This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
See Cramer's multi-million dollar portfolio for FREE and get his new book Get Rich Carefully! Learn More

Should You Be A Generalist Or A Specialist?





Way back in 2009, I read a blog post on whether you should be a generalist or a specialist.

Sure, the post's focus was on freelance commercial writing, but every now and then, I would think about its premise: Can you earn more as a generalist or a specialist in a certain career field? Do generalist careers or specialist careers earn more overall? Is it easier for a generalist to be hired? Or does a specialist always rise to the top of the resumé pile?

Note: I'm defining a specialist as someone with a degree that narrows down the job possibilities. For instance, two people with business degrees may have two very different jobs in any number of sectors. Conversely, two nurses will have more similar jobs in the health care field.

Although I have specialized experience in health care, I wanted to see what the Bureau of Labor Statistics had to say about occupations in general. They  divide jobs into 25 occupational groups. They also published a table with the 20 highest paying jobs.

In that list, according to my hastily applied criteria (see “note” above), I think three out of 20 are general (Natural Sciences Managers, Marketing Managers, and Financial  Managers). That means that the majority are specialized careers. (Of course, my methods are unscientific.)

Then I looked at the 30 occupations with the largest job growth. Of this list of 30, I think about 15 were specialized.

That doesn't tell the whole story though. This table also gives the median salaries. More general positions (or those with a low barrier to entry) generally pay less than the others, according to the table. That correlates with what I've observed, too.

My experience

In college, I specialized in radiologic technology, one of approximately 300,000 (compare that to nearly 4.5 million retail salespeople or 5,800 Oral/Maxillofacial surgeons) in the U.S. When I graduated, I chose to specialize even more; this decision resulted in a $3,000 bump in my annual salary.

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
DOW 16,408.54 -16.31 -0.10%
S&P 500 1,864.85 +2.54 0.14%
NASDAQ 4,095.5160 +9.2910 0.23%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto
Advertising Partners

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs