Computer Service Technician

The Job and What's Involved

Windows 8Computer 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:

  • Prepare estimates for the cost of new installations.
  • Transport, install and provide support for new equipment.
  • Run maintenance checks for clients.
  • Upgrade existing computer equipment.
  • Trace faults and carry out routine testing.
  • Maintain servers, IT security systems and email systems for internal and external networks.
  • Be involved in administration tasks such as issuing passwords.

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.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

The main employers of computer service technicians are:

  • Financial companies such as insurance companies and banks.
  • Supermarkets and retail stores.
  • Government organisations and the health service.
  • Utility companies, e.g. gas and electricity.
  • Educational institutions.
  • IT companies and manufacturers.
  • Retailers of IT equipment who also offer service support.
  • Small or medium-sized contractors who service and support contracts.

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.

Education and Training

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:

  • BTEC First Certificate and BTEC National Certificate/Diploma in ICT Systems Support.
  • City & Guilds Level 1 Certificate for IT Systems Support - PC Maintenance, and Level 2 Diploma for IT Practitioners.
  • OCR Certificate/Diploma Levels 1 and 2 for IT Practitioners, and Certificate/Diploma Level 3 for IT Professionals.
  • NCFE Certificate Level 2 for IT Practitioners (General).

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.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

An alternative route is to gain experience in another role in the industry, such as technical sales assistant, and build up relevant background knowledge.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

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:

  • NVQ Levels 1 and 2 for IT Practitioners.
  • NVQ Levels 1 to 3 for IT Users.
  • NVQ Levels 3 and 4 for IT Professionals.
  • NVQ Level 2 for Communication Technology Practitioners.
  • NVQ Level 3 for Communication Technology Professionals.
  • SVQ Levels 1 to 3 in Operating IT Systems, Implementing Information Technology Solutions and Supporting IT Systems.

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.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Computer service technicians should:

  • Have a good understanding of computer hardware and software.
  • Be patient and persistent.
  • Be good at working with their hands.
  • Be able to work quickly and efficiently.
  • Work well under pressure.
  • Have good communication and customer service skills.
  • Be responsible and able to work unsupervised.
  • Have normal colour vision.

Your Long Term Prospects

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.

Get Further Information

British Computer Society (BCS),
First Floor, Block D, North Star House, North Star Avenue,
Swindon SN2 1FA
Tel: 01793 417417
Website: www.bcs.org.uk

Computer Technology Industry Association (CompTIA)
Website: www.comptia.org

e-skills UK,
1 Castle Lane, London SW1E 6DR
Tel:020 7963 8920
Website: www.e-skills.com

Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET),
Savoy Place, London WC2R 0BL
Tel: 020 7240 1871
Website: www.theiet.org

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