Many companies hire professionals to maintain the computer hardware, systems and networks they rely on. For most of these positions, companies look for candidates with at least a bachelor's degree relating to computer technology, and some jobs require a master's degree. Professional certification can prove proficiency in certain areas as well.
Computer maintenance professionals install, configure and repair computer hardware, software and network systems. Entering the field requires a high school diploma, as well as at least some college coursework. Some professionals may benefit from earning a degree in computer science, engineering or a related field.
|Career||Network and Computer System Administrator||Computer Network Architect||Computer Hardware Engineer|
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree usually required||Bachelor's degree usually required||Bachelor's degree usually required|
|Other Requirements||Certifications for specific products are available||Related work experience||An MBA or master's in computer engineering may be required for larger firms|
|Projected Growth (2014-2024)*||8%||9%||3%|
|Median Salary (2015)*||$77,810||$100,240||$111,730|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
There are a variety of career options within the field of computer maintenance. Computer engineering technicians assist with the maintenance of computer hardware systems and software programs. Field service technicians and computer repair professionals install, configure, upgrade and maintain computer hardware and systems.
Network and Computer System Administrators
Network administrators design, install and manage networked computer systems. They are responsible for determining how an organization should utilize its network for optimal potential. These workers usually a bachelor's degree. Specialized certifications are available but not required.
Computer Network Architect
These tech professionals design and construct computer networks for a variety purposes. These networks can range from small intranet connections to larger WANs and LANs. Most employers expect a bachelor's degree. Experience in a related computer field is strongly considered during the hiring process.
Computer Hardware Engineer
Hardware engineers work more with the physical components of computer networks. These professionals are often in charge of developing new pieces of technology to advance computer systems. Many of these workers have master's degrees in addition to their bachelor's degrees.
Salary and Outlook Information
Just as the duties of professionals in the field of computer maintenance vary greatly, salaries and job opportunities do as well. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual earnings of network and computer systems administrators were $77,810 as of May 2015. The BLS also reports that overall employment of these professionals is expected to increase by 8% between the years of 2014 and 2024.
A student interested in any computer maintenance career should begin by earning a high school diploma. High school students should complete elective coursework in topics like computer technology, web design and computer programming. Associate's degree programs in computer repair, network engineering technology or computer support can prepare students for entry-level careers in network administration or computer maintenance. In these programs, students learn how to install and maintain computer and network hardware components and software programs. In addition, students in an associate's degree program may complete coursework in:
- Microcomputer applications
- Wireless network installation
- Network security
- Microsoft and Cisco networking technologies
Students interested in advanced networking or computer repair careers should consider earning a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology or a related field. These programs will include additional coursework in fundamental computer repair topics, as well as general theory courses that will prepare students to adapt to changing technologies. While bachelor's degrees aren't required for all careers, they may help increase career opportunities and earning potential.
Additional Education Options
In addition to programs offered by community colleges, technical institutes and 4-year colleges and universities, a variety of hardware and software companies offer certifications that demonstrate proficiency in the use of their products. Microsoft, for example, offers a variety of certifications for professionals experienced in the use of its operating systems and software tools. Professional certifications often require completion of an exam or other demonstrated experience.
For any of these careers, strong computer skills are a must, and a degree is required. However, the perpetual technological innovation can be tricky to keep up with. Certifications are a powerful way for candidates to let employers know that they are proficient in the latest technology.