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How to Become an IT Specialist

If you enjoy working with computers, can solve problems quickly, are technically proficient, and have excellent analytical skills, a career as an IT specialist might be right for you.

IT specialists work in many different areas of IT within an organization. Some set up servers and networks, upgrade hardware, software, and firmware, and perform maintenance tasks, as well as configure network security settings. Other IT specialists manage databases and maintain data security during migrations, backups, and day-to-day use. Some IT specialists provide direct support to users, such as helping set up hardware or software and fixing connectivity or data access problems. IT specialists who manage information security might monitor access logs, build database security procedures, and maintain antivirus software on user workstations. Other IT specialists troubleshoot the system, software, and hardware issues.

Sample job description

The IT specialist maintains knowledge of current IT and telecommunications technology while assisting our customers. These current and emerging technologies include, but are not limited to, optical transport networks, software-defined networks, wireless, mobility, satellite, Ethernet, unified communications, IP/enterprise network infrastructures, and cloud-based services.

You will initiate actions to develop new programs and contracts and update existing programs and contracts to ensure the most current technologies and services are being made available to customers.

As an ideal candidate, you have proven experience in developing, implementing, and supporting various hardware, software, and network systems.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Reviews diagnostics and assesses the functionality and efficiency of systems
  • Implements security measures
  • Monitors security certificates and company compliance with requirements
  • Offers technical support to company staff and troubleshoots computer problems
  • Installs and updates software and hardware as needed
  • Prepares project status reports by collecting, analyzing, and summarizing information
  • Meets with prospective clients to determine needed resources and requirements
  • Defines hardware, software, and network requirements
  • Maintains networks
  • Database administration
  • Identifies and resolves project issues

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in computer science, information technology, computer engineering, or related field
  • Master’s degree a plus
  • 5+ years of related experience

Required skills and qualifications

  • Extensive knowledge of various operating systems, hardware, software, and programming languages
  • Excellent problem-solving skills
  • Excellent attention to detail
  • Exceptional troubleshooting abilities
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Experience in technical writing
  • Hardware and/or software certification.
  • Previous experience in a technical support role
  • Program certifications from Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, or others

Typical work environment

IT specialists typically work in an office or computer laboratory. However, many IT specialists work from home, providing technical support remotely. IT specialists spend many hours sitting in front of a computer. They also spend time in computer laboratories testing and repairing hardware and software for infrastructure devices and employee workstations.

Typical hours

The typical work hours for an IT specialist in an office setting are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday, but many are on call 24/7, generally rotating weeks with other IT specialists on the team. Depending on how big the team is, they might be on call as many as 20 or more weeks a year.   

Available certifications

IT specialists work in a variety of industries, and many institutions offer certifications for IT professionals. Here are some of the top certifications for IT specialists:

  • Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect. The Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect designation shows your thorough understanding of cloud architecture and Google Cloud. Certification demonstrates your ability to design and plan cloud solution architectures, manage and provision cloud solution infrastructures, design infrastructures for security and compliance, analyze and optimize technical and business processes, manage implementations of cloud architecture, and ensure solution and operations reliability. The certification exam can be taken online or at a testing center. There are no prerequisites, but Google recommends 3+ years of industry experience including 1+ years designing and managing solutions using Google Cloud.
  • Information Technology Infrastructure Library Foundation (ITIL) Certifications. The ITIL certification is one of the top certifications in the field and shows that you can help your organization manage risk, strengthen customer relations, establish cost-effective practices, and build a stable IT environment that allows for growth, scale, and change. 
  • Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC). The CRISC credential recognizes you as an IT professional who understands IT risk and how it relates to the organization. The CRISC equips you with the knowledge and skills to identify, evaluate, and manage IT risk and to develop and implement control measures and frameworks. To earn the CRICS, you must pass the CRISC exam, which consists of IT risk identification, IT risk assessment, risk response and mitigation, and risk control, monitoring, and reporting.

Career path

The path to a career as an IT specialist starts with a bachelor’s degree, typically in computer science, computer engineering, information science, electrical engineering, informatics, or information technology. 

The next step is to gain practical experience by obtaining an entry-level position as an application developer, technical support specialist, web developer, business or systems analyst, database administrator, or similar job. You can also gain experience through internships while obtaining your degree. 

Pursuing certification is a great way to boost your career. Experienced IT specialists normally work with a specific software system or language, and you can find certification programs that can further your education and expertise in your field. 

By earning a master’s degree, you can take your career to senior roles. Degree programs such as business analytics, cybersecurity, big data, or information technology provide the skills you need to attain a top-level position in IT.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 15-1230

2020 Employment844,600
Projected Employment in 2030916,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 9% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift72,200 increase

IT specialists with a background and skills in cybersecurity will be in high demand in the years to come. Digital technology has shown that it is prone to cyber threats and breaches, and cybersecurity will need to continually improve to fend off attacks. Because cyberattacks can come at any time and in various forms, being prepared is essential. It’s not so much a matter of if the attack will come but when. 

As cloud computing becomes more popular, traditional on-premises databases are being transitioned to the cloud, and new databases are being deployed there. IT specialists will need to have a good working knowledge of cloud computing. The risk of cloud computing is security. IT specialists will have to ensure that the cybersecurity measures in place are robust enough to prevent breaches.