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What does a Subject Matter Expert do?

Lainie Petersen
Updated May 17, 2024
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A subject matter expert is someone who communicates his knowledge of a topic to other professionals within an organization. They often act as consultants to companies that need to produce educational courses or publish training material. Someone in this position may also serve as a resource through the entire process of bringing a product to market, or may simply offer some preliminary information at the start of a new venture. He may also take a role in establishing a company's quality assurance measures.

Technology and software companies often rely on subject matter experts to inform programmers and engineers of what a product needs to be able to do. They may also work with technical writers to ensure that product manuals are accurate and usable. Publishers, on the other hand, may rely on a subject matter expert to point them in the direction of good authors or to explain an up-and-coming area of interest. If the editors in a publishing company are not familiar with a particular subject, they can send a book to a such an expert for fact-checking.

Educational companies, particularly those offering vocational training, may also make considerable use of subject matter experts. Courses, both online and classroom, are often developed by editors and instructional designers who have little knowledge of the subjects being taught. Someone who is an expert in a subject may be hired to write the course material which is then broken down into a course. Another significant role for subject matter experts is in the area of test development: they may work with psychometricians to develop professional licensing exams by making sure the appropriate subject matter is covered in the exam and that the answer key is correct.

Some subject matter experts are employees of the companies they work for, and may have a specific role, such as an editor, in the organization as well. On the other hand, they may also continue to work in their own field of expertise while offering freelance consulting services to various organizations and companies. For example, a real estate appraiser might run her own firm while offering subject matter expert services to a company that produces appraisal software. That same appraiser might also write and edit books in her field. In doing this, she not only expands her professional network, but she also continues to hone her professional skills and increase her knowledge, increasing her marketability as a consultant.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Lainie Petersen
By Lainie Petersen , Former Writer
Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an editor. With a unique educational background, she crafts engaging content and hosts podcasts and radio shows, showcasing her versatility as a media and communication professional. Her ability to understand and connect with audiences makes her a valuable asset to any media organization.

Discussion Comments

By B707 — On Jun 18, 2011

That's interesting that publishers would send a book, that is being readied for publication, to a subject matter expert to have the manuscript fact-checked.

I thought that publishing houses did their own fact-checking. But with information being so complex today, I guess if they didn't understand the subject matter, letting a subject matter expert do the checking is a wise idea. It would cost more in time and money, but the publishers must feel that it is worth it.

By Clairdelune — On Jun 15, 2011

The job of subject matter expert sounds interesting. I've never heard of this particular job title. You would need to have excellent skills in communication, research, reading, organizing information, and writing.

I would think you would also have to be very aware that what you finally write is very accurate. I mean when you are writing material for a class, it has to be accurate and backed up by facts.

I would think that this job would pay quite well, but I'm not sure. Any way, it sounds interesting to me.

Lainie Petersen

Lainie Petersen

Former Writer

Lainie Petersen, a talented writer, copywriter, and content creator, brings her diverse skill set to her role as an...
Learn more
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