How Can I Become a Computer Systems Technician?

Explore the career requirements for computer systems technicians. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, salary, and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Business Systems Analysis degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Systems Technician?

Computer systems technicians assist clients and/or employers with computer operations. There are several positions contained within this job field, such as bench or field technicians and help desk technicians. Bench/field technicians work in a more hands-on position, repairing minor damage and troubleshooting problems for operating systems, as well as training users to work with new hardware/software and upgrading computers.

Help desk technicians typically provide remote assistance with users' technical problems, applying their knowledge of computers to clearly explain common issues and how to fix them. Rather than making repairs themselves, they'll need to walk users through what to do. The following chart gives you an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree, but many positions may be available with less education
Key Responsibilities Install and configure hardware
Assist with company/organization's internal network
Troubleshoot errors
Key Skills Interpersonal communication
Critical thinking
Problem solving
Job Outlook (2014-2024) 13% (for all computer user support specialists)*
Average Salary (2015) $52,430 (for all computer user support specialists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Education Do Computer Systems Technicians Need?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, most employers prefer you to earn a bachelor's degree in information technology, computer science, or engineering (www.bls.gov). However, the range of jobs and the skills needed for the profession are diverse enough that you can qualify for several positions with an associate degree, industry certification, or sufficient technical experience. Programs at all levels are widely available at technical schools, community colleges, and universities. The BLS also stated that you'll typically receive on-the-job training from your employer that usually lasts around three months.

What Will I Learn in a College Program?

College-level certificate and diploma programs introduce you to the fundamentals of computing and computer systems. Courses usually include basic electronics, computer hardware configuration, operating systems, software, programming, and networking. You can often complete these programs in a year or less.

Associate's degree programs in computer information systems or computer engineering technology are appropriate for a job as a computer systems technician. You'll cover the same course topics as those in certificate or diploma curricula, as well as additional lab courses that allow you to practice configuring computer hardware, software, and networks. A 2-year associate's degree program also requires you to complete general education courses in math, social sciences, and humanities.

Some relevant bachelor's majors include computer engineering technology and information technology management. Coursework and computer lab participation offers you more advanced training to prepare you for jobs with increased responsibility. In a program's 4-year span, you're often exposed to network administration, database administration, and software engineering along with hardware and software fundamentals.

What Jobs Can I Apply For?

Entry-level jobs include help desk technician, bench technician, or field technician. Many companies that use computer systems have in-house repair and administration departments, such as insurance companies, government agencies, schools, healthcare providers, and financial institutions. You could also provide outsourced or contract services through a computer service company. Additionally, you could qualify for jobs in computer sales and marketing with computer and electronics retailers. According to BLS data, approximately 585,060 people worked as computer user support specialists in 2015 with a projected increase of 13% from 2014-2024.

What Will My Job Duties Be?

As either a bench technician or field technician, you'll usually install and configure hardware and software, provide training to users, troubleshoot operating system problems, and make any repairs that are within your level of competence. If you have sufficient education or experience, you could also assist system administrators with the maintenance of local area and wide area networks. Your duties will primarily be hands-on, so you'll need to be familiar with the proper handling techniques of computer components.

Your duties as a help desk technician are generally limited to phone or email support to users about hardware and software problems. You'll perform assessments and diagnostics, requiring patience with frustrated users and the ability to relate to their level of expertise. In some instances, you might be able to remotely access a user's system through various tools and programs, though you'll usually need to be able to provide step-by-step instructions.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer systems analysts investigate the usage and management of an organization's computer systems to identify flaws and suggest changes to make things more efficient on both the information technology and business ends. Network and computer systems administrators manage the everyday usage of an organization's computer networks, directing others in what to do in order to effectively coordinate users. Computer network architects design data communication networks large and small, implementing them in the workplace to improve the efficiency and cooperation between users. All of these positions require a bachelor's degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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