What is the difference between specialists and generalists?

Generalists and specialists have one thing in common - knowledge of their own duties.

When looking for jobs, you must’ve noticed that there are specialists and generalists. Almost every profession distinguishes between a specialist and a generalist. So, in this article, we’ll see what the difference is.

What confuses people even further is that we have a lot of experts and specialists out there. Or, that is at least what people say. That is how they present themselves.

But, can a 23-year-old be an expert? Why do more and more companies have job ads with the word “specialist” in it? And who are generalists?

What is the difference between specialists and generalists? Is there a bigger demand for specialists than there is for generalists?

Specialists vs. Generalists – What’s the difference?Generalists know a bit of everything.

So, now that we understand the two main types of employees let’s look into the difference between a specialist and a generalist.

As the word suggests, generalists are people who are knowledgeable about a whole variety of subjects, but they don’t possess deep knowledge of a certain subject.

The best example is general practitioners who, as the title itself implies, know a bit about everything. That is why they can direct you towards specialists who then use their knowledge to help you.

Another example that we hear quite often is HR generalists. These people have to have a variety of skills and a good grasp of the human resource aspect of a business. That is why they are generalists; they need to cover a lot of topics.

There is a difference between a specialist and a generalist.

What creates an opportunity to become a specialist?

The answer is simple – the industry or the field you’re in! There are a lot of career paths that allow you to be very specific. So specific, in fact, so the rest of the population doesn’t even think about what you do because they have no idea the job position exists! They simply never thought of it…

For example, you can work in the IT industry. You opt for the field of cybersecurity. You’re interested in fraud so you become a fraud specialist. Online payments fascinate you, but you’re very interested in card payments so you become a card transactions fraud specialist. See how deep this one goes?


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If a company wants its employees to be interchangeable, it will train everyone on everything. That would also be considered a “general” role, like for example in fast food restaurants or at manufacturing plants.

Each approach to a role has its advantages and disadvantages. If you are a specialist, you really know your stuff and, well, you’re kind of special!? It might be difficult for you to coordinate time off since it’s questionable if there will be anyone who can take over your tasks.

If you are a generalist, you know a lot of stuff but don’t “own” any of them. For you, it should be very easy to book holidays and you don’t have to worry about coverage when all your colleagues have been trained for your position as well! Depending on your interests and desired career path, we’d encourage you to explore both options and see what suits you better.

Which one to choose?

You can choose to be a specialist or generalist. Or, you can be a mix. This depends on you and the company you’re working for. Oftentimes, you’ll start in a more general position and then find your niche.

However, regardless of which one you’re looking to become, you need to have a smashing CV. That’s the only way to get notices. Read our blog for CV writing tips or order your very own CV writing guide right here. Follow our principles of writing and get more replies to job applications, no matter the type of position you’d like.

If you already have a CV but it’s not yielding results, send it to us for a free CV review. Lastly, if you don’t have time to work on your CV, reach out to us and we’ll take care of it for us. Simply check our CV writing services here. Looking forward to hearing from you.


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