How to Get Into IT with a Help Desk Career
Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part blog series called “Help Desk 101.”
Throughout the series, CompTIA Tech Career Academy explores how starting work in the IT industry as a help desk technician develops your hard technical skills and soft professional skills, and positions you for future career advancement in both responsibility and salary.
Besides being the perfect springboard to a long-term tech career, help desk jobs abound and can be readily secured with CompTIA A+ certification.
In this post, CompTIA Tech Career Academy explores why the help desk makes a good launchpad for a tech career.
After earning CompTIA A+ certification, Keith VanDerMolen started his tech career working on a help desk.
“The service desk is where you get your bearings and you learn everything involved in IT,” he said. “From there, you can find your own path.”
Trent Robbins, who earned CompTIA A+ certification in 2018, also launched his career at the help desk.
“I assumed a help desk position would be tedious, spending all of your time on the phone talking to anybody and everybody,” he said. “It’s not.”
People seeking to get a “foot in the door” to working within the tech industry need only look at the help desk.
Why? Because performing entry-level work in this oft-maligned IT operation builds a new technologist’s hard technical and soft professional skills — positioning them for career advancement. Help desk work also exposes them to IT’s multiple disciplines, offering valuable insight into which specialization might suit best.
Get Your Foot in the Door
“When I talk with people who have never worked on a help desk, they tend to have an inaccurate view about it. They assume they’ll sit in a cube all day addressing irrelevant complaints,” said Charles Eaton, CEO of CompTIA Tech Career Academy and CEO of Creating IT Futures. “I can’t promise you’ll never field a goofy question. But I can promise that when working on a help desk, you’ll learn practical information about both technology and yourself to steer your IT career forward in the right direction for you.”
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2018 for a support specialist working on a help desk was $25.70 per hour or $53,470 per year.
The bureau estimated that employer demand for help desk workers would grow at a rate of 10 percent — faster than average — with an additional 83,000 help desk workers needed between now and 2028 in the United States.
“With the CompTIA A+ certification in hand, someone with no previous IT education or applicable work experience can secure a help desk position, potentially making $16-plus per hour — and on a trajectory to move up from there,” Eaton said. “There aren’t many other industries that offer a similarly lucrative ‘foot in the door’ to novice workers.”
Hone Your Skills
With help desk positions plentiful at companies in every industry, a living wage is all but assured for new technologists. In addition to an attractive salary, a new IT worker can expect to hone during their help desk tenure these career-advancing skills:
- Hard technical skills. Help desk employees act as the equivalent of triage nurses found in a hospital emergency room. Confronted with just about every IT malady possible —ranging from simple to complex — a help desk support specialist will encounter every type of hardware and software the company uses, including mobile devices and printers.
- Soft professional skills / emotional IQ. A successful help desk employee listens compassionately and thoughtfully, asks astute questions, solves problems, learns what needs to be escalated and how, and develops other communication and interpersonal skills critical for a strong emotional IQ. “Effective leaders aren’t just subject matter experts; they’re experts in working well with other people,” Eaton said. “To move up in responsibility in IT management, you need to interact productively with others and communicate clearly. Working on a help desk builds those skills.”
- Technical specialization. Help desk employees are exposed to every aspect of technology — from databases to networks to applications to security to servers. It’s a great opportunity to learn enough about every specialty to determine if you feel passionate about anything.
“Working on the help desk means you are seeing a full range of challenges that define information technology,” Eaton said. “You get a taste of everything, enough such that you can decide what specialty you like best. Knowing that, you then can pursue additional CompTIA certifications and leverage your help desk experience to move up inside or outside the company — gaining greater responsibility and income.”
Get Started Now
In CompTIA Tech’s IT-Ready Technical Support program, students learn the technical skills necessary to prepare for them for the CompTIA A+ certification exam. Students are taught by CompTIA A+ certified instructors and have access to online learning tools and discussion forums to reinforce their studies. Plus, students receive targeted professional development to refine critical business skills. Although CompTIA Tech cannot guarantee placement to its graduates, no education program truly can, CompTIA Tech does help students connect to the right employers after they graduate and gain their certification. Applications are open for upcoming classes.
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