What is a technical support specialist?
Technical support specialists are essential to any company that utilizes any kind of technology to complete daily work. This role helps oversee and manage all of the software systems and computer hardware. It’s a broad scope of work, including anything that helps maintain the system’s functionality. The technical support team needs to be ready for challenges and surprises. Each day looks a little different because it’s impossible to predict what kinds of issues the support team will face. But that keeps the job interesting.
One of this role’s biggest tasks is assisting customers and employees when technical issues arise. Good customer service is critical. There will be questions and problems with hardware or software. Technical support can update and work on preventative measures in between problem-solving and troubleshooting problems.
There are also many opportunities to provide training and education for the employees to utilize their tools better. This can include anything from reminders to shut down computers and performing updates to specialized training on the software programs to ensure all the features and benefits are being used.
Qualifications and eligibility
Technical support specialists require a degree in computer science, information systems, or another related technical field. A bachelor’s degree is required at most companies, but associate’s degrees and certifications may be accepted for some entry-level positions.
Along with that education, candidates should be a strong understanding and knowledge of software maintenance. Professional certificates will show additional training and experience with hardware, and specific mobile device platforms, like iOS, Android, and Windows.
Experience is important. Tech teams must have proficiency in process improvement and problem-solving skills. Issues can be avoided in the future if the team makes necessary improvements to the systems or changes to the process. Customer service and soft skills are the final pieces of this role. It is important to help people and solve their problems promptly with great communication.
Here are the best universities with the top technical support programs:
Technical support specialists are usually part of a larger IT team within an organization. The size of the team is based on the size of the overall company, more employees will mean more technical support. Specialists can work in a physical office or remotely as long as they have access to the servers and critical systems.
Some travel may be required to help set up new workspaces, complete training, or attend meetings. Most of the work days will be spent behind a computer screen troubleshooting by phone, email, or chat.
Typical work hours
Technical support specialists’ business hours will match the office’s operating hours, usually from nine to five. Specialists may be staggered a bit if there are multiple shifts to cover. There may also be a rotation of on-call shifts and off-hours needs, like updates or new hardware installations.
Earning potential for technical support specialists can vary based on geography, education, experience, and responsibilities. Here are some basic stats on the position:
- The highest-paying industries for technical support specialists include:
- Telecommunications – $76,910
- Finance and insurance – $74,920
- Management of companies and enterprises – $66,500
- Data processing, hosting, and related services – $62,460
- Computer systems design and related services – $61,390
Steps to become a technical support specialist
1. Earn your degree
Getting a college degree in information technology or computer sciences is an important first step to building your IT and technical support career. A bachelor’s degree is preferred and even required by many companies. Another strong option if you aren’t planning on getting a four-year degree is an associate’s degree that will give you some specialized training.
2. Get certified with additional training
- Check out Udemy for courses that provide some of the fundamentals of being a technical support specialist.
- The IT Help Desk Professional course provides hands-on experience on the most common helpdesk issues. There are also courses covering networks, infrastructure, and server support.
- Sign up for one of the Technical Support Coursera certificates that dive into specific industries. Each course is designed to help with specialized technology needs, like Healthcare. There are even some company courses, like a background in Google IT Support.
- Skillshare offers instructional videos and courses on certain aspects of the technical support space. Whether you need additional information on updating websites or building an app, you can sign up for a class and get step-by-step instructions with projects to get some practice.
- Enroll in free coding courses from Codeacademy to boost your coding knowledge and add to your resume.
3. Apply for jobs and internships
With education under your belt, it’s time to get some real-life job experience. Many colleges and universities can help students get internships. These are great chances to learn more from people in the roles you are aspiring to get. It can help build your resume and allow you to face challenges with guidance from someone with more experience.
Online job boards are great for finding career opportunities. Services like LinkedIn and Indeed will have job postings that you can filter for location or experience required to find the perfect positions for you to apply to. Use your network from internships and people you’ve met throughout your education to help get interviews.
4. Stay on top of changing technology
Technology is constantly evolving, and new updates are rolled out. Anyone working in the tech support space needs to be aware of changes and updates to prepare your organization. Follow all the major players on social media or sign up for newsletters and email updates. Conferences and expos are great resources for hearing about brand-new products.
Other great resources to help you stay on top of the changes in the field are podcasts, books, magazines, and email newsletters. Whether it’s interviews with leaders in the field or simple tricks you can pass on to the rest of your organization, consuming relevant information will help technical support specialists remain up-to-date.
5. Continue your education
Many large organizations split up the technical support teams by tiers. With each higher tier, the issues will be more complex and require more education and experience than the lower tier. Consider getting additional education to advance your career to move up to higher positions.
Whether you go for a master’s degree or acquire additional certifications, any education that you can add to your resume will be beneficial as you continue moving along your career path.
Best IT Universities to get your masters degree:
Types of technical support specialists
Technical support can come in many different forms. The more companies rely on technology, the more positions they need to support their growing set of tools. Let’s look at a few of the most common types of technical support specialists.
Technical customer support specialist
Customers are the bread and butter of any business. Having a technical customer support specialist available for those who spend their money with that business can provide a better customer experience. Companies don’t want customers struggling with their tools without having a place to go with questions and concerns.
Technical field support specialists
Technical field support specialists are professionals who are deployed to provide on-site support. If companies provide software or a technical tool to customers, people might need to get on-site to help troubleshoot or get them started. That’s where technical field specialists come into play. Each day may look very different in this role, including what physical location you’re working in.
Technical support engineers or technical applications support
Some companies have more specialized roles, like technical support engineers or technical applications support. This is typical in larger companies. Roles will cover a smaller area of expertise, like applications only or server maintenance only. Smaller companies without as many resources and employees will have technical support specialists that need to cover more.
Tiers are a common differentiator in the IT space as well. Entry-level will start at tier one, including basic help desk resolution. Tier two is more in-depth technical support for larger and more complex problems. Tier three is the highest and most specialized. These are experts in service and support. You’ll also see tier zero, which is self-help, so the content is created by an IT professional, but they aren’t required to follow up. Tier four is an issue that cannot be resolved internally and requires external vendor support.
Tips for becoming a technical support specialist
For anyone interested in becoming a technical support specialist, there are a few tips to help better the position in the candidate pool.
- Familiarize yourself with the applications, hardware, and software programs used by the company you are applying with. Showcase that knowledge during your interview.
- Gain experience as a consultant in the help desk space. Especially during the busy season for a company, there may be short-term projects to boost your experience.
- Focus on improving your customer service skills and find ways to showcase your experience in this area.
- Learn about ticketing systems used for helpdesks and get comfortable working in a space like this. Many companies use these to track performance.
- Shadow an IT professional in different tier levels to understand what a day in the life looks like and ask questions.
- Practice problem-solving by volunteering for a local non-profit to be their technical support and gain experience while giving back.
- Continue education and training in the field to stay on top of any changes and advancements.
Every industry is becoming increasingly dependent on technology. Undoubtedly, the demand for technical support specialists will continue to grow. To meet the customer service standards out there today, it’s important to have people available to assist if anyone has a tech issue.
In addition to the increased dependence on technology, more and more people are working remotely or in a hybrid environment. It takes a strong IT team to manage all the unique locations and devices that are connected to ensure that everything is operating at 100%. The field will be constantly growing and changing, so it’s exciting to enter.
Technical support specialist jobs come in many different levels. The tiered system is based on experience and specialized knowledge. Once tech specialists have about ten years of experience, they are considered to be experts in the IT space. Move from the basic help desk at tier one and work your way up to the more complex jobs with tiers two and three.
For additional advancement, there are plenty of manager roles where you’ll manage a team of technical support specialists. Having experience working on the front line with customers and users is helpful in successfully managing a team.
With most companies, the highest level in the technical space is a Chief Technology Officer (CTO) or a Chief Information Office (CIO). With additional schooling and experience, those roles would be a great long-term goal for anyone on this career path.
Technical support specialist interview questions to expect
1. What is your strongest area of expertise within the tech space?
Elaborate on the area you have the most experience in and try to reference relevant items to the company you are applying with. Use this as an opportunity to showcase your knowledge and expertise in hardware, software, or whatever you feel most comfortable with.
2. Explain a situation where you’ve had to teach someone something new.
Tech support roles involve much explaining to users who aren’t as familiar with all the technical pieces behind the scenes. Showing your potential employer that you feel comfortable navigating those moments and educating people is a huge plus for this role.
3. What is your typical troubleshooting process?
Explain your process when a ticket is assigned to you with an issue. There are the obvious first steps of refreshing and restarting, but what other methods do you use after that? Is there an order you work in? Let them know how you document the issue and duplicate it in case you need to escalate on your end. Be detailed in your response while also being open to altering your methods if they have a set process for you to follow.
4. Which is more important—customer service or technical support?
There is no technical support without customer service. Even if you fix issues all day, if the users don’t feel like they received the necessary support, you missed a part of your job. This role is all about communication and setting clear expectations and follow-up. There are many people who can take care of the tech issues, but customer service will set you apart.
5. What actions can you take to prevent tech problems from happening?
Prevention is key because it saves the company money and resources in the long run. Give your top three actions that you would recommend for any company. Consider a variety, including something for cybersecurity, something that will make life easier for the users, and any time or money savers you can think of.
6. Do you have any experience with cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity is a hot issue right now, and anyone that is entering the technical support space should be familiar with the major threats right now. If you have experience with a specific incident, you can share that. If not, make sure to outline your experience learning about it and show your familiarity in that space.
7. Tell us about a mistake you’ve made in tech support and what you learned from it.
Owning your mistakes is important, especially when a good lesson comes out of it. This doesn’t need to be something that happened on a job, either. You can use examples from your school years or your personal hardware. Go into detail about what you learned from the situation and show the growth you have made.
8. What do you think the worst types of tech support requests are?
The best answer for this is to talk about something preventative. Tech support should offer some basic instructions to users to avoid the simplest of errors. The worst types of requests are ones that should have been prevented with a bit of education. By framing it this way, you’ll be able to showcase just how important you think education and prevention are in your role.
9. What is your favorite piece of hardware? What apps do you love?
Have fun with this answer. You can do some research before your interview and incorporate any software or apps the company uses, but be authentic and genuine with your answer. If they only use Androids, but you prefer iOS for everything, you don’t want to get caught just trying to give an answer you think they want to hear. Everyone loves to hear about an app that saves time or adds fun to your day, so share something your interviewer might benefit from. That can help you stand out amongst your competition.
10. Are there any areas of technology that you’re interested in learning more about?
Use this question to show your passion for learning and growing. Especially in the technical support specialist role, companies want employees that are willing to learn and expand their knowledge. There might be certain paths you can get on to get more experience in a specific area of the tech world as well. Just try to keep it in line with the job you are applying for and don’t mention something completely irrelevant to the job you are interviewing for.
Technical support specialist FAQs