Shall I Be a Computer Technician?
Computer technicians, also known as computer support specialists, service computers and provide support to computer users. Support is provided electronically or by phone to resolve issues with hardware, software, operating systems and printers. Some techs are able to work from home, while others might have to travel to clients' homes or places of work. Some of these professionals work during the night for companies that offer services around the clock.
|Degree Level||Varies by position; employers may prefer a bachelor's degree|
|Degree Field||Computer science, information science or a related field|
|Certification||Voluntary, may be preferred by employers|
|Key Skills||Written, interpersonal, listening, problem-solving and speaking skills; familiarity with backup, operating system, configuration management, desktop communications and other related software; ability to use network analyzers, computer tool kits, mainframe computers and other related tools|
|Salary (2015)||$51,470 (median salary for computer support specialists)|
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); Job listings (2012); O*Net Online
Steps to Be a Computer Technician
There are several paths to a career as a computer technician.
Step 1: Learn About the Industry
Many aspiring computer techs begin their education by learning about computers on their own. They may take apart and reassemble their own computers in order to understand how all the parts work. They may also learn through the library, by reading industry periodicals, or attending some classes.
Step 2: Pursue Formal Education
Computer techs or support specialists will need different levels of education based on their prospective position. Certificate programs are typically vendor-neutral and focus on such areas as database network administration, network security and application development. Some courses in a certificate program might focus on specific software or a programming language.
Associate's degree programs extend a computer tech's education, and students typically learn about specific software applications and take classes in programming, architecture, systems, concepts and applications. In related bachelor's degree programs, such as computer science, students typically study areas like computer servicing, server administration, network design, logic structures and security management, along with advanced math and general education coursework.
Step 3: Get a Professional Certification
Certification prepares computer techs to work on specific products or with a specific programming language. Some computer specialists pursue the CompTIA A+ certification, which is a vendor-neutral certification that assesses a specialist's competency in installation, preventative maintenance, networking and troubleshooting. Some employers require new computer techs to have the A+ certification. CompTIA also offers certification in networking, security, LINUX and other areas. Computer techs who get certified demonstrate to employers that they have a specific skill set.
Success Tip: Research other certification avenues. Software, systems and hardware developers and vendors offer certifications for their products. Vendors like Microsoft and Cisco offer multiple certifications that prepare technology specialists to work with specific hardware or software.
Step 4: Find Employment
Employment opportunities for computer techs vary based on the level of education they have achieved and the types of certifications earned. Computer techs work in a variety of companies in industries like telecommunications, health care, finance, and education. Technicians with 2-4 years of experience can advance to supervisory positions such as IT service managers.
Success Tip: Take advantage of training. Many companies offer training classes in computer networking and systems. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that computer techs typically receive extensive on-the-job training once employed, usually three months or more depending on the position. Any training or classes offered by an employer benefit a computer tech seeking to advance in the field.
Success Tip: Stay current with the technology. Computer technology changes frequently, which makes it necessary to stay up-to-date on new hardware and software. Computer techs can attend workshops, seminars, and classes as new products and systems are introduced. They can also earn additional certifications and return to school for advanced coursework.
Computer technicians generally have some hands-on familiarity with computers and how they work before completing a postsecondary program that results in a certificate, associate's degree, or a bachelor's degree in the field. Voluntary professional certification is important for employment and career advancement. Computer technicians often participate in on-the-job training and continuing education to maintain their skills.