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How Do I Become an IT Specialist?

College degrees may be required of some IT specialists.
IT specialists should be able to solve various technical issues.
Many information technology (IT) specialists hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or another relevant field.
IT specialists might set up shared networks for a company.
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  • Written By: Jill Gonzalez
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2014
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For a person to become an IT specialist, one of the usual prerequisites is to have an aptitude for working with computers. Specific educational requirements tend to vary between employers. Most commonly, candidates are required to have earned, at minimum, an associate's degree. Keep in mind, however, that some employers do prefer to hire candidates that have a bachelor's degree. When a college education is required, the concentration of degrees that employers usually prefer are computer science, engineering, or math. This is particularly true of higher paying positions, or those that require more responsibility.

It is important for anyone who wants to become an IT specialist to be proficient with a variety of different computer systems. It is generally not very practical to only be well-versed in one kind of software or hardware. Most positions also require you to have at least one or two years of experience working in an IT-related job. It can be somewhat difficult to find good paying jobs in this field without direct work experience, even if you have solid educational credentials.

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Many IT positions require personnel who are adept at troubleshooting a range of different technical problems that users may experience. Candidates for IT specialist jobs should be prepared to be able to speak intelligently about job specifics, in order to be seriously considered for a position. Some employers may ask job candidates to suggest a solution for a real or fictitious problem that the company might have, or may have experienced in the past.

In the competitive job market, some employers may look for people who are bilingual. If you want to become an IT specialist, and you speak one or more additional languages, you may find it somewhat easier to find a good position. This particular skill is often preferred among job applicants who will be working to resolve problems for distant customers, or other employees, on the phone or via live, online chats.

Even though communication skills are not always listed as vital qualifications for someone who wants to become an IT specialist, they are often thought to be very important. In some positions, having the ability to communicate effectively with others — in person, on the phone, and online — can be critical to smooth and efficient operations. Candidates who are able to articulate their qualifications and present themselves appropriately are often favored over those who do not possess good interpersonal skills.

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SkyWhisperer
Post 4

@NathanG - I understand what’s been said here about experience being paramount over education and mostly I agree, but there are still some paper credentials that carry some weight in the IT world. Those paper credentials are certifications.

A certification IT professionals consider very important is one that focuses on a specific, in demand technology. For example, if you have a certification in C++ on a certain platforms, that will put you head and shoulders above another programmer with comparable skills and experience.

There are developer level tests you can take which measure your proficiency with the language in a variety of real world scenarios.

I can tell you from experience, the tests are not easy. Anyone who says that a paper credential doesn’t mean anything has never taken the tests. But if you pass them, they will be an extra plus on your resume and give you an edge in salary negotiations.

NathanG
Post 3

@MrMoody - I can tell you how to become a contract specialist. And no, it has nothing to do with degrees, although as stated it doesn’t hurt. It has to do with experience.

So here’s what you do. Learn an in demand programming skill or technology. You can teach yourself using books or online resources. There are many ways to learn. Do it on the side.

Next, start getting jobs with the temporary agencies. When I say temporary agencies, I mean the people who usually supply light clerical or technical labor, not hardcore IT contract firms.

Get some technical support positions and start using your new skills on the job. Eventually you’ll get good enough that the hardcore IT contract firms will want to hire you; they don’t usually use newcomers, but after you get that experience they will take a second look. Then it becomes easy to start contracting.

MrMoody
Post 2

@sunnysideup - There is no one way to learn how to become a computer specialist. But my experience was similar to the one that you described.

I started learning computer programming as a teenager, but I never majored in it in college. It was only later that I reverted back to programming, in a job that required those skills.

Also, from the time that I had started programming as a kid to when I fully transitioned into it as a career, the development tools had matured, so by then it was much easier to develop computer applications in little time. In other words, we entered the world of Rapid Application Development tools.

A computer science degree is not always necessary, but it does help, at least when it comes to negotiating starting salaries.

sunnysideup
Post 1

Yes, this is the traditional route for how to become an IT specialist. My nephew grew up homeschooling and was building computers at age 13. He then went to a traditional high school and almost got kicked out for playing a prank on the high school administration by hacking into their computer system.

Everyone assumed he would major in computer science but he didn't - he majored in environmental engineering. But as a freshman he got hired by his university to work at the IT help desk and kept that job until he graduated.

What was his first job after graduating? He got hired by a computer company as a systems analyst! He was smart enough to know that he needed certification in several areas and took those on his own time, outside of his college classes.

He took a non-traditional route to his job, but very effective. He's now going back to school to get a graduate degree. Just like the old saying goes, there's more than one way to skin a cat.

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