Job specialization, also known as the division of labor, occurs when workers learn how to perform specific tasks very well rather than focusing on doing many different tasks. Job specialization is one of the key facets of the modern capitalist economy and offers a range of potential advantages for workers and the companies that employ them.
One of the most important aspects of job specialization is its potential to increase worker productivity and output. A classic example of how specialization can increase productivity is a factory assembly line. If a single worker tried to create an automobile from parts, it would likely take many hours or even days. If 10 different workers learn how to assemble different parts of a vehicle very efficiently, the productivity of each worker would be higher than the single worker trying to do many different tasks. Specialization, therefore, makes the mass production of goods possible.
While productivity tends to benefit the employer of workers, specialization can also be advantageous to workers in that it may improve employment prospects. Workers with specialized skills are often more desirable than those with only general skills. Many jobs even require workers to have specific knowledge and skills just to be considered. For instance, computer companies often require that workers are versed in a specific software language. This is one of the primary reasons education is important: It allows workers to learn specialized skills.
Job security is another potential advantage that specialized workers are likely to enjoy. A worker with a specialized skill that no one else knows is difficult for a company to replace. For instance, if you work for a tech support company and you are the only one that knows how to recover data from crashed hard drives, you are more valuable to the company than someone with no special job skills. If the company is forced to lay someone off, they will likely fire the person without the specialized skill.
Although specialization can be advantageous, workers are often expected to have certain general skills as well. A worker with specialized skills that does not have general skills might be at a disadvantage when searching for a job. For instance, an expert in real estate law might not be as desirable to employers as someone with less experience if he doesn't know how to use basic computer programs.