Adding Another Specialty

When Should I Add Another Specialty?

Careers in engineering technology may follow a simple pattern of advancement within a single specialty area, such as Fire Alarm Systems or Highway Construction Inspection. Often, though, a career branches out to encompass work in a set of related specialties. These specialty sets may be loosely defined by terms such as "Fire Protection", "Transportation/Public Works Inspection", "Security Systems", "Construction Materials Testing", etc. Sometimes they match NICET's "fields"; sometimes they do not. In any case, when it comes time for your career to branch out, it will probably be for reasons that come from your own ambitions and employment setting.

Your Ambitions
Maybe you want to have the variety in your work life of doing things that are technically different — working with various types of materials, systems, plans, construction projects, etc. Maybe you want to be the go-to technical person who can plan or troubleshoot complex situations. Or maybe you want to supervise teams working on large projects involving multiple specialties. To realize any of these ambitions requires developing knowledge, skills, and experience across more than one technical specialty.

Your Employment Setting
Perhaps your company does work for its customers that involves more than one technical area. Chances are that your career advancement may depend, in part, on the company's being able to flexibly assign you to different roles as needed. This situation both provides you the opportunity to develop your skills in new areas, and requires that you demonstrate qualifications for various work assignments and, eventually, for leadership on complex jobs. Alternately, there may be a related technical area that your company is not currently involved in, but could be — if someone has the qualifications that would allow the company to expand its offerings.

Whether the motivation comes from workplace incentives or your own sense of purpose, when the time comes to branch out, it might be useful to consider certification as a way to demonstrate your qualifications. If your involvement in a new area is minimal and you want to keep it that way, then certification may not be the best option. However, if your company needs qualified people in that area, or if you want to proactively expand your range of work options, then you should seriously consider certification as a way to distinguish yourself as someone with an expanding range of capabilities.

NICET provides program materials in a variety of technical specialties. Use them to explore your options and clarify your direction. Beyond that, use your peers, your company, the internet, and the other resources available to you to decide the right course to fulfill your ambitions and meet the needs of the world that you work in.