What does a technical support specialist do?
Technical support specialists are key people for maintaining the efficiency of a company’s computer systems. They typically work through telephone or video calls, remotely support users who use a company’s network of computers, and help users troubleshoot problems. Technical support specialists provide technical assistance to customers and walk them through the process of resolving software issues. They also maintain business records, such as contracts and invoices, and sort information on databases.
Technical support specialists work with end-users to provide technical support and assistance for technical, software and hardware problems. Some of the more common problems they troubleshoot include connection problems, slow performance, inabilities to access data and inefficient programs. Specific responsibilities for this role include:
Walking customers through the process of installing software on their computers and launching those programs for the first time
Helping troubleshoot software problems and provide actionable tips to resolve the issue
Sending technical documentation to customers and end-users
Making recommendations to employees or customers for hardware changes when a computer cannot support a particular software
Referring difficult cases to support technicians or a senior analyst
Taking over control of a customer’s computer remotely to resolve issues
Salaries for this position vary according to your experience level and geographic location.
Common salary in the U.S.: $43,869 per year
Some salaries range from $7.25 to $40.05 per hour.
Technical support specialist requirements
There are several qualifications required to obtain a position as a technical support specialist. They include:
The minimum education requirement for a technical support specialist role can vary from position to position. Many employers require only a high school diploma or GED along with the completion of a computer training program. Other employers may require a bachelor’s degree in information systems, computer science or another closely related degree. Though experience is important, employers typically prefer to hire candidates who have some formal college education.
Most technical support specialists acquire at least some on-the-job training after they are hired. Training may last for weeks or could be ongoing for months, depending on the complexity of the role, complexity of the products and the size of the company.
Technical support specialists can acquire training in internships. Some college programs include an internship as part of their curriculum and this experience gives students a chance to apply their knowledge in a real-world environment. It also creates opportunities to connect and develop relationships with IT professions who may be able to help them when they are ready to pursue employment.
There are several certifications available from vendors, such as Microsoft, as well as vendor-neutral certification providers. CompTIA is one of the largest providers of IT certifications in the world and offers several core certifications that employers prefer. They include:
CompTIA A+: This certification is often required by employers and verifies that candidates have the foundational skills that they need to work in the IT field.
CompTIA Network+: This certification affirms that candidates have the essential skills they need to design, configure, manage and troubleshoot both wireless and wired devices on a network.
CompTIA Security+: This certification confirms that you have the baseline skills for risk management, threat management, risk mitigation and intrusion detection.
Several skills can help technical support specialists succeed in their positions. These include:
These skills include empathy, positivity, self-control and patience. Technical support specialists must have patience and be sympathetic to diffuse any frustration the end-user may be feeling. They must have strong customer service skills to solve problems quickly, efficiently and in a manner that leaves the customer or employee happy with the result.
Interpersonal skills refer to the cluster of skills commonly known as ‘people skills,’ such as social graces, communication, friendliness and optimism. Technical support specialists must be able to actively listen to end users to understand the problem they are describing and know what questions to ask to identify the problem. They must also have strong verbal communication skills, as they have to be able to describe a solution in a way that a non-technical person can understand. Excellent writing skills are also important in this role, as they may need to prepare instructions via writing for customers and employees, as well as for online chat boxes.
These skills include active listening, analysis, creativity, communication and decision-making. Technical support specialists must be able to identify both simple and challenging computer problems, analyze them, perform any necessary research and identify a solution.
These skills refer specifically to a technical support specialist’s ability to collect and analyze information. As part of the problem-solving process, these skills are integral to identifying a problem.
Technical support specialist work environment
Technical support specialists typically work in offices with the following conditions:
Sitting at a desk for extended periods of time
Using office equipment, such as computers, printers and scanners
Working nights or weekends occasionally
Technical support specialists may work in a variety of fields, including finances, educational services, telecommunications and computer systems. They may work for individual companies in-house or may work for larger organizations that specialize in providing technical support for businesses. Some technical support specialists work from home answering customer questions over the phone or via live chat while others may travel to offices or homes to provide hands-on support.
How to become a technical support specialist
These are the typical steps you should take to pursue a career as a technical support specialist:
1. Pursue an education.
Search for technical support specialist position openings in your geographic area and check the minimum education requirements because they can vary. If you plan to leverage a position as a technical support specialist as a way to move into a more advanced position, you may want to consider pursuing an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, as many of the advanced roles will require them. If you are still in high school, focus on taking computer and communication courses, as technical computer skills and communication skills are both essential to this role.
2. Acquire certifications.
When reading job descriptions for open technical support specialist positions in your geographic area, note whether they require any special certifications. Many employers prefer that candidates hold the A+ certification, at a minimum, as it proves a candidate has the foundational skills to carry out IT tasks. Some employers may also prefer that you hold vendor-specific certifications, such as those offered by Microsoft or Cisco.
3. Obtain experience.
Experience is important for an IT position, although some employers may forego experience if you have a bachelor’s or associate’s degree and certifications. Consider pursuing internship opportunities to obtain practical knowledge and build relationships with other professionals in the IT field.
4. Update your resume.
Once you have the required education, certifications and experience, update your resume. Include your highest level of education, certifications and relevant work history. For each position, try to emphasize how the skills you used in those roles can be transferred to a position as a technical support specialist. Review the list of required skills above and try to include them on your resume.
5. Apply for jobs.
Search for open positions in your geographic area and identify the roles for which you are most qualified based on your education, certifications and experience levels. Apply with your updated resume and a well-crafted cover letter that you have written for each specific position.
Technical support specialist job description example
Growth Data is seeking a self-motivated technical support specialist to join its rapidly growing startup. This individual will be responsible for helping customers on the phone or over web chat, ensuring that they can successfully launch our software on their computers. Specific duties will include learning the Growth Data system and becoming an expert on the product, training and demoing for customers and employees to resolve technical issues, helping customers with hardware and software upgrades and tracking support issues in our ticket management system. This person may be asked to assist with after-hours support.
Candidates are required to have a minimum of an associate’s degree in IT or a closely related field as well as two years of experience assisting users of computer systems, either over the phone or in-person. The ideal candidate will have the ability to manage multiple tasks, be empathetic and have excellent communication skills.
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