Find out how you can pursue a career in computer technology analysis or support. Read about educational requirements for computer systems analysts and support specialists here, along with what to expect in terms of job growth and salary in this fast-growing field of technology.
As the use of computer systems and digital office equipment continues to advance, professionals who can analyze, operate, repair and install computer components will be in demand. If you're new to the field, you may be employed as a computer support specialist, computer repair technician or computer operator. As a mid-career professional, you could hold a position as a computer systems analyst or information systems specialist. Most opportunities require current knowledge of computer hardware, software and operating systems; experience with computer networking and programming, database technology or specific software programs might also be necessary for some positions.
Computer technology analysts provide a range of support services. Computer support specialists receive calls from users who need help with hardware or software malfunctions, usage and installation. Computer operators use software applications, such as those used to create spreadsheets, documents and databases, to process information. Repair technicians test, replace or repair and ensure the proper functioning of computer parts. Information systems specialists collect and analyze information related to data management, networking and operating systems.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for computer user support specialists were expected to grow by 20% nationwide from 2012-2022; a 25%, or much-faster-than-average, increase in jobs was projected for computer systems analysts during the same period. As reported by the BLS in May of 2013, the median annual salary for computer user support specialists was $46,620, while computer systems analysts earned $81,190 a year (www.bls.gov). Based upon information provided by Salary.com in May 2014, the median annual salary for PC maintenance technicians was $40,568.
Employers typically prefer candidates with some postsecondary education or formal training. For example, an associate's degree in computer information systems, computer programming or computer science may qualify you for an entry-level job in computer support. You could also complete a certification program in information technology analysis, or its equivalent, at a community college. Most employers require a bachelor's degree for computer analyst jobs.
During the course of your studies, you can expect to complete coursework in keyboarding, data communications and networking. You'll also study computer programming and software applications; training in the use of computer graphics may be included. Many colleges and universities offer preparatory courses for industry-related certifications, which can serve as proof of competency in a specific area, such as database administration. For instance, the CompTIA A+ certification can demonstrate your understanding of networking, troubleshooting and security issues.
Strong analytical and math skills are essential to working with the latest computer technology. An understanding of interpersonal relationships and the team environment are also beneficial. You should also be well organized and have the ability to communicate in a clear and effective manner.