25 Honest Desktop Support Engineer Salaries
Even in the IT world, where you are surrounded by IT professionals, there are times when tech just doesn’t work, and no one’s sure what to do. The help desk is usually the first stop, and for routine problems, they’re a great resource. But when the issue runs deeper than usual, a desktop support engineer is often the more experienced expert to step in. And with greater responsibility and experience comes higher salaries.
Unfortunately, there’s no hard and fast definition for what a desktop support engineer does, or how they’re distinguished from desktop support technicians or technical support. That makes predicting what a competitive desktop support engineer salary should be especially hard. It’s pretty common for a career field to have a hard time working out what a fair salary looks like, but it can be especially hard to tell what a desktop support engineer should be paid.
Nevertheless, we’re going to try. We’ve compiled tons of data about what salaries you can expect, and what training and certifications you should consider to increase what you can get paid. Some support engineers get paid nearly three times as much as their lower-paid counterparts. Make sure you know how to get on the better part of that balance.
What is a Desktop Support Engineer?
At first, a desktop support engineer’s job seems easy to define: they’re the best at fixing technology problems. But as you get further into the weeds, it gets harder to define their role in an IT support team. But it seems like the people who do figure it out for their teams and their companies are the ones who earn the highest salaries.
A desktop support engineer isn’t usually the same thing as a desktop support technician. While a tech is an entry-level position, desktop support engineers have more experience and have specialized knowledge in certain aspects of delivering IT support. Often, desktop support engineers do less leg-work than their technician counterparts, and they’re dealing with systemic issues. Desktop support technicians work on one device at a time, and desktop support engineers tend to be paid a higher salary for working on whole systems.
A desktop support engineer provides troubleshooting, debugging, and solutions to entire networks and, often, that work is done remotely. For many companies, desktop support engineers deal with end user technology on behalf of a service provider. In other words, companies that deliver network or device services to customers rely on desktop support engineers to keep those systems running for their clients.
25 Real Salaries for Desktop Support Engineers
A desktop support engineer’s salary is usually higher than a technician’s, but lower than a systems administrator’s. Most IT support professionals know that, but it can be tough to prove. That’s why we’ve done the research for you to come up with salaries for desktop support engineers in 25 different cities throughout the United States.
We found information on the salaries a desktop support engineer should expect from a number of different sources. We found job postings for new positions and descriptions of existing ones. We even scraped information from professional networking sites. We took that data and found some of the averages at both the national level as well as the level of certain job markets in 25 cities.
The range of salaries a desktop support engineer can expect are quite wide in some areas, so we haven’t just presented a list of averages. We took the raw numbers and split them into three categories: low-end, overall average, and high-end average.
The national average salary for a Desktop Support Engineer is $51,000.
The average high for a Desktop Support Engineer is $64,000.
The average low for a Desktop Support Engineer is $35,000.
That’s nationwide, but salaries can change substantially from state to state and city to city. Take a look at this chart of 25 salaries for desktop support engineers from around the country:
The highest averages are in coastal and high-population cities. Six of the top 10 average salaries for a desktop support engineer are in coastal cities (for example San Francisco, D.C., and Seattle). Three of the top ten average salaries are in one of Texas’ big cities (Dallas, Houston and Austin). And the last is Denver. This suggests that big cities, where there’s a lot of demand for IT support, is also where support specialists should expect to get paid the most.
Places where high-paid desktop support engineers are paid the most are usually where low-paid engineers are paid the most as well. This suggests that competition and supply and demand cause salaries to fluctuate. Desktop support engineers willing to relocate to where work is competitive could find better-than-average salaries.
The places where support engineers are paid the most are also where the differences in pay are biggest. In other words, in a city where the salary for the best-trained desktop support engineers is $70,000 per year, their low-trained counterparts are making about $35,000 per year less. But where the highest salary is around $50,000, the difference drops to about $20,000. This seems to reinforce the earlier point that competition matters — and finding competitive job markets can improve your odds of higher pay — even if you’re only qualified for a salary in the low range.
Among desktop support engineers with the highest salaries, even the lowest-paid are still paid more than most of their low-paid counterparts. Of the high-end averages, the lowest salary for desktop support engineers is $45,000 per year in Peoria, AZ. Compare that to the highest average for low-paid engineers: $49,000 per year in San Francisco. What this suggests is that as a desktop support engineer gains more and more certifications and becomes more and more qualified, they permanently become eligible for higher salaries. In other words, it’ll almost always pay off to get yourself qualified for raises and promotions with certifications and training.
Some high-paid desktop support engineers are paid double their low-paid counterparts. In the vast majority of cities we looked at, the average pay for a high-paid desktop support engineer is at least double their low-paid colleagues. Like we said earlier, this fact suggests that doing what it takes to make your way into the bracket of high salaries will almost always pay off.
4 Salary Considerations for Desktop Support Engineer
One of the biggest challenges a desktop support engineer faces when they’re trying to move themselves into a higher salary bracket is convincing their employer or prospective employer that they’re different from a standard IT technician. There’s nothing wrong with working as a desktop support technician, but it’s an entry-level position that usually deals with one desktop at a time. A desktop support engineer, on the other hand, tends to earn a higher salary because they have a broader base of knowledge and they’re able to resolve systemic problems.
In your struggle to justify promotions or raises to higher salaries, there are certain things you can do to help your case. The most obvious is certifications. Industry certifications do more than test your knowledge in a certain area, they’re how the industry agrees on what defines certain jobs. Getting the right training and acquiring certain skills are both crucial — those allow you to get more challenging jobs and earn the most prestigious certifications.
The industry that you work in can also matter. Not every industry has the ability to pay their IT support teams high salaries, and a desktop support engineer who chooses their industry carefully can expect a profitable career.
Experience Requirements for Desktop Support Engineer
Desktop support engineer isn’t normally an entry-level position. Most support engineers get to that point in their career by starting with and passing through positions like help desk technician or desktop support technician. Earning the best salaries as a desktop support engineer also requires having experience with a number of different problem sets and network environments.
A desktop support engineer who’s familiar with many different operating systems, can manage all sorts of problems remotely, can assign tasks through management software efficiently and debug network hardware can expect a good salary. Desktop support engineers also tend to be client-facing professionals who represent their company as they resolve customers’ technical problems. This means a combination of hard skills and soft skills are mandatory to justify the best salary.
4 Tech Support Skills You’ve Got To Have
The skills a desktop support engineer has to have to earn the best salary are split between hard skills and soft skills. There are technologies you simply have to know, but you also have to know how to navigate a corporate culture and represent your company well.
Software, Hardware and Peripherals Installation and Management
Whether it’s brand-new pieces of software, or new pieces of hardware that need to be manually installed, or new peripherals that every workstation needs to have set-up, a desktop support engineer’s primary task is ensuring hardware and software just works. Every company will have different hardware and software requirements, so if you’re trying to earn a higher salary, you have to learn what those requirements are and master them.
Salary impact of software and hardware management: Huge. The majority of work any tech support shop does deals with getting hardware or software working properly. But what sets a desktop support engineer apart from their peers is their thorough knowledge of set-up, installation, management, and troubleshooting of each piece of hardware and software. A company will pay you the lower salary of a technician until you can prove you’re up to the challenge of handling their entire system.
Managing Network Operations and Devices
One of the things that sets a desktop support engineer apart from their technician juniors is dealing with system-wide problems and issues. Very often, the only way to implement network-wide solutions is with a deep understanding of how the network’s devices behave. If you’re trying to justify a desktop support engineer’s salary, you have to be perceived as an expert in navigating your business’ network.
Salary impact of managing networks: Significant. You don’t have to be a network administrator or a network engineer to earn a better salary as a desktop support engineer, but you should never feel lost in the operations and devices of your company’s network. What makes a desktop support engineer so valuable to a company is their ability to manage problems from a distance and at scale, and knowledge of network operations and devices is critical to that.
Client and Customer Management
A desktop support engineer needs to have soft skills in addition to their technical knowledge, and the ability to field questions, problems and comments from clients and customers is one of the most important. It might feel unfair that your ability to deal with challenging clients can affect your salary, but believe it or not it really, really can. Your reputation matters a lot, and if you’re known as the support engineer who explains things well, handles problems calmly and responds to every communication promptly, promotions could very well follow.
Career impact of client and customer management skills: Significant. The expression, “it’s not what you know but who you know” applies to almost every job. Part of the job is impressing the people around you and the people your company works with. Of the soft skills that can contribute to an increased salary as a desktop support engineer, client and customer management are among the most important.
Problem Solving and Prioritization
One key difference between desktop support engineers and their junior counterparts at lower salaries is the breadth of their solutions. A technician tends to be the one who runs over to one desktop and applies one solution to one device, sometimes that’s just what needs to happen. But a company invests in a desktop support engineer’s higher salary because they need someone who can look at an entire network and predict upcoming problems and proactively prioritize the solutions that will keep things running best.
Career impact of problem solving and prioritization: Considerable. This is a soft skill that depends on hard skills like knowing technologies, but that’s why it can have such a big impact on your salary — it proves expertise and mastery. Once you know the technologies well enough, you can start thinking in big pictures that can save your company enough time and money to justify your promotion.
3 Categories of Tech Support Tools You'll Need to Know
A desktop support engineer has to know the tools of their trade very well. Gathering data about whether devices are running, reporting problems and remoting in to fix them all depend on your comfort with the tools.
Throughout the course of a desktop support engineer’s career, they’ll deal with many problems that are familiar, but many will be novel and unfamiliar. Usually the routine and recognizable problems are given to support technicians, but the reason for paying engineers a higher salary is that they’re capable of more than just fixing known problems: they can figure out what’s causing a new problem and apply a solution that won’t cause more down the line.
Career impact of knowing diagnostics tools: Huge. There are many tools that can help identify problems, and a desktop support engineer should at least recognize them, if not know how to use them. For example, a support engineer who knows how to use VirtualBox, which virtualizes the client software and OS to identify problems without using the broken box, is immediately more valuable to the company than one who’s never even heard of it.
Incident Logging and Report Building
Different companies use different tools for generating incident reports and keeping track of the progress being made on them. That makes it hard to say precisely which tools a desktop support engineer needs to know, because some are even proprietary to the company they work for. But what you can do to justify a promotion to a higher salary range is learn what the different options are, and how they differ from one another.
Career impact of knowing incident logging and report-building tools: Considerable. You don’t need to know every last tool that’s out there for logging incidents and building reports, but you should recognize them. For example, osTicket is a software that can be configured based on a number of different parameters, while Bugzilla reports bugs in a much more limited way and Uservoice gives your customers a voice in providing feedback.
Remote Connection Management
One of the things that usually sets a desktop support engineer apart from technicians is how much of their work they do from a remote location. It’s not uncommon for desktop support engineers to provide support to many users in different offices and buildings all over. A desktop support engineer who wants to earn the highest salary will need to know different tools for connecting to users throughout the network.
Salary impact of knowing remote connection management tools: Considerable. Like so much in the world of IT support, it’s hard to say whether a desktop support engineer should learn Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection Manager (RDCMan) or Apple Remote Desktop. But once you recognize what your company uses and depends on, the faster you master the technology they use, the sooner you’ll be qualifying for a higher salary.
3 Best Certifications for Desktop Support Engineer
Certifications in the IT industry are a great way of proving expertise and justifying higher salaries. What certification you should earn to become or advance as a desktop support engineer depends a lot on what technologies your company deals with, but there are still certain certifications that mark you as a professional in the field.
CompTIA is one of the IT industry’s most trusted groups for issuing certifications. Many certifications in the IT field are based on the piece of technology itself (for example, a Microsoft or a Cisco cert). CompTIA’s certs focus on broad skills doing a job. For desktop support engineers, most of what you’ll be tested on to earn the A+ is familiar. But from hardware to software support, including network and database management, for many companies, having the A+ justifies a promotion to a better salary.
Salary impact of A+: Significant. Depending on where in your career you are, the A+ could have either a huge impact on your salary prospects or only a mild one. But in almost all cases, a desktop support engineer with their A+ will be considered substantially more knowledgeable by their company.
HDI Desktop Support Manager (HDI-DSM)
HDI provides many certifications in desktop support and help desk services. Their HDI Desktop Support Manager certification is a broad, detailed certification about supporting all manner of devices and providing operational and tactical support to an organization’s IT team. A desktop support engineer could earn the HDI-DSM in order to justify a higher salary as you supervise a team providing IT support, or as you provide truly excellent support.
Salary impact of HDI Desktop Support Manager: Modest. The HDI-DSM isn’t as foundational or broad as the CompTIA A+, and it applies more specifically to the management of a team of support technicians. A desktop support engineer investing in the HDI-DSM should make sure that their company needs it. Not every certification results in a guaranteed salary hike, but if your company needs desktop support management, you could fill the role with this cert.
AppleCare Mac Technician (ACMT)
Obviously, the AppleCare Mac Technician wouldn’t be valuable for a desktop support engineer whose company works only with Microsoft machines. But if your company relies heavily on Apple products, the ACMT is how you can prove your expertise in providing remote support to them.
Salary impact of ACMT: Modest. If your company is large enough to support many different OSs, earning the ACMT and specializing your skills can help lead to a higher salary. Just having the ACMT isn’t as valuable as a more foundational, broad certification though. That said, if your company does use Apple products, filling the need for a well-trained, specialized desktop support engineer can be rewarding.
What Types of Companies Need Desktop Support Engineers?
If a company uses computers, they need IT support. As we’ve pointed out, the differences between a desktop support engineer and desktop support technician can be subtle, and some companies don’t want to recognize the difference (and the increased salaries that comes with it). There are industries where the difference is noted, and finding yourself in those industries can provide a more stable career path.
Telecommunications companies are among those who need desktop support engineers the most. What tends to set desktop support engineers apart is their client-facing workloads. A desktop support engineer often resolves the problems that clients and customers have while working with the services provided by a different company. The best salaries for a support engineer can be found at large telecoms who provide services to other companies.
Career impact of working in the telecommunications industry: Huge. Telecommunications companies who offer their services to other companies find themselves in control of huge, complicated networks where anything can and often does go wrong. They’re ready to pay the salaries of highly trained experts to keep them running. A desktop support engineer’s natural home is with a telecommunications company.
Finance and Insurance Companies
Banks, investment firms and insurance providers have massive networks that they often keep on their own premises (or in their own clouds). These massive companies often need desktop support engineers who can keep their data flowing to all their partners.
Career impact of finding work with a finance or insurance company: Considerable. A desktop support engineer who works for companies that depend on fast-moving, highly available data throughout a hugely distributed network will often find that their job comes close to that of a network administrator. If you get the right training and understand your network’s devices intimately, you can provide an extremely valuable service to those companies, and earn a big salary doing it.
Healthcare and Social Care Companies
Although small doctors offices may not need entire teams of IT support, many large hospitals and hospital networks certainly do. And where there are teams of IT support, a desktop support engineer can provide insight and guidance that justifies higher salaries than technicians earn. Hospitals and their networks need excellent security and high availability, all while supporting complex peripherals. That promises unforeseen challenges and difficulties that a desktop support engineer can make a long career out of solving.
Salary impact for desktop support engineers finding work in the healthcare industry: Considerable. Many hospitals farm out their networks and network support to service providers, but there are plenty who keep the work in-house. Good salaries are waiting for support engineers who prove their value on IT support teams that keep healthcare networks secure and available.
How to Increase Your Salary as a Desktop Support Engineer
Even brand new desktop support engineers tend to come from a background in desktop support, and have spent several years already as a desktop support technician or help desk tech. That experience might have given you insight into what a competitive salary for a desktop support engineer looks like, but it might also have made you short-sighted about what you and your work are worth.
Depending on where they work and how many certifications they have, a well-paid desktop support engineer can expect a salary of upward of $70,000 per year. If you’re not making that much, you might reconsider where you’re working, what industry you’re working in and what certifications you’ve got to your name.