What does a Subject Matter Expert do? Roles & Responsibilities

what does a subject matter expert do
February 2, 2021
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Nobody is perfect, but you can surely be an expert on a subject if you want to! A Subject Matter Expert or an SME is the perfect way to do so! You must have come across notices like “Subject Matter Experts wanted” or “Hiring for Subject Matter Experts” and wondered “What is a Subject Matter Expert” or “What does a Subject Matter Expert do?”

Well, we’re here to answer those questions, tell you the pros of becoming an SME and also give you ten tips on what does a subject matter expert do?

What is a Subject Matter Expert?

A Subject Matter Expert or an SME is somebody who has special skills, deep knowledge, and expertise over a particular subject. They are an authority over their chosen subject. They are employed on a freelance, contractual, or full-time basis to answer questions pertaining to their subject which are posted by students.

What does a Subject Matter Expert do?

The main job of an SME is to ensure that the content or information pertaining to her/his field of expertise is accurate. They provide their specific knowledge to a project. They can work as freelance experts and answer student queries in their subjects.

Example: Organizations like Chegg India hire freelance Subject Matter Experts who sign up on the website, answer questions related to a specific subject posted by students all around the world, and get paid per question answered! The average salary for a Subject Matter Expert is between 30,000-80,000 per month and the top performers also earn upwards of 80k in a month.

Ten ways to become a good Subject Matter Expert

Build a solid foundation for your chosen subject

The first step to what does a Subject Matter Expert do is developing sound knowledge on your chosen subject. i.e. become an “expert” at it. After all, Subject Matter Experts are considered to be authorities on their subject, and there is a huge responsibility on their shoulders! If the foundation of the SME is weak, it might have far-reaching repercussions on the organization they work for as they have to pass a quality assessment before being hired at organizations like Chegg as freelance experts. Moreover, since most of the work of Subject Matter Experts is knowledge-centric, they need to be proficient and well-versed in their subject to excel in the profession. Knowledge can be developed and enhanced by a thorough reading of relevant textbooks and having a good grasp of the core concepts of the subject through practice.

Have good research skills

What does a subject matter expert do exactly? As you might face questions or problems that require you to dig deeper into your subject to find an optimal solution. This will need you to have good research and analytical skills so that you can find out what is needed, use your expertise to optimize it, and then present a well-rounded solution to the question asked. Having dedicated research skills is an important characteristic for a good Subject Matter Expert because the job-description isn’t bound to a particular “syllabus” or framework but is based on questions students can ask. Thus having the ability to dig out what is needed is a coveted skill!

Be expressive and articulate

As a Subject Matter Expert, you will often be required to present your ideas in an articulate manner to answer a certain question. If you are a teacher or a freelance expert, you might have to explain concepts to students- either online or in a written form. Either way, your ability to be expressive and articulate your ideas clearly will help you actualize your potential as an SME. Knowledge of your subject won’t take you very far if you are not able to express it accurately and attractively whenever needed to answer a query effectively. Thus, to be a successful SME, you should hone your articulating skills and learn to be expressive, so that no question remains unanswered or half-answered in your student’s mind!


What does a Subject Matter Expert do will be much clear with more and more practice? Do remember that there will be multiple times when you are faced with a question that you might not have an immediate solution to. This means that you will have to put in some research and brush up on some of your concepts and find a solution to the question. Patience is a crucial skill for completing this task successfully. It is very easy to get frustrated if an instant solution does not strike your mind, but breaking the question down to a basic level and illustrating the solution clearly is where the skill lies. You must remember that you have been hired because you are indeed an authority in that subject. If you are a patient person, you can be a great Subject Matter Expert. If not, it’s never too late to learn!

Be inquisitive and observant

A huge part of developing mastery on a subject is observing and understanding the nitty-gritty of it, as well as a lot of things around it. Everything is interlinked, and while you hone your skills on a particular subject that you are passionate about and skilled at, you should also be observant of things going on around you, whether it is the latest scientific invention or the newest technique to solve a real analysis problem. Being inquisitive, asking questions, and searching for answers will help you enhance your knowledge and become better at what you do- answering questions and solving textbooks! Thus, to have a great understanding of what does a subject matter expert do, try to be as inquisitive and observant as you can!

Be creative, innovative, and have an open mind

In your job as a Subject Matter Expert you need to understand what does subject matter expert do exactly. You will be expected to come up with your own ideas and solutions to a question a lot of times. To be able to think of bright ideas and develop solutions, you must immerse yourself in your subject so that you can easily think of innovative ways to solve a problem. However, within the innovation and creativity, make sure you stick to the answering guidelines as organizations like Chegg that hire Subject Matter Experts are particular about their outlined quality parameters being adhered to. Being open-minded and flexible will help you contribute in the best way you can and utilize your knowledge and expertise to the fullest, to help those looking for solutions!

Understand your role in the organization

Understanding your job description and analyzing what is expected of you is crucial to estimate how you can do your best and help the organization. When you enter an organization, whether as a freelancer, make sure you are clear about what you are expected to do and what are the services you can offer. For example, in Chegg, as a Subject Matter Expert, you are expected to answer questions posted by students on the Q&A board while maintaining a high level of academic integrity. After you know this, you dig into your subject knowledge as a Subject Matter Expert and work on how best to use it, in your tenure in the organization. If you are unclear about how you can help and what is needed of you, your efforts and hard work will also be half-hearted or misplaced- For example, if you are not aware of the answering guidelines to be followed! So to be efficient and excellent as an SME, ensure that you know clearly, what your role in the organization is.

Be disciplined and have time-management skills

subject matter experts

Discipline and time-management skills are not only important to do a good job as a Subject Matter Expert, but to do a good job at living in general! Drawing clear goals, timelines for tasks, and giving yourself deadlines ( For example- I will answer 5 questions today) are brilliant and effective ways to ensure that you lead a disciplined life, exceed your expectations at work and also have a work-life balance. Not having good time management skills can make you overwhelmed or frustrated with work, and reduce your productivity. The job of a Subject Matter Expert is a demanding one, but one can excel in it with grace if only, one manages their time well! Just a couple of point more on what does a subject matter expert do.

Be open to feedback and constructive criticism

Being a freelance Subject Matter Expert is a lucrative job, but like every other profession, it comes with its fair share of professional criticism and feedback. Although, as a freelance expert your chances of receiving feedback are low, it is possible for a certain method of solving to be questioned or further doubts to be asked. Learn to take it the right way and improve upon your flaws. Working as an SME and understanding what does a subject matter expert do is challenging, but taking feedback and criticism positively will not only ensure that you grow as a person and a professional. It will push you to your limits and shape you for the better after all and isn’t that a great thing?

Constantly learn and update your knowledge

Although you have been hired as an expert at what you do and to help others pursuing a particular subject, remember that the process of learning is eternal. You might have extensive knowledge as an SME in your field, but you must always update yourself with the latest happenings, keep reading more books pertaining to your subject, and increasing your knowledge in general. If you are to be a true master of your subject, never stop the learning process and you will truly excel in your chosen profession as a Subject Matter Expert. Moreover, since you are passionate about your subject, the thrill of learning, and knowing more about it should never stop!

Final Thoughts

Subject Matter Experts or SMEs are in high demand in the current market scenario and Chegg is hiring pan India. It is a well-paying, rewarding, and satisfying profession- something that has flexible work hours and can be done on a part-time basis as well. It enables you to earn while you learn and also gives you exposure to working in an MNC culture. So, if you are a committed learner and are dedicated to helping people answer their questions and doubts answered with your knowledge, signing up as a Chegg Subject Matter Expert is an excellent choice!

We hope we made clarity on the roles and responsibilities of SME and what does a subject matter expert do ?

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