IT Support Specialist Career Path, Outlook, and Definition
Every day, companies and consumers rely on the expertise of IT support specialists to help navigate issues in technology. While it may be easy to overlook the support options offered by companies, they’re in fact a huge and crucial part of business. According to Microsoft’s “Global State of Customer Service” report, 90% of consumers believe customer service is important to their choice of brand, and nearly two-thirds will sever a relationship with a brand due to poor customer support.
With so much on the line, businesses and organizations turn to skilled information technology (IT) professionals like IT support specialists to face these challenges. IT support specialists are technology professionals who are responsible for evaluating, troubleshooting, and solving technology issues, both internally for company employees and externally for the company’s product users. They’re an essential part of a multitude of industries, from companies that sell software or technology to any company that relies on technology to function.
While there is not a set IT support specialist career path, most of these professionals have a background in information technology, having studied the ins and outs of computers and software. With the proper skills and knowledge from programs that provide tech training, IT specialists can help individuals and companies navigate glitches or complications in technology, allowing them to reach their personal and professional goals.
What Is an IT Support Specialist?
Every company and industry that relies on technology will encounter glitches and obstacles from time to time. IT specialists are the technology professionals who help employees or customers navigate those issues. From providing technical assistance to employees via help desks to troubleshooting with customers through a call center — and maintaining systems and hardware in between — IT specialists ensure the technologies their companies rely on run smoothly.
Working in tandem with other specialists, members of a company, and customers who use an organization’s technology, IT specialists must have the knowledge and skills required to troubleshoot issues, as well as the communication skills to deliver solutions to others. Specialized in various areas of information technology, from network analysis to system administration or security and database administration, IT specialists are tech experts.
What Does an IT Support Specialist Do?
Catering to the many technical needs of businesses, IT specialists are responsible for the implementation, monitoring, and maintenance of IT systems, playing an instrumental role in the success and productivity of an organization.
On any given day, their responsibilities may include:
Providing staff or customers with troubleshooting support
Maintaining existing hardware or computer systems through installing updates, monitoring performance, and replacing parts
Setting up new hardware and software
Learning about the latest technology a company will be using prior to implementing and training employees on new systems
Evaluating the success of programs and systems, including writing reports and testing hardware
Conducting administrative duties, such as creating emails or profiles for staff
The work that IT specialists do is essential for the success of every department in an organization. Working behind the scenes, technology specialists are able to fix issues as they arise and provide the platform for a company and its clients to find success.
How to Become an IT Support Specialist
Future tech professionals approach the IT support specialist career path in a variety of ways. Some follow a traditional route, earning a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as computer science, while others build their skills on the job through work experience.
At minimum, candidates will need to have a GED or high school diploma, with many pursuing computer training programs to prepare them for the role. Those who are not able to dedicate four years to becoming an IT specialist may opt instead for a more streamlined approach, such as pursuing an associate degree or certificate, enrolling in online courses, or applying for a position with a company that provides on-the-job training.
IT Support Specialist Salary and Outlook
Nearly every modern business relies on some form of technology to function and succeed. As many organizations incorporate technology or online platforms into their business models, what IT support specialists do becomes increasingly valuable.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for experienced computer or IT support specialists was $57,910 per year as of May 2021, with the field expected to grow steadily at 9% between 2020 and 2030. With increased education, work experience, or certifications, specialists are also able to look toward senior-level roles or roles as network specialists, taking on more job autonomy and competing for higher salaries.
IT Support Specialist Key Skills
Becoming a successful IT support specialist requires a balance of both technical and interpersonal skills. While many of their main tasks and day-to-day responsibilities involve working with computer systems and hardware, troubleshooting and helping others navigate technical issues require strong communication skills.
Many tasks fall under the purview of the IT support job description and involve a variety of capabilities. These skills include:
Hardware and software installation
Program troubleshooting and maintenance
Data entry, analysis, migration, and monitoring
Data security protocols
IT helpdesk software proficiency
Through proper technical training and work experience, IT specialists are able to not only react to issues but, in some cases, also update systems before problems occur, allowing businesses to avoid the turbulence of shutting down operations altogether.
Aside from the technical computer skills, what IT specialists do requires multiple interpersonal skills to succeed. Some of these skills include:
Communication: Much of the troubleshooting that IT specialists do involves explaining solutions to individuals through help desks or call centers. These interactions require IT specialists to have patience and strong communication skills to be successful.
Problem-Solving: By nature, IT support specialist work revolves around problem-solving. Whether they’re resolving a technical issue or a maintenance or implementation issue, specialists must be able to think on their feet.
Time Management: When issues arise, IT specialists must be available to find a solution as quickly as possible. This requires them to have strong time-management skills, as well as the ability to prioritize projects.
Attention to Detail: Many solutions to information technology problems are minute. They may be as small as a mistake in a log-on process that specialists must be able to notice and solve. Along with the accuracy required for data entry, attention to detail is a key component in the success of IT specialists.
When they apply their strong interpersonal skills, specialists can coordinate with one another to implement innovative and efficient programs and strategies. These skills can have a huge influence on workplace satisfaction, allowing specialists to take pride in solving issues and helping others.
IT Support Specialist Career Paths
The knowledge and skills information technology specialists build to pursue the IT support specialist career path are versatile and can apply to multiple information technology roles. As candidates gain work experience and advanced knowledge of coding languages or the ways in which different online platforms function, they have the opportunity to specialize and transfer those skills to a specific part of the industry.
With schooling and certification, technology professionals can focus on the areas of IT that they enjoy most, honing their skills and applying them toward an advanced career. The following are some career specializations IT specialists may choose to pursue after gaining a foundation in IT support.
For some individuals, the field of technical support can be incredibly fulfilling. The opportunity to not only assist others in finding solutions but also approach a career as a series of puzzles can be the perfect fit for many information technology professionals.
Often an entry-level profession for many specialists, what IT and technical support specialists do on a day-to-day basis can be a fantastic way to build a strong foundational knowledge of information technology. Requiring the ability to troubleshoot, problem-solve, and implement solutions, technical support specialists gain an in-depth knowledge of how programs function.
A valuable and advanced support specialty, cybersecurity is an essential part of the safety, security, and reliability of many organizations. Some of the most valuable commodities on the internet are data and user information, and many businesses have extensive databases of user data and details that cybercriminals may want to steal or sell.
As a cybersecurity professional, IT specialists must be able to not only combat breaches in security but also evaluate systems and anticipate which areas may have weaknesses. These skills can allow specialists to protect data, as well as the company’s systems, safeguarding them from intrusions or system failures.
Network and Systems Management
Network and systems managers are responsible for the smooth operation of a company’s computer programs and systems. Overseeing daily operations, monitoring for any issues, and delegating complications to teams of support specialists, network and systems managers ensure a business is able to run consistently and smoothly.
Information is constantly evolving and the variety of businesses and industries that rely on technology is far reaching. With each industry relying on different technology, there is a growing demand for tech professionals who are able to not only meet current requirements but also develop software that is innovative and allows businesses to reach their goals.
Software developers are IT specialists who understand both how a software works and how it’s created, allowing them to update and configure the next evolution of software programs.
Web or Cloud Development
Many businesses rely on websites and platforms to build profits, expand their audience, and gain success. The more intuitive and user-friendly a website is, the more likely customers are to spend time or resources on a company’s website. It’s the job of web developers to make a website as enjoyable and rewarding to use as possible.
Additionally, many of the web platforms developers turn to are shifting to a cloud-based system to store information. Eliminating some of the physical hardware required for a company’s databases or programs, cloud-based systems alleviate many of the costs and technical issues businesses normally face, amalgamating all their programs, systems, data, and strategies in one location. Cloud developers are experts in platform development and can usher businesses toward the future of information technology.
Entry-Level IT Support Specialists
The IT support career path begins with learning how information technology programs function. The job opportunities available and what an IT support specialist does at the beginning of their career often allow them to hone their skills and learn the ins and outs of different programs. Some of the avenues a specialist may pursue to enter the field include:
Computer Support Technician
Acting as the in-house problem-solver for different companies, computer support technicians maintain, update, and fix computers and computer systems within an organization. Specializing in repairing computers, computer support technicians are often focused on repairing the hardware itself.
Help Desk Technician
Help desk technicians are problem-solvers for both employees in an organization and individuals who use a company’s products or technology. They’re the professionals people turn to when they encounter a glitch in their computer hardware or program software.
IT Support Analyst
IT support analysts are the IT support specialists who are responsible for improving a company’s in-house systems. When a business is unhappy with the way in which its systems function or the systems it uses, it turns to support analysts to diagnose the problem and provide a support solution.
Responsible for implementing, monitoring, and maintaining computer systems and networks for a company, entry-level systems administrators work with other specialists to identify the needs of an organization and create the proper program strategy.
Midlevel IT Support Specialists
Having accumulated additional education and work experience, midlevel IT support specialists are able to do more than simply operate programs and systems; they understand how they work and are able to manage, innovate, or update them. This knowledge and technical foundation can allow them to take on IT support specialist career paths with added responsibility, job autonomy, and the increased salaries that accompany them. These career options may include the following.
Computer Systems Analyst
The job description for IT support specialists in computer systems analyst roles combines a variety of technical skills and business knowledge. Tasked with increasing the efficiency of a company’s information technology systems, computer systems analysts must be able to determine which programs are working and which are not, either updating or replacing them for the betterment of the company.
Online businesses deal with huge amounts of data on a daily basis. From transactions to tracking automation, to storing customer data and information, database administrators are the experts who organize, monitor, and maintain a company’s data.
Within a company’s framework, employees need to be able to communicate with one another. Network specialists are the professionals who design and implement that network, creating the connections required to allow individuals to work together.
Information Security Analyst
Information security analysts monitor the health and cyber protection of an organization. As quickly as security professionals are able to respond to a cybersecurity threat, cybercriminals are working on new ways to access data. Working in tandem with other IT support specialists, information security analysts strategize and implement programs to protect their organizations and their data.
Senior-Level IT Support Specialists
What an IT support specialist does as they advance professionally often evolves as they refine their leadership, management, and communication skills. With the advanced knowledge and skills gained from dedicating their careers to information technology, senior-level IT support specialists may be able to advance into roles that place them in a management position, delegating to other specialists and leading a department. These roles are the most competitive and difficult to achieve, requiring extensive education and experience in IT, as well as a network of connections to draw from.
Upon reaching the pinnacle of their careers, senior-level IT support specialists may work in positions such as the following.
Chief Information Officer or Vice President of Technology
Chief information officers (CIOs) and vice presidents (VPs) of technology handle a company’s overall IT strategies, looking at the bigger picture and planning for the future. With the help of specialists and experts, they can guide the progression of a company, putting plans into place to prepare a business for future challenges and innovation. The decisions CIOs and VPs make direct the future of a company, impacting their success and bottom line.
Director of Systems Development
Technicians run computer systems, experienced specialists implement and monitor them, and directors guide them. Directors of systems development organize and oversee the technologies that a company uses, ensuring they work well together to reach a company’s goals.
Chief Security Officer
Chief security officers are responsible for a company’s safety and cybersecurity. In a leadership role, they’re responsible for making authoritative decisions concerning a company’s security practices, overseeing the success of different strategies, and delegating systems monitoring or maintenance to their team members.
Take Control of Your Future With a Career in IT
IT support specialists play an integral role in the success of businesses across industries. Responsible for tasks ranging from the implementation, monitoring, and maintenance of technology to assisting employees and customers with troubleshooting issues with their technology, IT specialists keep companies running. With multiple avenues to pursue the IT support specialist career path, along with numerous other tech career paths, the IT industry is open to anyone passionate about technology.
Offering a program that allows candidates to build valuable technology skills while remaining in the workforce, Revature can be a great fit for individuals looking to gain entry into the IT field while continuing to earn income. Run by dedicated professionals in the industry, Revature can provide you with the practical skills you need to find success. Discover what you can do with an exciting new career in technology.