Technical Support Representative
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II. Job Requirements/Prerequisites:

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Occupation Overview

Just about everyone uses computers today. And just about everyone who has used a computer has had a problem with their computer that they need help solving. If the user calls or sends email to someone in their company's IT department, or someone at the company who made the computer or software that is causing the problem, they have come in contact with a Technical Support Representative (also known as Help Desk Technician).

While Technical Support Representatives can work for a variety of company types, including computer hardware and peripheral companies, most of the jobs focus on supporting computer software products. There is also some work to be done behind the scenes (e.g., responding to e-mail questions from users), but most of the focus is on providing telephone support. Because support is needed around the clock for some companies, alternate shift work is available.

The current economic downturn has resulted in many people that are (possibly over) qualified to do this type of work. Some people with a lot of experience are taking Technical Support jobs that paid less than their former job just to be employed. This is making it difficult for inexperienced workers to enter this field right now, but this occupation is expected to be one of the fastest growing over the next decade, so preparing for it now could be an excellent career decision.

Technological advances could change the way these workers do their job. For example, remote monitoring makes it possible for a Technical Support Representative to basically "log in" to the user's computer to find and correct the user problem themselves, rather than talking the user through the changes as they do today.


Future Growth Opportunities

Opportunities for Advancement:
With experience, one can become a Senior Technical Support Representative, Call Center Manager, or Technical Support Coordinator. With a 4-year degree, it is possible to become a Technical Support Engineer. One can also become a Computer Programmer with the proper training.

Skills Transferable to:
Instructor, Consultant, Customer Service Representative, and PC Repair Technician.


Job Descriptions

Most Technical Support Representatives work in a call center with other Technical Support Representatives or Help Desk Technicians. They are on the telephone most of the day, trying to understand and fix the problems end-users are having. Some of these problems are simple and can be fixed in a couple of minutes, while others might take up to an hour or longer to solve. Some of this time is spent waiting for the customer to perform tasks such as restarting their computer. Patience is a critical skill for this occupation! Some questions come in via email, and some Technical Support Representatives might focus just on email requests.

Technical Support Representatives often document each call, including the problem encountered and the solution they provided.

In some companies, software is available to assist the Representatives: an "expert system" helps them identify the problem and then provides step-by-step instructions that are read to the end-user. In other companies, the Representative must have this knowledge in their own heads, being assisted only by documentation and other Representatives. At very small companies, there might be just one or two individuals supporting the product.

Because some companies offer technical support around the clock, variable work schedules are available.

The Technical Support Representatives described in this section offer frontline support to end-users. Technical Support Engineers typically work one step removed from the customer, handling the most difficult situations encountered by Technical Support Representatives (usually newly identified product defects). Technical Support Engineers might also be involved in providing technical assistance to Technical Writers documenting that particular product, as well as providing training classes for new users.

Entry Level: $6 - 22 / hour ($15 / hour average)

Experienced, New to Job: $10 - 31 / hour ($18 / hour average)

Experienced in Job: $13 - 37 / hour ($24 / hour average)

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