February 29, 2024

How to Become an IT Support Specialist: The Qualifications + Skills You Need

become an it support specialist

If you’re researching how to become an IT support specialist, you’ll likely have some immediate questions:

  • What qualifications do you need, if any at all?
  • How difficult is it to get a first job in this field?
  • Where do you start, even if you have little relevant experience? 

You might also be wondering about the job prospects and opportunities in this role. On this point, we want to reassure you right away. 

IT support specialists are in high demand. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, IT specialists typically earn an average salary of $59,660 per year (or $28.68 per hour). Plus, the Bureau projects that job opportunities will grow by 5% by 2032—that’s a rate faster than most other industries. 

What’s more, becoming an IT support specialist opens up opportunities in a wide range of industries, and gives you the potential to work remotely and flexibly. So, if you want to build a career in IT support, then you’re making a good choice. 

But how do you do it? For starters, you’ll usually need an official certification to prove you have the right technical skills. In this guide, we’ll share:

Let’s start by briefly outlining what you can expect from your day-to-day work as an IT support specialist. 

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization dedicated to preparing low-income and overlooked working adults for a career in tech. To kickstart your career—completely free of charge in 2024—discover our IT support course and apply.

The Responsibilities of an IT Support Specialist

IT (information technology) is a really broad field that involves anything to do with computer systems, networks, data storage, and software. As an IT support specialist, you may be working in any or all of these areas.

Typically, the role involves analyzing, maintaining, and troubleshooting computer systems. For instance, you may be part of a company’s internal technical support team, working to solve on-site issues from the help desk. Or you may work remotely to provide support to multiple clients. 

In either context, though, you’ll perform the following similar tasks: 

  • Maintaining complex computer systems
  • Diagnosing and problem-solving technical issues
  • Optimizing cybersecurity
  • Configuring and administering computer networks
  • Setting up and managing computer devices
  • Upgrading computer hardware and operating systems.

As such, you’ll have a lot of responsibility. Companies will depend on you to keep their systems up and running, consistently and securely. 

So, most employers will want to see that you are qualified to do your job well. That’s why some sort of certification is pretty much essential for any role, even those at entry level.

What Qualifications Do You Need to Become an IT Support Specialist?

IT support is a technical role that demands technical knowledge and skills. As such, it’s a career path that requires some qualifications. 

However, if you didn’t go to college or didn’t get good grades in high school, that’s okay. There are a range of different types of training and certifications that you can get as a working adult. There are four main options: 

#1. Bachelor’s Degree

One option to become a computer support specialist is to study for a bachelor’s degree in IT or computer science. It typically takes four years of full-time study to complete a course and it can cost upwards of $50k. 

However, you don’t need a bachelor’s degree to become an IT support technician. In fact, it might be more common that IT specialists don’t attend college full-time. 

#2. Associate Degree

Technical or associate degrees are typically shorter than bachelors (just two years) and tend to be more affordable. However, they can still be a major commitment, particularly if you’re already working multiple jobs. 

Most people who study for technical degrees attend a community college locally. If this fits your needs, be aware that courses can differ from college to college. 

#3. Professional Certification

Working towards a professional certificate, such as CompTIA, is often a more feasible option than college if you’re a working adult. CompTIA is a really specific certification for budding IT technicians, the training provides a rigorous professional education, and it’s widely recognized in the industry. 

Certificates like CompTIA take about three to six months to prepare for. You can train through a supportive professional course such as Climb Hire, or you can prepare in a completely self-guided way. You’ll just need to take an exam to gain the qualification. This is typically the most common certification for IT specialists.

#4. Training in Specific Tools

Further qualifications may be important depending on the positions you’re interested in. Typically, you may need training in specific products, technologies, or tools—such as Microsoft, Salesforce, or Linux. 

You won’t usually need to worry about this for most entry-level positions. However, showing that you have specialist knowledge can put you ahead of other applicants.

As you can see, there are many different pathways to becoming an IT specialist and different options will suit different people. 

While some people with college degrees will become IT support specialists, most IT technicians will start their careers with a professional certificate. It’s a really great option, particularly if you’re a working adult with other commitments. 

How to Become an IT Support Specialist (Without a College Degree)

While certifications are really important for any entry-level IT support role, they’re not all you need—particularly if you don’t have a degree. 

Recruiters are always looking for more than just a qualification. For instance, they want to see that you’re a professional, conscientious individual with the right attitude. The right training can help you prove you’re a good fit for the role—not just your technical skills.

In this section, we’ll share some additional skills and assets that are invaluable in your journey towards an IT support specialist job, before we show you how to get them.

3 Concrete Things Professional It Support Training Should Provide

Alongside your technical skills, there are three other assets that it can be useful to have when looking for a job as an IT professional. The right training can equip you with all of them.

1. Soft Skills 

Soft skills are skills that are relevant to any line of work, including tech support. These are the transferable skills that help you as an individual solve problems, communicate clearly, meet deadlines, and work with others.  

As a technical support specialist, communication skills and problem-solving skills will be useful when you need to:

  • Interview for new roles and make a good impression
  • Communicate technical issues to colleagues, clients, managers, and others
  • Lead a project or task, or work with others in a team
  • Get work done under pressure, particularly in high-stakes situations
  • Or excel in many other tasks.

Recruiters will be looking closely at your job application to see evidence of these soft skills. That’s why it’s really useful if any course or qualification you take includes some training in them. For instance, courses offered by Climb Hire include interview technique, resume writing, and training in other interpersonal skills. 

Most degrees and technical courses don’t provide any of this sort of training. But it shouldn’t be underestimated, as soft skills are often seen as just as important as technical skills.

2. Relevant Experience

With the right technical and soft skills, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an IT support specialist. But for you to land your first job, recruiters will be looking for evidence that you have some relevant experience.

Now, this doesn’t have to be direct, hands-on experience as an IT support specialist—that would be a lot to ask for your first job. However, being able to show that the experiences you do have are relevant to the role you’re applying for is really important. 

Again, quality training will give you some advantages. For instance, at Climb Hire, all our Climbers work on a capstone project for a real-life client as part of the course. Alternatively, if you’re doing a longer course, you may be offered the opportunity for an internship or a short placement.

If your training doesn’t offer such opportunities, you can still leverage any experience that you do have. Have there been times when you’ve worked under pressure? Do you have experience solving problems? Having answers to these questions will be useful in any interview situation, to help you stand out from other candidates.

3. A Supportive Network

All by itself, having a network won’t do much to help you become an IT support professional. Of course, you’ll still need the training, the skills, and some relevant experience to show any recruiters. 

However, when you have those fundamentals in place, a supportive network of peers and mentors can be the special key that unlocks many professional doors. For instance, people you know can refer you to jobs, they can help with applications, or they can put in a good word for you. When you’re starting with little experience, having someone vouch for you can make a world of difference. 

Now, any course you attend can help you build a network. You just need to be able to meet peers who are in the same position as you.

4 Pathways for Quality Training as an IT Support Specialist

So, how can you secure professional certification while gaining everything else you need to become an IT specialist? 

To end this article, we show you four options.

1. Get Certified and Skilled with Climb Hire

Climb Hire is a non-profit organization helping low-income working adults start a career in tech. We provide Climbers with the hard and soft skills—as well as the contacts and job search support—they need to launch their career. Our courses involve rigorous technical training, dedicated interview preparation, and a range of networking opportunities. 

Aspiring IT specialists can study for a CompTIA A+ certification with Climb Hire. This is the foundational qualification offered by CompTIA and it’s an important stepping stone towards a role in IT. It’s widely recognized, versatile, and it can prepare you for a range of jobs. 

Alongside the qualification, with Climb Hire, you’ll gain access to: 

  • A really supportive environment. You’ll do your studying online alongside other Climbers across the country. You’ll get access to a really supportive peer network and, once you’ve completed the coursework, you’ll also be inducted into our alumni network.
  • Interview preparation and soft skills training. Climb Hire mentors will train you in interview technique, writing resumes, and other interpersonal skills. You’ll work with a career development advisor throughout the program.
  • A higher chance of landing a high-paying job. Over 80% of Climbers secure new roles within six months of finishing one of our programs. On average, after graduating and starting a role, their income typically doubles, from $24k to $50k. 

What’s more, there are no costs whatsoever. This might sound too good to be true (honestly, Climb Hire is legit!), but people who qualify for the Climb Hire program in 2024 won’t pay a dime. We’ll get you trained up and our team will help you search for your first role as an IT specialist completely free of charge (thanks to our donors). 

To get onto a Climb Hire program, you don’t need a degree or any qualifications. We just want to see that you’ve got the right attitude to succeed in a career in tech. All you need to do is apply. Once we’ve looked at your application, you’ll be invited for an interview. Then, if we’re a good match for each other, you’ll be welcomed to the course. 

2. Study Professional Qualifications at Community College

Another option for studying towards an IT support qualification is community college. These are local institutions that offer a range of academic, technical, and professional certificates. Many community colleges offer IT qualifications such as CompTIA. However, every institution differs, so it’s really important that you check your local options first. 

Typically, you’ll learn in-person, or through a mix of in-person and online teaching. Then, you’ll be entered into the exam. 

While community college is a great option for some people, it does have its downsides. For instance, you’ll likely need to pay for your course in advance. Plus, they’ll usually only give you training in the technical requirements of the certificate. So, it’s really unlikely that they’ll train you in other soft skills such as interview technique.

3. Join an Online Course or Bootcamp

You can also train towards a professional IT qualification online. There are many courses out there, including:

  • Training from CompTIA itself. CompTIA offers various forms of training. And, as they’re the exam organizers themselves, you can trust that they’re reputable. However, they won’t offer you any support in getting work once you’ve passed the exam, as you’d get from Climb Hire.
  • Online bootcamps. You can also prepare for CompTIA exams through online bootcamps. These are tech-specific providers that typically offer short, fast-paced courses in coding and similar skills. It’s important to note that there are many of these courses out there—and not all of them are reputable. So, make sure you check reviews or speak to alumni before you enroll. 

Whichever you choose, the downside of purely online courses is that you won’t be given training in soft skills at all. Instead, these are completely technical courses. Similarly, you’ll be pretty hard-pushed to find and build a network through these options—meaning you may be at a disadvantage when it comes to actually finding a job. 

4. Train by Yourself

It’s worth noting that you don’t need to have any training before obtaining professional certifications such as CompTIA. You can study independently and take the exam when you’re ready. 

This may be the least expensive option on this list. However, it probably comes with the highest chance of failure. You won’t have any guidance or anyone to answer your questions, you’ll have no support network if your motivation runs low, and you won’t have any training in soft skills either. 

Similarly, you won’t receive any assistance in your job hunt. You’ll need to worry about perfecting your interview and resume-writing skills yourself.

Climb Hire Will Help You Become an IT Support Specialist

If you’re committed to becoming an IT support specialist, Climb Hire can give you the certification, skills, and support you need to get there. So far, Climb Hire has helped hundreds of talented working adults break into a career in IT. 

They benefited from:

  • No upfront costs (and for Climbers starting in 2024, no costs at all).
  • $50k average starting income after graduation.
  • Skills that help 80% of graduates secure a job in six months.

Apply today and become an IT support specialist with Climb Hire.  

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