In the United States, the average IT support specialist can expect to make $51,089 per year. The exact number is based on seniority, location, company, industry, and other factors.
While technology may seem like second nature to you, it’s not so easy for everyone. For some users, a simple frozen screen can trigger a downward spiral of frustration, shame, and Ben & Jerry's. IT support specialists exist to shoulder that burden and get the user back on track before they cash out their 401(k) for more Chunky Monkey.
If you enjoy sharing your expertise in technology, then becoming a career in tech support may be right up your alley. Learn more about the role, the average salary range, and how you can become an IT support specialist.
What does an IT support specialist do?
An IT support specialist, also known as a computer support specialist, provides technical support in response to the needs of internal and/or external users. The IT support specialist evaluates the problem, assesses potential solutions, and walks users through troubleshooting steps to resolve the issue. Think of the IT support specialist as Obi-Wan Kenobi patiently guiding users through Jedi-like technology challenges.
Responsibilities may vary from company to company and even between those who hold the same title within the organization. In general, here are a few job duties that often appear in an IT support specialist’s job description:
Responding to support inquiries
Documenting requests and resolutions
Diagnosing computer problems
Maintaining and upgrading systems
Assisting users with troubleshooting
Setting up computer equipment and other devices
Repairing computer equipment and other devices
Training users on computer hardware and software
Documenting problems and changes
Sharing information with team members and managers
What does the typical IT support specialist career path look like?
While a degree isn’t always essential, many employers prefer IT support specialists with an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in a related field. Relevant majors include computer science, information technology, and similar areas.
From there, gaining experience is the next major step. A future IT support specialist may seek an internship in the field or an entry-level position. You can also build transferable skills through experience as a customer service representative, help desk analyst, or computer technician.
Showing an ability to improve the effectiveness of computer systems can help you continue advancing your career.
Related job titles include computer support specialist, technical support specialist, computer user support specialist, computer network support specialist, client support specialist, desktop support specialist, IT technician, and field service technician.
Should an IT support specialist choose to pivot to another information technology position, they may consider becoming a network administrator, computer systems administrator, software developer, software engineer, or computer support services manager.
IT support specialist salary by seniority
On average, IT support specialists make $51,089. However, seniority, location, and other factors lead to notable variations.
Payscale reports the following average salaries by seniority:
Entry-level IT support specialist: $42,000-$48,000 per year
Mid-level network engineer: $48,000-$59,000 per year
Senior network engineer: $59,000-$65,000 per year
According to U.S. News & World Report, the average salary of computer support specialists also fluctuates between regions, with those in metropolitan areas of California commanding the highest salary. Top-paying cities include:
Sacramento, California: $86,350
Napa, California: $78,740
San Francisco, California: $78,670
Madera, California: $72,710
San Jose, California: $72,660
How do you become an IT support specialist?
Get an education
Education is essential, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need a degree. Most employers expect prospective IT support specialists to have at least some formal instruction related to computer science. Completing an associate’s or bachelor’s program can help develop the skills you need to succeed and give you a leg up on the competition.
Real-world job experience allows you to put your knowledge to the test while cultivating essential skills. IT support specialists often start out with internships, which may turn into full-time positions should they prove their value to the company. Entry-level positions are also widely available.
No one can resist a good credential. The right certification helps show your skills and commitment. As an added bonus, certifications may also improve your earning potential. Some of the most common certifications for IT support specialists include:
Network with other professionals
Professional connections can provide job leads, keep you up to date on the latest industry news, and just give you someone to share your frustrating/exciting/embarrassing work stories with. Develop relationships with other IT professionals through networking events, conferences, and other opportunities. You never know when someone you meet fighting over swag at a convention will get you your dream job.
Build your skills
IT support specialists require a balanced skill set to solve technical challenges while working with users. Key areas to focus on include:
Organization: Working as an IT support specialist requires a lot of juggling. Cultivating strong organizational skills can help ensure nothing falls by the wayside.
Creativity: The right solution isn’t always obvious, so you may need to get creative to resolve issues.
Problem-solving: Users come to you for help with their technical problems. Flexing your problem-solving skills is essential to getting the job done.
Communication: Since you’ll be interacting with internal and/or external users, interpersonal communication skills can make the process simple and painless.
Analytical skills: Any number of moving parts could trigger a problem. Analytical skills can help you pinpoint the root cause.
Technical skills: To help users resolve hardware and software problems, you need to understand how these tools work.
So you want to share your knowledge of technology with users? We commend your patience. A job as an IT support specialist might be your ticket to career satisfaction (and endless calls from your friends and family asking how to fix their computers). Keep reading the PDQ blog and watching our videos for more insight on information technology. And since you’re considering a career in IT, check out positions at PDQ. You might be the cool nerd we’ve been dreaming about.
Part writer, part sysadmin fangirl, Meredith gets her kicks diving into the depths of IT lore. When she's not spending quality time behind a computer screen, she's probably curled up under a blanket, silently contemplating the efficacy of napping.