Learn About Being a Desktop Support Specialist

By Indeed Editorial Team

December 10, 2019

What does a desktop support specialist do?

A desktop support specialist is an information technology (IT) professional who maintains computer hardware and software systems. They’re responsible for installing new programs, managing updates and providing technical support. Responsibilities typically include:

  • Diagnosing and resolving technical issues with hardware or software systems

  • Speaking with users over the phone, in person or via online chat to understand and troubleshoot technical issues

  • Determining the need for and subsequently providing system reconfiguration

  • Assessing user needs and recommending technical solutions such as patches, upgrades or enhancements

  • Documenting technical support procedures and maintaining customer records

  • Responding promptly to queries and providing information on the proper installation, maintenance and use of technical systems

  • Completing thorough installations on the client environment by taking backups of data, upgrading systems as needed and installing new software or hardware solutions

Average salary

Desktop support specialists typically work full time, but their hours may vary. Customer support is available 24/7 for many products, so some desktop support specialists may work evenings, overnight, on weekends and through the holidays.

Detailed salary data is not available for desktop support specialists, but similar job titles provide an idea of what these professionals can expect to make: 

  • Desktop support technicians: $20.78 per hour

  • Help desk analysts: $18.37 per hour

  • Technical support specialists: $15.68 per hour

Total salaries range from $7.25 to $46.80 per hour.

Desktop support specialist requirements

Desktop support specialists often need a combination of the following requirements to secure employment:

Education

Employers typically prefer a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field for desktop support specialists. An associate’s degree or high school diploma may be acceptable in some cases if the applicant has a strong background working with technical systems and can show outstanding knowledge.

Training

Desktop support specialists typically gain much of their training on systems, technology and computer processes during their education. After being hired, they may also go through a brief period of on-the-job training. This will typically familiarize them with:

  • Proper script and procedures for taking customer calls

  • Installation and maintenance procedures for proprietary software and hardware

  • Company organization and structure

Training often involves shadowing other technical support professionals on their team and supervising task completion until they are comfortable enough to work independently.

Certifications

Companies often search for desktop support specialists with certification in specific programs or systems relevant to the work they’ll be doing. Some common certifications include:

CompTIA A+

CompTIA A+ certification is the industry standard for excellence in IT. The program covers hardware, software troubleshooting, computer operating systems, networking, security, hardware and network troubleshooting, mobile devices, operational procedures and other technologies.

Apple Care Mac Technician (ACMT)

ACMT certification is valuable for professionals who want to work with Apple products. Training is available online so you can study and learn at your own pace. You may also pursue on-site training at an Apple Authorized Training Center. To get the ACMT certification, you must pass the Apple Service Fundamentals Exam and Apple Certified Macintosh Technician (ACMT) test, both with a score of 80% or higher.

Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA)

MTA certifications show core technical knowledge with Microsoft systems. There are several certification exams that you can pursue focused on different Microsoft systems, database fundamentals, software development fundamentals and more.

HDI Customer Service Representative (HDI-CSR)

Though this is not a technical certification, it is highly beneficial for desktop support specialists. This training program covers the essential skills needed to provide exceptional customer support. It includes diffusing challenging behavior, using critical thinking to diagnose problems and engaging in active listening to better understand the customer’s situation.

Skills

The right skill set equips these professionals in handling challenging customer interactions and complex technical issues.

Communication

Desktop support specialists must communicate highly technical information to users who aren’t always familiar with software and hardware systems and other technology. Strong communication skills are essential to bridge the knowledge gap and provide easily understood and actionable information to clients.

Customer service

Desktop support specialists often deal with clients who are having trouble with their systems, which can frustrate customers. These specialists should have outstanding customer service skills, such as active listening and empathy, that equip them to calm customers and provide a satisfactory resolution.

Problem-solving

Assessing issues and implementing solutions is at the core of a desktop support specialist’s job. These professionals must be able to systematically gather information from clients and use these details and their critical thinking to diagnose and resolve technical issues.

Attention to detail

This skill helps these professionals find small errors, such as faulty code or a typo in the instructions that has a significant impact on the user’s experience with a technical product.

Desktop support specialist work environment

Desktop support specialists typically provide services to off-site clients. They may do this over the phone by offering support in a call center setting. This work may require long hours, most often at a desk working on a computer.

Support specialists work on a team with others, striving to meet customer satisfaction goals and identifying the best ways to keep calls brief but productive. Desktop support specialists also work closely with others in IT-related positioning within the company. They may handle paperwork, on-site technical support and other tasks for IT supervisors and managers.

Some desktop support specialists also provide on-site support to clients by traveling to their office locations and handling installations and updates in person. In these situations, the specialist must travel for a portion of the job. Installing systems in person may require lifting, bending, reaching and walking.

How to become a desktop support specialist

The following steps can equip you for a career in this area.

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

A Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science is preferred, though related technical areas are acceptable. Consider completing coursework in a variety of technical systems to diversify your knowledge.

2. Gain a professional certification

Acquire technical certifications from vendors and other certifying agencies. Seek advanced certification in the programs that you most want to work with. This step may better help you secure employment, advance your career or increase your earning potential.

3. Gain experience with operating systems

Desktop support specialists should have practical experience working with Windows, Linux and other systems. You can gain this knowledge through your degree program, in a related job or through volunteer opportunities managing technical systems and databases for non-profits.

4. Show your customer service skills

Work in a ticketing based support system is preferable for those interested in becoming a desktop support specialist. However, any demonstrated experience with customer service is beneficial as it highlights your ability to communicate well with customers and handle problem-solving under pressure.

5. Prepare your resume

Draft a resume that highlights your technical expertise and customer support skills. List all technical certifications you’ve earned. Consider using the language used in the job description to better align your qualifications with the expectations of your prospective employers.

6. Seek technical support positions

Search for jobs for desktop support specialists in your intended area and at companies you’re interested in working for. Other titles to consider include desktop support technician and IT desktop support.

Desktop support specialist job description example

Seeking a desktop support specialist with experience working at an IT help desk. We need highly motivated individuals who can work in a fast-paced environment, providing quick solutions for common technical problems. Responsibilities include installing, configuring, troubleshooting and maintaining software solutions for our clients both in their offices and via telephone support. Travel to client locations will account for about 20% of your time. You should be familiar with Microsoft Office. CompTIA A+ certification is preferred. Minimum qualifications also include a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science or a related field and two to five years of relevant experience.

Related careers

If you’re interested in working with computers, but you’re looking beyond a career as a desktop support specialist, you may want to consider some of the following options:

  • Help desk clerk

  • Technical support specialist

  • IT specialist

  • Computer technician

  • Network technician

  • Desktop support specialist

  • IT technician

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