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43 Honest Help Desk Manager Salaries
The help desk or IT support team is often one of the most valuable assets a company with a large software, hardware and network footprint has. A help desk manager is an experienced help desk technician or analyst who’s added supervision and management skills to their resume. For the men and women who become help desk managers, salaries over $62,000/year are waiting.
But the road from working the help desk to managing it isn’t always a straight one. Getting there sometimes calls for a bachelor’s degree or highly specialized training. And once you’re there, it can be tricky to ask for the right salary if you don’t know what a fair one in your region looks like.
To help with those searches, we’ve gathered as much information as we could find about help desk manager positions, salaries, certifications, training and more. Read on to learn what successful help desk managers have done to improve their salaries, what training helps put them into the highest-paid brackets, and what certifications you should be considering to make your mark.
What is a Help Desk Manager?
Like the name suggests, a help desk manager is someone who oversees, directs and manages the work done by a help desk team. IT support personnel who troubleshoot and resolve IT issues rely on managers for personnel-related supervision as well as operational oversight.
A help desk manager has usually come up the ranks of the help desk itself. Many start as a help desk analyst and move on to IT support, help desk technician or a more applied technician role. Sometimes help desk personnel go into more specialized IT roles like a network or systems administrator, but sometimes they go the managerial route rather than focus on the hardware/software parts of the job. Those people tend to become help desk managers.
A help desk manager knows the tools of the IT support trade and is experienced with resolving the issues their teams work with. But their skills are usually more focused on planning, prioritizing and scheduling. Training help desk staff and monitoring performance metrics is often a part of a help desk manager’s job too. Help desk managers can usually expect better salaries than senior help desk techs because the job itself is often a force multiplier for support teams.
43 Real Salaries for Help Desk Managers
Depending on where you look, you can find a lot of competing information about average salaries, median salaries and (often) excessively optimistic salaries for help desk managers. Often, those numbers come from national surveys and national statistics. That’s helpful as a starting point, but the numbers change on a state-by-state basis. Not only that, there are often ranges of salaries: the highest-paid, most-competitive jobs filled by highly experienced help desk managers look different from the lowest-paid, entry-level managerial positions.
That’s why we’ve broken our data up by state, as well as into three ranges. We looked at the overall average, which includes all positions. We also separated the results and segmented the salaries into higher and lower ranges. We think that provides a clearer picture of the competition in different markets, and what salary an experienced help desk manager can expect versus someone landing their first job as one.
The national average salary for a Help Desk Manager is $62,000.
The national average high for a Help Desk Manager is $79,000.
The national average low for a Help Desk Manager is $46,000.
As you look through the following chart of 43 salaries for help desk managers, compare each region to the national averages we listed above. You’ll see there are some places that deviate from that baseline by quite a lot.
Salt Lake City
The highest-paid help desk managers are paid much more than their lower-paid counterparts. Of the cities we polled, nearly half had low-paid help desk managers being paid a salary under $45,000. Meanwhile, nearly half have high-paid managers being paid more than $70,000. In Portland, a well-paid help desk manager can expect $90,000/year, and in Knoxville, a new help desk manager might get offered $39,000.
That spread suggests two things. First, the market you’re in matters a lot. Different job markets clearly support bigger teams of IT with better paid managers. Second, there is room for promotion to higher salaries if you know how to set yourself apart from your peers.
The overall average for each city is much less volatile than the low-end and high-end averages. At first glance, it might seem like salaries for help desk managers are all over the place. The cities with the highest ranges don’t always pay their low-paid help desk managers particularly well and places where the low-end managers are paid well don’t always have a high salary ceiling.
But if you look at the overall average salary for help desk managers in the majority of cities we polled, only about $15,000/year separates them. This suggests that although you might find yourself in a market that pays its entry-level help desk managers very little, odds remain good that the salary prospects will improve quite a lot as you gain experience. Further, if you gain nationally recognized certifications and training, you’ll be eligible for competitive salaries pretty much no matter where you work.
The top cities for help desk manager salaries skew the average. This is a pretty common thing to happen when looking at national salary comparisons, but a few cities skew the whole picture unrealistically. In San Francisco and its surrounding neighborhoods, a really well-paid help desk manager can average $117,000/year. As far as high-range salaries go, Bridgeport, CT is next at $100,000. And then, in Seattle, San Diego and Los Angeles, the high-end average drops below $100,000.
Nearly $25,000/year separates the top three cities for high-paid help desk managers. That suggests those numbers are either unsustainable or just representative of an unusually high cost of living. If you’re a highly experienced help desk manager with lots of certs and training, but you don’t feel like living in the Bay area, you should prepare yourself for a salary that’s closer to the mid-$70,000s or low-$80,000.
4 Salary Considerations for Help Desk Manager
Whether you’re an experienced help desk manager looking to bump your salary up a little higher, or you’re eyeing help desk manager positions for the very first time, you probably want to know how to make yourself a better candidate. The difference between help desk managers in the upper salary ranges and the lower salary ranges usually comes down to four factors: experience, training, certifications, and industry.
For each of those, if you find yourself in a bit of a weak position, having more of the other can help offset it. For example, maybe you’re applying to a new company that has totally different software and hardware than anywhere else you’ve ever worked. Having industry certifications can help demonstrate that even though you don’t know their proprietary tools, you do have a foundation of knowledge that will easily make up for it.
That said, be careful not to rest all your hopes on just one of those four pillars. The fewer of those four salary considerations you have control of, you should be prepared for luck to play a big part. For example, if you’ve got a decade of experience but no real training or certifications, you might struggle to convince a hiring manager — no matter how many people you’ve already supervised — that you deserve a really great salary.
Experience Requirements for Help Desk Manager
Like a lot of managerial positions, experience is one of the most important factors that affects a help desk manager’s salary. Of course, several years of IT support/help desk experience is pretty essential in most help desk manager job descriptions. But a help desk manager isn’t just a very experienced help desk technician, and companies ask for experience because they want evidence that you also understand principles of management and supervision.
That means that as soon as you can, you should try to get supervisory responsibilities in whatever position you currently hold. Sometimes the experience as a supervisor can be replaced with experience as a trainer, so if you’re able to train new help desk personnel in the job, that can help. But one of the best ways to qualify for a better salary is to supervise other help desk personnel.
A bachelor’s degree can also be extremely helpful for landing a job as a help desk manager. You might also be able to increase your salary simply by earning one. Unfortunately, a degree is often a box that just needs to be checked, and you’ll need a lot of additional supervisory and work experience in IT support if you don’t have a degree.
4 Customer Support Tools You'll Need to Know
The world of IT support depends on many different tools and technologies. A help desk manager angling to improve their salary prospects doesn’t have to be an expert in every last tool that gets used, but they definitely have to know them and be able to speak knowledgeably about them. The reason for that is twofold.
First, a help desk manager directs and schedules tasks — you can’t do that accurately if you don’t understand the complexity of the tools involved for each task. Second, a help desk manager supervises and manages the people using the tools — gaining their respect becomes a lot harder when you sound like you don’t understand the tools they use on a daily basis.
Help Desk Ticketing Systems
Anyone who’s worked in IT support or help desk for any amount of time knows that tickets are what makes the world go ’round. Love them or hate them, your help desk team simply can’t run without them. A well-operated help desk ticketing system means problems are identified and diagnosed quickly, requests are prioritized and reports are actually useful. A help desk manager spends a ton of time with tickets and simply has to know what different ticketing systems are good at, and what differentiates them.
Salary impact of help desk ticketing systems: huge. A help desk manager often schedules and prioritizes the work of their teams based on the number and urgency of tickets. Different softwares like Jira Service Management, JitBit, or LiveAgent provide that help very differently. A help desk manager who understands some of those differences can be an advocate for change when necessary, and that sort of expertise is often rewarded with a substantial salary.
Project Management Software
It doesn’t matter what career or job you’re talking about, something that usually separates a manager from a technician is how zoomed-in their view is. Managers usually need to have a broader view of all the work that eventually needs to be done on a much wider time scale than a technician does. Project management is a big umbrella of a term that covers breaking up big projects into smaller chunks and assigning them appropriately, and it’s one of the keys of management.
Salary impact of project management tools and software: huge. As important as writing, scheduling and assigning tickets is, overall time and project management is just as big. Project management software like Jira, Asana and Trello all make a manager’s job possible. The differences between these software are huge, and a manager should at least know what each one does differently and what its strengths and weaknesses are.
Network Configuration Management Tools
It doesn’t matter how large a network is, it needs maintenance, monitoring and troubleshooting. A network configuration tool makes it possible to collect and analyze the metrics of the software and hardware running on the network. And with that data, a help desk manager and their team can recognize potential problems before they become emergencies, or handle emergencies quickly when they happen.
Salary impact of knowing network configuration management tools: significant. Help desk managers who know how to operate tools like SolarWinds, ManageEngine or BladeLogic can keep their teams of help desk technicians productive and on-task. Knowing NCMs, you can direct your teams in making rapid and complex changes across networks and respond to trouble tickets accurately.
Office Productivity and Scheduling Tools
Another thing that sets a help desk manager apart from a technician is how much time they spend writing emails and memos, going to meetings, and generally being an office worker. Different offices use different tools for communicating and collaborating — sometimes it’s Microsoft Office, maybe it’s the Google suite. A help desk manager will be more effective and less stressed if they know how to use the office productivity tools effortlessly.
Salary impact of office productivity and scheduling tools: considerable. Once you’re a help desk manager, much more of your everyday job will be spent making slide decks, reading and writing spreadsheets, and navigating emails. Don’t make the mistake of assuming you know “enough” about Outlook, Google Slides, or your office’s calendar. A large percentage of every day will be spent on those programs, and you should master them.
The 8 Best Certifications for a Help Desk Manager
Industry certifications are easily one of the best ways to set yourself and your career apart. Certifications can serve the dual role of not only validating the time and experience you’ve accumulated but also replace or make up for missing experience and training. Some are issued by professional organizations as a way of confirming what skills define a job. Others are issued by hardware manufacturers or software developers as a way of laying out exactly how a tool or technology should be used.
One of the best parts of earning certifications is that they force you to broaden your experience and knowledge. Even certifications that apply to one specific piece of hardware or software require that you study to learn the by-the-book best way of using it. And broad, industry-defining certifications often include far more topics than any one person learns on their own. Earning certifications doesn’t immediately qualify you for a better salary, but if you combine them with experience, you can make a persuasive argument for a raise as a help desk manager.
CompTIA is a professional organization made up of IT professionals in many different fields and specialities. They offer a range of certifications from entry-level generalist to highly specialized cloud network security analyst. A help desk manager who accumulates certain CompTIA certifications shows that they’re committed to excellence and broad IT knowledge.
The specific certifications from CompTIA that a help desk manager should consider include CompTIA A+, Network+, Security+, Project+, and Cloud Essentials+. There are other valuable certs, but those five CompTIA certs in particular cover a lot of ground that’s both fundamental and advanced.
Salary impact of earning CompTIA certs: huge. The CompTIA family of certifications are respected throughout the entire IT world. Ideally a help desk manager would earn the A+ early in their career and get the Network+ and Security+ as needed. But the Project+ is particularly important for demonstrating your ability to manage complex teams and requirements.
Cisco manufacturers network devices and publishes certifications to validate knowledge in using and configuring them. For help desk managers whose daily work includes working with network problems and assigning teams to resolve network outages, a Cisco certification ensures you’re highly capable and familiar with the technicalities.
Specifically, the CCNA is a certification that every help desk manager who wants to work on Cisco networks should earn. It’s an associate-level certification, but covers a huge range of topics that can help keep you familiar with up-to-date technologies. If you manage teams dealing with data centers, the CCNP Data Center is a professional-level cert to consider, or the CCNP Enterprise.
Salary impact: significant. Cisco certifications like the CCNA are, for many IT professionals, a rite of passage. Even for experienced and knowledgeable help desk personnel, the CCNA is challenging. Having one can boost your credibility in a job interview or make a request for an increased salary much more likely to succeed.
Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate
The Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate exam covers topics that are probably familiar to most help desk managers. But like the CCNA, the Microsoft Azure Administrator Associate is a foundational cert that you just don’t want to pass over. If you manage or plan to manage a help desk team that has to do work with Azure services, this certification is how to make sure you understand it thoroughly enough to direct others.
Salary impact of the Microsoft Certified: Azure Administrator Associate cert: considerable. This is a certificate that’s limited in its usefulness. For teams and companies that deal with Azure services, it’s very important. But if your company doesn’t use Azure for its cloud compute, storage or network, it shouldn’t be a high priority.
What Type of Companies Need Help Desk Managers?
The last of the four factors that can affect the salary a help desk manager can look forward to is the industry that they work in. Sometimes being selective about the industry you work in is easier said than done — you can only apply for the jobs that are available. But as you progress through your career, keeping an eye on the long-term prospects your industry holds for your career is important.
Help desk managers who want to earn the best salaries never stop looking for better opportunities and promotions. Through networking and building relationships with other help desk managers in other industries, learn what upward mobility your peers are seeing and try to compare it to your own experience. These are the industries where help desk managers are most logically located and where the most competitive salaries should be found.
If a product developed by a software company is used directly by customers, that company needs a help desk. And even small software developers need a help desk manager to keep their teams on-task and efficient. On the other hand, a help desk manager working for a software development company may find themselves troubleshooting and managing the devices used by the company itself. In either case, your foundation of skills and knowledge would look different, but in pursuit of the best salary, you should always aim to make yourself as versatile as possible.
Career impact of working in software development: significant. Help desk managers in the software development world will never lack for employment. Whether customers are frustrated by the widget not working properly, or employees are frustrated by the network outages that keep happening, great salaries are paid to the help desk managers who can keep everyone happy.
Just like software developers, the need for help desk and IT support in hardware manufacturers comes both internally and externally. A help desk manager helps make sure teams resolve the most pressing IT issues as efficiently as possible, both for customers and for company personnel. Manufacturers want to hire someone who’s able to direct teams in identifying, documenting, tracking and resolving problems so that customers and employees are equally happy.
Career impact of working in hardware manufacturing: significant. The skill set needed to support help desk and IT support teams in hardware manufacturing has an overlap with many of the skills needed for doing the same work in software development, but there are differences. A help desk manager who’s experienced with hardware-specific support and troubleshooting will remain valuable within the silo of manufacturing firms.
Enterprise Service Providers
Probably the most obvious place for a help desk manager would be with a service provider. Whether they’re enormous, national corporations or small regional ISPs, companies that connect users to online services are constantly fielding complex, interconnected problems. A help desk manager will always have new challenges and advancement opportunities in service providers.
Career impact of working for enterprise service providers: significant. Most people who want to become help desk managers probably envision working for a service provider of some kind. The best salaries for a help desk manager can certainly be found leading teams to ensure that customers have access to all the services they expect.
How to Increase Your Salary as a Help Desk Manager
If you’re working in IT support, you may have set your sights on eventually working as a help desk manager. Or maybe you’ve landed a job as a help desk manager and you don’t know if you’re being paid enough. Hopefully some of this has helped you figure that out.
If you have a degree, certifications and years of experience, you should reasonably expect that you belong in the high-end average for help desk manager salaries. And now you also have a rough idea of what that average looks like based on where you work.
The key to remember is that there’s always room for improvement, no matter where you find yourself in your career. There’s a certification you can earn, a class you can take, a tool you can master. Help desk managers can earn a solid salary, and even if you don’t live in the cities where they’re paid in the triple digits, with the right preparation, you can still qualify for great pay.