Help desk consultants frequently work for universities and other large organizations, and this is a common job for student workers or other people who work largely part time. In general, help desk workers are responsible for providing direct consultation to customers, other workers, and members of the public, depending on the exact purpose of their organization and department. There are internal help desks, which work only with people inside a company or organization, and external help desks maintained by a company or organization for customers and clients.
Duties of Help Desk Consultants
Consultation can occur in a number of forms. Sometimes, help desk consultants will help people in person. In other cases, they will offer their services via telephone or email. There's also a growing tendency for technical support of this type to be provided by live Internet chat - this is most common for services like webhosting and other technologically advanced products.
Help desk consultants answer questions and assist people in resolving problems relating to technology. They're often used in networking situations, helping people resolve network connectivity and speed problems. They may also assist with hardware and software issues, Internet hosting problems, and other technologically related questions.
A friendly manner and willingness to help are very important for this job, as is patience. Often, callers or visitors will be very frustrated, or unwilling to work with the help desk consultant. Some consultants must deal with abusive clients and people who have very little technological experience. The ability to keep a cool head, remain calm, and not be easily frustrated are all quite important in this job. It's also important for help desk consultants to be detail oriented and capable of following instructions.
In addition to support duties, help desk consultants may also be responsible for documentation and database development or maintenance. Client information and usage statistics may need to be tracked, and consultants will often be responsible for management of this and other information.
General hardware and software maintenance tasks may also be required. These can require configuring and adjusting hardware and programs, creating information resources and other documentation, and working on other projects that support the organization's clients or internal structure. The exact duties that are part of a help desk consultant position may change over the course of the position, as the technological requirements of the organization evolve.
Help Desk Consultant Qualifications
Qualifications for help desk consultants in Massachusetts and other areas may vary significantly. In many areas, no specific qualifications are required - only the skills and knowledge to do the job. These can require working knowledge of UNIX, Windows and Macintosh systems, knowledge of networking, of basic programs and packages, and other technological information. Certifications may be required as proof of this knowledge for some positions, but this is not the case for others.
Help desk consultants must also be able to work cooperatively with others, adapt quickly to a changing environment, work effectively and with organization, and without close supervision. They must have extremely good skills in both oral and written communication, and be able to explain technical details to people who do not have a background in technological matters.
They must be able to converse well in person, in writing, and via telephone. Diplomacy and tact are required to successfully manage this public relations environment. People in help desk consultant jobs must show willingness to take on new tasks as they arise and to deal with changing job requirements.
Working Conditions for Help Desk Consultants
These jobs are often worked by people in part time positions, and may require availability at odd hours. This is because many help desks are open around the clock. However, these unusual schedules are often prized by people with other obligations, and allow many students to keep this type of job while still attending school.
Scheduling and the number of hours per shift will vary widely with the organization employing the help desk consultant. Because of the nature of the work, many employees do not keep this type of job long term. That means that workers who are willing to make a commitment for a year or more may be considered more desirable by employers.
Pay Rates and Job Outlook for Help Desk Workers
Pay rates for help desk consultants in Massachusetts and elsewhere in the country are variable. However, these workers are usually paid by the hour, rather than on a salaried basis, and tend to make about the same amount as other skilled clerical workers.
They tend to make between ten and twenty dollars an hour, depending on certifications and amount of experience in the position. In more urban areas, pay will be higher. Job outlook is quite good, as technology becomes more widespread and the demand for support workers of this type continues to grow.