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Computer Support Specialists - What They Do

How to Advance (Advancement)
Entry-level computer support specialists generally work directly with customers or in-house users. They may advance into positions that handle products or problems with higher levels of technical complexity. Some may advance into management roles. Some computer support specialists may find opportunities in other occupations, such as computer programmers or software engineers, designing products rather than assisting users. Promotions depend heavily on job performance, but formal education and professional certification can improve advancement opportunities. Advancement opportunities in hardware and software companies can occur quickly, sometimes within months.

Computer support specialists held about 565,700 jobs in 2008. Although they worked in a wide range of industries, about 18 percent were employed in the computer systems design and related services industry. Substantial numbers of these workers were also employed in administrative and support services companies, financial institutions, insurance companies, government agencies, educational institutions, software publishers, telecommunications organizations, and healthcare organizations.

Job Outlook
Employment is expected to increase faster than the average. Job prospects should be good, especially for those with a college degree and relevant skills.

Job Growth
Employment of computer support specialists is expected to increase by 14 percent from 2008 to 2018, which is faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for these workers will result as organizations and individuals continue to adopt the newest forms of technology. As technology becomes more complex and widespread, support specialists will be needed in greater numbers to resolve the technical problems that arise. Businesses, especially, will demand greater levels of support, as information technology has become essential in the business environment.

Job growth will be fastest in several industries that rely heavily on technology. These include the computer systems design and related services industry; the data processing, hosting and related services industry; the software publishing industry; and the management, scientific, and technical consulting industry. These industries will employ a growing number of support specialists as they utilize and provide an increasing array of IT services. Healthcare and related establishments, in addition, may see substantial growth as these organizations look to improve their efficiency and patient care through the use of information systems and other technology.

Overall growth may be dampened, to a certain extent, as some jobs are outsourced to offshore locations. Advances in technology increasingly allow computer support specialists to provide assistance remotely. Some employers may seek to reduce expenses by hiring workers in areas that have lower prevailing wages.

Job prospects are expected to be good; those who possess a bachelorís degree, relevant technical and communication skills, and previous work experience should have even better opportunities than applicants with an associate degree or professional certification.

Median annual wages of wage-and-salary computer support specialists were $43,450 in May 2008. The middle 50 percent earned between $33,680 and $55,990. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $26,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $70,750.

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