When computer users need help with installing software or discover that their hard drives have stopped working, they turn to the expertise of information technicians, also known as computer techs or computer support specialists. These professionals provide advice in person, by phone, through online chat or email to consumers and organizations.
IT technicians averaged $24.91 per hour, or $51,820 per year as of May 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. But compensation could drop to under $13.93 per hour, or $28,980 per year, or rise above $39.03 per hour, or $81,190 per year. They can specialize in two types of positions. Technical support specialists test, evaluate and maintain local area networks and Internet systems. Help desk specialists listen to customer issues, explain solutions, install and set up hardware and software, and train users on computer use. Both types can also focus on particular product lines.
Minimum qualifications for IT techs vary by industry. Many employers require a bachelor’s degree, especially for those dealing with complex systems. Others allow an associate degree or some postsecondary classes for working on specific software or hardware. Techs receive on-the-job training when first hired, which can last approximately two to three months. Continuing education is important because computer technology advances rapidly. Certification is available from national organizations or vendors. Techs usually work on simple problems first before advancing to complex situations.
The greatest number of job opportunities for IT techs in 2011 were in computer systems design companies, which hired nearly 20 percent of these 632,490 professionals and paid an average $25.79 per hour, or $53,630 per year. Companies that took over the management of other businesses showed the next highest number of jobs with 5 percent of the positions at a mean $25.25 per hour, or $52,510 per year. The highest salaries were with other investment pools and funds such as trusts and open-end investment funds. Averages here ran $34.94 per hour, or $72,670 per year. The Postal Service offered the next-highest salaries at a mean $33.52 per hour or $69,720 per year.
In 2011, IT techs found the most jobs in the high population states starting with California, which boasted almost 11 percent of the positions at mean wages of $28.39 per hour, or $59,050 per year. Texas, the second most populous state, contained almost 9 percent of the jobs with means at $25.85 per hour, or $53,770 per year. The highest paying employers were in the District of Columbia, which the BLS classified with states. Average salaries here reached $30.81 per hour, or $64,080 per year. Next for pay was Connecticut at mean $30.08 per hour, or $62,570 per year, and Massachusetts at a mean $29.27 per hour, or $60,880 per year.