What are some sets of words used to describe rank in different professions (music, engineering, science)?

I'm thinking about words similar to novice, amateur, and professional. In the European guild system there were apprentices, journeymen, and master craftsmen.


6 Answers 6


In our company we use the following:

  • novice/beginner: has had some exposure but needs help.

  • intermediate: has practised enough to be autonomous.

  • senior: can lead in the subject matter. Controls, reviews and approves deliverables.

  • expert: consulted and used as a reference in the subject matter at the delivery unit or company level. Can take part in standardisation bodies.

Assignation of these levels are peer-reviewed on a yearly basis.


If you're looking for something generic you might consider the Dreyfus Model of Skill Acquisition:
- novice
- advanced beginner
- competent
- proficient
- expert


Programmers: Entry-level, Junior, Mid, Senior, Lead*, Architect*, Project Manager*, Program Manager*

*high level titles vary by industry. In some industries, these are equivalent or even the same job. These typically take on increasing managerial responsibility, and move further away from day-to-day production of code.

  • Project manager and program manager are often interchangable (though program manager should be considered having the more responsibility. And there are many other paths to reach those two other than manager (i.e. that are not technical paths).
    – Mitch
    Apr 8, 2011 at 13:49
  • In addition, Project and Program Manager are not necessarily the natural progression for all programmers.
    – Dancrumb
    Jun 21, 2011 at 15:34
  • The fact is that, in most companies, there are no programmer ranks above lead programmer. A programmer might become an architect, or a manager, but in doing so they case to be a programmer. This is a widely noted problem in our industry! Jun 21, 2011 at 22:32
  • @TomAnderson - Thank you for noting this! The wide interpretation of titles at all levels has always annoyed me. My experience is also that a title anywhere in the technology industry has very little to do with one's level of proficiency. I don't think there's a good solution, outside of good, old-fashioned interviews. Jun 22, 2011 at 19:17

I used to be a Buddhist Monk, and our "ranks" were:

  1. Anagarika (Similar to postulant, but lit "Homeless One")
  2. Samanera (Novice)
  3. Navaka Bhikkhu (New monk)
  4. Majjhima Bhikkhu (Middle monk)
  5. Thera (Elder)
  6. Maha Thera (Great Elder)

Medicine (US): (does not try to include nurses, physician's assistants, etc)

  • med school student - going to school to get an MD
  • intern - has an MD, not yet participating in a residency program, does a lot of grunt work. can use title 'Dr.' because of the degree, but not actually 'a doctor' yet
  • research fellow - has an MD, is doing some clinical work (dealing with patients) but mostly research, but is not yet on a path to get specialty training for a board exam
  • resident - getting specialty training. does all the real work. does not sleep. at the beginning, knows nothing, at the end knows more than staff (but not junior staff)
  • fellow (clinical fellow) - out of residency program but not yet passed board examinations (not the illogic of how the term 'fellow' is used)
  • junior staff - passed board examinations for specialty is a doctor now (that is, can practice medicine independently)
  • staff - golf Wednesdays

Academia (US):

  • Graduate student - studying for a PhD
  • Post-doc - (post-doctoral fellow), has a PhD, funded by research money
  • Adjunct Professor - has PhD, just teaches (at a research university), not tenure track
  • Assistant Professor - first step of tenure track, not tenured yet
  • Associate professor - granted tenure
  • Full professor - internationally recognized
  • Department chair
  • Dean (of a college)
  • Provost
  • President
  • Associate Provost?
    – Moshe
    Dec 1, 2011 at 3:21

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