To become a technical support engineer, you typically will need at least some college-level coursework, although certifications and on-the-job training may be acceptable for some employers. For larger organizations, a bachelor's degree is typically required. Completing a degree in an information technology (IT) field, such as Computer Science, may give you an edge. Other skills that could help you become a technical support engineer include hands-on experience and concentration in one or more specialties of the field.
Generally, a person who wants to become a technical support engineer will need to decide whether he or she wants to focus on hardware or software. Hardware is any physical component of a computer system, such as the Central Processing Unit (CPU), monitor, keyboard, or server. Hardware also includes the inner workings of a CPU or laptop, such as the microchips that make up the brain of the computer.
If you opt to specialize in hardware, you will need to know how to build computers, maintain them, and replace or repair broken components. Although your focus is on the physical elements of the machine, you typically should be comfortable using computer software to run diagnostics. Most modern computers are equipped with programs that can identify hardware elements that are malfunctioning or underperforming, so it usually is crucial to be able to use these tools.
This type of knowledge may come from college coursework, certifications, or experience. It is not unusual for someone who becomes a technical support engineer to have learned a great deal of knowledge just by tinkering with his or her own computer. As technology advances, however, most employers expect their technical support engineers to keep up with technology. Certification programs are usually shorter than a traditional college course and can demonstrate to prospective employers that you are willing and able to keep up with advances.
If you are more concerned with what is showing up on the computer screen than the screen itself, you most likely will choose to specialize in software. Software is any program designed to run on a computer. This includes operating systems (OS), word processing programs, databases, spreadsheets, and games. If you want to become a technical support engineer who focuses on software, you will probably specialize in one type of software. A technical support engineer who works on databases rarely would also work on games, and vice versa.
To become a technical support engineer who focuses on software, you can expect prospective employers to want proof that you have kept current on technology. Certification programs can be an excellent way to familiarize yourself with new software and keep your skills sharp. Once you have become a technical support engineer, you may find that your company offers continuing education programs to keep its employees up-to-date on software. Until you land your first job, though, it usually is your responsibility to seek out educational opportunities to prove that you are ready to step in and make an immediate impact as a technical software engineer.