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Hardware and software maintenance are an ever-present reality with the growing ubiquity of data networks. Many of the daily activities of private citizens and enterprise offices now depend on computers and networks to an extraordinary degree, and graduates of tech support and computer repair degree programs have just the right set of skills to make sure they get what they need.

The specific duties required of technical support professionals may vary, depending on the complexity of the systems being supported and the individual position's level of responsibility, but most jobs in the field do share some common ground.

Here's a short list of duties that computer specialists typically encounter:

  • Setting up and performing maintenance on computer terminals or software programs
  • Paying attention to users' descriptions of technical issues
  • Identifying thorough and expedient solutions to computer problems
  • Training users to work effectively with new software or hardware devices
  • Testing or troubleshooting Internet systems and local area networks

Some technical support positions require candidates to earn a bachelor's degree before they can be considered for employment, but others can be obtained with an associate degree or a selection of postsecondary classes from tech support degree programs.

Coursework in tech support or computer repair degree programs

Students pursuing their bachelor's degree are likely to get a more extensive education than those in associate degree or certificate programs, but there are some core courses common to each.

Here are a few common subjects for students from technology program in computer repair and tech support degree might find on their schedule:

  • Computer fundamentals
  • Workstation diagnosis and repair
  • Introductory computer programming
  • Databases
  • Fundamentals of electronic communication
  • Linux/Unix operating systems
  • Basic networking

Technical support jobs are divided into two main categories: network support specialist and user support specialist. User specialists typically work directly with consumers or employees. In contrast, network specialists tend to work with other IT personnel.

There are programs that focus on either avenue of the profession, so it can help to know which direction to pursue before enrolling in school.

Career outlook for professionals with technical support degrees

Employment opportunities for computer support specialists overall are expected to grow faster than the projected average for all occupations -- increasing by 17 percent between 2012 and 2022 -- according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Jobs for user support specialists should grow even faster, adding 20 percent to the workforce by 2022, while network support specialist jobs should increase by 7 percent in the same period.

Annual median income numbers vary depending on the specialist's area of focus:

  • Network Support Specialists: Network specialists earned a median wage of $60,180 in 2013 according to the BLS.
  • User Support Specialists: User support specialists took home a median figure of $46,620 in the same year.

With some job experience and continued education, graduates of computer repair and tech support degree programs can move up in the IT industry and potentially get jobs as computer programmers, systems analysts or network administrators -- jobs that paid $76,140, $81,190 and $74,000 in 2013 respectively.

Sources:
"15-1151 Computer User Support Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 12, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151151.htm
"15-1152 Computer Network Support Specialists," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 12, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151152.htm
"15-1131 Computer Programmers," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 12, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151131.htm
"15-1121 Computer Systems Analysts," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 12, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151121.htm
"15-1142 Network and Computer Systems Administrators," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 12, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes151142.htm
"Computer Support Specialists : Occupational Outlook Handbook," U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, January 8, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Computer-and-Information-Technology/Computer-support-specialists.htm

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