Professional career

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The technical career is a career concept that often exists alongside a leadership / management career and a project career . In a time of flat hierarchies ( lean management ), it should offer opportunities for further development for employees who could otherwise leave the company in search of a career opportunity and take valuable specialist knowledge with them. This aspect is becoming more and more relevant in a society that is developing from an industrial society into a knowledge society. Employees with outstanding technical know-how are human capital that is relevant for companies' competitiveness and survival. In connection with the change in management career that has become apparent in recent decades (moderator instead of announcer), the specialist career is being upgraded and is currently once again the focus of interest for many companies. In this context, the specialist career concept is also an essential component of a company's own retention management for many technology-driven companies.

Different career concepts

Employees who embark on a specialist career often consciously decide against a management career and the associated management tasks. You either have little or no management duties to perform. At the top of the specialist career path - especially in large corporations - you will often find recognized specialists (solitaires / luminaries) in their field who can discuss equals with researchers from renowned research institutions around the world. You are responsible for B. the basic research in your company and thus decide on the development of future technologies and business areas.


Approaches to specialist careers can be seen early on in the administrative and military history of states. Examples can be the secretary in the classic sense, the doctor or the military chaplain, who were usually only subordinate to a high-ranking executive (chancellor, minister or camp commandant and captain) and usually did not have their own hierarchy.

However, it did not become widespread until the 1970s, when life expectancy in the western states had increased significantly and management positions were consequently occupied for longer by their owners. In addition, the population structure changed from a pyramid to a cylinder, which is why a growth factor was omitted. At the same time, the range of leadership could be increased through mechanization. In addition, entire levels of the hierarchy were abolished through the introduction of lean management. The previous career opportunities were restricted and an adequate replacement had to be found.


The specialist career should serve several important purposes in a company: First, it supplements the management career with career opportunities to encourage employees to perform and to prevent them from leaving. Second, it bundles the specialist knowledge specifically in a few people who are known as contact persons. Thirdly, technically competent employees are not necessarily suitable for a management career, because they may show weaknesses in dealing with people or with administrative tasks.

Analogous to the management career, the responsibility in the specialist career increases with each level, as does the scope of the tasks. In addition to professional skills, communication skills are often required, which can cause difficulties for potential aspirants for a professional career. Promotion to the next level is company-specific. Ideally, a committee of professionals of the level in question or higher will assess the applicant's skills. On the other hand, it is problematic when executives without professional competence decide on the promotion.



A technical expertise is built up, maintained and maintained in strategically relevant fields, which makes the company independent of external providers. The specialists are known in the company and have enough time to solve technical problems. This means that a good expert does not become a bad superior . At the same time, the work motivation of the employee concerned increases because he can concentrate on his strengths and does not have to take on any unpleasant tasks. The employee sees opportunities for further development and remains with his knowledge in the company.

The specialist career chosen is not a final decision. At certain development points, which are determined by the company, employees can switch to management and / or project careers or vice versa. This can be documented in the following graphic as an example (Chors, 2001, p. 64). Employees can switch between career paths on their career path - after successfully completing the relevant assessment center (AC) - in this example between management and specialist careers.


Only a few companies have so far followed the ideal . This is problematic because it can damage the image of the specialist career and it is thus counterproductive in many companies as a second-class career alternative.

  • The professional career can e.g. B. be misused as a sedative for career-conscious employees. This approach can be recognized by the fact that the employees are qualified, but the title can also be taken on to other positions with other tasks without having to demonstrate the required professional competence.
  • According to a Kienbaum study from 2006, most specialist careers end in terms of salary at the appropriate level of group leader , because the salary is set by the manager and traditionally a distance between management and employees “must / should” be maintained. This frustrates many specialists and also leads to a poor image of the specialist career.
  • While executives are visible to management and this also applies to project managers to a limited extent via steering committees, specialists usually have no direct contact and are therefore hardly noticed. Often the specialist career does not even reach the highest level, so that specialists are neither nominally nor actually appreciated. This means that the formation of high-level networks and the inclusion in information distributors as a prerequisite for further careers are often restricted.
  • In many companies with specialist careers, the executives are entrusted with (project) management and higher specialist tasks, so that there is no strict separation. As a result, the specialist may have to compete with their own managers.
  • If specialist positions are advertised, specialists often compete with external specialists. In many companies, these are valued more highly and more competently than their own employees and are often paid significantly better.
  • Changing the area of ​​responsibility is usually difficult because the technical competence has to be rebuilt.


The risks listed mean that in many companies neither managers nor employees take a specialist career seriously and usually do not find the latter particularly desirable. This leads to frustration among the specialists and, depending on the personal situation, can result in actual or internal termination. The additional costs and the loss of competitiveness can be significant for the company.

Amazingly, the business associations have been complaining about the existing and increasing shortage of skilled workers since 2008, but on the other hand do not offer their members and skilled workers adequate alternatives. It would be possible to implement equivalent specialist career models, equipped with the hierarchy-specific insignia of power (title, payment, documentation in the organizational chart, budget, affiliation to the corresponding information circles, office size and equipment, personal parking space, etc.).