Technical Support Specialists
Education and Training Requirements
Take technical classes such as computer science, schematic drawing, or electronics, as these can help develop the logical and analytical thinking skills necessary to be successful in this field. Courses in math and science are also valuable for this reason. Strong verbal and written communication skills are needed since technical support specialists have to deal with computer programmers and software designers as well as computer users who may not be technologically savvy. Learning a foreign language, such as Spanish, will be useful for working with customers who do not speak English as a first language.
Individuals interested in pursuing a job in this field should first determine what area of technical support appeals the most and then honestly assess their level of experience and knowledge. Large corporations often prefer to hire people with a bachelor’s degree in computer science, computer engineering, or information system and some experience, although other employers may only require their workers to have associate's degrees. They may also be impressed with commercial certification in a computer field, such as networking. Those hired within the company will be considered more for their work experience than education.
Employed individuals looking for a career change may want to commit themselves to a program of self-study to qualify for technical support positions. Many computer professionals learn a lot of what they know by playing around on computers, reading trade magazines, and talking with colleagues. Self-taught individuals should learn how to effectively demonstrate their knowledge and proficiency on the job or during an interview. Besides self-training, employed individuals should investigate tuition reimbursement programs offered by their company.
Once hired, technical support specialists also receive on-the-job training that can last from one week to one year. Most training lasts an average of three months.
Other Education or Training
The Association of Computer Support Specialists offers training seminars. Student and professional members of the Association for Computing Machinery can access online computing and business courses via the association’s Learning Center. The IEEE Computer Society offers career planning webinars and continuing education courses to its members.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
Certification is voluntary and highly recommended. Organizations such as the Help Desk Institute and CompTIA offer certification programs. To become certified, you will need to pass a written test and in some cases may need a certain amount of work experience. Certification shows commitment to the technical support profession and demonstrates levels of expertise. In addition, certification may qualify applicants for certain jobs and lead to new employment opportunities.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Experience working with common software, hardware, and operating systems via internships, volunteer opportunities, or part-time jobs will be useful.
Technical support is similar to solving mysteries, so support specialists should enjoy the challenge of problem solving and have strong analytical thinking skills. They must be patient and professional with frustrated users and be able to perform well under stress. Strong, effective communication skills are required for this type of work. This is a rapidly changing field and technical support specialists should be naturally curious and enthusiastic about learning new technologies as they are developed.