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I’m getting my degree in computer science and have tested out several different positions in companies through the co-op program. It’s been my observation that I like support or help desk related work. Things I like about it are
- Interacting with people
- Variety of tasks and challenges
- High volume and sometimes high pressure
- Get to see results of my work

I’m good at it (according to myself and performance reviews) Correct me if I’m wrong, but many of these things don’t apply to other technical roles (such as developers). The problem is help desk is pretty low level (I’m only doing it now as a part time gig). The pay is low and it’s generally seen as an entry level position. I told this to my co-op advisor and he said I could become a help desk manager.

Question. Is it wrong to be concerned that a position you enjoy is not suitable for the long term as it’s a dead end? The old adage “to do what you like and not worry about money” seems like an over simplification. Are there other more advance positions like help desk? I know IT may have some of these features but I’ve had experience where IT just receives a few tickets a day to deploy a new VM through vSphere and this was really boring.

closed as off-topic by Jim G., Lilienthal, Masked Man, gnat, Chris E Jun 30 '16 at 13:54

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    Yes a lot of the tasks are boring. Stocking shelves is boring. Practicing medicine for the most part is boring. After 100,000 calls I bet help desk would start to become boring. – paparazzo Jun 30 '16 at 10:31
  • There are tons of jobs that goes beyond developer/IT roles that requires/desires for a computer science degree and fit 4/4 of those criteria. Just off the top of my head, you can try one of those analyst roles (business analyst or system analyst), there are many more, you should look around... – CleverNode Jun 30 '16 at 12:58
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I'll correct you, 4 out of your 4 points of interest apply to a e.g. developer role.

  • You interact a lot with your coworkers, and must be apt to understand others and explain complex things simply. Some developers are also consultants, and consultants also need to have a good human contact with clients. If you go higher in hierarchy and do project management and/or functional specs, you will also interact a lot with clients as well.
  • Every new dev project is an exciting challenge to me, with variety of task such as design, integration, test, debug, docs, and much more, in a constantly evolving environment.
  • Devs are very busy in general. Devs responsibilities are also high (even if it may not seem so).
  • Devs get to see projects from start to end.

Same thing goes for more operational roles. You understimate the satisfaction you can get out of tech roles probably because you had bad experience with them, but they are full of interesting challenges.

Now, that doesn't mean you should be a tech, it really depends of your own ability at it and what would be your ideal career plan. In my opinion, you should avoid dead ends, not because of the pay, but simply because it's better to have options to change your job if get bored (and this is very likely to happen IMHO) than seeking the perfect job right on start.

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Let me address each of the things you like about working in a support role individually, with some observations from my own experience working in both development and support roles in my career.

  • Interacting with people - In entry-level support roles, you'll interact with customers as well as your co-workers, who may need help to solve issues. Entry-level development means mostly interacting with teammates, though consulting work would allow you to interact more directly with customers. As you progress in your career, your interactions will change. Advancement in support comes with less direct interaction with customers. Advancement in development comes with less direct interaction with code (but generally more interaction with people). It is up to you to decide how much interaction you have with others, for example, sending an email vs. calling someone on the phone, or actively working with your teammates if they seem overwhelmed vs. giving quick answers.

  • Variety of tasks and challenges - Both development and support roles have their tasks and challenges. It is (again) up to you to decide how interesting you find the work you are doing. You have the opportunity in any job to set your own goals and therefore make your own tasks to reach those goals.

  • High volume and sometimes high pressure - Both support and development have busy periods and lulls, and it is (yet again) up to you to make yourself busy during lulls by training, reviewing past work, or helping your team.

  • Get to see results of my work - Support may offer instant gratification when you solve a customer's issue on the first call, but development has its moments, like fixing a bug you've been looking at for a few days. It is (yup, again) up to you, whether in support or in development, to set your own goals and reach them, thereby seeing the results of your work.

To address your ultimate question, let me say that, in my observation, no job is truly "dead-end". It is always what you make of it, and also how you spin the work you did into your resume or cover letter for the next job. Keep an open mind and don't assume that you always need to progress upward. If you can prove you have the skills, you can almost always change career tracks to get to where you want to be.

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Is it wrong to be concerned that a position you enjoy is not suitable for the long term as it’s a dead end?

Nope, it is perfectly normal to worry about ones future and trying to avoid a dead end from a career development perspective.

Are there other more advance positions like help desk?

From my understanding the more advanced help desk like positions are the second and third tier support, which tend to get the actual problems that cannot be solved by simply rebooting the computer. As for pay though according to glassdoor they do not pay significantly more (Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3).

A general rule I have seen across several fields including help desk: the more you are paid to help people the fewer people you are going to be helping. It comes down to if you are highly paid you are expected to solve more difficult problems which typically take longer to solve, and so you end up getting less problems solved. So you will have a difficulty of finding a high paying job where get a high volume of problems that are also challenging to solve.

From my own personal experience after going into the software development field I discovered that I loved and preferred to doing data analysis over programming. Problem is that data analysts do not get paid as well as developers, and I did not want to take a pay cut by switching professions. I ended up finding that there are software development positions where analyzing data is a critical part of the software development, and so I hunt down those types of positions when looking for work.

In your case do not under estimate the breadth of the software development or IT fields. If you can marry the desired traits you are looking for in a software development or IT field you can find some interesting and challenging jobs that are well paid. If you cannot find a job where this happens then it comes down to what are your priorities and deciding what you are willing to sacrifice.

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Help desk work isn't a dead end job. If you are ambitious and want to progress your career in a support role you should be able to do that. There are numerous higher-level roles for which help desk work is relevant experience. However advancement to these manager-type roles might mean doing less technical problem solving and more work on support strategy and planning.

Help desk salary might not be as good as a developer role but in-depth knowledge of the system you are supporting is valuable and might allow you to negotiate frequent pay rises, although this knowledge may not be immediately transferable if you happen to switch companies.

Whilst I largely agree with the sentiment "do what you like and don't worry about money", it might be worth trying to maintain some of the programming knowledge you will have gained in you degree so you had the option of changing to a career in development if the help desk thing doesn't work out.

  • Note that in the software development field, that the longer you spend not performing a software development job the harder it becomes to get back into it, since it is such a rapidly changing field. So if help desk does not work out it could prove challenging to switch out of it – Anketam Jun 30 '16 at 10:52
  • @Anketam my experience with "programming" leeks who apperently get a Job seems to be different. – Raoul Mensink Jun 30 '16 at 13:03

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