Computer Support SpecialistWe mentioned in last week’s blog that information technology careers are booming right now. In 2013 the top five entry-level information technology jobs were: Computer Support Specialist, Software Developer/Engineer, Systems Analyst, Network/Systems Admin, and Database Administrator.

There were a combined 335,000 job openings posted by companies. About two-thirds of those jobs required at least a bachelor’s degree or higher for applicants to be considered. But let’s take a closer look at the top job, which accounted for more than 121,000 of those job postings: Computer Support Specialist.

There are two main groups computer support specialists fall in, and you’re probably familiar with both, even if you didn’t realize at the time that’s who the person was.

Computer Support Specialist = The IT Guy or Gal

With how quickly technology changes, even small companies often require at least one employee who has expert knowledge of the equipment and software employees in the company use. It’s even more important for companies that use software designed specifically for their line of business or even specific to that company.

In this case, the computer support specialist is hired to help the company internally in making sure that all technology keeps running smoothly. He or she has to be able to diagnose problems when they happen and then figure out how to fix the problem. This is also typically the person who will set up new computer hardware and software and train employees on how to use it.

Computer Support Specialist = Customer Support

The IT person at a company is the internal support, but many companies also need to hire computer support specialists to help externally (i.e., their customers). If you have cable or internet in your home, you’ve probably dealt with a customer support person either when they first came to set it up or if it went out and you had to call the company’s help desk to try to get it fixed.

In this case, the computer support specialist is customer-facing and needs to be well-informed about the specific types of technical support the company’s customers need. Customer support employees need knowledge specialized to the goods or services offered by the company, whereas someone who is supporting the hardware and software needs of the company’s employees require more general technological knowledge.

Network Support vs. User Support

There are two other ways computer support specialists can be divided: computer network support and computer user support. The former are typically part of the company’s IT department and will assist in analyzing, troubleshooting and fixing problems with the computer network. This is the person who performs regular maintenance on the company’s network and may assist in helping keep the company’s network secure.

Computer user support specialists may be in the company’s IT department, but it’s not unusual for them to be part of the customer service department, particularly if they are supporting customers rather than internal employees. Their job is to diagnose and fix the specific hardware and software problems that the technology users have.

What Industries Hire Computer Support Specialists?

You can find computer support specialists in just about every industry, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics identified the top five in 2014 for both computer user and computer network support specialists.

The top five industries that employed the most computer user support specialists in 2014 were:

  • Computer systems design and related services = 20%
  • Educational services; state, local, and private = 13%
  • Information = 11%
  • Administrative and support services = 9%
  • Wholesale trade = 7%

The top five industries that employed the most computer network support specialists in 2014 were:

  • Computer systems design and related services = 20%
  • Wired telecommunications carriers = 10%
  • Finance and insurance = 9%
  • Educational services; state, local, and private = 8%
  • Wholesale trade = 6%

If you’re interested in learning more about the profession, check out these industry organizations:

And if you’re ready to get started with your online computer science degree, check out Grantham University’s program.