The Business of IT Blog

What is a Technical Support Engineer? Explore Roles, Responsibilities, and More

Stephen Watts
by Stephen Watts

Most people probably have some idea about what a Technical Support Engineer does. We’ve all gone through tech support at one point or another in our lives, but there are several essential duties that separate a Technical Support Engineer from other roles on a help desk.

Think you know tech support?

Do you really know what a Tech Support Engineer does? Sure, this might be the person that answers your phone calls when you call into the help desk. That’s because they can work within an internal organization or as a customer facing specialist, but there’s a lot more than meets the eye when it comes to Technical Support Engineer roles and responsibilities.

Summary of a technical support engineer

Technical Support Engineers provide troubleshooting and tech support services to a wide range of internal and external clients across many industries. Some common industries where this role is essential include telecom and healthcare.

Just about every large company has its own IT department, and the main function of that department is to provide tech support. Reporting suggests this is a mid-career position that provides high levels of job satisfaction. Most Technical Support Engineers work in the field for around 20 years before moving into other tech roles outside of support.

Individuals looking to career path into tech support should seek a degree in computer engineering, computer science, engineering or technical discipline depending on the type of company they’d like to work for.

This job requires a skill set that includes technical knowledge, communication, flexibility, patience and problem solving.

Team

The technical support team may also be called the customer support team depending on whether customers are internal or external. There’s no one size that fits all flow chart to describe how all companies should structure their technical support. Some offices may have an IT department with one or two Technical Support Engineers. Others have a robust and organized network ready to deploy for customer support.

Some titles that you might find under the latter include Chief Services Officer, Customer Services Manager, Contact Center Manager, Process Analyst, Business Analyst and Issue Manager. Regardless of the size or robustness of the technical support team, the responsibilities of the Technical Support Engineer remain remarkably similar. That includes troubleshooting hardware and software problems, answering inquiries and documenting results.

At a senior-level, or team lead role, the Technical Support Engineer likely only handles Tier 3 Help Desk escalations and above. They spend most of their time working with monitoring tools, implementing system updates and upgrades, developing big picture tech support strategy and ensuring team success with accountability measures.

Roles and responsibilities

Monitoring systems

Continuous monitoring of systems and software is a critical part of being a Technical Support Engineer. There are a number of monitoring tools that Technical Support Engineers use to achieve this task. The goal is to proactively identify issues before they occur. A Technical Support Engineer could be dedicated to their employer or the customers of their employer, or both. They may use tools to monitor and get alerts on multiple systems in their day-to-day work life.

Monitoring tools may be custom developed or purchased through an enterprise service provider like Microsoft. It will be the job of the Technical Support Engineer to determine which tools are the best ones to use. They also train all necessary parties on how to use them including other help desk employees. Lastly, they document and resolve any issues.

Troubleshooting, diagnosis and resolution

Technical Support Engineers usually have a running queue of issues that they are working to resolve. They are responsible for prioritizing and managing the workflow to resolution.
The first step in resolving a case is troubleshooting.

Troubleshooting requires several steps that lead to reproducing the issue. If the issue cannot be reproduced, troubleshooting becomes more difficult. Once the issue has been reproduced, Tech Support Engineers look for causality and diagnose the issue. From there, they can resolve it.

During this time, Technical Support Engineers often work under a high degree of pressure. They are working to close out cases in the tech support queue on a deadline, and oftentimes customers are already frustrated that their systems are malfunctioning. Being a Technical Support Engineer requires a high level of patience and people skills..

It’s important that the Technical Support Specialist can communicate clearly and concisely to the customer, using language that doesn’t make them feel more frustrated or talked down to. In other words, soft skills are a must for Technical Support Engineers.

Interacting with customers and escalation

In addition to handling cases with customers who are experiencing software malfunctions, Technical Support Engineers also communicate with new employees during the onboarding process. In addition, they offer training and education to customers who need help. They spend most of their day talking to other people. This isn’t a role for someone timid or shy.

Most organizations expect their Technical Support Engineers to be a resource of information and technical knowledge. This comes from their years of experience and professional development. While the information Technical Support Engineers receive is usually full of jargon, they should be able to communicate that in a meaningful way to people who don’t necessarily understand the lingo.

Technical Support Engineers are required to have strong telephone etiquette skills as well as network within their organizations and externally to build constructive relationships with peers. Sometimes Technical Support Engineers are required to participate in Forums or Masterclass sessions across an organization. Other times they may lend their voice to training tutorials or be a key presenter in a webinar.

Tactful communication and active listening are just as important as having an outgoing and tenacious personality for the Technical Support Engineer role. This may come from having prior experience in customer service. But whether or not that’s the case, the Technical Support Engineer should have a customer first attitude.

Sometimes the best thing a Technical Support Engineer can do is escalate a case to Tier 2, 3 or 4. In those cases, engineers must be familiar with escalation workflow processes and software as a necessary part of the job. They will be responsible for communicating this process back to the client and following up.

Technical Knowledge

Companies hiring a Technical Support Engineer will look for certain competencies and the most important is technical knowledge. A strong basis in computer science is the first step. From there, companies will look for skills that meet their specific enterprise needs. These may include knowledge of the following:

  • Network security
  • Broad knowledge of virtual environments
  • Experience with specific enterprise software
  • VPN technology and redundancy, other security measures
  • SQL
  • CRMs
  • Understanding source code
  • Writing commands and workflow processes
  • Using monitoring software
  • Comfortable with different types of applications (Web, PET, etc.)
  • Proven experience with troubleshooting and diagnosing problems
  • Enterprise hardware expertise

Professional Development

As a respected resource within any organization, the Technical Support Engineer is expected to undergo professional development to stay on top of market trends. In many cases, this type of training may be provided at the expense of the employer.

There are many certifications available for Help Desk employees. Some of the most valuable certifications include:

  • ACSP: Apple Certified Support Professional
  • CompTIA A+
  • HDI-TSP: HDI Technical Support Professional
  • ITIL Foundation.
  • MCSA: Windows 10: Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate on Windows 10

Outlook

Organizations of all sizes hire Technical Support Engineers. In a marketplace where support services are being driven in-house by high outsourcing costs and turnover rates, it’s more important than ever for businesses to find career Technical Support Engineers to be a part of their growing IT team.

The national average pay for Technical Support Engineers is around $64,000 per year, with the median salary being around $52,000. The field is expected to grow at an above average rate of 12% through 2024. Roughly, 800,000 jobs fall under the umbrella of Computer Support Specialist, including Technical Support Engineer.

While people who enter this career field typically spend about 20 years in support before moving on to other career paths, there are a number of technical jobs available to them. Being a Help Desk professional offers a rewarding way to gain a wealth of experience in IT that provides countless opportunities to develop a career path. Some paths outside of support that are frequented by Technical Support Engineers are Software Engineer, Network Engineer, Systems Administrator, Senior Software Developer, IT Manager or Project Manager (IT).

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These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

About the author

Stephen Watts

Stephen Watts

Stephen is based in Birmingham, AL and began working at BMC Software in 2012. Stephen holds a degree in Philosophy from Auburn University and is currently enrolled in the MS in Information Systems - Enterprise Technology Management program at University of Colorado Denver.

Stephen contributes to a variety of publications including CIO.com, Search Engine Journal, ITSM.Tools, IT Chronicles, DZone, and CompTIA.