Should I Be a Computer Specialist?
Business computer specialists provide technical support to a variety of industries. They often work as consultants for companies that don't have their own in-house technology department. Job duties may include creating efficient computer networks, updating existing computer systems, and installing hardware or software. Computer specialists may also provide general support and maintenance, assist with data backup and protection, and ensure the secure transmission of information.
Computer support specialists, including business computer specialists, usually work full-time and spend almost all of their work hours on computers. Business computer specialists may work for service companies that provide computer support on a contract basis; as a result, such specialists may work with several companies at a time, meeting their support needs as they arise. Some local travel to various businesses may be required.
To get started in this career an associate's or bachelor's degree in a field like computer science, information systems or a related discipline. Additionally, 2-7 years of experience is commonly required. While not required, voluntary certification is available.
Key skills that business computer specialists need include knowledge of Mac and PC operating systems and software; desktop communications, query and configuration management software; mainframe computer, networking and database user interface experience; and familiarity with hard disk arrays, computer tool kits, and network analyzers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2015 computer support specialists earned a median annual wage of $51,470
Steps to Getting Into this Career
What are the steps to become a computer specialist?
Step 1: Earn a Certificate or a Degree
Most computer specialist positions require an associate's or bachelor's degree, depending on the depth of duties and employer; however, some employers only require some postsecondary work. Training is typically conducted on the job, but completing a certificate or degree program may increase earning potential.
Many community colleges and technical schools offer certificate, associate's and bachelor's degree programs for aspiring computer specialists. Students can learn how to create, enhance and maintain information systems for businesses. Coursework may include topics like computer programming, database management and Web design.
To really shine in your degree program, develop technical skills through an internship. If available through the training program, internships are valuable resources to obtain practical information while in school. These opportunities typically occur in the student's last semester and are supervised in a company setting. Students can also seek internships by inquiring through their academic department.
Step 2: Consider Professional Certification
Certification is offered by trade organizations or product vendors and can help validate an employee's skills. Candidates may choose to become certified in specific software, hardware systems or computer processes. Professional organizations such as IEEE and the Institute for the Certification of Computing Professionals offer general certifications, while vendors including Microsoft, Apple, Cisco and Oracle provide certification programs for a wide variety of their products and technologies. There are also a number of third-party groups that train and certify IT professionals, such as The Open Group and New Horizons. Specialists should verify the length of certification and follow any recertification requirements upon expiration.
Step 3: Continue Education
Computer business specialists can stay abreast of new technologies, computer systems and programming languages by enrolling in continuing education classes. While advancement may depend primarily on job performance, continuing education as the industry changes and obtaining additional certifications are often important as well. Computer specialists that obtain advanced degrees or certifications may increase their chance for promotion to managerial or supervisory positions after gaining experience.
To review, with an associate's or bachelor's degree in computer science and several years of experience, business computer specialists make about $51,000 a year to provide technical support to a variety of industries.