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.
Duties and responsibilities
One of the biggest tasks for technical support specialists 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 make updates 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.
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 mean more technical support. Specialists can work in a physical office or remotely as long as they can access the servers and critical systems.
Some travel may be required to help set up new workspaces, complete training, or attend meetings. Most work days will be spent behind a computer screen troubleshooting by phone, email, or chat. Specialists will want to make sure their desk is set up properly.
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.
There are options for this role to be done as freelance work and be hired on an as-needed basis. This is a great option if you want to get experience across different industries.
How to become a technical support specialist
In order to become a technical support 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: 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.
Step 2: Get certified with additional training
- Check out the Udemy courses that provide some of the fundamentals of being a technical support specialist. The IT Help Desk Professional gives you 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 Coursera certificates, such as Technical Support Fundamentals or Introduction to Technical Support 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 course and get step-by-step instructions with projects to get some practice. Some of these courses include, Technical Analysis Made Simple and Windows 10 Troubleshooting for IT Support.
Step 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.
Step 4: Stay on top of changing technology
Technology is constantly evolving, and new updates are rolled out. Anyone in the tech support space must know about 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.
Step 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.
How much do technical support specialists make?
There are many variables that go into determining how much a technical support specialist makes, from company size to experience to education, just to name a few.
Highest paying industries
- Telecommunications – $76,910
- Finance and Insurance – $74,920
- Management of Companies and Enterprises – $66,500
- Data processing and Hosting – $62,460
- Computer Systems Design – $61,390
Highest paying states
- California – $71,790
- Massachusetts – $71,080
- Colorado – $64,270
- New York – $64,630
- District of Columbia – $56,691
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
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
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 engineer
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 or server maintenance. 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.
Top skills for technical support specialists
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 in a timely manner with great communication.
Technical support specialist career path
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 experts in the IT space. Move from the basic help desk at tier one and work 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 officer (CIO). With additional schooling and experience, those roles would be a great long-term goal for anyone on this career path.
Similar job titles
Position trends and outlook for technical support specialists
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 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 constantly grow and change, so this is an exciting career path.
Employment projections for technical support specialists
According to the BLS, technical support positions are projected to grow 10% over the next decade. This is much faster than the average job growth rate.
Technical support specialist career tips
Soft skills and traits
Problem-solving and creative thinking can be incredibly beneficial for this role. Practice problem-solving by volunteering for a local non-profit to be their technical support and gain experience while giving back. Focus on improving your customer service skills and find ways to showcase your experience in this area.
Commonly required skills and qualifications
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.
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 look like and ask questions. Check out the free coding courses from Codeacademy to boost your coding knowledge and add to your resume. Continue education and training to stay on top of any changes and advancements.
Develop a professional network
One great resource to boost your career options is to develop your own professional network. Use the established groups out there and connect with others in your industry. Here are a few recommendations:
- Help Desk Institute (HDI)
- Help Desk Association (HDA)
- Service Desk Institute (SDI)
- Association for Support Professionals
- CompTIA Network
Where the technical support specialist jobs are
- Cisco Systems
- New York
Top job sites
What are the roles of a technical support specialist?
Technical support specialists handle an organization’s hardware, software, and application problems. The main objective is solving problems and coming up with creative solutions for users and customers.
Is technical support a good career?
Any careers in the technology space are strong options for a good career path. More and more industries are relying on technology for expansion and automation, so there will be a growing demand for these types of roles.
Are there good entry-level technical support jobs?
Starting as help desk support is a great entry-level job. You’ll gain experience with real-life issues and learn new tricks and processes. You can also develop your customer service skills and gain practice with a ticketing system.
What are the best industries for technical support specialists?
Telecommunications and finance are the top two industries for technical support specialists. Larger companies have more room for growth, and those two industries need strong, reliable systems.
Does a technical support specialist job require a college degree?
Each company has different requirements, but it’s always recommended to have a degree in computer sciences or information systems. If a four-year degree is out of the question, work on an associate’s degree first to get some specialized education.
What should be on my resume for technical support specialist jobs?
Highlight any experience you have with technical systems. List out your areas of knowledge and include any software systems or applications in which you are proficient. Don’t leave off jobs that included customer service because that’s an important skill set for this role as well as experience troubleshooting technical issues.
Are tech support roles easy?
Most technical support specialist roles are fairly low stress if you have the necessary education and experience. You’ll be managing the requests as they come in and prioritizing them. Any large outages or issues may be stressful, but that’s not a common occurrence for companies with a strong infrastructure.
What are the advancement opportunities for tech support?
With experience and education in the technical support space, you can advance to a management role and oversee help desk teams and technical support. If you want to continue to move up the ladder, you can work toward a CTO or CIO position.
What is the best IT career path?
As technology advances, there are constantly new fields to become subject matter experts in. Cloud technologies are a popular space right now and in constant demand. Become knowledgeable in that area to get ahead of some of the competition and remain in high demand.
Is a help desk job good experience?
Working at a help desk is an incredible experience in the technical support space. You will gain experience dealing directly with customers and users and be able to solve their problems using your expertise. You can learn from your peers and manager and grow your knowledge base for issues you cannot solve.
What is the best degree for IT jobs?
For technical support specialists, the best degree is a Bachelor’s degree in computer sciences or information technology. You can add on to those with a graduate degree or certification programs, but that will give you a good base to start with.