A computer technician provides technical support to computer users in environments ranging from small, medium, and large commercial establishments to government offices and public institutions. He or she plays a vital role in keeping IT systems accessible, stable, and secure, thereby enabling users and organizations to achieve operational targets.
The demand for skilled technical support specialists remains robust because streamlined and dependable communication and data processing is essential for business efficiency and growth, especially for customer- and client-facing companies. According to CIO.com, help desk and/or desktop support specialist is among the 13 most sought-after tech roles for 2019.
The number of computer technicians employed at an establishment depends on the size of the enterprise. While a large organization typically employs a number of computer technicians, a small business might have just one full time computer support resource or none at all. Small companies that can't afford to employ a technician outsource repair and maintenance to third-party computer support firms.
Functions and responsibilities
A computer support specialist's job covers a wide range of responsibilities, with role and functions varying considerably depending on business type. A computer support specialist might at any be required to perform any or all of the following functions:
1) Identify technical issues and repair computers, servers, other devices, network components, and peripherals.
2) Set up computer systems and related tech infrastructure.
3) Install and update operating systems, internet security and other software as well as resolve OS and application issues.
4) Test systems, networks, and software.
5) Handle routine maintenance of hardware and software.
6) Install, configure and maintain networks, including internet connectivity, sharing of printers and other peripherals, and security applications.
7) Assist the system administrator in allocating computers to employees, granting access to systems, applications, files, and peripherals, inducting and training new hires, and retrieving hardware and software from exiting employees.
8) Provide immediate assistance if availability, reliability, stability, or security of systems and data is affected by a security incident or system malfunction.
9) Respond to service requests from customers and employees and provide solutions over the phone or by email, or online.
10) Assemble desktops and laptops.
This is by no means a comprehensive list. Which task you perform and how often you are asked to perform them will vary based on the size and resources of your employer and other considerations. Mid-level and senior computer support professionals may also be required to lead a team of technicians, assign responsibilities, and ensure efficient delivery.
Technology is evolving faster than ever. The number of devices and apps in use keeps increasing. Products and tools change all the time, so computer technicians, like tech professionals in other areas, need to learn continually in order to be able to work with new systems, applications, and technologies.
Cybersecurity continues to be a critical concern for CIOs/CEOs as hackers find ever more intricate ways to breach security. Tech support professionals need to keep abreast of the newest threats, security methods, and software.
Increasing adoption of artificial intelligence, big data, and cloud storage could see more small and medium establishments outsource IT maintenance to tech service providers. Inc.com quotes Dennis Curry, deputy CTO of Konika Minolta, saying he expects SMBs to rely on a single, expert provider that can pull together the resources and solutions necessary to deliver a simple, integrated, and fully managed IT environment" in 2019.
It's essential for support professionals to have current knowledge of the latest developments in computer hardware, servers, networks, peripherals, windows and MAC operating systems, browsers, and security tools and technologies. You also need to be prepared for the impact of advances in connectivity, including 5G, on IT operations.
Training and background
Entry to this domain is varied. There is no specific academic, vocational, or professional route to a career as a computer support specialist. People can enter based on past experience and/or a relevant degree, certification, vocational training, or apprenticeship.
Enterprises normally require computer support professionals to have a bachelor's degree in computer science, information systems, computer engineering, or a related area.
For those with a relevant degree and no experience, an entry-level computer support role that offers on-the-job training or an apprenticeship at a large organization might be a good way to embark on an IT career. Small businesses even recruit high school graduates with technical training as apprentices.
Mid-level roles require experienced technicians with a solid understanding of Microsoft and Apple operating systems, hardware knowledge, systems maintenance and security skills, and the ability to resolve network, systems, and software problems. Some jobs need professionals with experience in training non-technical computer users.
Soft skills, particularly communication, customer service, and time management, are very important. You will also need lots of patience considering many who use computers at work lack a basic understanding of computer operation and software use. It often takes time to explain problems and solutions to users who have scant knowledge of technology. Employees and customers also need to be made aware of the importance of following regular maintenance and security procedures.
This is especially pertinent for computer support professionals who work for third-party tech service companies and are called upon to handle multiple clients with a range of technical issues.
Computer support personnel usually have to keep to short turnarounds in order to minimize expensive downtime. You need to be able to prioritize jobs, multitask, and keep calm and focus under pressure.
Certification is not mandatory for computer support professionals. Solid vendor-neutral or vendor-specific credentials can, however, demonstrate applicable industry-specific knowledge and skills and can improve a candidate's chances of being hired. Reputable certifications validate the ability to set up, maintain and repair computers, network devices, and peripherals, and software needed to operate and protect systems and data, and monitor networks.
In-demand computer support certifications include:
The CompTIA A+ is a foundation-level vendor-neutral credential that demonstrates fundamental knowledge of computers, networks, and security, and basic system repair skills. This is the most commonly specified certification in job advertisements for computer support personnel.
CompTIA A+ is designed for computer technicians, support professionals, including help desk staff, and field computer and peripheral repair specialists. CompTIA recommends a minimum of 9-to-12 months hands-on experience in the lab or workplace for certification candidates.
The CompTIA A+ Core Series is the latest version of this certification. It offers a broader coverage of security topics. The previous CompTIA A+ exams in English will retire on July 31, 2019. You need to pass the CompTIA A+ 220–1001 (Core 1) and the CompTIA A+ 220–1002 (Core 2) to earn this credential. Additional details are available online.
This credential is designed for tech professionals who aim to work as server support or IT/server technicians, server administrators, or storage administrators. CompTIA Server+ indicates the holder's expertise in current server technologies, including virtualization, security, troubleshooting, and network-attached storage.
CompTIA recommends the CompTIA A+ certification and 18-to-24 months of IT experience. Exam, preparation, and retirement details are available online.
Cisco Certified Technician (CCT)
This certification demonstrates proficiency to diagnose, resolve, restore, and replace Cisco system and networking components.
The CCT certification is available in different tracks, including Data Center (CCT Data Center) and Routing and Switching (CCT Routing and Switching). Exam and preparation details are available online for both Data Center and Routing and Switching candidates.
Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Universal Windows Platform
This certification is intended for professionals who have basic IT skills and validates the holder's expertise in setting up and running Universal Windows Platform apps on a range of Windows devices. Exam and preparation details are available online.
Other applicable certifications include CompTIANetwork+, HDI-CSR: HDI Customer Service Representative, ITIL Foundation, and ACMT: Apple Certified Macintosh Technician.
Entry to the technical support field is less competitive than in other IT specializations. It is a viable route to a tech career for those who relevant degrees and experience but have an aptitude and the willingness to learn and work hard. Numerous IT professionals have begun their careers as computer technicians and progressed to other tech careers, including network administration and programming.