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How to become an IT support specialist

Male IT professional holding a tablet and smiling, women working in the background

At a glance

  • IT support specialists troubleshoot technical problems and provide routine maintenance to network and computer systems.
  • The main responsibilities can be divided into network support and computer user support.
  • IT technicians need a range of hard and soft skills, technical certifications and typically at least an associate degree in an IT field to qualify for employment.
  • University of Phoenix offers an Associate of Arts in Information Technology as well as single courses in information technology that can help provide an educational foundation to pursue this career.

The role of an IT support specialist

The main responsibilities of tech support specialists can be divided into two categories according to the end users they serve. Computer network support specialists serve internal employees while computer user support specialists serve external users (customers).

The responsibilities of computer network support specialists involve providing technical support to help to diagnose and resolve issues with a business’s computer systems or local area network. Meanwhile, computer user support specialists assist a company’s outside customers who need help using a computer-based product such as an operating system.

  • Internal support: Professionals provide support to employees having computer issues. They also help set up new computers, including creating necessary accounts and designating the account’s role in the overall network. 
  • External support: IT support specialists who offer services for external customers typically help troubleshoot issues these clients have with computer hardware or software. Specialists need good customer service skills, since they may be dealing with frustrated people who may not be the best at describing their problems.

Prepare for an IT career — and have the freedom to learn when you want online, 24/7/365.

 

Skills needed to be an IT support specialist

To be successful and excel in a career as an tech support specialist, you need a mix of skills: hard skills that are specific to the field and soft skills that are desirable for a range of careers. Important hard skills include:

  • Programming language knowledge: Being proficient in common programming languages can help you troubleshoot issues with software and develop and apply solutions to existing problems.
  • Technical knowledge: Understanding how computers and networks function is essential. A main duty of this role is troubleshooting problems and providing routine computer maintenance.
  • Data analysis: Skills in data analysis can help you recognize problematic trends, potential security risks and networking data bottlenecks.

Because of their technical nature and valuable on-the-job training, IT support jobs are often viewed as entry level on the path toward other IT careers, such as system administration, cybersecurity or app development.

Soft skills needed to be an IT support specialist

  • Communication: Specialists must be able to explain issues to a wide range of people at different levels of technical knowledge. You need to be an effective communicator both orally and in writing.
  • Problem-solving: Often, the responsibilities of an IT support specialist involve dealing with an issue for which there’s not necessarily a prescribed solution. Innovative workers who think on their feet usually excel in these roles. 
  • People skills: Whether in support of internal or external issues, IT professionals interact with people a lot. Since clients may lack the necessary vocabulary to explain their issues, interpersonal skills can help you ask the right questions to understand the problem and work to find the best solution.
  • Patience: This goes hand-in-hand with people skills, but patience is a necessity for several reasons. People experiencing computer trouble can be frustrated and may take some patience and understanding to deal with. Additionally, diagnostic tools and other troubleshooting processes can be time-consuming and involved, making patience helpful in those instances as well.

Degree and qualifications for an IT support specialist

The job of an IT technician involves technical knowledge. As such, roles often require some sort of specialized training. However, a college degree isn’t always necessary.

An associate or bachelor’s degree in computer science or an information technology field can help teach you helpful skills in this field. Some employers may prefer degrees from their applicants. Companies may also require employees to have earned certifications in the products a company uses, such as Cisco and Microsoft certifications. Other industry certifications, such as those offered by CompTIA and EC-Council, may also be preferred or even required. 

Since much of the job’s responsibilities involve helping clients with problems, employers may prefer candidates who have experience in customer service or technical support.

Candidates with previous experience in the same field or in related computer systems roles may also have an advantage in the hiring process. Some employers like to see that potential hires have practical knowledge and hands-on experience.

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Do you need a degree in information technology?

How to find a job as an IT support specialist

If you have related experience, be sure to highlight it in your resumé. If you haven’t worked in any relevant positions in the field, try to highlight any duties or skills from past jobs that are relevant to the position you’re applying for. Including a cover letter will also give you a chance to contextualize skills and knowledge that would be helpful in the position

Keeping in touch with previous co-workers and supervisors can be helpful too, in case you need a reference or recommendation. Furthermore, remember that even though the goal of a resumé is to be concise, you will get more opportunities to explain skills and experiences during a job interview. Prepare to answer questions thoroughly, and have some questions about the tech support specialist role prepared to ask the interviewer. 

IT support specialist job outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IT support specialists are an in-demand field that’s projected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031, which suggests that computer support specialist careers offer stability as well as growth opportunities. As of May 2021, the annual salary range for a full-time tech support specialist was between $38,560 and $102,410, according to BLS. Technician salary and job responsibilities can differ by company and may vary based on location, experience, education level and certifications.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Information technology offerings at University of Phoenix

If you’re interested in becoming an IT support specialist, you may want to consider earning an education in information technology. University of Phoenix (UOPX) offers an Associate of Arts in Information Technology degree that introduces students to IT concepts for entering this field. To learn more about how UOPX can support your educational journey, visit phoenix.edu.

 

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