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Computer Support Specialist
The explosive use of computers has created a high demand for specialists to provide advice to users on hardware and software related problems, as well as for day-to-day administration, maintenance, and support of computer systems and networks. Computer support specialists are troubleshooters who provide technical assistance, support, and advice to customers for hardware and software systems.

Support specialists install, modify, clean, and repair computer hardware and software often with the help of automated diagnostic programs which are able to identify and repair faults or recurring problems. They provide a range of roles and functions depending on the type of technology. They are generally highly trained specialists and work either online and/or telephone or onsite or in a workshop.

Technical support specialists respond to requests from computer users using automatic diagnostics programs to identify, repair and resolve problems. They may write training manuals and train computer users in how to use new computer hardware and software. In addition, technical support specialists oversee the daily performance of their company’s computer systems and evaluate software programs with regard to their usefulness.

Help-desk technicians deal directly with customer issues by answering telephone calls and e-mail messages from customers who are seeking guidance on technical problem relating to computers. They are required to listen carefully to the customer, ask questions, diagnose the nature of the problem, and then talk the customer through the problem-solving steps. Often the help-desk technician will use diagnostic programs which analyse problems and fix them automatically.

Network administrators design, install and provide support to companies local-area network (LAN) and wide-area network (WAN), internet and intranet systems. Network administrators provide ongoing support both on and off-site. They maintain network hardware and software, analyse problems, and monitor the network to ensure its availability to system users. They also implement and administer network security measures.

Systems administrators are responsible for the efficient use of networks by organisations. They ensure that the design of an organisation’s computer site allows all of the components, including computers, the network, and software, to fit together and work properly. Furthermore, they monitor and adjust the performance of existing networks and continually survey the current computer site to determine future network needs. Administrators also troubleshoot problems reported by users and by automated network monitoring systems and make recommendations for enhancements in the implementation of future servers and networks.

Computer security specialists (see computer security specialist) help to plan, coordinate, and implement a companies information security. Computer security specialists assess administrative, physical and technical security risks to information, software and hardware; may develop policies, procedures and contingency plans to prevent or minimize the effects of security breaches and concerns. Computer security specialist also known as Information Technology Specialists, or Systems security analysts have a primary role to protect and safeguard information in computer files against accidental or unauthorized modification or disclosure.

Computer support specialists are a valuable source of feedback to hardware and software providers on their products. They provide information about what gives customers the most trouble, as well as other customer concerns. Most computer support specialists start out at the help desk. Help-desk services are a growing industry in developing countries such as South Africa.

Satisfying Aspects
- variety and challenge of work
- dealing with people
- some travelling
- solving problems
- good employment opportunities

Demanding aspects
- shift work
- having to be on call
- working long hours
- mental fatigue caused by the complexity and pressures of the job, particularly people who do not understand instructions over the telephone

Because troubleshooting and helping others are vital parts of the job, computer support specialists and systems administrators should be able to communicate effectively.

In addition, a computer programmer should:
- have good communication skills, on paper, via e-mail, or in person
- enjoy problem-solving
- be able to concentrate for long periods
- be imaginative
- be patient and accurate
- think logically and sequentially, and make own decisions
- be able to persevere with a task until all the problems are solved
- strong writing skills are useful in preparing manuals for employees and customers

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
National Senior Certificate meeting diploma requirements for a diploma course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics,
Recommended Subjects: Information Technology, Physical Sciences

Due to the wide variety of computer support functions there are many paths of entry. Most employers prefer a person with some formal qualification, either a degree or diploma in a computer-related field. A degree in computer science or information systems is a prerequisite for some jobs.

However, certification and practical experience demonstrating these skills will be essential for applicants without a degree. The completion of a certification training program, offered by a variety of vendors and product makers, may help some people to qualify for entry-level positions. Relevant computer experience may substitute for formal education.

- Call Centre operators
- Government departments
- Computer manufacturers
- Software development companies
- Insurance companies
- Educational institutions
- Transport enterprises
- Mining companies

Computer Society of SA
P O Box 1714
Halfway House, 1685
Tel: (011) 315-1319
Fax: (011) 315-2276

ISETT (Information Systems Electronics & Telecommunication Technologies)
P O Box 5585 Halfway House 1685
Tel: (011) 805 5115
Fax: (011) 805 6833