Want to Work in IT? Learn What Training You Need for a Career in Tech Support
The field of information technology has seen steady job growth in recent years, which is expected to continue over the coming decade. Combine this with a median annual wage of $97,430, and it’s easy to see why you might be interested in building a career in this area.
A great point of entry for a career in IT is tech support. For one thing, there are lots of jobs available. The most recent Tech Jobs Report from CompTIA indicates there were over 23,000 job postings in this area the previous month. In addition, the qualifications needed for a job are relatively easy to acquire.
So how do you actually acquire them? What kind of training do you need for tech support positions? Keep reading for a clear description of the path you can take to get started on a career in IT.
What Is Tech Support?
We should start, though, with some basic information about the field of technical support. A better understanding of what the job is and the forms it can take will help the rest of the article make more sense.
In the broadest terms, someone who works in tech support helps to support others in their use of information technology. There are many ways this can look and there are a correspondingly wide variety of positions available. Here are some common examples of things tech support staff do.
- Install and configure new computer hardware and software for an organization’s employees
- Train staff in the use of software
- Troubleshoot problems that arise with software, hardware, or networking inside an organization
- Work remotely with customers of a company to guide them to solutions to technical problems they encounter when using that company’s products or services
There are a variety of titles used for jobs in technical support. Some of the most common are IT Technician, Desktop Support Specialist, IT Support Specialist, and Helpdesk Technician. Often these titles are interchangeable. Some employers, however, may mean slightly different things when using them. You’ll need to carefully read a job description to see what a particular position involves.
We mentioned at the outset that tech support is a great way to get started in IT. Many of the positions you’ll find here are entry-level. You might be wondering, then, what your path forward in IT looks like from here.
There are two common ways to advance. One is to move into a more senior, management role in tech support like a Technical Support Supervisor. Another is to deepen your knowledge, skills, and credentials within some particular area of IT. For instance, you might focus on networking and move toward a position as a Network Administrator.
What Are Employers Looking For?
So what qualifications will you need to have to get started in IT with a tech support position? Employers will be looking for four key things.
1. IT knowledge: Given the broad nature of a tech support position, you need to know at least a little about a lot of different areas, including operating systems, hardware, networking, security, and mobile devices.
2. IT skills: There is an important difference between knowing lots of information about operating systems and being able to actually install, configure, and maintain them. Employers need to know that you can put your knowledge to work solving real-world challenges.
3. Soft skills: Soft skills include traits and abilities that aren’t specific to IT, but are nevertheless important for doing your job well. How important? Ninety-three percent of employers told ZipRecruiter that soft skills played a crucial role in hiring decisions. Given the nature of the job, communication and problem-solving skills are a must.
4. Credentials: You might think, “If I have the knowledge and skills to do the job, why do I also need a credential?” Think of a credential as a risk-management tool for the potential employer. A credential’s role is to testify to your knowledge and experience so the employer can have more confidence that you actually have it. This usually takes the form of a degree or certification.
What kind of training will you need to make sure you have all four?
What Training Do You Need for Tech Support?
Think for a moment about what “training” means. You could learn all the information you need to know about IT by reading lots of books or articles online. But that’s not training and it won’t help you very much with numbers 2-4 above.
Rather, training involves an element of mentorship, of someone else guiding you as you acquire both knowledge and skills. Training is always a structured process designed and supervised by someone else.
There are really just two main ways to get the training you need to be equipped for a job in technical support that will give you the necessary skills, knowledge, and a credential: A college degree or a specialized IT training program. Here’s a brief description of each along with some pros and cons.
College degree: A bachelor's or associate degree in computer science or a similar field is a great way to build deep knowledge in several areas at the core of IT. The length of time required is typically two years for an associate and four years for a bachelor’s.
- A 4-year degree opens the maximum number of job opportunities.
- You’ll be thoroughly grounded in core areas of IT.
- This is the most expensive way to get prepared.
- This is the slowest route to enter the job market.
IT training program: In contrast to a college degree, this type of program involves structured learning that is focused on a very specific area. The goal is to equip you with what you need for a particular type of job. They are usually designed to also prepare students to earn a certification to demonstrate their competence.
- This type of program can usually be completed within a few months, getting you onto the job market quickly.
- Training programs are specifically designed to teach you what you need for the jobs that are available today.
- This route is much more affordable than a college degree.
- Though employers in IT are increasingly looking more at skills than degrees, there will be some jobs that still require a bachelor’s degree.
- Depending upon the career path you wish to take within IT, you may need to pursue a degree later in order to advance.
CompTIA Tech Career Academy: Get Training and Much More
There are a number of things to consider when deciding whether an IT degree or a training program is the best path for you. Either option has the potential to get you ready for a job in IT with the necessary knowledge, skills, and credentials.
After your training, though, it’s time to find a job. Knowing how to get ready and conduct your search to give you the best shot at landing the position you want isn’t easy. Neither a college degree nor an IT training program is necessarily going to help you with it.
That’s why CompTIA Tech’s IT-Ready Technical Support (online) program is different. Our online program gives you both knowledge and hands-on training in the technical and soft skills you need for today’s tech support positions. You’ll also be ready to pass the CompTIA A+ exam and receive the industry’s most widely-recognized IT certification.
But our training also includes expert guidance in crafting your resume, preparing for interviews, and formulating a job-search strategy. We’ll even help connect you to employers who are familiar with the quality of our graduates. After you’re on the job, you’ll continue to receive support through our growing network of alumni who are working as IT professionals.
If you want to have confidence in your preparation for an IT tech support job and the support you need to land your first job, find out how to get started.