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What does a Computer Technician do?

By Carol Francois
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Computer technicians install, repair, maintain, and analyze many different types of computer equipment, including everything from laptops to systems that monitor changes in the Earth’s atmosphere. The exact duties of someone in this position vary depending on his or her training, experience, and the specific job, and they tend to change and expand as technology evolves. Some people specialize in working on networks or servers, while others work in areas related to forensics and user support, but all generally start out with the same basic education.

Repair Technicians

People who specialize primarily in repairs are usually trained in the general hardware structure of a computer, common problems with it, and how to fix them. He or she must also be able to work with software and is usually familiar with commonly used programs and their bugs. Most inspect computers and peripherals like printers to diagnose problems, ranging from broken parts to incorrect software settings. After diagnosing the problems, he or she can fix the unit, replace the damaged parts with new ones, and reload or change software to the optimal settings. Though repair specialists may work independently or in a business that's dedicated just to repairing computers, many work for retail stores or for institutions like government departments or schools.

Network Technicians

A network tech is responsible for setting up and maintaining a computer network, including both the hardware and software. During a standard workday, he or she would do things like monitoring network activity, installing software patches, and reallocating resources to meet different needs and manage the printer server. Another common responsibility for a person in this field is choosing where network equipment should be located in a building before a system is set up, since it tends to work best in places that are cool and have an adequate power supply. He or she is also the go-to person for setting up Internet connections and repairing them when they break down.

Help Desk and Customer Service Technicians

Businesses often have help desk and customer service computer technicians to help employees and customers who are having problems with their machines and systems. Similarly to repair techs, they have to be familiar with how computers and software used or sold by the business work, what problems they tend to have, and how to fix them. Though they usually don't do physical repairs, they have to know how to troubleshoot software and network connection problems and to when to tell a person that he or she needs to see a repair specialist or return the machine. Most work in call centers or in dedicated departments within a business. Help desk staff specifically may also make sure employees are complying with company policies by monitoring or retrieving data relating to Internet activity.

Server Technicians

Server computer technicians specialize in planning, installing, and managing specialized systems called servers, which are used to perform functions for other computers. For example, a business might have a central server that performs most of the functions and provides memory for all of the client computers in a department, which could consist of just monitors, keyboards, and mice. Depending on the size and scope of a business, some of these systems can be quite large, and part of the job requires having a large number of servers running simultaneously, according to so these professionals have to decide how many servers are needed, what functions they'll perform, and how to arrange the server-client infrastructure. They also have to be able to fix problems with servers and keep the system secure.

Computer Forensics Technicians

Computer forensics technicians examine or analyze computers, systems, and computer activity to find evidence of criminal activity or to prevent future crimes. They may go through a suspect's laptop to look for evidence related to a case, for instance, or may look for signs that a system has been hacked and try to find out who did it. Many work for law enforcement or government agencies, but some do work for organizations as security consultants.

Education and Training

Regardless of specializations, most people in this field start out by taking a course to get A+ Certification, which covers the fundamental background, technology, and troubleshooting skills needed to repair common issues. After passing the exam, a person can choose to get additional certifications related to their desired specialization, like Microsoft Certified System Engineer (MCSE), Microsoft Certified Desktop Service Technician (MCDST), Apple Certified Macintosh Technician (ACMT) Certification, or Cisco Certified Network Associate (CCNA) certification.

These types of jobs usually require the completion of at least a one or two-year career or college program, but depending on the complexity of the position, a four-year college or university degree in computer science could be required. Technology rapidly changes, so ongoing training is usually required for someone in any one of these positions. Certain jobs require additional education and experience, and there are specialized courses available for things like laptop repair, for example. In addition, manufacturers sometimes provide courses on their own products to computer technicians working in registered service centers.

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Discussion Comments
By anon357706 — On Dec 06, 2013

Fantastic article. The PC repair business is a great endeavor for people of all skill levels in the IT field, which is good to remember.

By spectra670 — On Nov 18, 2013

Using refurbished parts is definitely the best way to build a cheap gaming computer.

By amypollick — On Jun 20, 2012

@anon275908: I think anyone who uses a computer for any length of time will, at some point, feel trapped by IT -- either by the lack of it, or by one's own inability to solve one's computer issues. It's a constant theme of workplace life when computers are involved. Believe me: I sympathize.

By anon275908 — On Jun 20, 2012

Does anyone else feel trapped when it comes to I.T.?

By anon259161 — On Apr 04, 2012

Google is also a good resource to become a computer technician.

By anon118476 — On Oct 14, 2010

I am just in the first semester for computer training. It is now time to schedule my next move. I don't quite know which direction to go. I am a late bloomer returning to school and need a little direction. I love working on the computer in a office sense like data bases and programming etc. If you were me, where would you go from here? becca in ky.

By clarinetist — On Sep 18, 2010

Compared to what I'm making now it doesn't sound like I would be taking very much of a pay cut. But I would have to attend a vocational school because I don't have work experience, just fixing stuff for people I know. I don't see putting that on a resume and be taken seriously. But it also sounds like it would pay off in the long; I don’t see a receptionist ever getting a 175k salary!

By LivHappyr — On Sep 18, 2010

I am just old enough to remember when the internet first arrived with AOL and have worked with them ever since. I have found this field to be very rewarding financially. I started with little pay after graduating from an IT school, but that didn’t last long. As I proved how much I could really offer them and how many times I saved the day when things did crash, my pay increased significantly. It is weird working with managers and knowing you make more money than they do.

By ArizonaSun — On Sep 18, 2010

clarinetist- An entry level technician, just out of IT training or some experience, could probably swing somewhere between 25-35,000 to start. That is kind of a comfortable living here in New Mexico.

By MossBeach — On Sep 18, 2010

clarinetist- The only possible answer to your question is, it depends. I can’t put it any other way because there are so many variables in levels of acceptable skill and education. I am a computer technician for a mid-sized corporation and make just under 100k; that’s five years after a degree from an IT school. However, I do know a guy who never attended a specialized school but managed to secure a great job for about 175k. How? It’s because he’s been working with computers for more than 15 years and knows exactly what structure the company uses.

By clarinetist — On Sep 18, 2010

Even though I don’t have any official training, I have always been interested in fixing and working with all kinds of things on personal computers. I upgraded my own CD-ROM drive and replaced other internal parts as well. I’ve debugged a nasty virus all by myself and even designed a company’s customer database. So naturally I get asked to help with people’s problems. Well it got me thinking I may be interested in looking into this as a career change, but I am wondering if the salary is worth it.

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