Important legal notice
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Career structures - up to 30th April 2004

Table of contents

Four categories of official Top

Jobs in the institutions are classified in 4 categories, A - D, according to the nature and importance of the duties to which they relate. Each category is subdivided into up to eight grades, which in turn comprise as many as eight steps.

Categories Grades Steps
A 8 grades A 8 - A 1 up to 8
LA 6 grades LA 8 - LA 3 up to 8
B 5 grades B 5 - B 1 up to 8
C 5 grades C 5 - C 1 up to 8
D 4 grades D 4 - D 1 up to 8

Category A officials must have a university degree and relevant professional experience. They often take on a great deal of responsibility, such as in drafting legislation or negotiating with the Member States. Category A officials usually start in grade A 8 or A 7, at around 35 years of age on average (Commission). Across the institutions, they typically take 12.6 years to move from grade A 7 to the highest grade they can expect to achieve in their category, A 4. At the Commission this takes an average of 15.2 years, compared to just 11.1 years at the Council; however, the proportion of A officials at the Commission, around 35% (44% including translators), is much higher than at the Council, with 11.5% (37% including translators).

Language skills are crucial for translators and interpreters, which is why a separate category (LA) was set up for these officials. Category LA is equivalent to category A in terms of pay and career progression up to grade A 3/ LA 3.

In the EU institutions as a whole, category A makes up an average 25% of officials. Adding translators and interpreters (LA officials) brings up the share of university-educated staff to 48.6%.

Middle management consists of grade A 5, A 4 and A 3 officials. Officials can become heads of unit or advisors from grade A 5. Particularly high-profile units (for instance, Commission offices in the Member States and outside the EU) are headed by A 3 grade officials.

"Senior management" begins with grade A 2 officials working as either principal advisors or directors. Directors are responsible for around 100 officials on average and are given instructions by directors-general, who are employed at the highest grade, A 1. Directors-general act as an interface for different areas of Commission policy and are responsible for its proper, rapid and effective implementation. The directorates-general range in size from 300 to over 2 000 officials, who have to be motivated and encouraged to do a good job. In view of the heavy responsibilities borne by A 1 and A 2 officials, they are regarded as political officials and may be retired in the interests of the service, amongst other things. The Commission has a total of 201 A 2 posts and 58 A 1 posts, 22 more than the number of directorates-general. This discrepancy is explained by the fact that deputy directors-general are also appointed at grade A 1 (more on this subject).

Category B officials carry out executive duties. Applicants for these posts are required to have an advanced level of secondary education, but often also have a university degree. They also perform an important role in the Commission's internal administration, in budget and financial affairs, for instance, and in areas such as human resources, accounting and the library system. They account for around 20% of Commission officials and just under 15% of officials in the institutions as a whole.

C officials traditionally performed secretarial and clerical duties in the main. With the increasing computerisation of administration, which kicked off at an early stage at the Commission, the job profile has evolved more towards management of communications and languages and general assistance for A and B officials, although most C officials are still employed in more classic secretarial positions. Their share of overall employment in the institutions is fully 34% (over 50% at the Council and 43.4% at the Parliament).

In contrast D officials make up only around 5% of staff. They perform manual and service duties, for instance as messengers or drivers. Since the Commission has outsourced much manual work (such as courier services and restaurants) over the past 15 years, there has been no recruitment to category D for a number of years now. This category is to be phased out and similar work carried out by new contract agents.

Drawbacks of this system Top

There is no denying that the existing career system, as described above, is rather inflexible. The system was designed for working conditions that were widespread more than 30 years ago, when duties and functions for instance were rigidly prescribed. It is also difficult to move into a higher category. The greatest drawback of the current system, however, is that many officials reach the top grade they can expect to achieve in their category at roughly 50 years of age. The ensuing loss of motivation among its highly qualified staff can affect efficiency at the Commission. Therefore one of the key aims of the current reform of personnel policy is to offer incentives to highly committed staff throughout their working lives through a new career structure.

Mobility, career guidance and redeployment Top

Not least on account of the rapidly changing political priorities, the need for a high degree of mobility can no longer be ignored in the day-to-day running of the Commission.

Consequently, in the reform package the following changes have entered into force in the area of mobility:

In the case of senior management in the Commission mobility is already the norm. After five or, in exceptional cases, seven years at the most A 1 and A 2 officials must move to another post.


Redeployment is the process of reassignment of staff with their post within the Commission on the basis of Article 7.1. of the Staff Regulations, where given activities must be reduced.

Career guidance

SCOP (the Central Career Guidance Service) is a unit within DG ADMIN, which provides career guidance service for all members of staff of the Commission. It is also in charge of developing and managing the Job information System on Sysper and for the follow-up the implementation of the Guidelines on mobility and redeployment.

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