Computer technicians, or computer support specialists, are on the front line of technology support for end users. The best technicians combine technical and interpersonal skills to fix a user's problem while avoiding making the user feel less than competent. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for a computer technician as of 2010 was $46,260, and the field is expected to grow about 18 percent through 2020.
Many companies do not require a four-year degree for a computer technician position, so an associate's degree may suffice. However, a bachelor's degree in computer science or information technology will open more doors in the long run. Most community colleges and technical schools offer at least a two-year program that provides the basic skills needed to perform the job.
Several certifications validate a computer technician's skills for a potential employer. Microsoft offers the Microsoft Certified Information Technology Professional and the Microsoft Certified Technology Specialist certifications. CompTIA offers the A+ certification. All involve tests of the candidate's knowledge of hardware and software as well as troubleshooting skills.
A computer technician must have good logical skills to be able to troubleshoot a problem quickly and get the user's computer up and running. The technician must also know when to ask a supervisor or a more experienced team member for help so that the user is not just waiting while the technician gets on-the-job training. Interpersonal skills are also very important: the technician should never speak in a condescending way to the user.
Computer technicians are responsible for solving hardware and software problems, as well as minor computer training issues for end users. They typically perform the initial configuration and installation of new computers for users. On existing systems, they may install a new CD-ROM drive, a new printer driver or a new software application. They may explain how to set margins in a word processor or solve a problem with a loose cable. Ultimately, they are responsible for getting the user's computer running as quickly as possible.