Career advice > IT roles > Technical support and helpdesk

Technical support and helpdesk

As a technical support/helpdesk employee, you’ll be monitoring and maintaining the computer systems and networks within an organisation in a technical support role. If there are any issues or changes required, such as forgotten passwords, viruses or email issues, you’ll be the first person employees will come to.

Tasks can include installing and configuring computer systems, diagnosing hardware/software faults and solving technical problems, either over the phone or face to face.

Most importantly, as businesses cannot afford to be without the whole system, or individual workstations, for more than the minimum time taken to repair or replace them, your technical support is vital to the ongoing operational efficiency of the company.

As technical support, you may also be known as a helpdesk operator, technician or maintenance engineer.

You could work for software or equipment suppliers providing after-sales support or companies that specialise in providing IT maintenance and support. Alternatively you may work in house, supporting the rest of the business with their ongoing IT requirements.

Some tasks you may be involved in include:

• Working with customers/employees to identify computer problems and advising on the solution
• Logging and keeping records of customer/employee queries
• Analysing call logs so you can spot common trends and underlying problems
• Updating self-help documents so customers/employees can try to fix problems themselves
• Working with field engineers to visit customers/employees if the problem is more serious
• Testing and fixing faulty equipment

Video case study

Opportunities

In many companies, you may find there’s a natural career progression within technical support. As an example, this would see you being promoted to a more senior technical support role and from there to a team, section or department leader.

Alternatively, a role in technical support is a good stepping stone if you wish to move towards various other areas in IT, such as programming, IT training, technical sales or systems administration.

Required skills

As well as a strong technical background, many employers would want you to be able to explain complex information in simple, clear terms to a non-IT personnel. Additionally, they will be looking for:

• An ability to assess each customer/employee's IT knowledge levels
• Ability to deal with difficult callers
• Logical thinker
• Good analytical and problem solving skills
• Up-to-date technical knowledge
• An in depth understanding of the software and equipment your customers/employees are using
• Good interpersonal and customer care skills
• Good accurate records keeping

Entry requirements

You can start training to work in a technical support role straight from school if you have good GCSE grades in English, Maths and IT or Science.

An additional computing course would also help you stand out among employers. Popular courses include: BTEC (Edexcel) National Certificate and Diploma IT Practitioners, City & Guilds (E-Quals) IT Practitioners Certificate and Advanced Diploma and OCR (iPRO) Certificate for IT Practitioners.

If you have a degree in a related computing subject, you could enter a suitable graduate trainee scheme; you'll receive a high standard of on the job training, helping you to progress quickly with working knowledge of your chosen field.

Training

Many employers in the IT industry understand that ongoing training is important for technical positions, particularly with the speed of new developments in IT. Because of this, many employers may put you on a structured training scheme or send you on relevant courses to stay up to date.

There are some specialist courses, run by the Helpdesk Institute, which may be suitable in this role. These include: Customer Support Specialist (CSS) for new entrants; Help Desk Analyst (HDA) for professionals with 9-18 months of experience; and a Help Desk Manager's qualification for those with 3-5 years of experience.

You can add to your existing qualifications by taking work-based awards such as: NVQ Practitioner Levels 1 to 4, City & Guilds Higher Professional Diploma for IT Practitioners and the OCR Higher Level Award for IT Professionals.

Hours and environment

As technical support, your typical hours will be 37 to 40 hours a week, but the days and times might vary if you work for a company that runs shifts to make sure the helpdesk is open for business 24/7.

It's a desk-based job and you'll spend most of your day on the phone or emailing customers and/or employees. Thanks to advances in technology enabling remote access, more and more of your work can be completed from your workstation.

Average salary 

The typical starting salary for technical support personnel ranges from £15,000 to £21,000. A technical support manager with 10 to 15 years of experience can potentially earn up to £47,000.

Find technical support/helpdesk jobs

Related articles:

Free CV review

 CVKnowHow

Connect with us

Follow us on Twitter
Follow us on Google
Follow us on Linkedin

Tools

What are your skills and experience worth? Use our interactive tools to find out.

ITJOBLOG

For all the latest IT opinion, reviews and analysis, visit the ITJOBLOG, written and read by experts.

Read more