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Detailed Guide for

Computer Support Specialists in

May also be called: Information Technology (IT) Specialists; Electronic Data Processing (EDP) Auditors; Help Desk Analysts or Technicians; Computer Technicians; Desktop Support Technicians; Office Systems Coordinators; Customer Support Analysts; and Work Station Support Specialists

What Would I Do?

Computers are a part of everyday life, used at home, work, and school. Almost every computer user encounters a problem occasionally, whether it is the dreaded crash of a hard drive or just the annoyance of a forgotten password. The explosion of computer use has created a high demand for Computer Support Specialists to provide advice to users.

Computer Support Specialists provide technical assistance to computer system users. These troubleshooters help clients use computer hardware and software, including printing, installation, word processing, e-mail, and operating systems. They answer phone calls, use automated diagnostic programs to analyze problems, and resolve recurrent difficulties. They may also write training manuals.

Computer Support Specialists use a wide range of tools and technology in their work. They use equipment such as personal and mainframe computers, hard disk arrays, power meters, reflectometers, and may also use personal digital assistants (PDA) or organizers. They use a host of software for functions, such as backup or archival, desktop communications, operating systems, configuration management, Internet directory services, database user interface and query, file system, and transaction security and virus protection.

Important Tasks and Related Skills

Each task below is matched to a sample skill required to carry out the task.

View the skill definitions
TaskSkill Used in this Task
Answer user inquiries regarding computer software or hardware operation to resolve problems.Oral Expression
Enter commands and observe system functioning to verify correct operations and detect errors.Complex Problem Solving
Install and perform minor repairs to hardware, software, or peripheral equipment, following design or installation specifications.Reading Comprehension
Oversee the daily performance of computer systems.Problem Sensitivity
Set up equipment for employee use, performing or ensuring proper installation of cables, operating systems, or appropriate software.Inductive Reasoning
Maintain records of daily data communication transactions, problems and remedial actions taken, or installation activities.Customer and Personal Service
Read technical manuals, confer with users, or conduct computer diagnostics to investigate and resolve problems or to provide technical assistance and support.Troubleshooting
Confer with staff, users, and management to establish requirements for new systems or modifications.Computers and Electronics
Develop training materials and procedures, or train users in the proper use of hardware or software.Learning Strategies
Source: U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Information Network (O*NET)

Working Conditions

Computer Support Specialists usually work 40 hours a week, but that may include evening or weekend work if the employer requires computer support during those hours. Overtime may be necessary when unexpected technical problems arise.

Computer Support Specialists may work either within a company that uses computer systems or directly for a computer hardware or software vendor. Increasingly, Support Specialists work for help desk or support services firms, where they provide computer support on a contract basis to clients. They spend most of their time responding to incoming calls, often dealing with several calls simultaneously. This multi-tasking can be stressful. Additionally, technical jargon may confuse customers who already may be frustrated or angry when they call for help. When that happens, the Support Specialist may need to deal with customer frustration or anger before moving on to problem solving.

Those who work as consultants are away from their offices much of the time, sometimes spending months working in a clients office.

Some jobs require physical strength to lift hardware, such as computers and monitors, and the agility to install cables and peripheral hardware, often in tight spaces. Like other workers who type on a keyboard for long periods, Computer Support Specialists are susceptible to eyestrain, back discomfort, and hand and wrist problems, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Job burnout at help desks is also common.

Union membership is not common in this occupation; however, Support Specialists and Help Desk Technicians who work for government agencies may belong to the Service Employees International Union.

Will This Job Fit Me?

The job of Computer Support Specialist will appeal to those who enjoy activities that involve following set procedures and routines as well as working with ideas, and activities that require an extensive amount of thinking. This occupation satisfies those with both conventional and investigative interests. Conventional occupations include working with data and details, while investigative occupations involve searching for facts and figuring out problems. Individuals who would enjoy this occupation are results-oriented and independent workers who value job security and good working conditions.

What Wages and Benefits Can I Expect?

Wages

The median wage in 2021 for Computer Support Specialists in California is $0 annually. The median is the point at which half of the workers earn more and half earn less.

Annual Wages for 2021Low
(25th percentile)
Median
(50th percentile)
High
(75th percentile)
California>$145,600>$145,600>$145,600
Source: EDD/LMID Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, 2021 Wages do not reflect self-employment.
View Wages for All Areas

Benefits

Benefits usually include vacation, sick leave, retirement, and medical, dental, and vision care. Some employers may also offer education reimbursement.

What is the Job Outlook?

Demand will continue to grow for Computer Support Specialists who are knowledgeable about the latest technologies and able to apply them to the needs of the organization. The rapid pace of improved technology will accelerate the demand for Computer Support Specialists. As computers and software become more complex, these Specialists will be needed to provide technical assistance to customers and other users. New mobile technologies, such as the wireless Internet, will continue to create a demand for these workers to familiarize and educate computer users. Consulting opportunities for these workers should also continue to grow as businesses increasingly need help managing, upgrading, and customizing more complex computer systems.

Job prospects should be best for college graduates who are up to date with the latest skills and technologies and also have practical work experience to go along with their formal training. Employers will continue to seek Computer Support Specialists who possess a strong background in fundamental computer skills combined with good interpersonal and communication skills. Due to the rapid growth in demand, workers with strong computer skills that do not have a bachelors degree should continue to qualify for some entry-level positions. However, certifications and practical experience may soon be essential for persons without degrees.

Projections of Employment

How Do I Qualify?

Education, Training, and Other Requirements

Although there is no universally accepted way to prepare for the occupation, many employers prefer to hire applicants who have some college background, computer training, and knowledge of software. A bachelors degree in computer science or information systems is required for some jobs. Many companies are flexible about requiring a bachelors degree for support positions because of the explosive demand for Specialists. However, applicants without a four-year degree may need an associate degree in computer information science and practical work experience to show they have the necessary skills.

Computer Support Specialists should have the ability to remain calm and focused while dealing with people who may be highly stressed. They also need to understand the big picture - not just the slice of information given by customers. Wide-based technical knowledge and a self-assured manner help them put frustrated customers at ease. Additionally, they need to be excellent time managers to deal with multiple customer requests in a timely way.

Early Career Planning

High school students interested in this kind of work should take classes in mathematics, computer science, information technology, engineering technology, and language arts.

Work Study Programs

Training programs are also available through Regional Occupational Programs (ROP). To find an ROP program near you, go to the California Association of Regional Occupational Centers and Programs Web site.

Continuing Education

As technology continues to improve, Computer Support Specialists need to keep their skills current and acquire new ones. Many colleges and universities, private schools, associations, employers, and hardware and software vendors offer pertinent training.

Certification

Although certification is optional, it can enhance career development and advancement. Computer Information Science certificate programs, offered by many community colleges, private schools, and software and hardware product vendors, will help applicants qualify for entry-level positions. For more information, go to the U.S. Department of Labor's Career InfoNet Web site and scroll down to "Career Tools." Click on "Certification Finder" and follow the instructions to locate certification programs.

Where Can I Find Training?

There are two ways to search for training information:

  • Search by Field of Study to find what programs are available and what schools offer those programs. You may use keywords such as: Computer Science, Computer Technology, Information Systems Security, Information Technology, Systems Analysis, and Systems Networking.
  • Search by Training Provider to find schools by name, type of school, or location.

Contact the schools you are interested in to learn about the classes available, tuition and fees, and any prerequisite course work.

Where Would I Work?

Finding a Job

Networking is important in this occupation, since many Computer Support Specialists find work through word of mouth and referrals. Direct application to employers is also an effective job search method. Online job opening systems include JobCentral at www.jobcentral.com and CalJOBSSM at www.caljobs.ca.gov.

To find your nearest One-Stop Career Center, go to Service Locator. View the helpful job search tips for more resources. (requires Adobe Reader).

Yellow Page Headings

You can focus your local job search by checking employers listed online or in your local telephone directory. Below are some suggested headings where you might find employers of Computer Support Specialists.

  • Computer Network Design & Systems
  • Computer Service & Repair
  • Computer Software & Services
  • Computer Software Publishers & Developers
  • Computers-System Designers & Consultants
  • Private Schools (K-12)
  • Public Schools
  • Schools

Find Possible Employers

To locate a list of employers in your area, go to "Find Employers" on the Labor Market Information Web site:

  • Select one of the top industries that employ the occupation. This will give you a list of employers in that industry in your area.
  • Click on "View Filter Selections" to limit your list to specific cities or employer size.
  • Click on an employer for the street address, telephone number, size of business, Web site, etc.
  • Contact the employer for possible employment.

Where Could This Job Lead?

An entry-level job as a Computer Support Specialist or Help Desk Technician is an excellent way to begin a career in the information technology field. Computer Support Specialists start out dealing directly with customers or in-house users. Then they may advance into more responsible positions and use what they learned from customer input to improve the design and efficiency of future products. Large companies usually have a formal training program for employees that continues beyond their initial training to keep them moving up the career ladder. Advancement opportunities include software developers, computer engineers, systems analysts, systems administrators, and database administrators. Promotions may depend on performance rather than formal education.

Within State service, Computer Support workers start as Assistant Information Systems Analysts. They can advance to Associate Information Systems Analysts (Specialists), and Associate Information Systems Analysts (Supervisors).

Related Occupations

Below is a list of occupations related to Computer Support Specialists with links to more information.

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Other Sources

These links are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by EDD.

For the Career Professional

The following codes are provided to assist counselors, job placement workers, or other career professionals.

SystemCode
SOC - Standard Occupational Classification15-1150