Career Executive Assignment (CEA) (7500) - CalHR

 Career Executive Assignment (CEA)

There is no classification specification for CEA, class code 7500, as the CEA category is set apart in civil service. The CEA program was established in 1964 to recognize the unique selection, status and pay considerations appropriate to high level, policy-influencing civil service positions in the various state departments. The concept of the CEA category is outlined in Government Code section 18547:
"Career executive assignment" means an appointment to a high administrative and policy influencing position within the state civil service in which the incumbent's primary responsibility is the managing of a major function or the rendering of management advice to top-level administrative authority. Such a position can be established only in the top managerial levels of state service and is typified by broad responsibility for policy implementation and extensive participation in policy evolvement. Assignment by appointment to such a position does not confer any rights or status in the position other than provided in Article 9 (commencing with Section 19889) of Chapter 2.5 of Part 2.6.

Policy-Making Responsibility

CEAs are to be limited to only the highest, most critical positions that have continuous, direct interface with department directors and constitute the executive management team. CEAs must have a decisive role in their department's policy-making, and should have regular involvement in department-wide policy and program management. The influence of the position should be comparable to other CEA positions within the department or other similar departments. Significant policy creation and program management responsibility are a mandatory aspect of CEA positions. CEA positions must possess the authority to directly influence policies or manage programs pertaining to the departmental mission. CEAs must serve as the chief policy-maker within their respective program area.

  • "Policies” are principles, rules, and guidelines formulated or adopted by an organization to reach its long-term goals. Policies and procedures are designed to influence and determine all major decisions and actions, and all activities take place within the boundaries set by them.
  • “Procedures” are the specific methods employed to express policies in action in day-to-day operations of the organization. Together, policies and procedures ensure that a point of view held by the governing body of an organization is translated into steps that result in an outcome compatible with that view.

New policy can come from various sources, including new state and federal legislation, regulations, and other higher level policies such as Executive Orders. A CEA may continually revise or implement existing policy if the position is required to ensure that the program/organization stays in compliance with frequently changing higher level policies, court orders, or laws and rules. Departments need to keep in mind that there is a distinction in responsibility between:

  • Positions having authority for making high-level policy decisions that have broad impact beyond the program area, versus
  • Positions that merely develop operational procedures or standards to implement policy that was developed at a higher level.

While the first may support a CEA allocation, the second alone probably would not. Developing operational procedures is not defined as high-level policy-making. The depth and breadth of the role of the individual in the development of policy is a critical consideration in determining whether a position meets the statutory requirements for a CEA.

A CEA position may not be approved if CalHR determines the proposed position overall has:

  • Narrow, limited authority for decision-making;
  • An indirect or merely supporting role in achieving the department's mission;
  • Significant overlap with other existing CEAs or Exempts;
  • No examples of objectives that can actually be altered by policy;
  • A limited extent of impact;
  • No sensitivity or long-term controversy;
  • Low consequence of error;
  • Limited, internal, contacts only; or
  • No direct contact with department director.

Minimum Qualifications

CEA examinations are open to all applicants who possess the knowledge and abilities, and any other requirements as described in the examination bulletin. Eligibility to take a CEA examination does not require current permanent status in civil service.

Knowledge and Ability Requirements

Applicants must possess the ability to perform high administrative and policy-influencing functions effectively. Such overall ability is demonstrated by the following more specific knowledge and ability requirements:


(a) Knowledge of the organization and functions of California State Government including the organization and practices of the Legislature and the Executive Branch; principles, practices, and trends of public administration, organization, and management; techniques of organizing and motivating groups; program development and evaluation; methods of administrative problem solving; principles and practices of policy formulation and development; personnel management techniques; the department's or agency's equal employment opportunity objectives; and a manager's role in the equal employment opportunity program.


(b) Ability to plan, organize, and direct the work of multidisciplinary professional and administrative staff; analyze administrative policies, organization, procedures, and practices; integrate the activities of a diverse program to attain common goals; gain the confidence and support of top level administrators and advise them on a wide range of administrative matters; develop cooperative working relationships with representatives of all levels of government, the public, and the Legislative and Executive Branches; analyze complex problems and recommend effective courses of action; prepare and review reports; and effectively contribute to the department's or agency's equal employment opportunity objectives.


These knowledge and abilities are expected to be obtained from the following kinds of experience (experience may have been paid or volunteer; in State service, other government settings, or in a private organization): 

CEA Level A

Supervisory/ administrative experience in a line or staff activity, including the execution and/or evaluation of program policies.

CEA Level B

Broad administrative or program manager experience with substantial participation in the formulation, operation, and/or evaluation of program policies.

CEA Level C

Extensive managerial and program administrative experience which has included substantial responsibility for a combination of management functions such as program planning; policy formulation; organization coordination and control; and fiscal and personnel management.


Where high technical professional qualifications are of primary importance in performing the duties of a given CEA position, then the above required experience may have been in a staff capacity exercising professional skills to influence and contribute to program, policy, and methods of providing those professional services. Primary examples are medical doctors and attorneys.

Description of Desirable Qualifications (if any):

When examining for a CEA position, desirable qualifications should be developed and listed on the bulletin. The purpose of the desirable qualifications is to provide the department with a means of evaluating competitors, as well as providing competitors with a means of determining their own relative competitiveness. The desirable qualifications also serve as a guide for competitors to provide appropriate information on their applications and statements of qualifications.

CEA Levels Criteria

The initial pay level of a CEA is determined by CalHR*, but is typically based on the size of the department, the CEA organizational level, and the functional role of the CEA relating to the proposed CEA allocation.


*Departments with signed CEA Delegation Agreements have authority to set CEA levels and salaries within their CalHR–determined salary cap. 

Size of the Department (# of PYs)

Level A

Level B

Level C

Small (Up to 800)

2nd or 3rd Org Level



2nd Org Level


1st Org Level


Medium (801 - 8,000)

3rd or 4th Org Level



2nd or 3rd Org Level


1st Org Level


Large (8,001 - 17,000

4th Org Level



3rd Org Level


2nd Org Level


Mega (17,001 +)

5th Org Level



4th Org Level


3rd Org Level


Definition of Role Abbreviations 

AAS = Assistant Agency Secretary:

Responsible for a single or multiple program crossing departmental lines.

DIR = Director/Executive Director:

By definition or constitutional authority, the Director is the Chief Executive Officer of a department. This is the highest organizational level with responsibility for all aspects of an organization or in a mega department over significant arms of the organization.

CDD = Chief Deputy Director:

Reporting to the Director, the position is at the first organizational level and like the Director is also at the highest organizational level. Positions are responsible for the administrative functions of a department and serves as the Director in his/her absence.

DDR = Deputy/Division Director:

Typically responsible for one or more programmatic divisions. Positions are typically at the second organizational level. Most departments consider these positions to be at a high organizational level.

ASSIST = Assistant Deputy Director/Assistant Division Chief/Assistant Branch Chief:

Performs as an assistant to the Deputy Director, Division Chief or Branch Chief of a large program with subordinate managers. The primary function of the position is to assist with policy-making decisions, as well as, serve in the absence of the Director or Chief and/or to assist with ensuring proper oversight and administration of the program. Positions are considered mid-organizational level and are typically at the 3rd organizational level.

DBC = Division/Branch Chief:

Responsibility consists of all aspects of a specific program. Positions are considered mid-organizational level and are typically at the 2nd, 3rd, or 4th organizational level. The size of the department, number of divisions in the department, and staff size are all factors considered in determining the appropriate level for this position.

PMR = Program Manager:

Usually responsible for a specific program area within a division or branch. Has full management and supervisory responsibility. Administers the program through one or more subordinate supervisors. Allocations are considered to be at the lowest organizational level and typically are at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th organizational level depending on department size.

PRJ = Project Manager:

Positions assigned responsibility over a multi-million dollar project which strongly influences the development of policy pertaining to the mission of the department. Positions may be considered at the lowest or mid-organizational level and typically are at the 3rd organizational level but may be at the 2rd level for extremely large, complex and/or sensitive projects. Positions serve as the head of the project with responsibility for the overall completion of the project. The project must have a direct impact on accomplishing the mission of the department, health, safety, welfare, and/or other vital interests of the public and/or other primary customers. The project has strong media and legislative interest and is of such complexity that few persons in state service possess the capacity to accomplish the project successfully. The failure of the project could result in loss of life, loss of millions of dollars, negative media coverage, loss of faith by the public, litigation or civil or criminal investigations.

SPEC = High Level Staff Specialist:

A high level staff specialist with program responsibility impacting the entire department which reports to the Directorate. Positions should only be established at Level A. Use of the SPEC at a higher level requires CalHR approval, unless the department has a CEA Delegation Agreement.

SA = Special Advisor:

Positions are responsible for rendering broad management advice that significantly impacts a wide spectrum of departmental policies. Consider the extent to which the concentration of policy responsibility may weaken the policy-influencing role of line positions in the same program or department. Positions typically serve as special advisers to Boards or Commissions. Positions should only be established at Level A. Use of the SA at a higher level requires CalHR approval, unless the department has a CEA Delegation Agreement. 

Updated 11/9/2015