Computer Support Specialists

Career, Salary and Education Information

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What Computer Support Specialists Do[About this section] [To Top]

Computer support specialists provide help and advice to people and organizations using computer software or equipment. Some, called computer network support specialists, support information technology (IT) employees within their organization. Others, called computer user support specialists, assist non-IT users who are having computer problems.

Duties of Computer Support Specialists

Computer network support specialists typically do the following:

  • Test and evaluate existing network systems
  • Perform regular maintenance to ensure that networks operate correctly
  • Troubleshoot local area networks (LANs), wide area networks (WANs), and Internet systems

Computer network support specialists, also called technical support specialists, usually work in their organization’s IT department. They help IT staff analyze, troubleshoot, and evaluate computer network problems. They play an important role in the routine maintenance of their organization’s networks such as performing file backups on the network. Maintenance can be performed daily, weekly, or monthly and is important to an organization’s disaster recovery efforts. Solving an IT problem promptly is important because organizations depend on their network systems. Network support specialists may assist the organization’s computer users through phone, email, or in-person visits. They often work under network and computer systems administrators, who handle more complex tasks.

Computer user support specialists typically do the following:

  • Pay attention to customers’ descriptions of their computer problems
  • Ask customers questions to properly diagnose the problem
  • Walk customers through the recommended problem-solving steps
  • Set up or repair computer equipment and related devices
  • Train users to work with new computer hardware or software, such as printers, word-processing software, and email
  • Provide other team members and managers in the organization with information about what gives customers the most trouble and about other concerns customers have

Computer user support specialists, also called help-desk technicians, usually provide technical help to non-IT computer users. They respond to phone and email requests for help. They can usually help users remotely, but they also may make site visits so that they can solve a problem in person.

Help-desk technicians may solve a range of problems that vary with the industry and the particular firm. Some technicians work for large software companies or for support service firms and must give instructions to business customers on how to use business-specific programs such as an electronic health records program used in hospitals or physicians’ offices. Sometimes they work with other technicians to resolve problems.

Other help-desk technicians work in call centers, answering simpler questions from non-business customers. They may walk customers through basic steps in re-establishing an Internet connection or troubleshooting household IT products such as a Wi-Fi router.

Work Environment for Computer Support Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Computer support specialists hold about 766,900 jobs. They work in many different industries, including information technology (IT), education, finance, healthcare, and telecommunication. Many help-desk technicians work for outside support service firms on a contract basis and provide help to a range of businesses and consumers.

The industries that employ the most computer user support specialists are as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 20%
Educational services; state, local, and private 13
Information 11
Administrative and support services 9
Wholesale trade 7

The industries that employ the most computer network support specialists are as follows:

Computer systems design and related services 20%
Wired telecommunications carriers 10
Finance and insurance 9
Educational services; state, local, and private 8
Wholesale trade 6

Faster computer networks are making it possible for some support specialists, particularly help-desk technicians, to work from a home office. However, a few specialized help-desk technicians may have to travel to a client’s location to solve a problem.

Computer Support Specialist Work Schedules

Most computer support specialists have full-time work schedules; however, many do not work typical 9-to-5 jobs. Because computer support is important for businesses, support specialists must be available 24 hours a day. As a result, many support specialists must work nights or weekends.

How to Become a Computer Support Specialist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Computer Support Specialists near you!

Because of the wide range of skills used in different computer support jobs, there are many paths into the occupation. A bachelor’s degree is required for some computer support specialist positions, but an associate’s degree or postsecondary classes may be enough for others.

Computer Support Specialist Education

Education requirements for computer support specialists vary. Computer user support specialist jobs require some computer knowledge, but not necessarily a postsecondary degree. Applicants who have taken some computer-related classes are often qualified. For computer network support specialists, many employers accept applicants with an associate’s degree, although some prefer applicants to have a bachelor’s degree.

Large software companies that provide support to business users who buy their products or services often require a bachelor’s degree. Positions that are more technical are likely to require a degree in a field such as computer science, engineering, or information science, but for others, the applicant’s field of study is less important.

To keep up with changes in technology, many computer support specialists continue their education throughout their careers.

Computer Support Specialist Certification

Certification programs are generally offered by vendors or from vendor-neutral certification providers. Certification validates the knowledge of and best practices required by computer support specialists. Companies may require their computer support specialists to hold certifications in the products the companies use.

Advancement for Computer Support Specialists

Many computer support specialists advance to other information technology positions, such as network and computer systems administrators and software developers. Some become managers in the computer support services department. Some organizations provide paths for support specialists to move into other parts of the organization, such as sales. For more information, see the profiles on network and computer systems administrators and software developers.

Important Qualities for Computer Support Specialists

Customer-service skills. Computer support specialists must be patient and sympathetic. They must often help people who are frustrated with the software or hardware they are trying to use.

Listening skills. Support workers must be able to understand the problems that their customers are describing and know when to ask questions to clarify the situation.

Problem-solving skills. Support workers must identify both simple and complex computer problems, analyze them, and solve them.

Speaking skills. Support workers must describe the solutions to computer problems in a way that a nontechnical person can understand.

Writing skills. Strong writing skills are useful for preparing instructions and email responses for employees and customers, as well as real-time web chat interactions.

Computer Support Specialist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for computer user support specialists is $47,610. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,280, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $80,180.

The median annual wage for computer network support specialists is $61,830. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $35,870, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $104,010.

The median annual wages for computer user support specialists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Wholesale trade $50,730
Information 49,050
Computer systems design and related services 47,940
Educational services; state, local, and private 44,670
Administrative and support services 43,780

Median annual wages for computer network support specialists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Wired telecommunications carriers $71,950
Finance and insurance 67,260
Wholesale trade 63,460
Computer systems design and related services 63,200
Educational services; state, local, and private 51,940

Most computer support specialists have full-time work schedules; however, many do not work typical 9-to-5 jobs. Because computer support is important for businesses, support specialists must be available 24 hours a day. As a result, many support specialists must work nights or weekends.

Job Outlook for Computer Support Specialists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of computer support specialists is projected to grow 12 percent through 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. More support services will be needed as organizations upgrade their computer equipment and software. Computer support staff will be needed to respond to the installation and repair requirements of increasingly complex computer equipment and software. However, a rise in cloud computing could increase the productivity of computer support specialists, slowing their growth at many firms. Smaller businesses that do not have information technology (IT) departments will contract services from IT consulting firms and increase the demand computer support specialists in those firms. Employment of support specialists in computer systems design and related firms is projected to grow 31 percent through 2024.

Employment growth may also come from increasing demand for IT support services from healthcare industries. This field is expected to greatly increase its use of IT, and support services will be crucial to keep everything running properly.

Some lower level tech support jobs, commonly found in call centers, may be sent to countries that have lower wage rates. However, a recent trend to move jobs to lower cost regions of the United States may offset some loss of jobs to other countries.

Computer Support Specialists Job Prospects

Job prospects should be favorable. There are usually clear advancement possibilities for computer support specialists, creating new job openings. Applicants with a bachelor’s degree and a strong technical background should have the best job opportunities.

Employment projections data for Computer Support Specialists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Computer support specialists 766,900 855,700 12 88,800
Computer user support specialists 585,900 661,000 13 75,100
Computer network support specialists 181,000 194,600 8 13,600


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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