Many people are intrigued by the idea of becoming an IT support specialist. It’s a challenging and rewarding career prospect. An IT support specialist can work with many different computer systems within an equally wide range of industries. It’s a fantastic position for those who enjoy working with technology.
This range of options makes it clear why this career path is appealing, but what’s not always so clear is how you can qualify for the job. What specific certification should you pursue? And how do you go about actually preparing for the certification exam? To answer that question, we first need to look at the specific skills needed by an IT support specialist.
What Does an IT Support Specialist Do?
The term IT support specialist is intentionally broad in scope. A specialty in IT support conjures up imagery of someone stepping in to stabilize, enhance and support any given computer system. But what does that mean in more specific terms? What does an IT support specialist do on a day-to-day basis?
You will see two main types of IT support specialists. The first type is a computer network support specialist, and the second group is made up of computer user support specialists.
Computer Network Support Specialist
Computer network support specialists have less focus on how people use IT systems and more on the systems themselves. This isn’t to say that a computer network support specialist doesn’t have interactions with other people. Phone, email, and even in-person diagnostics is often an important part of the job. However, this is secondary when compared to the specialist’s work on hardware and networking systems.
Computer network support specialists put most of their efforts into testing, evaluating, and maintaining IT systems. This includes computers, servers, local area networks, wide area networks, and Internet systems. It’s important to remember that these diagnostics is done through advance planning. Computer network support specialists use monitoring tools to anticipate possible problem areas.
In theory, this should allow you to stop issues before they have a chance to escalate into a larger problem. However, there’s no way to fully avoid every problem. What computer network support specialists can do is prepare safety nets such as backups or established system redundancy. This is also where many elements of cloud computing become valuable. Cloud computing create system redundancy by introducing additional adaptability into a system. Computer network support specialists try to keep IT problems from occurring in the first place, but the specialist’s advance planning also ensures that if a primary system fails a secondary system can offer support during the repair process.
Computer User Support Specialist
The other role that works in IT support is a computer user support specialist. Computer user support specialists also work with both end-users and their company’s IT system. The main difference is the computer user support specialists put an emphasis on directly helping people. For example, consider what’s involved with fixing a reported error. An end-user usually doesn’t understand what’s going wrong from a technical perspective. They’ll send a report or help ticket with complaints that essentially say that their computer isn’t working. It’s up to the computer user support specialist to determine what isn’t working and why that’s happening.
A computer user support specialist can walk a user through the work cycle to determine exactly what’s going wrong. Once a more concrete diagnosis has been made, the computer user support specialist can either personally fix the problem or pass a newly generated report on to another department.
Computer user support specialists also handle tasks that require employee education about IT-related subjects. For example, they’re involved with setting up new hardware for employees. This includes showing department heads, or individual employees, how to use those new technologies.
How Can Someone Get a Competitive Advantage for a Job in IT?
It’s clear that IT support specialists need to know a large amount of knowledge. However, it’s not just a matter of understanding networking or computer equipment, but IT support specialists need to be able to explain a computer or network device to the average person.
There is one proven path to both learn those skills and demonstrate them to potential employers, certification. Certification is the best way to get a competitive advantage within the IT field. A single certification can quickly and succinctly prove your knowledge and skills. Of course, the many IT certifications can make it hard to sort through the options. Which IT specialist certification is the best for an IT support specialist?
What Is an IT Specialist Certification?
As we’ve seen, IT support specialists work on different tasks. So, they need a certification that covers an equally broad range of IT subjects. An IT specialist doesn’t need to be an expert in any one area. However, they will need to have a general understanding of about IT. This makes one certification a perfect match for people who want to have a competitive advantage in the field. An IT specialist certification is synonymous with CompTIA’s A+ certification.
What’s on the A+ Exam and How Can Someone Prepare for IT?
CompTIA’s A+ certification requires you to pass two different exams. These are the Core 1 and Core 2 exams. An IT specialist will need to know how to handle everything from network monitoring to desktop repair. They also need to convey highly technical subjects to people that don’t have any technical background. The position requires an extensive amount of knowledge, people skills, and quick thinking. The A+ certification process will likewise require an equally extensive amount of testing.
A+ Exam Basics
The A+ exams cover the basics of all popular operating systems. This includes the more obvious examples such as Windows, OSX, and Linux. It also covers more esoteric operating systems like cloud computing systems and mobile operating systems like iOS or Android. You don’t just need to understand the hardware and software of a system either, the A+ certification exam also covers how each of these platforms deals with networking. Therefore, you will need to demonstrate how to handle each of these subjects in a manner that takes proper security measures into account.
The exam focuses questions on creative problem-solving. IT specialists will need to use hardware and software together to create novel solutions to unfamiliar problems. The exam replicates that approach by doing more than requiring test takers to demonstrate rote memorization. It’s not enough to know something’s true, you need to demonstrate why it’s true.
A+ is an Industry Standard Certification
The A+ certification exam is difficult, but at the same time, that’s why A+ certification has become an industry standard. When potential employers see you have an A+ certification they can be confident in your abilities, but this also leads us to a fundamental question about the certification process. How do you prepare for exams that require you to demonstrate this level of split-second problem-solving? The answer can be found in a computer support technician diploma.
An Overview of a Computer Support Technician Diploma
IT support is not something that’s easy to simply pick up from rote memorization, but at the same time, you can’t learn everything simply from on-the-job training.
Preparing for the A+ certification exam requires you to combine academic study with in-person experience, and that’s exactly what you find in a computer support technician diploma program. However, to fully understand why that’s the case you need to examine some of the specific benefits in more depth.
What Are the Benefits of a Diploma Program?
A computer curriculum on the A+ exam is covered in a diploma program. If CompTIA recommends people study any facet of the IT industry, then the coursework will cover it as well. All of this ensures that you have a firm grasp of all the academic subjects covered in the A+ exam.
Studying is a Group Exercise
There’s a lot more to a diploma program than studying though. One of the most important parts of a diploma program is the human element. An IT specialist isn’t sitting alone all day with computer equipment. They are working alongside their peers and acting as a liaison between people outside of the IT department. People are an important part of the job, as well as the learning experience. This is why learning in a group setting is beneficial to prepare for the A+ certification exam.
One of the biggest benefits of a diploma program is the interactions with experienced faculty. These are all experts who are familiar with the coursework and know what you will need to learn for the CompTIA A+ certification exam. The faculty can guide you through the learning process by framing subjects in a manner that best suits your learning approach.
The A+ certification exam stresses creative problem-solving, and this is exactly what an instructor with real-world experience excels in. You may see how theory and practice differ when you are working in the field, but it’s harder to grasp that important aspect if you haven’t personally worked within it yet. A computer support technician diploma program helps you hone your creative problem-solving skills.
Use Industry Standard Hardware and Software
This focus on real-world diagnostics is further aided by the availability of applicable hardware. The A+ certification exam covers different hardware and operating systems. You might have access to some hardware, but it’s rare for anyone to have access to every combination of hardware and software. This is especially true if you haven’t used these technologies in a professional setting. There can be a considerable difference between the home and enterprise versions of any given technology. A formal education provides you with direct access to these industry standard platforms.
Learning From Faculty and Peers
The faculty deserves a lot of recognition, but it’s also important to keep in mind that diploma programs have classmates who can help you master the material. Your fellow students are another important part of a formal education. You may need to explain complex technical issues to others. You also may need to take in equally complex information from your coworkers within an IT department. This knowledge exchange can be practiced during a computer support technician diploma program.
Working with your classmates can help build up your interpersonal skills. When you are discussing details that you have mastered, you get a chance to explain them back to others. Likewise, you can often see subjects from a different perspective when discussing them with your peers, and study groups are a fantastic way to learn new material.
Getting Ready for the Certification Exam
Finally, a formal education covers one of the most important aspects of the certification exam. There’s more to an exam than simply knowing the material, it’s also important to get a feel for the style of the exam and its testing methodology.
The A+ certification exam is quite different from most of the exams you have taken. One of the most important distinctions is how little time you are allowed to devote to each question. An A+ certification tests you on your ability to think on your feet and respond to problems as quickly as possible. The certification exam mirrors this by only giving you a short amount of time for each question.
The Core 1 and Core 2 exams each consist of 90 questions, and you only have 90 minutes to complete each Core. So, you will need to answer each question within a single minute. Additionally, the exam will use a mix of question types including multiple choice, drag and drop, and performance-based questions. It’s a lot to adapt to if you were just blindly jumping into the testing process, but a formal education provides you with the opportunity to take practice exams.
Practice exams cover the same material that you find on the actual certification exam. Likewise, the practice questions are formatted to match the real certification exam. By taking practice tests, you can get used to the process, so you are prepared when it is time to sit down for the real exam. When all of this is considered, it’s easy to see why a computer support technician diploma program is an easy way to get a competitive advantage to prepare for the CompTIA A+ certification exam.
Computer Support Technician Diploma Program
The Computer Support Technician Diploma program prepares you to demonstrate proficiency in providing technical support and assisting users in troubleshooting, performing technical and system diagnostics, and making the necessary repairs. You will also develop the skills necessary to obtain an entry-level position in the field and prepare to take the CompTIA A+ certification.
Ready to move from the classroom to a career? Florida Technical College is here to help. Contact us to learn more about completing the computer support technician diploma program at Florida Technical College.