IT support is a career path with many possible opportunities to advance. There are many different types of IT support jobs, and the demand for this type of work continues to grow. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022, there will be 1 million more computer-related jobs than people working in those fields today.
This article will explore some options for an IT Support career path and what they require from you as an individual so you can find the right fit for your skillset and interests.
1. What is An IT Support Professional?
IT support professionals, also referred to as IT administrators, help individuals and businesses use technology efficiently and dependably. They install new computer programs, keep existing systems running smoothly and fix problems that arise with hardware or software. IT support professionals may work on a contract basis for multiple companies or on staff in one organization.
A few of the specific tasks that an IT support professional may perform include:
Maintaining and troubleshooting computer systems such as Windows-based PCs, Macintosh computers, and other devices (printers, scanners)
Installing new software on existing computers and servers using standard processes and documentation
Creating user accounts for individuals to access the computer system; configuring permissions and access levels for specific users or groups of users
Keeping hardware (servers, personal computers, printers) up-to-date with the latest software versions (applications, operating systems); updating anti-virus programs; installing new devices; managing backups.
They are creating documentation of procedures for use by other IT support professionals in the organization. Though IT support professionals work with software and hardware, they don’t usually create the programs or manufacture the devices.
2. How to Become An IT Support Professional?
Many IT support professionals have a bachelor’s degree in Information Technologies, Information Systems, or Computer Science. However, there are other ways to get the skills necessary for this type of work. If you don’t want to pursue a four-year degree, you could opt for an associate’s degree in Information Technologies or Information Systems. According to the National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE), an Information Systems program focuses on the role of technology in organizations and society. You can also take courses related to computer science, network systems, programming, and information technology. Other relevant electives may include:
- Computer security
- Data communications
- Systems analysis and design
- Database management or information archiving
If an associate’s degree is not available in your area, you can also get a certification for IT support professionals. Microsoft has a specific program to help students prepare for this type of work without going back to school full-time.
Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) certifications are intended for individuals who have up to one year of hands-on experience in the subject matter. The program is offered through academic institutions, Microsoft Certified Trainers, high school educators, and other training companies across 60 countries.
3. How Much does An IT Support Professional Make?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT support positions in the U.S. earn a median salary of $52,480 per year or $25.19/hour. The top 10 percent earn over $92,520 per year, and the bottom 10% make less than $30,070 annually.
The salary for an IT support professional varies by location and the company they work for. The more experience you have, the better your chances of earning a higher income.
4. What are Some Different Job Titles Related to IT Support?
Desktop Support Technician – Asks users appropriate questions about their problems then resolves those problems either with remote assistance (connecting to users computer remotely) or on-site.
Field Service Engineer – Travels to a company’s location and repairs their equipment.
Help Desk Technician – Gathers information from the user who has a support issue, researches the source of the problem then guides them in finding a solution.
Network Administrator – Covers all aspects of an organization’s computer network, including installation, diagnosis, repair, and security. They are often in charge of their company’s server.
Network Engineer – Handles the design, implementation, and management of a company’s networks.
5. What are Some Useful Skills for An IT Support Professional?
Customer Service Skills – It’s important to have excellent communication skills when working with clients.
Customer Support Skills – You need to be patient, helpful, and understanding when dealing with computer issues.
Detail-Oriented – Every task you perform should be completed with accuracy.
Familiarity with Software Applications – The more programs you know, the better you’ll be able to help your clients. This includes programs related to office productivity, email, and operating systems.
Flexibility – IT support professionals often work varying hours to meet the needs of their company.
Knowledge of Data Storage Methods – You need to understand file types as well as be familiar with different ways of backing up data, like using a variety of storage devices or cloud storage.
Problem-Solving Skills – You need to identify the root of a user’s issue and resolve it.
6. What is the Best IT Support Certification?
There are many certifications companies look for in IT support professionals. The most prestigious ones include:
A+ Certification (CompTIA) – A+ is one of the most widely recognized entry-level qualifications, especially for those who work with hardware. To get this certification, you must pass two exams.
Network+ Certification (CompTIA) – Network+ is designed for people who work with network systems and troubleshoot local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and dial-up connections. You must pass one exam to earn this certification.
Microsoft Specialist: IT Infrastructure – This certification is geared towards individuals who are responsible for Microsoft products. To earn this certification, you must pass three exams.
Linux Professional Institute Certification (LPIC) – The Linux Professional Institute offers both entry-level certifications as well as more advanced ones. You must pass two exams to receive the entry-level credential and one exam to earn the advanced credential.
Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) – The Cisco Certified Networking Professional (CCNP) is a certification for IT professionals who can install, configure and troubleshoot large and complex networks. There are three different levels of CCNP certification, each with its own set of required exams:
– Associate level – Requires the passing of a single six-hour exam
– Professional level – Requires the passing of two exams, each at least five hours long
– Expert level – Requires the passing of three exams, each at least eight hours long
CompTIA Security+ Certification (CS+) – This certification is for those who have advanced knowledge of security concepts, tools, and procedures. Individuals can earn it by passing one exam.
7. The Job Outlook for An IT Support Professional
Employment in the IT industry is expected to increase by 11% between 2014 and 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also reported that there were about 1.9 million computer support specialists employed in the United States in 2015, showing an increase of 6% from 2014. IT support professionals are needed in all types of organizations, including private industry, government, and educational institutions at the local, state, and federal levels.
8. What are the Benefits of Being An IT Support Professional?
IT support professionals offer a valuable service to their employers and clients, who often appreciate the following benefits:
Flexibility – You can choose to work full-time or part-time. Many positions are also on a contract basis, so you can typically find something that meets your needs.
Opportunities for Advancement – There is always room to advance to a different position in IT or transition into management.
Salary – The annual median wage for computer support specialists was $46,990 in 2016, according to the BLS. This is higher than the national average of all occupations.
9. What are the Challenges of Being An IT Support Professional?
IT support professionals often experience some challenges that include:
Lack of formal training – Many IT support positions do not require previous work experience. There is also a lack of entry-level jobs, so many resorts to working as contract employees or junior technicians. As a result, new hires may lack the knowledge base needed to provide technical support effectively.
Fierce competition – There are many people vying for IT support jobs, which drives the need for certifications and degrees. This also makes it harder to stand out.
Cultural expectations – Some customers may expect professional-level support over the phone right away because they don’t know any better. Customers with little knowledge of technology may be rude or condescending.
10. Top Recruiting Companies for An IT Support Professional
The following companies are some of the best-recruiting firms for IT support professionals:
- Kelly Services
- Robert Half Technology
- Computer Futures
11. Best Colleges to Study IT Support
The following colleges and universities offer programs for students who want to become IT, support professionals:
- Central New Mexico Community College (Certificate)
- Louisiana State University (Bachelor’s degree)
- Madisonville Community College (Associate’s degree)
- McLennan Community College (Diploma, certificate, and Associate’s degree)
- National University (Bachelor’s degree)
- St. Petersburg College (Associate’s degree)
- The Art Institute of Houston (Bachelor’s degree, Associate’s degree, and diploma/certificate program)
It supports career path is a great way to help people and organizations. It provides a stable, secure environment for both the individual and the company. With so many benefits to offer, it’s no wonder that IT support has become one of the most popular career paths in recent years. What are you waiting for? Start your training today and see how you can make a difference in your community or organization with this exciting field!