Job Specialization: Definition, Pros and Cons

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated February 11, 2021 | Published December 12, 2019

Updated February 11, 2021

Published December 12, 2019

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Job specialization is useful because it helps you narrow your interests into a specific career path that can offer stability and other benefits. If you’re a task-oriented employee who enjoys being deeply knowledgeable in one or two areas, specialization might be a good idea for you. There are several benefits to achieving job specialization in your career. In this article, you’ll learn about job specialization, its definition and advantages.

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What is job specialization?

Job specialization is a process that occurs when employees gain knowledge, education and experience in a specific area of expertise. The importance of job specialization in the modern-day workforce is that it helps to fulfill the need for skilled workers. 

Job specialization is differentiated from work specialization, which is a leadership method where the employer trains their employees to tackle large and complicated tasks by breaking them down into manageable and digestible pieces.

The core dimensions of job specialization are important for both the employer and the employee to have a better understanding of scope and responsibilities. They are:

Skill variety

It is imperative to understand which skills work best with each job requirement for the individual to know where to specialize. Understanding skill variety will ultimately serve to make the process of job specialization run smoother and more efficiently. 

Task identity

Task identity is the appreciation and total understanding of the job description that makes you a more effective team member. Task identity involves your understanding of tasks that fall within your specialty and how to organize and measure them.

Task significance

Once the task is identified, the employer and the employee must seek to understand how tasks are to be prioritized. This is important to ensure that the employee does not begin a task before a prerequisite job function needs to be completed. 

Autonomy

This refers to the degree of control you have over the completion of a task. The more specialized the individual’s skill set becomes, the easier it is to control the processes and outcome of the task at hand.

Feedback

This is the result that is relayed to the employer after you complete a task, along with the two-way communication that is returned. Feedback serves to bring the appropriate information to both parties for there to be an understanding of what transpired, whether it was completed to an appropriate standard, and if there are any areas of improvement that are of note.

With a better understanding of the definition of job specialization and its core dimensions, you will be able to fully conceptualize job specialization as it relates to advantages that impact things like employee and employer relations and job marketability.

What are the advantages of job specialization?

There are many advantages to job specialization, including:

  • Risk reduction

  • Improved morale

  • Task proficiency

  • Equipment specialization

  • Increased speed between tasks

Risk reduction

A benefit of job specialization is that it reduces your risk of making mistakes. When you are highly specialized in a certain job function, you have mastery of tasks within that function. With the decreased likelihood of making mistakes, you will provide value to the company you work for in both time and dollars. Job specialization makes you a more competitive employee because it’s better for a company to have highly specialized workers in a given area than those who have a base-level understanding of required job duties.

Improved morale

Another advantage of job specialization is an increased level of morale across employees. If you work in an environment with many specialized employees, you may notice they tend to band together in a positive team mentality. With improved morale and the support of other specialized employees, you may experience less work-related stress. 

This often results in improved performance in addition to a better work environment. Even if you’re the only specialist on your team or in your company, that uniqueness could come with a level of pride and fulfillment. When employees feel that they bring a distinctive responsibility or role to an organization, they also perform it with more motivation and care. Job specialization results in a higher sense of purpose for employees, which translates to improved morale for you and those around you.

Task proficiency

Perhaps the most obvious advantage to job specialization is how it allows you to become highly proficient at a specific job function. By focusing your career on specific areas of expertise, you can refine your skills and become a better employee. As a result of task proficiency, you can potentially benefit from the hope of strong job stability. 

This is true for two reasons. First, you possess advanced level skills which makes your role harder to fill. Additionally, the employer has spent a great deal of time, energy and resources toward your training and development, which means they are heavily invested in your success. 

Task proficiency might be the greatest of advantages to job specialization, because it is an optimal scenario for both parties: the employer and the employee. A relationship with you, as a specialized employee, is valuable to both you and your employer.

Equipment specialization

For people who like to learn new things, the equipment specialization perk that often occurs in workplaces with job specialists might be advantageous. It’s a phenomenon that occurs when equipment is deployed or re-engineered to meet the needs of the specialist. These office environments can become hubs for learning and development of equipment skills that can help you throughout your career.

Increased speed between tasks

The more you specialize, the fewer tasks you are responsible for. For example, think of an HR generalist. This is someone responsible for a wide number of HR tasks, which could include payroll to processing new employees. However, an accounts payable specialist would only be responsible for the myriad of tasks that fall under accounts payable. Due to this factor, specialists can often reduce the time it takes them to switch tasks.

Job specialization examples

In the following section, we’ll look at job specialization in a few industries so you can better understand how it applies to the workplace. Examples will be provided that illustrate some of the ways people specialize in their job:

Accounting and finance specializations

Accounting and finance specializations are those that increase your marketability in the field by advancing your skills and knowledge of accounting practices and other duties that ensure a company or individual’s financial success. 

Example: Marcus works in accounting and finance for an insurance company. He likes accounting but wants to learn a new skill that can advance his career. Marcus asks his employer for opportunities to advance and that begin him on a path to learn about loan fulfillment. Soon, Marcus becomes a loan processor. Loan processing skills are a resource Marcus can take with him to other jobs throughout his career.

Loan processor

National average salary: $45,443 per year

Primary duties: Loan processors communicate with financial institutions and individuals or businesses seeking financed money. They are responsible for ensuring lenders have all the information to decide the borrower, and that borrowers understand the terms of the loan agreement. They submit loan packages to underwriters and are responsible for understanding financial compliance regulations around lending.

Medical specializations

Medical professionals can specialize in several areas. Some examples of medical specializations include careers like neonatal nursing, family medicine, internal medicine, diagnostic radiology and more.

Example: Laura works as a nurse at a major hospital but her passion is helping people who have critical needs. She’s highly organized, a fast worker and good at working with precision in stressful situations. She decides to apply for an open ER nurse position at the hospital where she works. Laura is hired for the role and will receive all the training and experience she needs to specialize from her employer.

Registered nurse – emergency room

National average salary: $92,498 per year

Primary duties: Emergency room nurses administer all aspects of patient care to patients who are experiencing emergency situations and conditions. They are also responsible for keeping patient records. They must be highly organized, responsive and skilled.

Technology specializations

These are specializations that help IT professionals advance in the various paths available to people in the industry. This includes network specialists, Python developers, cybersecurity, database specialties and more.

Example: Luis is considering a career in technology. He has worked as a help desk technician for five years and likes it, but he wants something that offers better pay and leads him down a more fulfilling path. Luis decides to achieve an entry-level cybersecurity certification. With this certificate, employers can be certain Luis has the knowledge and skill to be a specialized cybersecurity employee.

Network security engineer

National average salary:  $113,017 per year

Primary duties: Network engineers are responsible for all facets of securing a company’s network against threats like viruses and hackers.

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