Information technology is a growing field where candidates can have a long-lasting, rewarding career.
One of the most in-demand positions is a technical support specialist. We look at what a technical support specialist is, what they do, and how to get started in this career path.
What is a Technical Support Specialist?
A technical support specialist provides technical support and assistance to an organization to keep everything running smoothly. The technical support engineer is responsible for maintaining and supporting hardware and software systems for the organization and its customers. The information technology problems they may be called on to solve include performance and connection issues, data access and logins, software and hardware difficulties.
In most cases, the technical support specialist can solve the problems over the phone, through chat, email, or a ticketing system. Occasionally, the technician must go on site to repair, service, or troubleshoot the hardware or IT system. These IT specialists can troubleshoot most problems involving software or computer systems the organization supports. Each technical support specialist should have strong skills in customer service, interpersonal communication, and problem solving.
What Does a Technical Support Specialist Do?
What does the typical day for a technical support engineer look like?
Technical support specialists are trained to understand computer systems and troubleshoot hardware and software issues for end-users. In a typical week, they may help customers solve technical issues, debug a software application, answer questions, help customers install and launch software, and make recommendations to customers or internal teams about hardware or software.
Patience, a calm demeanor, and the ability to walk through an issue with a customer are prime assets for the technical support professional. End users are not always technically-savvy and they may lack the words to properly articulate their problem. The support engineer must be able to deduce what the issue is, even if the way it is described is not crystal-clear.
Not every technical support engineer works directly with consumers. Many are employed internally to help support internal departments. These technical support professionals may test hardware, troubleshoot new software, implement software installations, write documentation, provide feedback to vendors and internal teams, and test IT systems for compatibility with existing systems.
The internal technical support engineer may also train other departments and employees on hardware, software, or IT systems so they can use them efficiently.
Tasks and Responsibilities
These are some of the typical responsibilities for technical support professionals.
- Troubleshooting of devices, networks, hardware, and software.
- Installation of hardware and software for internal devices and systems.
- Answering customer tickets, helping with troubleshooting and debugging.
- Create documentation for software updates and backups.
- Log details or create documentation for technical issues.
- Ensure wired and wireless networks are up and functional, perform routine maintenance and upgrades as scheduled.
- For complicated problems, escalate issues to technical analysts.
- Optimize, document, measure system performance.
- Maintain hardware and software for peak system efficacy.
- Lead design and deployment of servers, directories, wireless, backups, and personal devices.
- Assist department in creating documentation or training material for new technical support hires.
Skills and Aptitudes That Make the Job Easier
Successful technical support specialists possess common characteristics and aptitudes. These make it easy for the IT professional to excel at their job.
Technical knowledge. If the technical support engineer has the necessary training, certifications, and real-world experience, they will have the ability to diagnose problems quickly and find a solution.
Communication skills. Customers facing a technical issue are often distraught or upset. Being able to communicate effectively and analyze their problem while remaining calm and collected is perhaps the most essential skill in this position.
Problem solving. The longer you work in technical support, the more experience you have in seeing different cases, but knowing where to look and how to troubleshoot issues is a vital skill.
Multitasking. The support specialist often has to balance different tasks such as customer technical support, ticket documentation, problem analysis, and task management. The ability to multitask and stay organized is a plus.
Work Environment For Technical Support Specialists
Technical support specialists often work behind a computer, answering support tickets, or on the phone for customer support.
A great deal of time may be spent at a desk, whether at an on-site office or remotely. For certain types of support positions, the support technician may be troubleshooting hardware on-site, at a client site, or at a customer jobs site providing computer or IT system support.
Technical support specialists may work with different aspects of information technology including computer systems, wired or wireless networks, telecommunications, educational services or for internal departments.
Occasionally, the specialist may be called upon to work non-traditional hours (outside of 9 to 5) in order to provide support, or 24/7 coverage at a help desk.
Typical Salary and Job Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects job growth for computer support specialists to be 8% between 2019 and 2029, which is faster than the median of all jobs over the same period.
A 2020 survey by Payscale.com of 298 people reports that an entry-level technical support specialist in the US with less than one year of experience earns a median salary of $41,115 per year.
A May 2020 report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that computer support specialists in the US earn a mean salary of $57,000 per year.
Glassdoor.com in June 2021 shows that technical support specialists earn a median salary of $47,625 per year based on 3,929 workers surveyed in the US.
In June 2021, Indeed.com showed that the median salary for a technical support specialist in California was $53,367 per year based on 720 workers surveyed. Indeed also reported that the median salary for a technical support specialist in the United States as a whole was $43,869 per year (June 2021).
Why Become a Technical Support Specialist?
If you are already a problem-solver, and you enjoy working with technology, this is a natural career choice.
Technical support and information technology jobs are still in high-demand, and growing as companies seek to fill necessary roles. This job outlook will remain strong until the end of the decade.
With more organizations going through digital transformation, and the reliance on networks and cloud computing increasing, this is a relatively safe career choice.
Training to become a technical support specialist also allows the IT professional to work in a variety of work environments. Almost every organization of any size needs internal and/or external technical support for their departments or customer base.
Working as a help desk specialist or technical support engineer also gives you the hands-on experience necessary to advance your career into other positions with more complexity and specialization.
How to Become a Technical Support Specialist
Most employers are looking for candidates with training or hands-on experience. If you are breaking into information technology, it is recommended that you take training and pass fundamental certifications to show you are qualified to employers.
Once you have completed training and earned your certifications, getting hands-on real-world experience will help you move forward into more advanced jobs.
The vendor-neutral certifications that employers look for in entry-level support technicians are:
CompTIA A+. This certification is often required for any entry-level IT position, and covers a wide array of subjects like databases, operating systems, hardware, security, and IT infrastructure.
CompTIA Network+. Certifies that an IT professional can design, configure, manage and troubleshoot both wireless and wired networks.
CompTIA Security+. This certification certifies baseline skills for risk management, threat management, risk mitigation, incident analysis, and intrusion detection.
With these three certifications, an aspiring technical support specialist should be qualified to work most entry level IT jobs.
Ready to Begin your Technology Career?
If starting a technology career sounds appealing to you, MTI College has a Tech Support Specialist certification program at our Sacramento campus. Even if you don’t know anything about technology or tech support, this certification program will teach you all the fundamentals so you can qualify for a job in tech.
Our Technical Support Specialist program will train you for the CompTIA A+ certification, IT fundamentals, database concepts, and more. With the MTI Test Pass Assurance (TPA) program, you can get an A+ certification voucher at no additional cost. Our on-campus Pearson VUE testing center means you can complete your certification tests in a familiar environment that is convenient.
If you have questions, our technology faculty have answers. Our helpful admissions staff is available at: (916) 339-1500. Call us today, we’re here to help you begin a satisfying career in technology.
If you’re ready to take the first step, you can complete your online application now.