It's important to develop solid skills in hardware and software installation, troubleshooting and repair in order to successfully become a computer technician. While there aren't specific educational requirements for entry to this profession, employers often prefer (and sometimes require) industry-standard certifications and/or formal education. If you are considering entering this field, working toward professional certification will serve you well, and enrolling in a hands-on training program is a great way to get the skills you need to prepare for certification exams and the workplace.
There is not a specific degree requirement for working as a computer technician, but some employers do opt to hire only individuals who have graduated from college. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), "computer user support specialist jobs require some computer knowledge, but not necessarily a postsecondary degree."
OOH points out that some employers with degree requirements seek workers who have bachelor's degrees while others will accept associate's degrees.
Associate Degree Programs
State-operated community colleges and private career colleges often offer associate degree programs in computer support or computer networking. See Community-College.org to locate community colleges in your area so you can research to determine which ones have programs that meet your needs. CareerColleges.com will allow you to search for private schools offering computer support programs in specific geographic areas.
- Remington College offers a Computer Networking Administration program at its campuses in Ohio, Louisiana, Tennessee, Alabama and Florida.
- ITT Technical Institute offers associate degree programs in Computer Network Systems and Computer Network Administration in campuses throughout the U.S.
Bachelor's Degree Programs
You can find bachelor's degree programs that provide an appropriate background for working as a computer technician at state-operated and private colleges and universities throughout the United States. Visit CollegeResourceNetwork.com for a list of 40 of the best U.S. colleges for computer science or information technology programs. Some career colleges also have bachelor's degree programs.
- The University of Florida offers a Computer Science bachelor's degree, as well a one in Information Systems and Operations Management.
- The New Jersey Institute of Technology's bachelor's level program offerings include a Computer Science degree and a degree in Computers and Business.
- ITT Technical Institute has a bachelor's degree program in Information Systems Security that is available online or in a campus-based environment.
Whether there is a degree requirement or not, specific skills related to computer support are required for most jobs. These skills can be gained through classes, self-study, on-the-job training, volunteer work and other ways. If you decide to attend college, you may want to consider doing an internship while you are in school to further develop your skills.
Because of the hands-on nature of the work, computer technician employers often require specific certifications for their information technology (IT) employees, relying on industry-standard credentials as a way of ensuring that employees possess the necessary skills. For this reason, professional certification is a must for people who want to enter this field, even those who have a degree. You can prepare for certification exams through self-study or certification prep boot camp classes (or a combination of both).
Key Entry-Level Certifications
- A+ Certification: The CompTIA A+ certification is "the starting point for a career in IT." It is considered an entry-level certification for computer technicians, so is likely the first credential you will want to earn. You must pass two exams to earn this certification, one focusing on hardware and software fundamentals and the other focusing on operating systems.
- Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA): The MTA certification "is a recommended entry point into IT certification and job preparation." The certification is available in three tracks, with computer technicians typically following the IT infrastructure track. This track includes four exams on fundamentals of different areas: operating systems, server administration, networking and security. The other tracks are specific to database and development work.
Once you begin your career, you may also want to earn advanced or specialty certifications as a way of preparing for advancement and to keep up with the rapidly changing IT fields.
- CompTIA offers a number of advanced credentials appropriate for computer technicians, such as Network+, Security+ and more.
- Advanced options from Microsoft include Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MSCA) and Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MSCE).
There are many other certifications available that you may want to consider adding - or that your employer may require - once you have earned your CompTIA and Microsoft credentials. Some of them are vendor specific, such as credentials specific to Cisco, Linux and other branded IT products or platforms.
There are many ways to prepare for careers in the computer field. To get a sense of what option is best for you, spend some time researching job opportunities with the companies where you would most like to work. Finding out what educational and skill requirements these organizations have can help you make an informed decision about the best route to take.