How Do You Become a Help Desk Specialist?

Help desk specialists are an important part of the IT industry. They can serve as technical translators within a company. The more advanced technology becomes, the more often ordinary people will have trouble adjusting to it. And help desk specialists work within a company to assist people that are having trouble with these technologies. This can include either internal tech support for coworkers or as remote support for clients. So, what does a help desk specialist do?

The Duties and Responsibilities of a Help Desk Specialist

The actual duties of a help desk specialist will vary based on the size of the company and they can be found in almost any setting that makes use of information technology. This can range from smaller companies that have an IT department to software development firms that provide 24/7 support to hundreds of customers. However, there are some responsibilities that almost all help desk specialists will perform as part of their job.

Technical Issues

A help desk specialist’s primary responsibility involves helping computer users who are experiencing technical issues. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this transcends any specific platform or program. And the users requesting support may be unaware of the specific and important details of their problems. As such, the help desk specialist needs to understand various platforms well enough to identify issues from vague, non-technical descriptions.

Technical Support

Help desk specialists will also need to leverage technical support through a variety of different methods. This might involve speaking to users over the phone or using forms of remote support like remote desktops or secure terminal connections. Plus, custom help ticket request systems often integrate multiple forms of support into a singular whole.

Support Requests

There is a lot of variation found in support requests. Help desk specialists don’t just need to know the inner workings of the main desktop operating systems, but they also need to understand how mobile devices and platforms interact with these systems. A help desk specialist also needs to convey all that technical information in a way that non-technical computer users can understand.

How Do You Become a Help Desk Specialist?

It’s clear that help desk specialists need a strong technical background, and this is usually accomplished through formal education in the subject. An IT program is a good match for a career as a help desk specialist. This is in large part because IT programs provide a direct, hands-on education in many related subjects.

What Do You Learn During an IT Program?

An IT program provides in-depth instruction in an assortment of important subjects. Some are directly applicable to the tasks managed by a help desk specialist. While others provide a stepping-stone to the professional certifications that opens doors within a career path. The following skills are mastered during an IT program and will guide you into your career as a help desk specialist.


Networking is at the heart of most careers in IT. After all, information technology is quite literally defined by the practice of using technology to digitally transmit information. As such, it should be little surprise to find that IT programs put a heavy emphasis on networking.

Networking is covered on a fundamental level by examining the use and interplay of hardware and software. For example, you will learn how software platforms implement networking protocols to leverage hardware-based networks. This practice will also extend to the use of networking systems in day-to-day activities. A practical example of this might involve the use of a terminal to access a server to test a system within it.

Software and Hardware Platforms

As previously noted, help desk specialists need to work with different platforms. This can refer to specific platforms used in isolation or within multi-platform scenarios. For example, using a mobile operating system or a cloud-based solution. Either of those platforms can be used directly or as a secondary component of another system. IT programs can provide access to any of the platforms that are typically encountered in professional contexts.

Network Security

The focus on different platforms also extends to properly securing them. It’s important for help desk specialists to know what an operating system’s major vulnerabilities are and how to harden them against potential threats. Help desk specialists will encounter bugs that need workarounds when they’re helping people on the job. However, there are instances where bugs can be a sign of malicious digital attacks. An IT program can help highlight ways to differentiate between the two and how to take the appropriate action.

Software Management

An IT program will also give you the chance to move beyond operating systems and examine the most popular applications which run on them. This is useful for help desk specialists since the position involves different usage scenarios. Even something as simple as editing a configuration file stored in plain text can involve dramatically different actions on different operating systems.

An IT program will teach you how to use all the most important programs found on the various operating systems and platforms. This is especially important in the context of workplace software fundamentals. The software available in a workplace is often controlled to protect the system’s overall security.

What are Some of the Certifications That an IT Program Prepares You For?

Certifications are important within IT-related fields. The high standards of organizations like CompTIA make it easy to prove competency with almost any given technical skill. IT programs provide you with an educational background that will prepare you for specific certifications. One of the most recognized of these certifications is known as CompTIA’s A+ certification.

CompTIA A+ Certification

The A+ certification is split into two separate cores. Core 1 focuses on hardware. While core 2 focuses on software and security. Taken as a whole, A+ certification shows your mastery of the fundamental concepts of modern computing platforms. However, this doesn’t necessarily suggest mastery of all IT subjects. Other certifications follow A+ certification as a way of showing expertise within a specific context.

CompTIA Network+ Certification

CompTIA’s Network+ is an example of a certification that’s useful for help desk specialists. It builds on the networking fundamentals found in the A+ certification. Network+, and similar specialized certifications, highlight a particular proficiency in specialized subsets of various jobs. In the case of Network+ certification, it shows that a help desk specialist can provide higher-tier support for issues involving networking. For example, a help desk specialist with Network+ certification might help computer users having issues connecting to internal servers.

Microsoft Certifications

CompTIA tends to focus on all the major platforms, but it’s also important to remember that some companies work only with one platform. Microsoft, in particular, is a popular corporate IT solution. An IT program can help you gain an expertise with Microsoft’s platforms and certifications. Microsoft’s certifications don’t just show that you’ve mastered that subset of the IT industry, it also demonstrates that you have a higher-level understanding of how Microsoft’s platforms interact with each other and 3rd party systems.

You may have noticed how often these subjects touch on multi-system or platform support. This is another reason why IT programs are so perfectly suited to a career as a help desk specialist. A core principle of help desk specialists is that environments and options are always changing. It’s important to understand many different systems, programs, and usage scenarios. IT programs can give you the chance to get hands-on experience with all the most popular options.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know how to become a help desk specialist, it is time to learn more about Interactive College of Technology’s Information Technology degree program. Take the next step and start on your path to becoming a help desk specialist or one of the many job opportunities for those with an IT degree. The future is in your hands.

Want to Learn More?

At ICT, our information technology training program offers two different paths to choose from — an in-depth Associate of Science degree in Information Technology and a streamlined diploma program to help you get to work faster.

Let’s take the first step together! Contact us now to learn more.

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