Students in computer specialist programs study modern software applications, computer support practices, Internet communication and basic programming theories. There are no formal educational prerequisites needed to apply to a certificate program; however, students may need a working and technical knowledge of basic computer skills.
Students develop analytical and problem-solving skills as they relate to basic computer operations. Associate degree programs prepare graduates for potential internships or entry-level positions, though students may transfer their coursework to bachelor's degree programs in related fields. A high school diploma or GED may be required for admission. Some knowledge of computers is typically required for admission to both program levels.
Computer Specialist Certificate Program
Certificate programs primarily focus on basic technical and computer programming skills, and professional proficiency in certain operating systems. Programs cover basic working computer vocabulary, as well as analytical and creative thinking, problem solving and technical proficiency.
Certificate programs allow students to focus specifically on computer-related topics. Programs combine informative coursework, assignments, classroom discussions, and extensive practical, hands-on experience. Course topics might include:
- Web programming
- College algebra
- Wireless technologies
- Networks and operating systems
Associate Degree in Computer Specialization
Students training to be a computer support specialist can obtain an associate's degree, such as the Associate of Applied Science (AAS) in IT Computer Support Specialist, AAS in Computer Specialist, or AAS in Computer Support Specialist. Programs introduce students to basic operating systems, programming skills, and network technologies.
Associate degree programs incorporate some general educational requirement in other areas, such as the arts and humanities, as well as courses intended for the computer specialist major. Students obtain basic skills and knowledge through courses covering the following:
- Computer applications
- Database management
- Working with visual basic
- Project management
- Computer user support
Popular Career Options
Certificate holders are prepared to seek additional education leading to a variety of careers in computer support or computer-related industries. Some possible career paths include:
- Computer applications technician
- PC technician
- Hardware technician
- Computer sales representative
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an 8% growth in employment for network and computer systems administrators, as well as 12% growth for computer support specialists, from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). In 2015, the BLS reported that computer user support specialists made a median annual salary of $48,620, while network and computer systems administrators made a median annual salary of $77,810.
A certificate is considered a professional credential, not a formal academic degree. Students may consider an associate or bachelor's degree program, which are often necessary for most types of employment. Although bachelor's degree programs to train students as a computer specialist do not currently exist, computer-related degree programs in computer science, computer networking, or information technology are available.
While a professional certificate or associate degree along with some professional experience is sufficient for some positions, a bachelor's degree is typically the preferred minimum educational requirement. Students may consider obtaining a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science, information technology or another closely related field. According to the BLS, advanced degrees can lead to greater job opportunities and a slightly higher starting salary.
Aspiring computer specialists have the option of studying towards a certificate or associate's degree program. Students also have the option to continue their education with a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science or information technology.