Seniority Level in the Corporate Workplace and How It Works
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Companies use seniority levels or professional levels, to differentiate their team members through experience and ability. Seniority levels can help you understand your title and determine which role to aspire towards. If you're a professional at a company with a professional-level system, learning more about how they work can be beneficial. In this article, we explain what professional levels are, detail how companies determine seniority, explore different types of professional levels, describe how seniority can affect team members and provide examples of a seniority system.
What is seniority level?
Seniority level in the workplace refers to the authority and responsibility a certain role holds. In some companies, seniority relies on the amount of time a team member has worked with the organisation, while in others it can include many factors. Some of these factors include education, previous experience, performance, knowledge and skill. How a company designs their seniority systems depends on how it wants to determine who the leaders are and how they interact with other team members.
Businesses use professional levels to create teams and assign them leaders and projects. Usually, as you increase in seniority, you gain more responsibilities and potentially higher pay. For example, a salesperson who earns a promotion to be a sales team leader may earn a bonus and additional responsibilities. Instead of only managing their own sales quota, they may also manage their team members and ensure they're motivated to improve their sales numbers and meet their team quota, too.
How companies determine seniority
Depending on where you work, the organisation can use varying aspects to determine seniority among team members. There are some methods for seniority that work better than others and may allow the most skilled and knowledgeable professionals to become leaders. For example, a seniority system based on the relationship to executives may not produce the best leaders, while one focused on performance and knowledge may encourage better authority figures. These are some components companies may consider when determining seniority:
In many companies, a primary factor that determines your seniority is how long you've worked with the organisation. As you spend more time with a business and learn more about its operations and workplace culture, you may become a better candidate for leadership positions. Many organisations consider how long you've worked with a company with other factors when choosing who to give seniority to.
Another factor a business may consider when determining seniority is education. An employer may require that you pursue education requirements before being eligible for roles with higher levels of seniority. For example, you may be more likely to receive a leadership role if you have a master's degree or doctorate.
A company may also consider the experience you have from previous positions when determining your seniority. It's not common for team members to move from a job with more seniority at one company to a role with less seniority at another. For example, if you have experience as a marketing manager, the company you work with may offer you a similar position, rather than junior positions, such as a marketing specialist or assistant.
Performance is another factor companies may consider when offering promotions and determining seniority. How you perform in your role can indicate your ability to hold roles with higher seniority. For example, if you perform well as an advertiser, you may receive a promotion to advertising manager.
Types of professional levels
Depending on the company, the structure of the seniority system can differ. These are some general professional levels you may see in varying companies:
The first level of many seniority systems contains roles in which candidates often need little to no experience or education compared to other roles, but that can depend on the industry. For example, an entry-level engineer often has far more education than an entry-level retail team member. Examples of entry-level jobs include:
junior marketing associate
human resources intern
As a team member gains experience in their field, they become qualified for mid-level positions. Mid-level seniority involves having a managerial position over entry-level team members while also reporting to someone with more seniority. More advanced mid-level team members are sometimes mid-senior team members, and that shows their seniority over other middle management positions. Some job titles for mid-level seniority are:
The senior level of many seniority systems often has jobs that require the most experience and education. Those at the senior level make decisions that have a significant influence on an organisation. Once you earn a position at the executive level, there are rarely positions above you in the seniority system. Depending on the company, they may refer to their senior-level team members as executives. Here are some examples:
chief financial officer
head of advertising
What does seniority mean for team members?
Besides influencing a company's organisational structure, your seniority can have a direct impact on your experience in the workplace. Being aware of your own seniority in the context of a company can help you plan your career path. Some of the primary factors that seniority impacts team members are:
As you increase in seniority, you often increase your salary or earnings. For example, in a sample seniority system, an accounting assistant is often at the entry level, while a director of finance is often at the senior level. The average base salary for an accounting assistant is $17,435 per month, while the average base salary for a director of finance is $56,598 per month.
When companies undergo restructuring or have to lay off team members because of financial restrictions, seniority can be an important factor that management uses to determine who keeps their job. Some businesses have a first-in-first-out policy where the most recently hired team members are the first ones to be let go in the event of layoffs. As you gain seniority at a company, demonstrating your loyalty can be beneficial to your job security.
Many companies have policies where team members get increased benefits after a certain period, encouraging their long-term loyalty. For example, new team members may only get access to their paid time off after a probationary period of 90 days. After that, the team member gets two weeks of paid time off each year until they have worked at the company for three years. Then, they may receive three weeks of paid time off each year. At ten years, the team member's yearly time off may increase to one month each year based on their seniority.
Higher seniority at a company can mean that you get early access to different opportunities at your company. You may get to choose which project you want to manage or which account you want to work with. The more aptitude you show over time, the more trust you build with your employer and the more flexibility you can ask for when it comes to your daily duties and job focus.
Example seniority system
One career path with a clear seniority hierarchy is software development. The technical nature of this field requires specific skills that generally come with hands-on experience and long-term investment in computer science. The career path for developers clearly illustrates how you can develop seniority in your career. Here's an example that presents the duties and expectations associated with developers at each seniority level:
Junior developers are developers who are just starting out in their careers and may not have hands-on experience in web or software development. They're still learning how to code and may need direct instruction or guidance from their team. Junior developers follow instructions, identify issues and ask for help when they face an issue above their experience level.
Mid-level developers have the skills and experience to work independently and have experience managing projects. They have sound knowledge of best practices and have done enough coding to analyse data and recognise the best solution quickly. A mid-level developer doesn't often manage complex tasks that require in-depth programming knowledge.
Senior developers make strategic decisions about the processes teams use to design software. They also provide expert-level solutions to challenging issues. They can make significant changes to a programme's architecture and teach other developers how to be more efficient and consistent. Senior developers have strong communication skills, document their updates and explain the reasoning for how they execute different software functions.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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