Here’s How to Become a Help Desk Technician
Maybe you’ve heard that the help desk is a great place to get your start in a tech career. You’ve heard correctly: there are lots of jobs in this area and you won’t necessarily need a degree to land one. They can also be a great stepping stone to further opportunities.
You might be wondering, though, how you can become a help desk technician. In this article, we’ll clearly explain the basics you need to know, including what a help desk technician does, how much you might make, and the qualifications you’ll need. We’ll close with the practical next steps you can take to get started.
What Does a Help Desk Technician Do?
The primary job of anyone working at the help desk is to help others solve the problems they encounter with computer hardware or software. In other words, it’s about troubleshooting an issue and being able to clearly and efficiently guide someone else toward a solution.
Though this is the central role, it isn’t the only part of the job. A help desk technician might also manage hardware and software for an organization, including tasks like installation, training end users, and keeping everything up to date.
One thing to keep in mind is that some help desk positions will be primarily outward-facing. In other words, you’ll be helping an organization’s customers with their technical issues. The people you’re helping, in this case, will usually be remote.
Other positions will be inward facing and you’ll focus on helping an organization’s employees with their hardware and software problems. In the past, you would usually be on-site for a position like this, though they are increasingly being filled remotely, too.
IT support positions like we’ve been describing can be called by a few different names. In addition to Help Desk Technicians, common ones include Help Desk Specialists, It Support Specialists, or Desktop Support Specialists. These can all be used interchangeably. When you’re looking for jobs, make sure to read the job description to see what the job will involve.
These kinds of IT support roles might be a great fit for you if you like technology and helping people solve their problems.
How Much Do Help Desk Technicians Make?
We know a job isn’t just about money. Before considering pursuing a help desk position, however, it’s reasonable to find out something about your potential income so you can make sure a job in this field will support you.
There are a few different data sources you can look at to get a sense of what you might earn. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics presents official government data and is a good place to start. The most recent BLS numbers, which are from 2021, indicate that computer support specialists (which would include help desk technicians and similar positions) earn an average of $27.84 per hour or $57,910 a year.
To put that in perspective, the average annual wage for all workers for 2021 was $45,760.
You can also explore salary data on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. These sources use self-reported numbers from actual employees. They will also give you a range so you can see not just the average but what the top earners in positions like this can make.
For example, if you search Indeed salary data for “help desk technician,” you’ll find an average wage of $20.68 or $50,176 a year. Some earners report salaries as high as $72,458. On another jobs site, ZipRecruiter, we found help desk jobs advertising hourly wages between $18 and $52 an hour.
There are a lot of factors involved including the particular job responsibilities, years of experience, and the area of the country where the employer is located. A more senior position like a help desk supervisor or IT technician lead could earn $70,000 or more a year.
What Qualifications Do You Need to Be a Help Desk Technician?
Okay, so you can make a decent living as a help desk technician. What kinds of qualifications are employers looking for?
Remember the description above? Help desk positions primarily involve helping other people solve tech problems. That means there are two key areas of qualification employers want to see: technical skills and people skills.
Technical skills: You’ll need to know a fair amount about hardware and software, including areas like networking and mobile computing. You should be very familiar with popular operating systems like Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android and software suites like Microsoft Office. You’ll need to grasp the basics of cloud computing and security.
People skills: Helping others solve their technical challenges takes patience, the ability to listen carefully, and clarity in communication. If you’re good at teaching or explaining things to others and don’t get frustrated by what feels like dumb questions, you’re probably in good shape here.
There are two other areas people usually wonder about:
Degrees: Some companies will want candidates to have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in computer science or something similar. Many employers, however, are open to other forms of credentialing, like certifications, that show you have the necessary skills and knowledge.
Experience: If you look at many job postings for entry-level IT support positions, you’ll often see 1-2 years of experience listed as a qualification. Take this with a grain of salt. Remember that what employers would like to have and what they are willing to take isn’t the same. Many people have landed help desk positions even without prior experience in this field.
I’m Interested in Pursuing a Help Desk Job. How Do I Get Started?
Now that you know the qualifications you’ll need to have, how do you go about acquiring them and moving forward to find a job at the help desk?
There are three different paths you can take:
Earn a degree: As we noted above, you don’t need a degree, but earning one can certainly be a way to become equipped for a job. If you decide to go this route, just make sure you select a program that is focused on teaching you the up-to-date skills you’ll need in today's job market.
Prepare on your own: The internet is full of information about all things tech-related. If you’re a self-starter, you can find sites that will teach you all the information you’ll need to know.
Enroll in a focused training program: There are training options that are designed to specifically prepare you for an entry-level job in tech in an accelerated format.
Which of these is best for you? We can’t answer that question for you, but here are some things you should keep in mind.
A degree gives you a thorough knowledge base but it doesn’t necessarily equip you with hands-on skills that translate well to a job. It also takes a long time and costs a significant amount of money.
Preparing on your own can mean wading through a lot of unhelpful material on the way to finding what you need. It also makes it more challenging to acquire the hands-on experience you need to make sure you have practical skills and not just head knowledge.
Neither of these two options is likely to give you a lot of help when it comes to finding a job.
Keeping these things in mind, we think a focused training program makes the most sense for many people. The program we’ve created here at CompTIA Career Tech Academy is designed to give you everything you need to become a help desk technician.
That includes knowledge and skills in the technical areas a tech support job requires. We prepare you to take and pass the exam to earn the CompTIA A+ certification. It’s an industry-standard credential that demonstrates knowledge and practical ability, showing employers you are ready to do the job.
Our program also includes material and experiences designed to hone your soft skills in areas like problem-solving and communications, so you’ll also be confident you can handle the interpersonal part of the job.
Finally, our program provides robust support for finding and landing your first IT help desk job. You’ll receive assistance in everything from writing a powerful resume to preparing for an interview. You’ll also be plugged into our network of employers who have come to trust the quality of our graduates.
However, if you decide to move forward, becoming a help desk technician is a great place to start a rewarding career in tech.
If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you take a clear path to get there, explore our IT-Ready Technical Support program today.