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What Computer Support Specialists Do About this section

Computer support specialists
Network support specialists analyze, troubleshoot, and maintain computer networks.

Computer support specialists assist computer users and organizations. These specialists either maintain computer networks or provide technical help directly to computer users.

Duties

Computer network support specialists typically do the following:

  • Test and evaluate existing network systems
  • Perform regular maintenance to ensure that networks operate correctly
  • Troubleshoot local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Internet systems

Computer network support specialists analyze and troubleshoot computer network problems. They have an important role in the daily, weekly, or monthly maintenance of their organization’s networks. This maintenance may be routine or part of the organization’s disaster recovery efforts. Network support specialists also may assist computer users through phone, email, or in-person visits. They often work under the direction of network and computer systems administrators, who handle more complex tasks.

Computer user support specialists typically do the following:

  • Analyze customers’ computer problem to diagnose it and determine the cause
  • Document customers’ descriptions of their computer problems
  • Guide customers through the recommended problem-solving steps
  • Set up or repair computer equipment and related devices
  • Install and train users on new hardware or software
  • Inform team members and managers of major problems or of customers’ recurring concerns

Computer user support specialists, also called help-desk technicians, usually provide technical help to non-IT computer users. They respond to requests for help in a number of ways, such as in person or by phone, online chat, or email.

Help-desk technicians solve a range of problems that vary with the industry and the particular firm. Some technicians work for large software companies or for support service firms and instruct business customers in the use of business-specific programs, such as an electronic health records program used in hospitals or physicians’ offices.

Other help-desk technicians work in call centers and take customers through a problem step by step, such as to reestablish an Internet connection or to troubleshoot Wi-Fi routers or other household IT products.

Work Environment About this section

Computer support specialists
Computer support specialists work for a variety of industries.

Computer network support specialists held about 189,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of computer network support specialists were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 20%
Telecommunications 12
Finance and insurance 8
Management of companies and enterprises 6
Data processing, hosting, and related services 3

Computer user support specialists held about 654,800 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of computer user support specialists were as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 23%
Educational services; state, local, and private 12
Management of companies and enterprises 5
Software publishers 4
Temporary help services 3

Some computer support specialists are able to telework. Others must be onsite or may need to travel to clients’ locations.

Work Schedules

Most computer support specialists work full time. Because computer support services may need to be available 24 hours a day, some specialists work nights or weekends.

How to Become a Computer Support Specialist About this section

Computer support specialists
Communication skills are important for computer support specialists.

Entry requirements vary for computer support specialists. Network support specialists typically need an associate’s degree, and user support specialists typically need to complete some college courses. However, candidates for either type of position may qualify with a high school diploma plus relevant information technology (IT) certifications.

Education

Education requirements for computer support specialists vary. Computer user support specialist jobs require some computer knowledge but not necessarily a college degree. Applicants who have taken courses in areas such as networking, server administration, and information security may qualify for these jobs. For computer network support specialists, employers may accept applicants who have an associate’s degree, although some prefer that applicants have a bachelor’s degree.

Large software companies that provide support to business users who buy their products or services may require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree. Positions that are more technical are likely to require a degree in a field such as computer and information technology or engineering. For others, the applicant’s field of degree is less important.

To keep up with changes in technology, computer support specialists may need to continue their education throughout their careers.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Certification programs are generally offered by vendors or from vendor-neutral certification providers. Certification validates the knowledge of and best practices required by computer support specialists. Companies may require their computer support specialists to hold certifications in the products the companies use. Other types of certifications, such as CompTIA A+, may be a helpful starting point for workers seeking entry into the occupation.

Advancement

Many computer support specialists advance to other information technology positions, such as information security analysts, network and computer systems administrators and software developers. Some become managers in the computer support services department. Some organizations provide paths for support specialists to move into other parts of the organization, such as sales.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Computer support specialists must clearly convey information, both orally and in writing. They must describe solutions to computer problems in way that nontechnical users can understand.

Customer-service skills. Computer support specialists must be patient and sympathetic. They often help people who are frustrated trying to use software or hardware.

Listening skills. Support workers must be able to understand the problems that their customers are describing and know when to ask questions for clarification.

Problem-solving skills. Support workers must identify both simple and complex computer problems and then analyze and solve them.

Pay About this section

Computer Support Specialists

Median annual wages, May 2021

Computer occupations

$97,430

Computer network support specialists

$62,760

Computer support specialists

$57,910

Computer user support specialists

$49,770

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for computer network support specialists was $62,760 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $38,560, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,410.

The median annual wage for computer user support specialists was $49,770 in May 2021. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $34,220, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,060.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for computer network support specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Telecommunications $76,910
Finance and insurance 74,920
Management of companies and enterprises 66,500
Data processing, hosting, and related services 62,460
Computer systems design and related services 61,390

In May 2021, the median annual wages for computer user support specialists in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Software publishers $59,830
Management of companies and enterprises 58,430
Computer systems design and related services 48,540
Educational services; state, local, and private 48,530
Temporary help services 46,680

Most computer support specialists work full time. Because computer support services may need to be available 24 hours a day, some specialists work nights or weekends.

Job Outlook About this section

Computer Support Specialists

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Computer occupations

13%

Computer user support specialists

9%

Computer support specialists

9%

Total, all occupations

8%

Computer network support specialists

7%

 

Overall employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 9 percent from 2020 to 2030, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

About 70,400 openings for computer support specialists are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

More support services will be needed as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software. Computer support staff will be needed to respond to the installation and repair requirements of increasingly complex computer equipment and software. However, a rise in cloud computing could increase the productivity of computer support specialists, slowing their growth at many firms. Smaller businesses that do not have information technology (IT) departments will contract services from IT consulting firms and increase the demand for computer support specialists in those firms.

Employment growth also may come from demand for IT support services from healthcare industries. As this field continues to increase its use of IT, support services will be crucial to keep everything running properly.

Employment projections data for computer support specialists, 2020-30
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2020 Projected Employment, 2030 Change, 2020-30 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Computer support specialists

15-1230 844,600 916,800 9 72,200 Get data

Computer network support specialists

15-1231 189,800 204,000 7 14,200 Get data

Computer user support specialists

15-1232 654,800 712,800 9 58,000 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about computer support specialists, visit

Association of Support Professionals

Help Desk Institute (HDI)

Technology Services Industry Association

For more information about computer careers, visit

Association for Computing Machinery

Computing Research Association

Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)

IEEE Computer Society

For information about opportunities for women pursuing information technology careers, visit

National Center for Women & Information Technology

O*NET

Computer Network Support Specialists

Computer User Support Specialists

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