What Does a Support Engineer Do? (With Skills and Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 29 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A support engineer is an information technology (IT) professional who designs computer systems and provides technical support. These professionals can work for companies to help optimise their technology use or fill customer support positions. If you have high computer proficiency and enjoy solving technical problems, you may enjoy a career as a support engineer. In this article, we answer the question, "what does a support engineer do?" and share more information about these professionals, including how to become one, their skills, work environment and expected salary.

What does a support engineer do?

Learning the answer to "what does a support engineer do" can help you decide whether this career path is right for you. A support engineer designs computer systems and provides technical support to other professionals and consumers who need help in navigating existing computer systems and applications. Typically, these professionals focus on either computer design or technical support duties. In general, support engineers may perform these job duties:

Designing systems

Support engineers may update or design computer systems to meet company goals. These professionals work with both software and hardware to help make websites and applications more user-friendly. Support engineers may do this through their own initiative or take a request from other professionals within the company for which they work. This can include modifying features of already-existing programmes or designing a completely new computer system.

Related: What Does a Computer Programmer Do? (And How to Become One)

Troubleshooting computer issues

A primary responsibility of support engineers is to provide technical support to consumers and company employees. This can include troubleshooting software and hardware issues, teaching professionals how to use a certain program or providing tips on how to navigate a computer system. When support engineers can't provide a quick fix to the issue, they use problem-solving skills to find a short-term solution, so business operations can persist as usual.

Related: What Is an IT Technician? (With Qualification and Salary)

Identifying network issues

Along with providing technical support when other professionals ask, support engineers also identify and predict network issues. This can help them fix glitches before they impede company function. To accomplish this, support engineers may perform tests on the network and computer systems to predict any possible weaknesses or potential issues. Support engineers may also brainstorm to discover how they can improve the company's current network to work more efficiently and in a user-friendly manner.

Read more: Top 20 Software Tester Skills and How to Develop Them

Taking inventory

Support engineers are often responsible for keeping a record of the software and hardware a company uses, particularly if it is a subscription service. To ensure that the company's finance department pays for any subscription software service and keeps effective hardware, support engineers take inventory and notify other departments about the future technology needs of the company. Support engineers also may suggest system and equipment upgrades and make purchase requests for these items.

How to become a support engineer

Follow these steps to become a support engineer:

1. Earn a post-secondary degree

Though the education requirements for support engineers vary depending on the company for which you work, it's often best to earn a post-secondary degree in computer science or design. You might earn an associate or bachelor's degree with certifications in specific technical support areas, such as programming languages, IT support and website design. While some employers may not require an advanced degree, it's often helpful to enrol in at least a two-year degree programme, as this can increase your career advancement opportunities.

2. Choose between support and design

Many support engineers focus on either the design of computer systems or the support of the end-users of computer systems. While it's not a requirement to choose between the two, if you favour one area over the other, you might be able to devote more time to the education and experience of that area. For example, if you prefer to provide technical support, you can find a job in IT customer service to help you develop skills and earn experience in that area of support engineering.

3. Consider a certification

Earning a certification related to technical support or computer science can help increase your job opportunities and enhance your skill set. Consider your primary interests as a support engineer to find certifications appropriate for your career path. For example, if you want to focus on designing computer systems, you might look for a certification in a programming language or website design. Certifications can often give you an advantage in the job application process and may help you qualify for career promotions.

4. Gain experience

Gaining experience in the IT field can help you find better support engineer opportunities. You can often increase your earning potential as you earn more experience, as it can also help you develop and refine your skill set. When looking for job opportunities, consider whether you prefer to work as a full-time employee or contractually, as support engineers can often find either type of employment.

Essential skills for support engineers

If you're interested in becoming a support engineer, consider developing these skills:

Communication

Support engineers use communication skills to interact with consumers and other professionals. It's often important for these professionals to focus on keeping consistent communication with internal employees, as it can help them address issues that might affect the company's network or computer system. Because support engineers often inform and interact with other professionals and individuals who don't understand computer systems, it's helpful for these professionals to know how to communicate clearly without the use of professional jargon and to provide user-friendly instructions.

Related: How to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work in 10 Steps

Programming language fluency

Having fluency in programming and coding language is very important to support engineers, as they often design new computer systems and applications. Understanding how to use and interpret this code can help support engineers collaborate with other IT professionals and edit the work of others. This knowledge enables support professionals to create user-friendly and efficient systems for companies. To develop this skill, consider earning certifications in specific computer programming languages.

Time management

Time management skills can help support engineers address multiple network and computer system issues within one shift. These skills allow them to ensure the operation and functionality of the company's technology. Time management skills can also help support engineers meet company IT goals by giving them the ability to plan and pace their work. To develop these skills, consider exercising related skills, such as organisation and planning.

Related: 10 Effective Time Management Skills and Their Benefits

Problem-solving

Problem-solving skills involve the ability to find solutions and draw conclusions regarding certain issues that may arise within the workplace. Support engineers use this skill to troubleshoot computer issues and find user-friendly solutions so that professionals with lower levels of computer proficiency can still complete their work in an efficient manner. To develop these skills, try to be observant and advance your analytical skills, as they can help you consider more variables involved in a problem-solving situation.

Creativity

Creative skills can help support engineers design new computer systems and find effective solutions to technical difficulties. They may also use their creative skills to find better ways to communicate with other professionals who don't have strong computer skills. Support engineers may use their creativity to create educational materials and make upgrades to company computer systems.

Related: What Is Creative Thinking and Why Is It Important?

What is a support engineer's work environment like?

Support engineers typically work in the IT departments of companies, though they can also work independently performing contract work. Because most of a support engineer's work involves the use of a computer, these professionals typically work in office settings. Support engineers may find work in a variety of industries, including marketing, education, government and manufacturing. Some support engineers may fill customer support roles, while others may focus on providing technical assistance to internal employees only and designing computer systems to improve the operations of the company for which they work.

How much do support engineers earn?

To understand how much you might earn as a support engineer, it's important to consider the salaries of similar job titles. According to Indeed Salaries, technical support engineers earn an average salary of $17,894 per month. Design engineers earn an average of $20,781 per month. A professional's salary can depend on many variables, including their location, employer, employment type, educational background and experience level. Typically, you can increase your earning potential by earning additional professional certification or advancing your education, as professionals with more academic credentials often earn more than professionals without them.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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