Is It Better to be a Generalist or Specialist?

Upon deciding whether or not you should go to university, you may be wondering whether to pick a generalist subject or a specialist subject to for more of a niche career goal.

The ultimate questions is: Would you rather learn a broader range of skills, or focus on a specific topic to go down a certain career path? This is the defining question as to whether being a generalist or specialist is best for you.

Here are the benefits of being either a generalist or specialist:





More possibilities

After leaving university, you may not have your heart set on any particular career. Studying a generalist area; it can be harder to know which path you should follow. The upside of being a generalist though is that you have the freedom to try almost any career that takes your fancy.

Being a generalist also means you have a wider scope of opportunities in your particular area of study, so you can try out a variety of job roles and see which one is the best fit.

Beneficial for companies

Many organisations are looking to hire more generalists, as one employee can then take on a selection of different roles – and still produce quality results.  Companies don’t need to worry about hiring extra employees which of course, costs them a great deal more money, meaning generalists are very employable.

A great management opportunity

Unlike specialists, generalists are much more inclined to cope with management roles due to the fact that they are often required to puzzle pieces of information together to solve complex issues.

Managers as a whole are usually good generalists, as they are able to understand issues from different perspectives, take on a number of jobs as and when necessary and keep the whole business ticking over like clockwork.




Learning on the job

On the other hand, being a generalist can have its downside. One aspect to consider is that some companies may find it a burden to have to train you, if there is a need to focus on specific tasks that a specialist would instantly be familiar with.

These days, many companies hire a large number of freelancers who are already specialists in their field. They are then hired to carry out tasks as and when required, which means companies are spending less money on training and having to hire full-time employees.





Higher-paying jobs

According to a source, some of the highest-paying jobs in the world are carried out by specialist professionals; therefore having a skill set that is valuable and sought-after could stand you in good stead for securing permanent jobs. Specialists usually spend a great deal of time studying to become an expert; meaning that salaries – even at their starting point tend to be higher.

Become a leader in your field

If you’re passionate about your career and wish to study further, you may become a recognised leader in your field. Hard work certainly pays off – the amount of studying you take on means you’ll be paving the route of your own career. Specialists tend to perform similar duties every day, whereas generalists will be expected to try their hand at a variety of tasks on a daily basis. If you prefer routine structure, specialism is definitely for you.




Jobs are potentially under threat

A study from 2013 found that specialist jobs may be more under threat in the UK, with more and more generalists being hired. Nowadays, robots and machines are performing most of the job roles that specialists used to do, due to being a quicker and much more cost-effective solution to hiring employees.

What’s better – generalist or specialist?

If you’re unsure whether or not to become a generalist or specialist, one top tip would to become a generalist first of all and take a look at the career options that are available to you. Once you have sussed out where you’re heading, you may choose to take on extra study and come a specialist in your field.


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