Earning your degree as an information technology specialist allows you to enter the IT field, where you’ll be able to immerse yourself in all things technical and, at the same time, help others who are having problems with their computer networks.
You’ll be able to begin working once you earn either your associate or bachelor’s degree in a computer support specialist degree program. Find a program that allows you to learn about software and hardware, gain the critical hands-on experience you need, and develop your troubleshooting and communication skills. You should learn about security and recovery, operating systems, and networking.
What is an Information Technology Specialist?
In this role, you are the second-level employee within a two-level IT technician series. You’ll need to be highly skilled so that you can carry out very technical work at your level. You may also carry out lead duties for several sites in information technology. Your role is different from that of an information technology technician due to the responsibility you hold.
Steps to Become an Information Tech Specialist:
Step 1: Earn Your Associate or Bachelor’s Degree
Step 2: Take Part in an Internship
Step 3: Earn Needed Certifications
Step 4: Find a Job Post-Graduation
Step 1: Earn Your Associate or Bachelor’s Degree
You can earn either an associate degree in information technology or bachelor’s degree in information technology and still have access to an information technology specialist position. Your degree level will impact the level at which you’ll be able to find work as an information technology specialist.
Once you graduate, you’ll be ready to work as a information technology specialist in a variety of professional areas. If you choose to earn an associate degree in information technology, the main benefit will be the foundational training you gain. Whether you’re in college for the first time or you are moving to a new career field, this program will let you find the position you are seeking.
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If you’re going to earn a bachelor’s in information technology, it helps to know what this field covers. You’ll use computer programs to help maintain the processes that businesses use and solve any issues that come up in connection to those programs or computer systems. You’ll be involved in installation, maintenance, and the organization of the company’s databases, systems, and networks. You’ll likely also communicate with people in different departments to make sure that new systems are operating the way they are intended to work.
Step 2: Take Part in an Internship
Whether you plan to earn an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree in information technology, an internship can benefit you by giving you work experience you can fall back on when you start looking for your first full-time position. If you’re planning to become an information technology specialist, internship openings you find and apply to may even convert into a job.
Once you land an internship as an information technology specialist, you’ll do the work that other professionals are doing. You may also gain new job skills if you’re given the opportunity to work on IT projects.
You may be wondering if your internship will be paid or unpaid, though this depends on the specific company offering internships to you and fellow students. Whether you are paid in your internship or not, you’ll still benefit in multiple ways. First, you may earn course credits by choosing internships that qualify for credits. You’ll also benefit if you decide to stay at your internship after you graduate—that is, you may receive a job and be on the fast track to promotion.
Step 3: Earn Needed Certifications
Employers eagerly higher information technology specialists who hold at least one related certification. Before applying to take certification classes, you may need as many as three years of working experience as an information technologist. And, if you want to be an information technology specialist, you should have three years of working experience in an entry-level IT technologist position.
The certifications you might want to consider earning include the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA), A+, Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA), or Network+. You’ll need to spend a few months studying the materials for the certification you have chosen—this will give you a better chance at passing the exam so you can get the certification you are after.
Is such a certification necessary? Not necessarily. You may be able to get hired and do the work without it, but the lack of certifications won’t put you out ahead of the pack of other IT specialists and it’s always better to stand out.
Step 4: Find a Job Post-Graduation
Once you’ve graduated, it’s time to get to work. You should have begun looking for a position before graduating so that you have a better chance of finding one within a reasonable time frame. Your resume and cover letter should introduce you, your knowledge, skills, and past experience. Ideally, your internship or the jobs you’ve done in the past will equip you for the work you’ll be doing after you graduate. That is the whole point after all.
Your job is vital to the companies and agencies that rely on computers and networking systems, which is virtually all of them. If your position was not filled, companies may have trouble storing data or do any of the processes they require. Almost 4 billion people get online every day and that number doubles every two years. Problems will pop up and it’s your job, along with tens of thousands of other specialists, to troubleshoot and fix these issues.
What Does an Information Technology Specialist Do?
As an information technology specialist, you’ll carry out a variety of activities. These include administrative, analytical, and technical tasks. Information technology specialists help with the planning for new and existing personal devices and workstations and also work on their installation. Information technology specialists diagnose and resolve issues that customers report to you. Information technology specialists also work with end-users to figure out which types of software and hardware are needed for the company’s systems. Then, you’ll install that new hardware and software.
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Information technology specialists may handle general maintenance tasks and troubleshoot any issues with peripheral equipment, as reported by end users. You’ll work on progress reports for all work you’ve done and evaluate products to see if they will integrate with the current system.
Part of your daily responsibilities include using and maintaining knowledge bases. You may maintain FAQs, white papers, and all vendor documentation. In speaking to end-users, you’ll offer guidance and explain procedures and policies to them. You’ll also help them get access to the systems they need to use.
As you take care of issue reports, troubleshoot the problems, and make repairs, you’ll contribute to the documentation of each incident you respond to. You’ll also work on the company’s internal processes and procedures, work on equipment maintenance, and help with training manuals.
Information Technology Specialist Skills to Acquire
To become an IT specialist, you need to have a variety of specialized skills.
- Programming Languages:
The more computer languages you learn, the better you’ll better be able to work with them and with mobile devices.
- Interpersonal skills:
You’ll interact with humans as much as you interact with computers. This includes developers, quality assurance personnel, project managers, and other employees. You need to be able to empathize and communicate with others in meaningful ways.
- Data collection:
Some of the information technology specialist education needed for your role is collecting information and data. You’ll may conduct a large amount of research, such as figuring out which software tools you need, so you know how to take care of a network system as a whole. You’ll also diagnose and fix computer system issues and the more data you collate to make these decisions, the better you’ll be at your job and the more in-demand you’ll be.
- Stay up to date. Technology updates and goes out of date fast. What was new two years ago is now out-of-date. This means that, when new computers, software, and diagnostic techniques change, your job processes will change quickly as well. Learn how to stay up to date so you can adapt.
It isn’t enough to be skilled in working with computers. IT specialists often have job announcements that state that they must have, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree. You need to learn about computer engineering, computer science, PC support, statistics, math, physics, and other closely related classes. Since an information technology specialist will be working directly with people, having knowledge in communications and psychology will also be useful. However, computer science is in a league of its own in a way. In many ways, the formal training for those in these careers is less necessary than it is for many others. As long as you know what you need to know and are able to learn on the job, you may be able to gain experience in the field and move up without a degree.
An information technology specialist may need to know about computers in general. An information technology specialist could choose to specialize in an operating system or software, in which case certifications may be more important than what degree you have. Your knowledge of processors, electronic equipment, circuit boards, software, chips, hardware, and electronic equipment will help support you as you figure out a computer network issue.
The right training for a career as an IT specialist includes developing your skills, building a network (colleagues), then building your career – whether this includes a degree all depends on how persistent you are and how serious you are about learning on your own. HR representatives need to find people who have the knowledge and skills to do the job efficiently and right. You can give yourself the option of a good career by earning a degree or, if you are serious about the field, even being self-taught.
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Information Technology Specialist Careers & Salary
Where Might You Work?
You could find yourself working in hospitals, universities, IT service companies, consulting organizations, or for any company large enough to have their own IT issues. Wherever a company has computers, a computer network, or a server, you’ll be able to find work.
If you hold a bachelor’s degree, your annual salary may be higher. However, with some companies, your work quality is more valuable than a degree; you may have been asked to provide a portfolio during your interview. This allows the hiring organization to see your experience in black and white.
Your employer may be a large one, with branches all across the country—or even in other countries. Here, your title and job role may expand to fit the size of the company; in some cases, you may be troubleshooting computer networks that extend from one state to another, or to a different country.
If you work within an IT services organization, you may be one of 10 to 50 employees. Here, you’ll be more of a generalist, handling several roles. For instance, you may assist a database administrator in troubleshooting a computer problem.
Working for universities, you may work in the information and computing technology (ICT) department. You’ll work on computers for different university departments and schools, quarantining viruses and malware and installing new software.
The employment outlook for computer support specialists (another title similar to an IT specialist) is good; the projection is that employment will grow by 8% between 2019 and 2029, which is twice as fast as the average for all other U.S. occupations.
Companies and organizations that upgrade their computer equipment or software will need your assistance to ensure the upgrade is done correctly. You’ll help install and repair equipment and software that is becoming more and more complex. Small organizations, too small to have their own IT team, may contract your employer’s services, which helps to fuel the demand for computer support specialists.
Healthcare organizations and industries are increasingly demanding the services of IT support services companies. As hospitals and private practices move to electronic health records, these specialist’s assistance is vital to ensure everything is running correctly. If you have a bachelor’s degree along with a strong technical background, you should easily find a position.
In 2018, the BLS estimated that the job growth rate would be 12% through 2028, providing about 546,000 more positions in the IT field.
Advancing From Here
Advancement in this field may come with education or experience. You might earn a master’s degree in information technology so that you can gain a focus in a certain type of system or learn to program and create your own software. Or you could choose to focus on your career and grow into new roles as you gain work experience. While you will need certifications either way, both options are viable for long-term growth. Here are some higher-level careers you could work towards.
- Advanced Technical Support:
Bureau of Labor Statistics projections say this career is expected to grow by 10% between 2018 and 2028. You’ll spend some time providing customer service to departments in your company. Holding a master’s degree gives you a better chance of advancing to this position.
- IT Manager:
The demand for this career grows by 15% annually. You’ll oversee an IT team and manage large projects. You need to be analytical and have good business skills. Your tech foundation should be strong.
- IT Project Manager:
In this position, you’ll help plan and coordinate the work of the internal project team, consultants, and third-party contractors to complete IT projects.
This field is a popular one for employees and employers. Tech isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, due to the consistent growth in organizations with computer systems. You might find yourself specializing and working on computers, apps, software, or mobile devices. You can reach out to your network of fellow students or colleagues when it’s time to find a technology specialist job.
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Computer and Information Systems Managers:
This position requires that you earn a bachelor’s degree and your duties will involve all computer and information systems for your employer. You’ll plan, coordinate, and direct all activities related to computers within a company. The median annual salary for this position is $146,000.
This field usually requires a bachelor’s degree. You’ll write and test computer code that tells software programs and computer applications how to function. The median annual salary for this position is $87,000.
Computer Network Architects:
You’ll need to earn your bachelor’s degree for this position. You may help to design and build networks for data communication. These include wide area networks (WANs), local area networks (LANs), and Intranets. The median annual salary for this position is $113,000.
Computer Systems Analysts:
This position requires a bachelor’s degree. You’ll go through and study a company’s computer systems and look for a new computing solutions that are more effective and efficient. The median annual salary for this position is $91,000.
Here, you’ll likely need a bachelor’s degree. You’ll work with specialized software to store and organize a company’s data. The median annual salary for this position is $94,000.
Network and Computer Systems Administrators:
This position requires a bachelor’s degree. You’ll take responsibility for the everyday operation of computer networks for a company. The median annual salary for this position is $84,000.
Information Security Analysts:
This field requires a bachelor’s degree. You’ll help to plan and carry out specific security tactics to protect a company’s computer network and systems. The median annual salary for this position is $100,000.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What is a systems support specialist?
A system support specialist is responsible for technical assistance and desk support. A system support specialist will work on hardware failures, network issues, and software problems. They also work on maintaining and creating user accounts.
What skills do I need to become an information technology specialist?
An information technology specialist needs to be able to solve problems quickly, multitask, make decisions, and have a strong understanding of computer systems.
What operating systems does an information technology specialist use?
An information technology specialist will use different operating systems, such as Windows, macOS, or Linux, as well as need proficiency in at least one programming language.
How much can you make as an information technology specialist?
An information technology specialist makes around $55,500 on average.
Where do information technology specialists work?
An information technology specialist can work in hospitals, healthcare facilities, transportation companies, retail chains, and IT consulting companies.