Increasing use of technology, as well as hardware and software upgrades being implemented by organizations, are driving the demand for IT support services. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor, employment of computer support specialists is expected to increase by 8 percent from 2019 to 2029. This is much faster than the average for all occupations.
U.S. BLS and other industry observers expect employment of IT support staff to increase because organizations are implementing more complex technologies, systems, and software. In particular, healthcare industries are also expected to invest to a greater degree in IT services, which may lead to increasing demand for computer support services from this sector.
Phone support in the modern IT world
An IT phone support specialist provides technical advice to computer users and helps them to install systems and devices or resolve hardware, software, and application-related problems over the phone. They assist remotely, not on site.
A phone support tech may be required to provide assistance to an organization's customers, or to other employees within the organization itself. In large organizations, there may be different phone support specialists for system and application problems and network issues.
Depending on the nature of the job and the type of organization, an IT phone support specialist may be required to help users with a range of technologies and products, or with the platforms, services, and systems of a specific vendor.
Some phone support specialists may specialize in computer systems support, while others may focus on network support. Common responsibilities may include:
- Listening attentively to users describing computer problems over the phone in order to understand their problems in detail
- Asking questions related to the user's experience with the particular hardware, software, or application, with the purpose of achieving clarity on the issue and precisely diagnosing the problem
- Explaining how to resolve the problem, step by step (Phone support specialists often respond to queries from non-technical computer users, so they need to describe problem-solving steps in non-technical, layperson's language.)
- Walking customers or organizational staff through a series of steps required to install new software, or hardware, an operating system, or application
- Communicating details of very complex problems to appropriate specialists in the IT department for resolution, if necessary
- Maintaining records of user calls, problem resolution, and related details
- Keeping managers and specialist team members informed about the different issues customers experience, and highlighting those that cause maximum problems
- Learning about new devices, software, operating systems, and relevant technologies
Technology is evolving fast. It's essential for IT support professionals to update their knowledge of the hardware, software, and applications that they support. A support specialist needs to be willing and able to continue learning throughout their career.
Those who support technologies and products from specific vendors, such as Microsoft, Cisco, or Oracle, need to update their knowledge of the latest releases/versions, and new developments and products. Software changes fast, and you'll need to adapt quickly.
Large organizations, particularly software and other IT companies, usually require support specialists to have a bachelor's degree. Small and medium enterprises often recruit applicants with an associate's degree, or those who have taken postsecondary computer classes.
For roles that require in-depth understanding of technical concepts or software, software companies and some medium enterprises normally recruit candidates with a bachelor's degree in a related field, such as computer science, information systems, or engineering.
Many medium and small companies look for candidates with one or two years of relevant experience, evidence of strong technical skills, and good communication skills. Some organizations value credentials from CompTIA, or certifications in specific technologies or products.
Normally, IT support specialists with strong technical fundamentals and a relevant bachelor's degree have the best career prospects in this field. Support specialists also need a combination of relevant hard and soft skills to be effective on the job.
They must have in-depth and up-to-date technical knowledge and skills pertaining to the technologies and equipment they support. IT phone support specialists need solid problem-solving skills so that they can identify, analyse, and resolve different computer problems, both simple and complex.
In addition to technical expertise, they must have the following soft skills.
Patience is an important attribute for an IT phone support specialist. Many users, particularly non-technical users, face difficulties when they try out a new device or system, or they might find frequent hardware and software issues annoying. It's necessary to be able to explain patiently and help the user solve his problem.
It's important for IT phone support specialists to have very good active listening and speaking skills. It's necessary to concentrate on what the user says to be able to understand the issue in detail. It's also important for an IT phone support specialist to be able to describe the solution in clear non-technical language so that the user can follow instructions and execute necessary actions, step by step.
Certifications are available from both vendor-neutral organizations, such as tech industry association CompTIA, as well as vendors of different technologies and systems, such as Microsoft and Cisco. Certifications are also available for Linux and UNIX systems.
Certifications validate current knowledge of technologies, systems, and best practices that are needed need to be able to provide effective and prompt assistance. Some organizations require their support staff to earn credentials in the technologies and products that they use or market.
Some industry-recognized certifications include:
CompTIA A+ is the leading vendor-neutral entry-level certification for IT support positions. The current version has been updated to include current core technologies, such as cloud, security, data management, and others.
CompTIA A+ validates current knowledge and skills in hardware, networking, mobile devices, operating systems, hardware and network troubleshooting, virtualization and cloud computing, software troubleshooting, security, and operational procedures. It includes a substantial performance-based component that is designed to enable candidates to develop solid problem-solving skills.
To earn this credential, you need to pass 2 exams: Core 1 (220-1001) and Core 2 (220-1002). Additional information is available online.
Microsoft 365: Modern Desktop Administrator Associate
This certification validates skills required to deploy, maintain, manage, and secure Windows 10 and Microsoft 365 devices, apps, and operating systems in an enterprise environment.
Candidates need to pass 2 exams: MD-100, MD-101, to earn this certification. Additional information is available online.
For IT support specialists who work with or are looking to specialize in Cisco technologies, Cisco offers the entry-level CCNA certification, which verifies knowledge of network fundamentals, network access, IP connectivity and services, security basics, automation, and programmability.
You need to pass the 200-301 CCNA exam to achieve this credential. Additional information is available online.
The ITIL 4 Foundation credential is designed to introduce candidates to ITIL 4, which describes a holistic approach to service management, comprising an operating model for the creation, delivery, and continuous enhancement of tech-enabled products and services.
To earn this certification, you need to pass the ITIL Foundation exam. Additional information is available online.
HDI Customer Service Representative (HDI-CSR)
The HDI CSR certification demonstrates the technical knowledge and skills needed to understand and respond to customer queries in support and call center environments.
The certification exam objectives cover role of a CSR, communication strategies, including active listening skills, customers' business needs assessment, critical thinking skills for efficient and effective problem-solving and troubleshooting, incident management, and customer management. Additional information is available online.
Go get hired
With experience, advanced skills, and relevant education, IT phone support specialists can advance to specialist support areas, or move to other fields in IT, such as systems administration, network engineering, or software development. Employers are eager to hire these positions: The next step is up to you.