How do I get Started in Tech Support?
In a recent survey of US job seekers, 20% indicated they are looking for a job in tech. That’s a significant share for just one industry, but it isn’t surprising. After all, the median pay across all tech jobs is $97,430 — more than twice the US average — according to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Tech has also seen steady job growth for the past 19 months in a row.
The tech industry is diverse; there are many different paths to a career in this sector. A popular place to start, however, is in tech support. Why? For one thing, tech-support jobs are often entry-level positions that don’t require as much background or training as other areas. In addition, tech-support jobs can offer a great starting pay.
Keep reading to find out how to get started in tech support. It’s a great way to get your foot in the door as the first stop on your tech career journey.
What Is Tech Support?
Let’s start with an overview of the field. There are a number of areas of focus within tech support and knowing what they are will help you begin to identify the types of jobs that seem like the best fit.
Customer Support Roles
Tech support jobs will tend to either focus on customers or on employees. A typical customer-facing support job (also called a help desk job) involves helping customers of a company solve problems with hardware, software, or networking. You’ve probably been helped by someone like this before when you couldn’t get your new internet service working or had trouble with your phone connecting to the right network.
Customer support positions could also involve hands-on work with a customer’s computer or other computing devices to fix problems or upgrade hardware (Geek Squad is an example of this kind of service).
Employee Support Roles
The other kind of tech support position will be focused on the needs of computer users inside the organization. This role can involve several different components, including:
Selecting, installing, and maintaining hardware, software, and networking equipment;
Training users on the use of new hardware and software;
And troubleshooting problems with desktop computers, mobile devices, peripherals, and networking.
Because of the central place of networking in a modern business environment, some companies will even have a tech support role dedicated to this area (called a computer network support specialist).
Positions in either customer or employee support roles may be on-site or remote. Work from home positions are becoming much more common and more than a third of the IT support specialist jobs posted in May were remote.
What Will I Need to Know and Be Able to Do for a Job in Tech Support?
Even though tech support jobs tend to be entry-level positions, employers will expect you to come prepared with certain skills and knowledge. We can divide these into two areas: domain-specific (having to do with IT in particular) and general job skills.
Skills and Knowledge Specific to IT
You can see from the descriptions we gave above of the kinds of positions available in tech support that you will need to have at least a little familiarity with a lot of different areas. You’ll want to know the basics about:
Networking - how to set it up, how it works, and how to fix the most common things that might go wrong
Computer hardware - what the main components of a computer are, how to install them, and how to troubleshoot them
Operating systems - including Windows, macOS, and Linux
Software - especially common business applications like Microsoft Office
Security - how to safeguard networks and data for desktop and mobile devices
General Job Skills
From an employer’s point of view, field-specific knowledge is obviously important. Other kinds of work skills can be equally or even more important, however. Being able to demonstrate competence in some of these areas is a big asset when it comes to applying for positions. According to research by CompTIA, here are some of the things HR professionals say they value the most:
Critical Thinking: This is the general ability to think carefully and independently about a problem or issue to come to a solution without always needing others to tell you what to do.
Collaboration: Even when you work remotely, tech support is a job that involves a lot of interaction with others. Employers are looking for those who can get along well and work together towards a common goal.
Communication: The best tech support specialists listen well and can quickly grasp what others are trying to say. They are also able to clearly articulate the information they need to give in both oral and written forms.
Creativity: There are 1,000 things that can go wrong with computing technology. A creative person is able to see the possibilities and discover the right solution.
How Can I Get Prepared?
This last section might have felt a bit overwhelming. There are lots of things to know and plenty of skills to have to be a well-qualified applicant for a tech support job. How can you get yourself ready?
Hands-on experience is always one of the best ways to learn. You have probably already had experience in certain areas of IT. For instance, you may have had to troubleshoot your own networking issues on a number of occasions. As you look toward a position in IT, take advantage of every opportunity you have to get your hands dirty in any area of tech. This can include volunteering to work on tech-related projects at a job you already have.
Remember that many of the skills employers in IT are looking for are general work skills. Any job experience you have will contribute to building your competence in these areas.
When it comes to the technical areas of the job, there are many resources available to you to increase your knowledge. You’ll find articles, videos, and courses online on any topic within IT, from hardware to software to networking. Take advantage of these to boost your knowledge in any areas of weakness.
In contrast to independent learning, training involves someone else guiding your learning efforts by putting together a curriculum, giving you assignments, evaluating your progress, and perhaps also acting as a coach and mentor along the way.
College or university is one traditional way to receive training for an IT career. It can give you a deep and thorough acquaintance with the field and help you develop a specialty. On the other hand, it is expensive and time-consuming.
Shorter, more specialized training programs are a great alternative. They cost much less than college and can get you onto the job market in a matter of months instead of years.
For example, CompTIA Tech Career Academy’s IT-Ready Technical Support Online program will guide you through a process of learning that will give you everything you need for your first job in tech support. At the end of your training, you’ll be prepared for the CompTIA A+ Certification. When it comes to hiring customer tech support roles, this certification is required by 36% of employers and seen as an important qualification by 53%.
What’s more, the CompTIA Tech Career Academy program is also designed to strengthen your general job skills, so you’ll be building up your resume in both areas at once.
A career in tech is a solid choice for your future and tech support is a great place to start. We’ve given you an overview of the kinds of positions available in the field as well as the skills and knowledge you’ll need to succeed.
As you consider your options for preparing, here are some other posts you might find helpful:
How to Break into an Entry-Level IT Job with No Experience
IT Degree or Certification: What’s the Best Path for High School Students Interested in Information Technology?
Why the Right Certification is Key to Getting an Entry-Level IT Job