What is an IT specialist?
Jobs in information technology have been booming in the last few decades as computers and technology reach every aspect of our lives. A career as an IT specialist will be a perfect fit for you if you enjoy working with computers, solving problems quickly, and have excellent analytical skills.
IT specialists are responsible for most of the company’s tech and network. This team helps with purchasing, maintaining, and resolving issues related to computers and other technology tools. Covering so many different areas of business, it’s easy to see why this role is so important to all kinds of companies and would offer a fantastic career path.
Duties and responsibilities
You’ll work with different aspects of the company’s technology as an IT specialist. This will include reviewing diagnostics and assessing the functionality and efficiency of systems. Your team will be the first call if there are technical issues with hardware or software, and you’ll offer technical support to company staff and troubleshoot computer problems.
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.
Cybersecurity will be part of your responsibilities as well. IT specialists work to implement security measures and monitor security certificates and company compliance with requirements. Maintaining antivirus software on user workstations and building database security procedures will help protect the organization and ongoing training for employees. The IT team will typically handle all of that.
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. Much of the work can be done using software that allows you to remote into a user’s system to assist team members anywhere.
Typical work hours
The typical work hours for an IT specialist in an office setting are 9 AM to 5 PM, Monday through Friday. Many are on call 24/7, generally rotating weeks with other IT specialists on the team. Depending on the team’s size, they might be on call as many as 20 or more weeks a year.
IT specialists can also be freelancers and contractors brought in on a temporary or long-term basis. These contractors may assist multiple companies simultaneously and work great for small organizations that cannot afford a full-time employee.
How to become an IT specialist
In order to become an IT specialist, you will need a combination of education, training, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:
Step 1: Get an education
Once you’ve completed your high school education, you should enroll in an accredited college or university and get your bachelor’s degree in computer science, systems engineering, or information technology. While some companies hire people without a bachelor’s degree, it will give you the proper education to jump right into an IT specialist position. Some companies may require a master’s degree as well, especially for handling more advanced issues.
Step 2: Take courses for IT professionals
Take advantage of some of the incredible courses that are available online to prepare you for roles as an IT specialist. Here are a few recommendations:
- The Introduction to Technical Support course from Coursera is part of the IBM IT support professional program. You’ll learn to define technical support, customer support mindset, and the escalation matrix. This is a great introduction to ticketing systems and their features and benefits.
- Technical Support Fundamentals will prepare you for entry-level support specialist positions. Learn about the binary system, how to assemble a computer from scratch, and deep dive into how applications are created.
- Sign up for the Complete IT Support Specialist Course: IT Foundations. This IT course will teach you the skills to qualify for an entry-level job. Learn about the hardware, software, security, layers of computing, and character encoding.
- Another great course for entry-level is IT Fundamentals – Everything you need to know about IT. Finish this course and understand binary language, OSI Model, SAN, RAID, computer architecture, and much more. Learn why the IT field is right for you and your career.
- The IT Support Technical Skills Bootcamp is great for gaining skills for entry-level IT jobs. You’ll get comfortable managing Windows 10, Active Directory, Office 365, and other programs and systems. Get hands-on experience on projects and build up your own portfolio.
Step 3: Apply for entry-level work in IT
Experience is everything for people working in IT. Each issue you can work through makes you more valuable to future employers. Apply for an entry-level job to start gaining experience and hands-on training. Many people start these positions while finishing school if time allows. Look for entry-level help desk positions where you can start assisting users and learning systems in real-life situations.
Step 4: Obtain one or more professional certifications
Certifications are helpful in the IT career path. Specific vendors offer training and certifications that you can dive into once you know what your company uses. Continuing education is critical in technology because things are constantly changing, and it’s good to have the most current and updated information. Here are a few that we recommend:
- Google Certified Professional Cloud Architect – This 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 – This 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 recognizes you as an IT professional who understands IT risk and how it relates to the organization. It equips you with the knowledge and skills to identify, evaluate, and manage IT risk and develop and implement control measures and frameworks. To earn this, you must pass the CRISC exam, which consists of IT risk identification, risk assessment, risk response and mitigation, risk control, monitoring, and reporting.
Step 5: Apply for IT specialist roles
Once your resume is ready, start applying to companies you’re interested in. Check the job boards and online search engines for openings in the specialties that you want to be in.
How much do IT specialists make?
There are many variables that go into determining how much an IT specialists makes, from company size to experience to education just to name a few. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The top-paying states for IT specialists to work in are (shown in annual mean salary):
- New Jersey – $90,350
- Washington – $89,090
- Massachusetts – $88,340
- Connecticut – $87,870
- District of Columbia – $86,880
The average national salary for an IT specialist is:
Types of IT specialists
Information systems management
This specialty in IT is the most common in businesses. Professionals in this specialty handle a company’s technology needs and information systems. This role helps manage issues with the hardware and order new pieces of equipment. Every company has a budget for its technology needs, and this position is often in charge of managing that budget.
Companies use different types of networks to connect with other offices and get the work done. A network administrator is an IT specialist that keeps the internet and intranet network systems working. This role can include some training of other employees and resolving any issues that pop up.
As technology advances, more and more threats are also developing that companies need to be aware of to protect their data and infrastructure. IT specialists who are trained in cybersecurity are incredibly beneficial to organizations. There are digital security processes to oversee and manage.
Large companies and organizations may have specific help desk technicians that deal with user issues and questions as they come up. The users could be employees or customers using the company’s products. Sometimes, there are different levels of help desk technicians who handle different levels of severity. As technicians become more experienced, they can move up to the next levels.
Top skills for IT specialists
To become an IT specialist, a variety of skills can be helpful. Solving and considering creative solutions is important because so much of the role is working through issues that arise.
It’s also good to be persistent, resourceful, and analytical. You should also be comfortable with all different kinds of technology, both hardware and software. Finally, strong communication skills are necessary because you’ll update users and the leadership team on any outages or issues. It’s important to communicate clearly and efficiently, so people can follow the information and make decisions.
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As IT specialists gain more experience over time, there are many directions a career path can go. If working on the help desk team, you can move up levels within that team. There are also opportunities to expand your knowledge base, become certified in software and application development, and work on new products and updates.
Within the IT team in a larger company, there will be opportunities to manage teams. Over time, you can move up to a director or executive role. Some high-level roles include Vice President of Information Technology, Chief Technology Officer (CTO), and Chief Information Officer (CIO).
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook
IT specialists with a background and skills in cybersecurity will be in high demand in the coming years. Digital technology has shown that it is prone to cyber threats and breaches, and cybersecurity must 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 must ensure that cybersecurity measures are robust enough to prevent breaches.
Employment projections for IT specialists
IT specialist roles are projected to grow six perfect over the next ten years, which is about average. Some of the basic functions may be automated, but there will be the continued growth of technology needs in the business world. It is also projected that there are 75,000 job openings for IT specialists each year.
IT specialist career tips
Soft skills and traits for IT specialists
IT specialists need to have good attention to detail and excellent troubleshooting skills. Creative problem-solving will help when looking for solutions to problems. You must be able to listen to problems and ask the right questions to get to the bottom of the issue. Persistence and resourcefulness are also incredibly helpful skills in this role.
Commonly required skills and qualifications
- Professional certifications in programs and systems like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Cisco, Adobe, and other common programs
- Strong verbal and written communication skills and ability to train
- Extensive knowledge of various operating systems, hardware, software, and programming languages
- Ability to report on issues and the current status of systems and operations to leadership
- Knowledge of budgeting methods
- Professional demeanor
Develop a professional network
Join online or in-person communities with others in the technology space. This will help you continue learning and network with others who do similar work. Here are some to check out as an IT specialist:
- The Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network
- Opportunity Hub
- Association of Information Technology Professionals
- Society for Technical Communication
- Women in Technology
- LinkedIn Groups
Where the jobs are
- New York
What should I include on my resume to get a job as an IT specialist?
Resumes for roles in IT should include professional certifications, experience, and knowledge about specific programs and operating systems. If you have previous experience in an IT role, make sure to detail that.
Do you need a college degree to become an IT specialist?
The best college degree options for IT specialists are computer sciences, information technology, systems engineering, or something in a related field. Studying in these fields will give you a strong knowledge base in technology.
What’s the best entry-level job to get into IT?
The help desk is a great place to start a career in IT. You’ll receive important experience in problem-solving and troubleshooting with users and customers. There are typically different levels of help desk, so there’s room to grow as well.
Is it stressful to be an IT specialist?
The IT specialist role can be stressful during the workday if there are a lot of issues or something more widespread, but you should be able to turn off the workday’s stress when you leave the office. You’ll have the training to handle the situations that come up.
What are the daily responsibilities of an IT specialist?
The daily tasks of an IT specialist include setting up new users, troubleshooting any issues, and keeping an eye on security. You’ll also maintain the networks and all the software and hardware for the organization.
Do you need to know programming to work in IT?
For many IT specialist jobs, knowing programming will not be required. But it’s important to understand how to run a computer, and having some basic knowledge of programming will help you learn more. Learning the basics can boost your resume.
Can I get an IT specialist job without certifications?
There are plenty of job openings for IT specialists that do not require professional certifications. Still, your resume will look much better if you show specific product knowledge of programs and operating systems. Certifications are great tools for continuing education.
Are IT specialists in high demand in the workforce?
Jobs in IT support are projected to grow at a rate of around six percent over the next decade, which is average. The more experience and knowledge you have in different specialties in the technology space, the better chance you’ll have to advance in your career.
What is the best IT specialty to get into?
System administration is a critical job for many companies. Someone must be on staff to manage networks and help the other employees and customers troubleshoot the issues. Starting with this specialty will provide you with great experience in many different parts of the system and help you advance your career.
How can I get promoted within the IT department?
To earn a promotion within the IT department, consider continuing education with courses and certifications to expand your product and program knowledge. Showing your skills and ability to serve the users and problem-solve will also help boost your career prospects.