Computer Support Specialist

The explosive use of computers has created a high demand for specialists to provide advice to users on hardware and software related problems, as well as for day-to-day administration, maintenance, and support of computer systems and networks. Computer support specialists are troubleshooters who provide technical assistance, support, and advice to customers for hardware and software systems.

Support specialists install, modify, clean and repair computer hardware and software often with the help of automated diagnostic programs which are able to identify and repair faults or recurring problems. They provide a range of roles and functions depending on the type of technology. They are generally highly trained specialists and work either online and/or telephone or onsite or in a workshop.

Technical support specialists respond to requests from computer users using automatic diagnostics programs to identify, repair and resolve problems. They may write training manuals and train computer users in how to use new computer hardware and software. In addition, technical support specialists oversee the daily performance of their company’s computer systems and evaluate software programs with regard to their usefulness.

Help-desk technicians deal directly with customer issues by answering telephone calls and e-mail messages from customers who are seeking guidance on technical problem relating to computers. They are required to listen carefully to the customer, ask questions, diagnose the nature of the problem, and then talk the customer through the problem-solving steps. Often the help-desk technician will use diagnostic programs which analyse problems and fix them automatically.

Systems administrators are responsible for the efficient use of networks by organisations. They ensure that the design of an organisation’s computer site allows all of the components, including computers, the network, and software, to fit together and work properly. Furthermore, they monitor and adjust the performance of existing networks and continually survey the current computer site to determine future network needs. Administrators also troubleshoot problems reported by users and by automated network monitoring systems and make recommendations for enhancements in the implementation of future servers and networks.

Computer support specialists are a valuable source of feedback to hardware and software providers on their products. They provide information about what gives customers the most trouble, as well as other customer concerns. Most computer support specialists start out at the help desk. Help-desk services are a growing industry in developing countries such as South Africa.

Because troubleshooting and helping others are vital parts of the job, computer support specialists and systems administrators should be able to communicate effectively and have good writing skills for preparing manuals for employees and customers.

Due to the wide variety of computer support functions there are many paths of entry. Most employers prefer a person with some formal qualification, either a degree or diploma in a computer-related field. A degree in computer science or information systems is a prerequisite for some jobs.

However, certification and practical experience demonstrating these skills will be essential for applicants without a degree. The completion of a certification training program, offered by a variety of vendors and product makers, may help some people to qualify for entry-level positions. Relevant computer experience may substitute for formal education.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics (if you intend studying IT degree at university)
Recommended subjects: Information Technology.

  • If you intend studying a degree or a diploma in IT at university then you need a matric with a Bachelor's pass or a Diploma pass.
  • Meet the admission requirements (APS) set by the university.
  • There are alternative routes into IT which do not require a Bachelor’s or a Diploma pass and which do not require Mathematics.

What to Study

Degree: BSc Computer Science or Information Systems or Information Technology as major, or a BCom. degree with information systems - RU, UCT, UWC, NMMU, UFS, Wits, US, UP, UNISA, UKZN. UZ, UFH, NWU, Monash.

Diploma: Relevant diplomas are offered by most universities of technology and some private colleges - CUT, DUT, TUT, VUT, UJ, CPUT, UNISA

It is essential to continuously upgrade knowledge because systems and security threats are constantly changing.


  • government and provincial departments
  • large computer companies
  • research organisations
  • large business and industrial organisations
  • insurance companies
  • educational institutions and libraries
  • transport enterprises
  • mining companies
  • any company or business using computer systems and networks
  • a skilled and entrepreneurial computer programmer can start his or her own business.

Further Information

Computer Society of SA 
ICT House
546 16th Road
Constantia Park [Unit No.3]
Tel: (011) 315-1319

ISETT (Information Systems Electronics & Telecommunication Technologies)
The Boulevard Office Park, Block F
Ground floor, Searle Street
Woodstock, 7925 
Tel: (011) 207-2600

Programmes by Study Institutions

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