Computers are good tools for businesses of all kinds, and computer technicians, also called computer support specialists, keep those computers running well so that their users can achieve maximum productivity. If you know computers and software inside-out and don't mind working with stressed-out people, computer technician might be the job for you. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the median annual salary for a computer technician in 2010 was $46,260.
Computer technician jobs are one of the few information technology, or IT, jobs, that does not always require a four-year college degree, so you might get to work right out of high school. In fact, many companies will hire right out of high school, or with just some college. However, if you hang in there and earn a four-year degree, it opens more job possibilities with companies that do require it. As for associate degrees or certificates, most community colleges or technical schools offer programs in computer science or information technology.
Go ahead and get a certification. Most companies hold certifications such as CompTIA's A+ and Microsoft's MCITP in high regard. Both certifications offer a level of validation of the candidate's skill and knowledge. Techs with certifications earn 10 percent or more than the computer technicians who do not, according to "Certification" magazine. You can find study guides onnline to help you prepare for the tests.
Entry-level computer technician jobs do not usually require any experience, so your company is likely to train you to its own requirements. Mid-level and senior-level positions typically require two and four years of experience, respectively. The more experience the better, and the techs with more experience typically earn a higher salary.
Computer support specialists must be organized, detail-oriented individuals, as they must know a lot of obscure facts about computers and the software that runs them. They also must have good interpersonal skills, since they have to interact with computer users who are not always happy that their computer is down. As a technician, you must be sure not to talk with users in a dismissive or condescending way. You don't want to get too technical with laypeople, and you always want to give assurance that you can solve the user's computer problem.
Alan Hughes has more than 30 years of experience in IT including mainframes, programming, client/server, networks, project management, security, disaster recovery, information systems and hardware. He holds a master's degree in applied computer science and several certifications. He currently teaches information technology at the university level.