When you work in information technology (IT), most positions require the same fundamental, technical understanding of the computer systems that are generally used in organizations, regardless of industry. Each role differs in its area of specialization and the type of soft skills required to undertake day-to-day duties.
First, a quick summary of the three careers we will be looking at. A Network Systems Administrator designs and implements an organization’s computer network. The Computer Network Support Technician will ensure that this system is running smoothly and answer any technical questions other IT staff have. A Computer User Support Technician is the front-facing staff member, working with non-IT employees to support their use of the organization’s computers and network.
We’ll talk about the ways you can identify which position would be right for you if you’re interested in working in IT, but first, know that no matter where you land in IT, it is one of the fastest growing industries in the United States.
Not only that, but the majority of positions do not require four-year university degrees. For people in their 20’s and 30’s who are looking to switch careers, have lost jobs due to a changing jobs market, or are just coming into the jobs market because of a change of lifestyle situation, IT is a great industry to consider.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to determine which role would suit you best.
Which do you prefer: people or machines?
All three positions require similar technical skills; it’s just the focus of these skills on-the-job that differs. While Computer User Support Technicians focus on the user and the individual devices they use to access an organization’s computer network, Network Support Specialists and Systems Administrators focus on the bigger picture: the entire organizational computer network.
If you prefer tinkering with electronics to talking to people, then the Network positions would be more your style than User Support, where your primary responsibility is talking to and helping other people. While these positions all require a thorough knowledge of computers and electronics, understanding telecommunication networks and having a practical understanding of engineering and technology is much more important for people who work in Network-focussed positions.
People versus machines might have an effect on the hours you work as well. If you’re looking for a more 9-5 kind of job, a Networks Administrator might be a better line of work for you than User Support or Support Technician, both of which might require some odd hours to work in certain companies.
Can you clearly communicate instructions?
When you are supporting computer systems for an organization, you will need to be able to communicate with co-workers, management, and clients who all have different levels of technical knowledge. Fortunately, not all positions require the same amount of communication skills so you can adapt your IT career to match your personal preferences.
Every day, Computer User Support Specialists work with computer users who have limited IT knowledge. It is essential that you are able to provide clear and simple step-by-step instructions and remain patient at all times. You’ll definitely have to get used to saying the ultimate IT tagline “Have you tried turning it off and then on again?”. You will also need to employ effective active listening skills as well.
It is for these reasons that the IT industry is actively trying to break the stereotype that men normally work in IT. Women who have technology skills also bring to the table other skills that are just as valuable, such as patience and good communication skills.
If you find it difficult to talk to people that do not have the same technical knowledge as you, a Network Support Specialist role may be more your style. In these roles you do have to communicate and work with others, you will primarily deal with other IT staff who will have a basic understanding of networking fundamentals.
As a Network Administrator, you will be the bridge between management and the IT department. You’ll need to be able to explain your design to both IT staff and management, but you won’t often need to deal with company employees. Customer service skills are vital for Computer User Support Specialists but not as important for those in Network Support or Administration who only really have to deal with others who are IT-proficient.
What type of problems do you like to solve?
Problem-solving and critical thinking are essential skills for all three positions, but it is the type of problems that need to be solved that differ. Computer User and Network Support roles solve problems as they occur, and take steps to prevent them from occurring in the future. Contrastingly, Network Administrators need to use their logic to determine all the possible problems that could occur within the computer network and consider solutions for both within the network and amongst users.
Planners who like to prepare for every little possibility in life will find that Network Administrator positions fulfill that ability to think through the entire project and come up with solutions to any foreseeable problems. Those who are much more likely to figure out problems as they go will find they like the fast-paced user and network support roles.
Are you a good teacher?
If you don’t like teaching people how to do things, then a Support position probably wouldn’t suit you. Computer User and Network Support Technicians not only need to help users solve problems, they also need to educate users so that they do not encounter the same problem again.
This is especially important in Computer User Support. While it might be obvious to you that that suspicious link will download malware, these users don’t have the same level of understanding. So you will need to teach them safe online behavior. While Network Administrators may have to explain aspects of the system to management and IT staff, actual staff education would usually fall to the support positions.
If you do have the patience and ability to explain technology to others, these are vital skills to have. The ability to not take for granted someone’s knowledge, while at the same time not speaking down to them or making them feel inferior is something all employers look for in support staff. As we said above, Network Administrators don’t always want to have to explain these things to staff, so they truly value the support teams underneath them and their ability to do it for them.
Are you more interested in computers or the systems that run them?
If you work in Computer User Support, your primary focus will be on the hardware and software that are being used by individuals within an organization. So while you need to have a basic understanding of computer networks it will be more important that you have a thorough understanding of security protocols, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft and Linux.
Systems Administrators design and implement an organization’s computer and telecommunications network while Network Support Technicians maintain the system and support its users. The focus here is on how an organization uses its computer systems, rather than how it is used by individual employees. This means that while you’ll have a good understanding of operating systems and software used within the organization, your main area of expertise will involve the networks, servers, and hardware that drive the system itself.
Where do you fall?
Now that the answers to the questions above have been explained, you may have a much better idea of which category of IT professional you fall under. The question then becomes where to start? CCI Training Center has expert staff that can help you find the certifications that will allow you to confidently go out and procure the position of your choice in the IT industry.
Our classes are offered on a year-round schedule with many different options of days of the week for your convenience. CCI knows that our adult students do not have the luxury of ceasing to work at their current vocation while training for their new IT career. That’s why we’ve made our class schedules as flexible as possible.
Once you are training for your certification, you will also begin to build up your IT professional network. Our students are in classes with students who have come back to obtain further certifications to advance their careers. Many of our students find their jobs through the professional networks they built while attending CCI Training Center.
Motivated individuals who put forth time and effort before going out into the job market are a hot commodity among employers. They want to know that you are going to be a good hire and with the company for a long time. Knowing they have to spend less time and money training you than they would an uncertified candidate is a benefit as well.
For more information on the various IT roles and the qualifications you need to get them, visit CCI Training Center and fill out the form.