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Computer Support Specialist

Computer support specialists are also called help desk technicians and can work in a variety of industries. If you are a computer support specialist, you can be employed for computer software development and systems design firms, information technology consulting services, and information technology departments in the private sector (e.g., businesses, cable companies), public sector (e.g., schools, universities), or the government. You can also be self-employed and work from your own home. You will have some clearly defined and repetitive tasks (e.g., answering computer software or hardware questions, installing programs for users).


This job usually requires an associate’s degree or certification. For example, some employers require that their computer support specialists have an operating system certification such as a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP), Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE), or Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA).

Previous Experience

Previous experience working as a computer support specialist in any capacity is preferred. In some cases, even if you do not have an associate’s degree, if you have a lot experience as a computer support specialist, an employer may hire you. Some employers may require that you have knowledge of certain types of programs or software (e.g., A+). If this is the case, they will specify this requirement in their job advertisements. If you have the required education and skills, it is strongly encouraged that you apply anyways– everybody has to start somewhere!

Job Duties

  • Support computer users by answering technical questions via phone, email, videoconference, or remote desktop access.
  • Create a log, record, or ‘ticket’ according to the employer’s tracking and filing system.
  • Provide step-by-step instruction via phone to computer users to help them install software programs, hardware, or resolve computer problems or malfunctions.
  • Manually set up computer systems, hardware, and software programs for computer users in person.
  • Work with colleagues (e.g., other computer support specialists) to resolve computer-related problems (troubleshooting).
  • Read and review technical support manuals or other materials that can aid in providing assistance to computer users.
  • Your employer may ask you to carry out additional duties than those listed here.

What’s Your Scene?

This job requires that you are able to work "In the Scene."  If you are working as a computer support specialist, you will be working with clients on a regular basis.  You will be speaking with and interacting with clients daily via telephone and in person, therefore you must have relatively strong social skills.  You will also need to interact with co-workers (e.g. other Information Technology support staff, your supervisor) regularly.

Skills / Abilities

Customer Service Skills  - You will need to know how to provide excellent customer service.  This includes being able to determine if the client is satisfied, and to meet their needs. It requires the ability to accept complaints from clients, and to calmly deal with high stress situations and angry clients. Displaying a pleasant and cooperative attitude is important.

Computer Programming and Electronics - You will need to know how to use computers and computer systems, hardware and software applications and installations, and other electronics such as printers, scanners, and faxes. Many of these skills and abilities will be provided by your college education.

Critical Analysis and Complex Problem Solving - This job requires the ability to critically examine complex problems by analyzing information or data to develop solutions.

Written Expression - You will be required to write and spell correctly.

Oral Expression - You will be required to speak clearly and effectively.

Reading Comprehension -Demonstrated ability to read, and follow written instructions and ideas.

Oral Comprehension - Demonstrated ability to understand and follow verbal instructions and ideas.

Organization and Prioritization - This job requires the ability to clearly organize and categorize work priorities to complete your work.

Manual Dexterity - This job requires the repeated and coordinated use of your hands, wrists, and fingers to use and type on a computer keyboard, requiring the use of fine motor skills.

Environmental Demands

Location - A computer support specialist typically works indoors in a climate-controlled office setting. If you work from home, you may choose your own work location.

Noise Level - The noise level will be low (fairly quiet).

Lighting Level - The lighting level will be dependent on your employer. If you work in an office setting at work, you may have to work in florescent lighting. If you are able to work from home, then you can choose your lighting level.

Work Hours - This job may have fulltime hours (40 hours per week) or part-time shifts, during regular business hours (9am-5pm). If you work from home, you may be able to come up with your own schedule.

Amount of Movement –This job typically requires that you sit for long periods of time. It also requires that you work long hours at a computer keyboard, therefore you will need to have good fine motor skills.

Cleanliness and Odors - This job setting is typically quite clean, although it may be dependent on how well you maintain the cleanliness of your office or cubicle.

Work Attire - Work attire will range - if you are in an office setting, work clothing will typically be business casual clothing. If you work from home, you can choose what you want to wear.

Structure and Predictability - This job will typically have a lower degree of predictability and structure.  This means that you might not do the same tasks each day, and these tasks might be completed in a different order each day.  You might not always know ahead of time how long each task will take to complete.  You might not work in the same areas or location each day, and you might not interact with the same people (i.e. particularly clients) each day. 

What's the Pace?

    • Steady: In most cases, the work pace will be steady, which means that there will always be 1-2 clients waiting for you to assist them. 
    • Peak: There might be other times when there are 4-6 clients waiting for you to assist them.  This may be a more stressful period because clients are waiting for your help.
    • Slow: There may also be some "down time," when there are very few clients that need help.  This may be a more boring period, where you are required to just wait until a client asks for your help. 

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