I’ll be blunt. If you are considering career options or have been in the workforce a few years and are seeking a career change, you might want to consider training to become a computer support specialist.
Computer support specialists are responsible for assisting organizations and their employees or users with computer software or computer equipment. While these type jobs might have titles ranging from computer network support specialist, information technology (IT) support or helpdesk functions, their main task usually involves assisting non-IT users with computer problems, maintenance or problems with peripheral devices like printers and computer monitors.
According to employment projections from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the US will need an additional 88,800 computer support specialists by the year 2024. That’s a 10-year growth projection of nearly 12% from 2014.
I have to admit I was shocked by those numbers when I first saw them. A few years ago, the IT support field was not projecting that kind of growth. That’s nearly 200 new computer support specialist positions per year per U.S. state. That’s a huge vacancy that needs to be filled.
Usually whenever I see lists of the fasting growing jobs, they’re full of medical jobs or financial careers that seem light years away for the average Joe to achieve. But IT support is a field that is ripe for Americans who are just entering the workforce, don’t have a degree, or are looking for a career change.
Whether or not you have a bachelor’s degree, you can become a successful computer support specialist. And it won’t take you four years either. Also, the great news is that you can probably switch to computer support specialist within your existing company. It happens every day since most organizations still have internal IT departments. So if you love your current employer but don’t feel satisfied in your current role, this might be a great option.
Why are computer support specialists in demand?
Because IT support has become so essential to businesses and organizations, qualified job seekers can easily find full-time employment. However, since many Americans feel the need to always be available or “plugged in,” prepare for the possibility of working evenings, overnight, weekends and holidays to maintain and troubleshoot computer systems around the clock 24/7. This is especially true for email systems and cybersecurity functions.
The need for more IT support specialists is also driven by employees wanting to use their own devices or taking advantage of BYOD (bring your own device) policies. Gone are the days when all employees had the same computers or company-supplied smartphones on the same carrier. The result of the diversity of devices has been a boost to job growth in the IT sector.
But what about salary?
Remember that IT support specialists are typically entry-level jobs until you evolve into a more advanced role such as network, email, cloud or cybersecurity admins or developers. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for IT support specialists was $49,390 as of spring 2016. The salary range for IT support specialists is wide, starting at $29,440 for the lowest paid 10 percent and topping out at $82,160 for the highest paid 10 percent.
IT support specialist salaries vary by location as well. IT support specialists located in metropolitan areas can expect to make more than their rural-based counterparts, especially if they plan on earning a bachelor’s degree or already have a degree. Don’t forget that your cost of living can significantly stretch your paycheck if you live in an area that’s affordable, too.
So who’s hiring these 88,800 future IT support specialists?
It will probably be your neighborhood banking institution, hospitals, any large enterprise and IT consulting firms that contract their services to small and medium-sized businesses. Every organization and business is probably in some stage of IT deployment or upgrade as technologies advance on a daily basis. The ever-present danger of cybersecurity threats is also a reason for hiring qualified IT support staff.
This is not just an American phenomenon. If the U.S. is projected to need 88,800 additional IT support specialists by 2024, then the rest of the world will probably need three times that amount with emerging nations in Asia, Africa, and South America becoming more technologically advanced everyday.
Who’s best suited for these new IT support jobs?
Have a background in IT and computers and you already have an advantage in joining the IT support job market. But there are many paths to an IT support career, especially if you have the necessary people skills for a face-to-face customer service-type role with users. And don’t think that your lack of a bachelor’s or associate’s degree is blocking your path to IT rock stardom either.
With the right technical training, you’ll be well on your way to a fulfilling IT support career. Just be prepared throughout your new IT career to stay abreast of constant advances in technology through continuing education. Also, some employers require vendor-specific training before you get hired, which will involve training on Cisco, Juniper, Microsoft, VMware, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) equipment and services.