Computer support technicians are the first line of support for customers facing computer issues. Professionals in this role spend their day working directly with customers over the phone, online chat or in-person to help solve a variety of computer problems.
Some technicians work in call-centers assisting external customers, while others work for corporations assisting internal customers with application or software related problems. Still yet, there is another group of computer support technicians who specialize in network troubleshooting. The field of computer support is vast and has many advancement opportunities.
What does a computer support technician do?
Computer support technicians handle some of the most complex computer problems. From login issues to failed hard drives and everything in between, these tech wizards know how to solve just about any computer problem. Computer support technicians, sometimes known as help desk technicians, assist non-IT customers by helping them resolve issues with their computers. Computer support technicians spend their day listening to customers’ issues and asking questions to diagnose the problem. The technician then communicates the solution to the customer and walks them step-by-step through the process to fix the issue. Some of the issues technicians may handle include problems with applications such as word processing software, issues with specialized software as in accounting or healthcare management or hardware issues such as printers and hard drives. As such, technicians are experts in the software and systems they support. They have intricate knowledge of the inner workings of these systems. Some computer support technicians deal with the hardware itself as part of troubleshooting, although depends on the employer.
Training is another critical aspect of the computer support technician’s diverse role. Many times, customers require assistance using existing or new features of a system. The technician may explain or demonstrate how to use specific features and show customers how they can get the best use from those features. Customer support technicians sometimes provide installation and configuration for computer systems. Their role may also include general maintenance tasks such as performing system upgrades and security updates.
While some computer support specialists are generalists, others specialize in network troubleshooting. Sometimes referred to as network support technicians, they handle problems related to devices on the network such as routers, switches and servers. These technicians often do not work directly with customers. They may work under the direction of a systems administrator setting up new equipment, performing routine maintenance tasks, applying security fixes or analyzing network performance issues. As such, this type of role is highly technical and may require more formalized education and advanced training.
Where Computer Support Technicians Work
With technology so prevalent, you will find Computer Support Technicians working in just about any industry. Some work in call centers walking customers through tasks such as establishing an internet connection, troubleshooting issues with email, or setting up a home Wi-Fi router. Others may work in the healthcare industry supporting systems used by hospitals and physician’s offices. Others work in the field of education supporting learning management systems used by teachers. Much of the troubleshooting computer support technicians perform takes place remotely. Most times, they can help the customer over the phone or email. Depending on the severity of the problem, a technician may use specialized software that allows them to see the customer’s computer so that they can get a better understanding of the problem. There are rare occasions when a Computer Support Technician must make an in-person visit to a customer to perform a physical repair such as a printer or hard drive.
Essential Qualities for a Computer Support Technician
Customer service skills rank number one of the list of qualities of a good support technician. Often, customers are frustrated when they run into issues with their computer. The technician must maintain a positive attitude and help their customers courteously and professionally. Computer Support Technicians are great listeners. They must patiently listen to the customer explain their problem, ask the right questions, and sort through that information to analyze the situation and diagnose the problem. This ability to analyze information, evaluate options and come up with a solution is what makes computer support technicians master problem solvers. It is a skill that helps them quickly determine the problem and recommend a solution that solves the problem.
Explaining the solution to the customer requires solid communication skills to ensure the customer understands the solution. They may even explain information that helps the customer either avoid the problem or offer advice on what to do should the issue occur again.
How to Become a Computer Support Technician
There is no set standard for preparing for a career as a computer support technician. Requirements vary by company and by industry. Companies that provide a product or service may require certifications in the product they use. Certifications are credentials vendors offer that validates the technician’s knowledge of a particular product or service. Technicians often undergo in-depth training and must pass a comprehensive test to earn the certification. Some companies place more emphasis on knowledge and hands-on experience and may only require a vocational certificate. Highly technical industries, however, such as engineering, healthcare and manufacturing require formalized training via a post-secondary degree program. As technology evolves, technicians must learn new tools and often continue their education through additional classes and seminars. Anyone in a technology and design career must always stay on top of new programs and technology to stay competitive in the job market.
Salary & Job Outlook for Computer Support Technicians
While salaries vary widely by industry, in general, the median average wage for a computer support technician is $50,210. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), in 2017, the lowest ten percent of computer support technicians earned less than $36,960 while the highest ten percent brought in over $105,230. Technicians working in the telecommunications industry received the highest median wage of $69,610. Those working in finance and insurance earned $64,000. Support technicians for software publishers earned a median salary of $54,860, and those working in education earned a median wage of $46,880.
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