Because of the wide range of skills for different computer support jobs, there are many paths into the occupation. A bachelor’s degree is required for some computer support specialist positions, but an associate’s degree or postsecondary classes may be enough for others. After being hired, many workers enter a training program that lasts for several months.
Training requirements for computer support specialists vary, but many employers prefer to hire applicants who have a bachelor’s degree. More technical positions are likely to require a degree in a field such as computer science, engineering, or information science, but for others the applicant’s field of study is less important. Some lower level help-desk jobs or call-center jobs require some computer knowledge, but not necessarily a postsecondary degree.
Computer support specialists usually get on-the-job training after they are hired. For many workers, this training lasts for about 3 months. The training period may be longer for more complex jobs.
To keep up with changes in technology, many computer support specialists continue their training throughout their careers.
Entry-level support specialists often work on simple problems. Over time, they may advance to positions that handle questions on complex software or equipment. Many of these workers advance to other IT positions, such as network and computer systems administrators or software developers. Some become managers in the computer support services department. For more information, see the profiles on network and computer systems administrators and software developers.
Interpersonal skills. Computer support specialists must be patient and sympathetic. They must often help people who are frustrated with the software or hardware they are trying to use.
Listening skills. Support workers must be able to understand the problem that their customer is describing and know when to ask questions to clarify the situation.
Problem-solving skills. Support workers must identify both simple and complex computer problems, analyze them, and provide a proper solution.
Speaking skills. Support workers must describe the solution to a computer problem in a way that a nontechnical person can understand.
Writing skills. Strong writing skills are useful for preparing instructions and email responses for employees and customers.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition