What Is an IT Technician? How to Become One

Written by Coursera • Updated on Sep 10, 2021

IT technicians install, troubleshoot, and fix the hardware and software in a computer system. It's often considered an entry-level position.

An IT technician assists a fellow employee with her laptop

An IT technician provides a wide range of services to support, fix, and maintain the hardware and software of an organization’s computer systems. IT technicians might install, troubleshoot, test, or help roll out security features, hardware, and software, or maintain networks and computer systems. Often considered an entry-level position, IT technicians can go on to more specialized roles like systems engineer, network administrator, or cloud administrator.

How much do IT technicians make? IT technician salaries

IT technicians in the US make an average salary of $45,828, according to Glassdoor data from June 2021. It’s a field that’s growing fast—the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects jobs for computer support specialists to grow by eight percent from 2019 to 2029. That’s a much faster pace than the average for all jobs [1].

What other entry-level IT jobs are similar?

IT technician is one of many titles you might see in a job description for general IT support positions. In your job search, keep an eye out for similar titles like help desk technician, desktop support technician, IT specialist, help desk analyst, or IT associate. Though roles might vary slightly, much of the skill set and expectations can be similar. For example, work as an IT specialist or help desk analyst might involve more resolving user issues and less hands-on technical work. But you’ll still be expected to know your way around basic networking, troubleshooting, and security issues.

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How to become an IT technician: 3 tips

Get on the path to becoming an IT technician—or a host of other entry-level IT positions—by following these four tips. 

1. Get a certification.

Many professionals have gotten their start in IT with an entry-level IT certification. A certification can be a great way to build up experience if you’re starting from scratch. It can also be a quick way for employers to see that you have the skills and knowledge required to get an industry-standard certification. That can make you more competitive in the job market.

Getting a certification generally means you’ll have to take and pass an exam. Studying for this exam—through coursework or self-study—can give you a structured way to learn the skills you’ll want to have. Keep an eye out for credentials that will teach you the essentials of a wide range of IT areas, like the CompTIA A+. Explore some entry-level certifications to get started.

2. Build IT technician skills.

Here are a few skills that are often requested in job descriptions for entry-level IT positions, as well as tips on how to get them.

  • Troubleshooting protocol: As an entry-level IT professional, you’ll likely be asked to fix computers that go awry in the office. Knowing how to find the root cause of a problem, solve it, and make sure it doesn’t happen again is a process you should be familiar with.

  • Hardware and software: Setting up and configuring software and applications on PCs or Macs is a skill that’s often requested in job descriptions. You’ll also want to know how to install and set up various types of hardware like firewalls, access points, and network switches.

  • Networks: You should know the essentials of maintaining and troubleshooting a computer network, like TCP/IP protocols and stacks.

Sometimes landing an interview comes down to the skills. But what do you do if you don’t have them yet? Here are a few ways to build up your toolkit.

  • Courses: If you have a good idea of what skills you need to get, consider taking a course or two. These can target specific skills, like networking, or be more general. Classes are plentiful online, but may be available at your local community college too. Don’t forget that there are courses that will teach you a skillset, AND prepare you for a certification exam—like the Google IT Support Professional Certificate course, which prepares you for the CompTIA A+ certification.

  • Certifications: We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. Getting a certification like the CompTIA A+ can bring you the skills often needed for an entry-level IT job, on top of granting you a credential that will communicate your competency to employers. 

  • Teach yourself: Need hands-on experience? Diving into the thick of it can teach you a lot. Try building your own computer, or finding an old one, taking it apart, and putting it together again. You can also use an old computer to experiment with configuring various software programs and familiarize yourself with different operating systems. 

  • Internships and volunteer opportunities: An internship typically requires less previous experience than a full-time position, and some volunteer organizations may be happy to have your help if you have an understanding of IT basics. If you’re in school, you can approach your career center to ask if there are any opportunities they know of. You can look through websites like VolunteerMatch, Chegg Internships, or local and federal government apprenticeship websites for opportunities.

3. Learn the space.

Jumping right into a job search can be intimidating—how do you know if you’re doing everything correctly? The good news is that there are plenty of resources you can turn to. If you need some guidance, try browsing or asking questions on Reddit and other online forums. Or find a few YouTube channels to see if you can gather any useful advice.

Don’t forget your resources extend beyond the internet. Consider reaching out to family members, friends, friends of friends, alumni from your alma mater, or coworkers who might work in IT. Seeing what advice they have about breaking into the field, or learning how they got their job could help you navigate your own road into IT.

4. Go back to school.

If you have the time and resources to go back to school, it can be worth considering earning an associate or bachelor’s degree. Not every IT technician position will ask for a degree, but having one can certainly position you to be more competitive. Plus, it might give you an income boost in the long run—a 2019 study found that college graduates made an average of $30,000 more than high school graduates in a year [2].

Try to concentrate your studies in computer science, information technology, or a related discipline. Look for coursework where you’ll get acquainted with hardware, software, networking, and security basics. These might have titles such as:

  • Cybersecurity Essentials

  • Routing and Switching Essentials

  • Computer Hardware and Software

  • Scaling Networks

  • Microsoft Server Essentials

A school might also offer career development services, like a career center, where you can go to ask about internship opportunities for students. Your school might also have an alumni network you can connect with. 

Read more: Going Back to School: 7 Things to Consider

Getting started in IT

Getting a head start as an IT technician—or an IT associate, or a help desk technician, or whatever it may be—can be simple. If you’re ready to get started but don’t know where to begin, take a look at the Google IT Support Professional Certificate. The program will teach you job-ready skills in less than six months. Plus, the first week is free.

Frequently asked questions (FAQ)

Where do IT technicians work?

Just about any business that uses computers will need IT technicians to help keep them up and running. That means you can work in a variety of industries and environments, from government to education to healthcare to private tech companies. Since tech support is sometimes needed at all hours of the day, it can be easier to find a role with alternative hours. It’s even possible to work from home as an IT technician.

Is being an IT technician hard?

Working in IT support involves a combination of technical and people skills. The good news is that the more you work with computers and with people, the easier it gets to help troubleshoot and provide technical support. If you enjoy solving problems, learning about new technologies, and helping people, IT support can be a rewarding job.

How long does it take to become an IT technician?

There are multiple paths toward a job as an IT technician, and different paths will take different amounts of time. If you decide to pursue a degree full time, you can expect to spend two years on an associate’s degree or four years on a bachelor’s degree in IT or networking.

It’s also possible to enter the field with no degree. In this case, you might consider earning a certification, which can take anywhere from weeks to months, depending on your existing knowledge. Earning the Google IT Support Professional Certificate, for example, takes about six months if you're studying 10 hours per week.

Is there a difference between a computer technician and an IT technician?

Generally speaking, computer technicians and IT technicians perform the same types of tasks. You might also hear this role referred to as help desk technician or computer support specialist.

What are some technical questions can I expect in an IT technician interview?

Since troubleshooting technical issues is part of the job description for an IT technician, you can expect to answer technical questions during your interview for the role. Here are some common technical IT interview questions, along with tips on how to answer them.

Article sources

1. US Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Computer Support Specialists, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/computer-support-specialists.htm." Accessed June 24, 2021.

2. Liberty Street Economics. "Despite Rising Costs, College Is Still a Good Investment, https://libertystreeteconomics.newyorkfed.org/2019/06/despite-rising-costs-college-is-still-a-good-investment.html." Accessed June 24, 2021.

Written by Coursera • Updated on Sep 10, 2021

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

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