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Help Desk Jobs
Help desk jobs sometimes can have an undeserved bad reputation. When most customers are asked to picture a help desk worker, the image that comes to mind is not a smiling, friendly, helpful employee, but instead, a pale guy in a room with fluorescent lighting, listening to the irate ravings of computer users who are on a rampage because their browsers crashed or their Palm Pilots won't interface with e-mail properly.

Clearly, Help Desk employees are not the most appreciated workers in the information technology world. However, the help desk can be a wonderful way to break into the industry and gain experience. The support field is booming. There are opportunities for everyone from those with recent technology training to pros with years of experience with a particular software package or software suite.

So what are the responsibilities of Help Desk personnel? The primary ones are to field calls from customers both pre- and post-sale and provide answers to their issue or requests for information. Entry-level help desk employees are on the front lines of answering calls from users. In other companies, entry level help desk jobs provide a higher level of assistance and require more in-depth knowledge and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, many employees soon move on to higher-paying IT jobs. Help desk managers often lament the turnover in their departments. Increasingly, help desk positions are viewed not just as a fix-it for user woes, but as a way to build relationships with customers and gain knowledge in order to improve software and services. Like other IT areas, certification is one route by which a help desk employee can demonstrate that he or she is serious about the field.

Salaries in the field vary greatly, depending on expertise and the level of specialization required. It's not uncommon to see some companies paying less than $9 an hour, even though others may pay $40 an hour or more for really experienced help desk employees or managers. A listing for some help desk manager positions in New York offers a salary above $70,000. Another listing, for a job in Connecticut, cites a rate of $38 to $54 an hour as a help desk specialist. According to Computerworld, the average salary for a technical help desk operator is $33,511, and the average salary for a help desk manager is $46,720 across all regions.

Training help desk employees may be thought of as a recruiting process of sorts. Answering calls from users gives the help desk employee the chance to provide a higher level of assistance, requiring more in-depth knowledge and problem-solving skills. That knowledge can make them valuable in other areas. Moreover, a tech support job may include an assortment of responsibilities, allowing workers to gain the experience needed to move into other positions like a network administrator or a Web developer.

Case in point: one job listing for a help desk analyst, with a salary in the low 30s, said the analyst would be responsible for assisting the network administrator with tape backups and configuring workstations for the network, along with support duties. Some help desk jobs may actually be thought of as entry-level IT jobs that groom employees for higher-level software or network responsibilities.

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