Computer service technicians install, repair and maintain computer equipment. This can range from laptop computers, and equipment such as printers and scanners in a small office, to highly complex equipment in a large banking or retail operation.
Technicians usually specialise in one area of operation, or even one type of computer. They may:
Service technicians may have to service a variety of computers, ranging from old models to the latest machines. This may also involve peripheral equipment connected to cash registers, stock control, banking operations or even air traffic control.
They may also have to train office staff to use computer equipment properly, and are expected to give advice on the safe use of equipment.
Service technicians normally work 37 to 40 hours a week. Overtime or weekend working may sometimes be required. Service technicians may have to be on call to deal with urgent problems. In repair centres they may have to work evening shifts to take calls from customers. Technicians need to be able to drive in order to transport parts and tools.
The work is mainly indoors, with occasional visits to clients' premises to carry out installations or specialist work. The work may involve bending or kneeling, carrying equipment or taking a machine apart in a small area.
Technicians should be smart in appearance. Uniforms or overalls are often provided.
The starting salary for a trainee technician is around £13,500 a year.
The main employers of computer service technicians are:
Technicians may also be self-employed.
Employment prospects are currently stable, with a slight increase in opportunities within the public sector.
Vacancies are advertised in trade magazines such as Computer Weekly and Computing. Large organisations may advertise jobs on their websites. There are also many employment agencies that specialise in the computing industry.
It is possible to start as a trainee without specific academic qualifications. However, most applicants have first studied for qualifications such as City & Guilds or BTEC/SQA awards in relevant subjects. Available qualifications include:
There are no set requirements for City & Guilds courses, although colleges may ask for three GCSE's/S grades. For BTEC/SQA national certificates/diplomas, applicants need four GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), or equivalent qualifications. Courses may be studied full or part time.
BTEC HNC's/HND's, Foundation degrees and degrees in courses such as computing, computer studies, networking and business information technology are also available.
The recommended route into this job is to join a recognised company or organisation that offers an Apprenticeship or in-service training award. It is possible to enter through engineering, electronics or information technology Apprenticeships.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
An alternative route is to gain experience in another role in the industry, such as technical sales assistant, and build up relevant background knowledge.
Training is on the job and may cover areas such as hardware and software support, network systems management, customer support systems, repair centre procedures, networking and problem solving. Technicians may do part of their initial training in a training centre, before developing advanced skills in electronics or computing in the workplace. Most employers offer specialist electronic and software training in the machinery they use.
Technicians may work towards NVQ's/SVQs', including:
Other recognised training courses include:
Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) A+ certification - this covers installation, configuring and upgrading, diagnosis and troubleshooting, preventative maintenance, motherboards, processors and memory, basic networking, safety issues and troubleshooting printers. The CompTIA website has more information.
Vendor-specific training such as Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE).
The British Computer Society and the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) offer professional qualifications for people working in the IT sector.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
Computer service technicians should:
Experienced technicians may become self-employed or work freelance, supporting small and medium-sized businesses.
With continued study, technicians can apply for qualified status with the title EngTech through the IET.
British Computer Society (BCS),
First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue,
Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 01793 417417
Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel:020 7963 8920
Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL
Tel: 020 7240 1871
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.