support specialists, review and troubleshoot software and hardware problems. This may include installing equipment and training others on new programs. Additionally, technical support engineers may also monitor computer system performance to help end users with software issues.

Full-time schedules are most often required of computer support specialists, though shifts may include evenings, nights and/or weekends to provide technical systems the support they need around the clock. They may be employed by one company or by a firm that provides technical support services to a range of clients. As technology advances, the possibility of being able to telecommute increases, allowing some technical support engineers to work from home.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Computer science, electrical engineering, or related field
Experience 3-5 years
Certification Voluntary
Key Skills Interpersonal, problem-solving, and listening skills; familiarity with operating systems, backup and database software, and use of equipment like mainframe computers, computer tool kits, and network analyzers
Salary $62,250 (2015 median salary for computer network support specialists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net, CareerBuilder.com (January 2013)

Becoming a technical support engineer requires a bachelor's degree in computer science, electrical engineering or a related field. At least 3-5 years of experience is required for most positions, and voluntary certifications are available. Key skills for this position include interpersonal skills; problem-solving skills; listening skills; familiarity with operating systems, backup software and database software; and knowledge of and ability to use equipment like mainframe computers, computer tool kits and network analyzers. In 2015, computer network support specialists earned a median annual wage of $62,250, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Now let's check out the career steps for technical support engineers.

Career Steps

Step 1: Complete a Postsecondary Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics, computer support specialists often need a bachelor's degree, though some employers may hire those with an associate's degree. A survey of positions indicated a strong preference for applicants holding bachelor's degrees.

Common programs include computer engineering, computer science, information systems or a related field. In addition to computer programming languages like C+ and C++, core requirements in the program cover topics in operating systems and database administration. Students also learn to use algorithms in programming, design computer architecture and analyze system performance. Programs may also offer electives in Web design, Internet applications and Java development.

Success Tips

It is important to choose an accredited program. Prospective students may consider programs that are approved by ABET, Inc., formerly the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology. This organization was accrediting programs in computer engineering, computer engineering technology, computer science, information engineering technology, information systems and information technology.

You may also want to complete an internship. An individual may participate in an internship with a local telecommunications business or other organization. Internships allow students to get experience with computer applications, networking and technical support in a professional environment. Additionally, these opportunities may be applied as credit towards earning a degree.

Step 2: Earn Voluntary Credentials

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) has several certifications available in installing and troubleshooting computer systems, hardware and applications. Aspiring technical support engineers may consider earning their CompTIA A+ credential that shows their proficiency with computer systems and may increase employment opportunities. Certification requires successful completion of a qualifying exam.

Step 3: Find Employment

Technical support engineers may find employment with software manufacturers, product developers and technical support departments in businesses, schools and organizations. New hires often begin by assisting experienced technical engineers with modifying computer systems, installing hardware and performing regular maintenance on system applications. As new hires gain experience, they may begin answering telephone inquiries from internal computer users or responding to e-mails from external customers. Additionally, these professionals may also monitor computer systems for efficiency, ensuring that applications, programs and hardware are performing at optimal levels.

Step 4: Gain Continuing Education

According to CompTIA, those earning their credentials must be recertified every three years. Certifications may be renewed by retaking and passing the certification exam or completing CompTIA approved continuing education units. For individuals who hold the CompTIA A+ credential, they will need to complete 20 units. Credit is given for completing approved coursework, attending seminars and publishing papers, among other activities. Individuals must also pay an annual fee. Maintaining certification may give candidates a competitive edge when pursuing advancement opportunities.

To recap, with a postsecondary degree and experience, as well as voluntary certification, a technical support engineer can make about $62,000 a year to review and troubleshoot software and hardware problems.

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