The field of information technology (IT) includes a wide range of computer support specialties. IT contractors are typically self-employed experts or specialists within the field who help people, companies, and organizations with their computer hardware and software needs. They may run tests, perform maintenance, correct problems, provide Internet-related help, or carryout other tasks associated with hardware and software.
IT contractors work in computer-enabled office settings, which sometimes allows them to complete their job duties from home. More specialized contractors may have to travel to clients' businesses and homes. It contractors are usually available beyond typical office hours and workdays to ensure their clients' systems run smoothly.
Career Info and Skills
|Degree Level||Bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Computer science, information technology, or information systems|
|Experience||8-10 years for senior positions|
|Training||Entry-level positions may require on-the-job training|
|Licensure and Certification||Employers may require professional certifications like the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or Citrix Certified Enterprise Administrator|
|Key Skills||Extensive knowledge of operating systems, OS networking software, database, archival, and configuration management software; written and verbal communication skills|
|Salary||$52,430 (2015 median for computer user support specialists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May, 2015)
IT contractors must have extensive knowledge of operating systems and database and archival, configuration management, and networking software. They also need good oral and written communication skills. Entry-level contractors may recieve on-the-job training. Senior positions may require 8-10 years of prior experience in IT. Computer support specialists in general can look for a 12%, or faster-than-average, growth in employment from 2014-2024, based on projections made by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As of May 2015, computer support specialists earned an average of $52,430 a year.
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Step 1: Bachelor's Degree
IT contractors usually have at least a bachelor's degree in computer science, information technology, or information systems. Many colleges and universities offer programs that lead to a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering and that allow for a focus on computer science or computer engineering. Courses usually include the study of computer architecture, algorithms, information systems design, and software engineering. Community colleges and professional organizations may also offer training in IT.
- Consider an internship to acquire technical skills and gain practical experience working with computers.
- Develop a portfolio of projects and recommendations to show prospective clients, which can help aspiring IT contractors develop a client base.
Step 2: Client Base
IT contractors often work on a freelance basis, so they must know how to build and maintain professional relationships. Networking skills are important for freelance IT contractors because they are responsible for advertising and finding their own work. Some acquire clients by word-of-mouth. Because virtually every industry relies heavily on computers, IT contractors may find freelance opportunities almost anywhere, whether working for companies or individuals.
- Learn how to manage your earnings. Self-employed professionals may be responsible for their own invoicing and billing, so math skills and organizational skills are valuable. As a contractor's client base grows, he or she may find it helpful to gain familiarity with personal accounting software.
Step 3: Certifications
Depending on their client bases or employers, some IT contractors may need professional certifications, such as the Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert (MCSE) or Citrix Certified Professional. Because technology is constantly changing, IT contractors are responsible for keeping their knowledge and skills up-to-date in order to remain competitive in the field. IT contractors may receive updated training through colleges and universities, hardware and software manufacturers, or companies like Microsoft and Cisco. Training can lead to specialty certifications, which may be valid for a predetermined intervals before recertification is necessary.
Let's review. IT contractors usually hold a bachelor's degree in information technology, information systems, or computer science and professional certifications. Those who've developed a client base may earn an average annual salary of $52,430.