Career Definition for a Personal Computer Support Technician
Personal computer support technicians answer consumer questions, install and repair hardware components, troubleshoot networking problems and install software. They perform a wide range of tasks, from clarifying simple concepts for naive users to helping recover data after a catastrophic hard drive crash. Hardware manufacturers and software companies hire personal computer support technicians to handle phone and online queries about their own products and most larger institutions find it cost-effective to hire their own technical staff to handle employees' computer support issues. Many support technicians start out in general user support or on a help desk, and as they gain experience, they may be promoted into positions requiring more specialized knowledge.
|Education||Bachelor's degree in computer science or information systems recommended; associate degree or certificate may be acceptable|
|Job Skills||Problem solving, mechanical dexterity, exposure to many computer platforms and applications|
|Median Salary (2017)*||$52,810 for computer support specialists|
|Job Growth (2016-2026)*||11% for computer support specialists|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Many employers prefer PC support technicians, especially those specializing in hardware or networking, to have a bachelor's degree in computer science or information systems, along with several years of experience with computers. An applicant with an associate degree in a computer field or a certificate from a technical program may be considered for a help desk job or a support position of limited scope. Employers may conduct their own training on proprietary hardware or software. Due to the rapid evolution of computer technology, personal computer support technicians must keep informed of current trends in order to stay effective.
The ability to communicate with computer users and the problem-solving skill to correctly diagnose problems are key elements in personal computer support technology. Hardware specialists need mechanical dexterity and familiarity with computer components. Generally speaking, all support technicians would benefit from a broad exposure to as many computer platforms and applications as possible.
Economic Outlook and Career Growth
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage in 2017 for all computer support technicians was $52,810. Jobs in computer support technology are projected to grow faster than average, at 11%, compared to all other jobs for the decade 2016-2026.
Here are a couple of other options for careers in computer support:
Those who want more responsibilities in setting up and maintaining networks should consider a career in network administration. Network administrators analyze the computer needs of an organization, acquire and install software and equipment, monitor network security, grant access to new users and run performance tests. They are also skilled in making necessary repairs and modifications to hardware and software.
To gain employment, a bachelor's degree in a computer science related field is most often required, but some employers may hire workers with a technical certificate and work experience. Based on data from the BLS, computer systems and network administrators should experience 6% job growth between 2016 and 2026. In May of 2018, the BLS estimated the median yearly salary of these professionals to be $82,050.
Computer Network Architect
If designing computer networks instead of monitoring them seems more appealing, becoming a computer network architect may be a good career choice. Computer architects draw out the design plans for networks and other communication systems, choose what equipment is necessary, convince management personnel to approve projects, configure where all computer components and cables will be placed and plan for future modifications to the network.
A bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering or a related field is required to enter this profession, and past experience working with computers is necessary. Additionally, some employers may prefer candidates who have earned a master's degree in business administration with an information systems focus. According to BLS figures from 2018, computer network architects received a median income of $109,020. The BLS also projects a 6% increase in employment of these architects from 2016-2026.