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Computer User Support Specialists

At a Glance

  • Usually help either coworkers or general customers
  • Often solve problems over the phone and e-mail
  • May work evenings and weekends
  • Usually train through vocational and two-year schools
  • Update skills by attending training sessions

Career summary

Computer user support specialists help people solve problems with their computer hardware and software.

Computer support specialists may also be called computer technicians, help desk specialists or analysts, technical or network support specialists, or computer specialists.

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Computer user support specialists help coworkers or people who bought their companies' products. They start by talking to customers about problems they may be having. They either make the repairs themselves or tell customers what to change.

Computer user support specialists may have different tasks depending on if they are providing support to customers or coworkers.

Coworker support

Some computer user support specialists help coworkers test or monitor systems to locate the problem. They make repairs and test to make sure the problems are fixed. They may continue to monitor computers to see if more work needs to be done. Specialists document what repairs they made and what hardware or software they installed.

Computer user support specialists talk with managers and staff about the company's computer needs. They may help to locate computers or software that meet the company's needs. They install software following manufacturers' guidelines.

Specialists in large companies may develop training materials and teach staff how to use new software. They may also supervise other computer user support staff.

Customer support

Other computer user support specialists help customers who bought products from computer hardware and software vendors. They communicate with customers by telephone or e-mail. They usually do not have access to the computer.

Computer user support specialists talk customers through how to install software or replace hardware. They send out new parts if the hardware is not working. Specialists document the type of questions they answer each day.

Because computer hardware and software are constantly changing, support specialists must be aware of developments in the field. They may attend conferences and trainings or read magazines to learn about changes.

Related careers

This career is part of the Information Technology cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to computer user support specialists.

Common work activities

Computer user support specialists perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, computer user support specialists:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Computer user support specialists frequently:

It is important for computer user support specialists to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for computer user support specialists to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Computer user support specialists need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a computer user support specialist, you typically need to:

Education after high school

Many computer user support specialists learn their skills through formal training programs. Some employers require at least an associate degree and a few prefer a bachelor's degree. Vocational schools, community colleges, and colleges offer training. Common areas of study are computer science or information technology.

Work experience

You can get experience through part-time or summer jobs in the computer industry. Another approach is to gain experience through your hobbies, such as building computer systems or learning software programs. A common way to demonstrate your level of experience to employers is to get certified in an area of computing. Many employers look for candidates with one to two years or related experience.

On-the-job training

New specialists start by dealing directly with customers or in-house users. They often receive on-the-job training. The length of training varies by employer. 

Because of rapid changes in technology, support specialists often attend training sessions to update their skills. Employers, software and hardware vendors, colleges and universities, and private training firms offer continuing education courses.

Helpful high school courses

In high school, take classes that prepare you for college. A college preparatory curriculum may be different from your state's graduation requirements.

You should also consider taking some advanced courses in high school. This includes Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses if they are available in your school. If you do well in these courses, you may receive college credit for them. Advanced courses can also strengthen your college application.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Some employers prefer specialists who have at least two years of training after high school. A growing number of employers prefer specialists who have a four-year degree. Experience and skills, however, can substitute for formal training.

Employers prefer applicants who know the hardware and software their company uses. When there is a big demand for computer user support specialists, employers may be more likely to hire someone who has the skills they need rather than someone who has a degree.

Employers look for people who have strong problem-solving and analytical skills. They also look for people who can communicate well with a variety of people.

The ability to remain calm and tactful when helping customers who are stressed due to a computer problem is important. For workers beyond entry level, experience with a variety of database, spreadsheet, word processing, and graphics programs is helpful.

Costs to workers

Some workers join a professional association, which may have annual dues. Workers may also pay for continuing education to keep up with changes in the field, but often this is paid for by the employer.

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Computer user support specialists (SOC 15-1151)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $16.92 $21.69 $27.23 $33.31 $44.07
Monthly $2,932 $3,759 $4,719 $5,773 $7,637
Yearly $35,200 $45,120 $56,650 $69,280 $91,660
    Bellingham Hourly $16.23 $18.04 $22.99 $30.27 $37.89
Monthly $2,813 $3,126 $3,984 $5,246 $6,566
Yearly $33,743 $37,520 $47,819 $62,961 $78,802
    Bremerton-Silverdale Hourly $16.79 $21.76 $27.66 $33.30 $39.90
Monthly $2,910 $3,771 $4,793 $5,771 $6,915
Yearly $34,923 $45,255 $57,543 $69,266 $82,993
    Clarkston-Lewiston Hourly $12.62 $14.67 $19.27 $25.11 $31.84
Monthly $2,187 $2,542 $3,339 $4,352 $5,518
Yearly $26,233 $30,516 $40,090 $52,222 $66,238
    Kennewick-Richland Hourly $17.49 $21.06 $25.89 $30.50 $40.16
Monthly $3,031 $3,650 $4,487 $5,286 $6,960
Yearly $36,369 $43,799 $53,865 $63,451 $83,521
    Longview Hourly $17.00 $23.20 $30.24 $37.94 $48.11
Monthly $2,946 $4,021 $5,241 $6,575 $8,337
Yearly $35,355 $48,259 $62,892 $78,917 $100,085
    Mount Vernon-Anacortes Hourly $18.87 $23.56 $27.56 $30.73 $36.31
Monthly $3,270 $4,083 $4,776 $5,326 $6,293
Yearly $39,252 $49,007 $57,321 $63,909 $75,525
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $16.20 $23.14 $27.54 $31.92 $39.10
Monthly $2,807 $4,010 $4,773 $5,532 $6,776
Yearly $33,682 $48,120 $57,285 $66,388 $81,335
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $17.94 $23.21 $28.41 $35.15 $47.36
Monthly $3,109 $4,022 $4,923 $6,091 $8,207
Yearly $37,316 $48,265 $59,086 $73,105 $98,513
    Spokane-Spokane Valley Hourly $12.69 $16.10 $21.66 $27.65 $32.94
Monthly $2,199 $2,790 $3,754 $4,792 $5,709
Yearly $26,388 $33,471 $45,045 $57,517 $68,518
    Vancouver Hourly $17.21 $20.73 $25.65 $32.36 $39.32
Monthly $2,982 $3,593 $4,445 $5,608 $6,814
Yearly $35,812 $43,134 $53,344 $67,322 $81,797
    Walla Walla Hourly $19.10 $23.56 $27.72 $31.66 $38.68
Monthly $3,310 $4,083 $4,804 $5,487 $6,703
Yearly $39,720 $49,003 $57,659 $65,855 $80,466
    Wenatchee Hourly $13.04 $15.01 $20.80 $28.56 $35.25
Monthly $2,260 $2,601 $3,605 $4,949 $6,109
Yearly $27,126 $31,215 $43,246 $59,398 $73,321
    Yakima Hourly $17.69 $21.13 $25.60 $29.43 $32.25
Monthly $3,066 $3,662 $4,436 $5,100 $5,589
Yearly $36,797 $43,950 $53,237 $61,223 $67,084
United States Hourly $15.01 $18.90 $24.51 $31.56 $40.63
Monthly $2,601 $3,275 $4,248 $5,469 $7,041
Yearly $31,220 $39,310 $50,980 $65,640 $84,510

Pay varies with the worker's skills and level of education. Pay also varies with the employer's location and size.

Full-time computer user support specialists generally receive benefits. Common benefits include health insurance, paid vacation, and sick leave.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook


The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Computer user support specialists (SOC 15-1151)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 18,772 27.5% 16.1% 2,567
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 224 19.6% 13.4% 27
    Asotin, Columbia, Ferry, Garfield, Lincoln, Pend Oreille, Stevens, Walla Walla, and Whitman Counties 194 8.8% 8.6% 17
    Benton and Franklin Counties 284 20.8% 15.0% 35
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 438 24.2% 11.9% 57
    Clark, Cowlitz, and Wahkiakum Counties 1,430 28.6% 15.2% 199
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 851 22.2% 14.1% 106
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 576 21.0% 14.6% 70
    King County 11,109 32.2% 19.6% 1,643
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 377 16.7% 13.8% 42
    Pierce County 1,079 13.3% 15.2% 110
    Snohomish County 917 21.8% 12.4% 113
    Spokane County 1,118 23.3% 13.9% 141
United States 671,800 10.6% 5.2% 65,100

National employment

Major employers:

National outlook

Demand for this occupation will continue to grow at a strong pace. Support specialists will be needed to install, upgrade, and repair computer equipment. Demand will be strongest in the health care industry. Increased use of cloud-computing may slightly reduce the need for support specialists.

Job prospects are good for entry-level workers because advancement opportunities are good. People with bachelor's degrees will have the best opportunities.

Other resources

Association for Women in Computing - Puget Sound Chapter (external link)
3743 S. 170th Street
Sea-Tac, WA 98188
Computing Technology Industry Association (external link)
3500 Lacey Road, Suite 100
Downers Grove, IL 60515
IEEE Computer Society (external link)
2001 L Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20036
Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals (ICCP) (external link)
244 S Randall Road #116
Elgin, IL 60123
International Association for Computer Information Systems (external link)
Washington Technology Industry Association (external link)
2200 Alaskan Way, Suite 390
Seattle, WA 98121


Career cluster

Career path

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O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

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