Microcomputer Technology Jobs: Options and Requirements

Degree and training programs in microcomputer technology concentrate on specialized areas of computer development including software creation, hardware design, network engineering, and more. Learn about career options, salary, training and education requirements in this field.

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Microcomputers are small, portable computers. Because of the prevalence of these tiny, powerful devices, many technical jobs have become available with a focus on microcomputers, such as computer support specialists, system administrators, and hardware and software engineers.

Essential Information

The increasing prevalence of microcomputers, also known as personal computers, has led to a vast array of jobs in microcomputer technology. Professionals in this field build hardware, develop software, create information systems, program websites, manage networks or provide technical support.

Job Options Computer Support Specialist System Administrator Hardware Engineer Software Engineer
Required Education Associate's/Certification B.S. Computer Science B.S. Computer Engineering/Electronics B.S. Computer Science
Other Requirements Voluntary certification Certification in Microsoft, Cisco, or other product None Programming skills
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 12% 8% (for network and computer systems administrators) 3% 19% (for applications software developers)
Average Salary (2015) $48,620 $77,810 (for network and computer systems administrators) $111,730 $98,260 (for applications software developers)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov)

Job Options and Requirements in Microcomputer Technology

Computer Support Specialist

Support specialists are customer service workers who specialize in computer hardware, software and applications. They handle phone calls and emails from users who are experiencing difficulty using equipment or programs, answer questions and troubleshoot problems. Support specialists may also perform repairs to machines and systems and are usually responsible for documenting the issues they encounter, along with their solutions. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that jobs for computer support specialists should grow by 12% between 2014 and 2024, about as fast as the national average. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for computer user support specialists was $48,620 in May 2015.

Requirements for Computer Support Specialists

Computer support specialists typically complete a certificate or associate degree program in microcomputer technology or a related field; however, they may also complete a bachelor's degree in a computer related field. Some specialists may begin their careers by becoming certified, or providing proof of technical skills and prior experience.

System Administrators and Analysts

Computer system administrators and analysts have very similar but distinct roles. System analysts review network and computer systems in various companies and business environments and determine ways to improve system quality and efficiency. Computer system administrators install, maintain and support network and Internet systems, run diagnostics to discover and fix problems, and ensure network security. Job positions for network and computer systems administrators should increase by 8% between 2014 and 2024 according to the BLS. As of May 2015, the BLS reports that the median annual salary for system administrators was $77,810.

Requirements for System Administrators and Analysts

System administrators and analysts usually have a bachelor's degree in computer or information science, though some have an associate's degree or certificate. Technically complex work environments may require a system administrator to have a graduate degree in computer science, engineering or information technology.

Hardware Engineer

Computer hardware engineers are involved in all aspects of computer manufacturing, so a hardware engineer might design, build, test, install or repair computer parts like microchips and circuit boards. They must know specific technical information about computer systems and functions, as well as be able to instruct or collaborate with other engineers and technicians. Hardware engineers also contribute to the development of related equipment that must work in conjunction with the hardware, such as processors and drives, and document their work in reports. The BLS reports that job positions for computer hardware engineers will increase by 3% between 2014 and 2024, slower than the national average. The median annual salary for this occupation was $111,730 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Requirements for Hardware Engineers

Computer hardware engineers must have extensive knowledge and a specific skill set, so they usually need at least an undergraduate degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Electronics Engineering and sometimes have a graduate degree, like a Master of Engineering. Computer hardware engineers are typically trained in information technology, networking and microprocessors.

Software Engineer

Computer software engineers, also known as software developers, create and implement the applications and programs that run on microcomputers. They write personal use programs such as those used for word processing and spreadsheets, photo editing and games, as well as system applications like those used for security, cleaning drives and changing settings. Software engineers analyze and create programs based on consumer needs, system compatibility and functionality. Essentially as client preferences and technology continues to evolve, new and different software is needed to keep pace with those changes and engineers are responsible for meeting those needs. Positions for applications software developers, according to the BLS, are expected to grow faster than average with a 19% increase between 2014 and 2024. The BLS reports that the median annual salary for applications software developers was $98,260 in May 2015.

Requirements for Software Engineers

Computer software engineers require a solid background in computer science and mathematics, and usually have a bachelor's degree. Students in these programs take courses in electronics, networks, mathematics and communications. Software engineers typically complete certification through vendors, such as Microsoft, to demonstrate competence in the field.

The growth rate for software engineers exceeds that of the national average of all occupations. Systems administrators and computer support specialists should also expect a positive job market over the next decade. In addition, qualified computer support specialists may be able to advance into software engineering or systems administration positions.

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