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Career Executive Assignments

CEAs are State employees in high-level managerial positions. CEAs develop and implement policy. They may serve in a department Director's cabinet or form a department's executive staff. CEAs serve at the top levels in a department (first or second levels for small departments, top three for medium-sized departments, top four for large departments).

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can compete for a CEA position?

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

How does a department choose a person for a CEA position?

The department can use the following appointment methods to fill a CEA position:

  • Competitive examination
  • Transfer of employee
  • Reinstatement of employee

When competitive examination is used to fill a CEA position, an examination that is specifically tailored to the CEA position to be filled, is developed. The department then advertises the CEA position in an examination bulletin.

The CEA examination can vary. The examination may be assembled or unassembled, written or oral, or in the form of a demonstration of a skill, or any combination of these. The examination may also include an assessment of the candidate's character, education, experience, knowledge, skills, and ability.

Successful candidates are assigned a score in ranks 1-6. Candidates in the top 3 ranks may be considered for hire.​

How much do CEAs get paid?

CalHR approves CEA positions at certain levels, with specific salary ranges that increase with the responsibilities of the position.

Please refer to the Civil Service Pay Scales - Section 8: Variable Compensation for current CEA salary information.

Newly appointed CEAs receive the minimum of the range or 5% over their most recent State salary. CEAs may receive a 5% annual increase at the hiring department's discretion, up to the maximum of the range.

Some exceptions and other rules apply. See CEA Salary Program (PML 2008-012)

See also: Exempt employee salaries

My CEA or Exempt appointment ended. What are my rights?

The State can end a CEA appointment by giving 20 days advance written notice.

Appeals and Right of Return


You can appeal to the SPB on certain grounds. For example, if the termination was based on age, sex, race, disability, religion, or political affiliation.

Right of return to a Civil Service position

If you held a permanent or probationary civil service position, you have mandatory return rights to that position, in the same department where you held it.

You may have the right to receive 90 days of "red circle salary rate" equal to your CEA salary minus 5%. The department where you reinstate pays this rate.

  • If you have ten years of service, at least one of which was as a CEA, and your CEA appointment was involuntarily terminated (but not due to unsatisfactory performance), your department must pay the red circle rate.
  • Otherwise, your department has the option of paying the red circle rate.

Benefits once a CEA or Exempt Appointment has ended

Your benefits depend on whether you return to a Civil Service position.

  • If you have the right to return to a Civil Service position, and you do so, most or all of your benefits will continue.
  • If you don't have the right to return to a Civil Service position, or you choose not to, some benefits may continue after you separate or retire.

CEA or exempt benefits on returning to a Civil Service position

​​Returning to a managerial or supervisory position

For exempt or CEA employees returning to a managerial or supervisory Civil Service position (one excluded from collective bargaining), your payroll deduction for each benefit will continue without interruption. You don't need to do anything.

Returning to a rank-and-file position

All of your benefits will continue except those listed below. Contact your personnel office to ensure you receive all your benefits.

If you return to a rank-and-file position, you will lose:

Group term life insurance coverage: You can keep basic and supplemental coverage for 12 months. The department that terminated you must pay premiums for basic coverage directly to Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Talk to their personnel office to ensure coverage continues. You will keep paying premiums for any supplemental coverage. After 12 months, you can convert to an individual policy, possibly at a higher rate.

Enhanced dental benefits: You're still eligible for basic plan coverage, and the payroll deduction will continue. We recommend you contact your dental carrier and get a copy of the plan brochure. Some services may cost more under the basic plan. For a quick review, see the comparison of employee costs for state-sponsored dental plans.

Long-term disability insurance coverage: You can extend your LTD coverage for up to 24 months. Send CalHR a written request within 31 days after your CEA or exempt appointment ends. After 24 months, you can convert to an individual policy, and continue for another 24 months. Contact the LTD coordinator within 31 days of the end of the first 24-month period. Rates may be higher for individual policies.

CEA or Exempt Benefits on Separating or Retiring from State Service

You can extend some benefits under the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Other benefits end when you separate or retire.

Some benefits differ depending on whether you separate or retire, as shown below. For other benefits, it doesn't matter.

Unless otherwise directed below, contact your personnel office if you have questions about how to continue various benefits.

CalPERS Retirement for CEA and Exempt Appointments

CEA and Exempt Appointment

Employees appointed to a position may elect CalPERS membership. CalPERS membership is obtained by filing an CalPERS Election Form.

Separation of Appointed Position

If an employee returns to a civil service position, CalPERS membership continues. An employee should ensure the employing agency provides notification to CalPERS.

If employee does not have right of return to civil service classification or elects to separate or retire, the following options are available.

Service retirement - If opting for service retirement you must retire within 120 days of separation to take advantage of sick leave conversion and health benefit coverage.

Leave retirement contributions in CalPERS account - You would receive a retirement benefit as soon as you meet the minimum retirement eligibility requirements.

Take a refund of retirement contributions - You can take a refund of retirement contributions, plus interest, provided you have not accepted employment covered under another publicly funded California Retirement system. CalPERS membership will be terminated.

Transfer CalPERS funds - Transfer CalPERS funds to a tax-qualified fund.

Other Retirement Benefits for CEA and Exempt Appointments

Dental benefits

  • Separating: You can extend your benefits for up to 18 months under COBRA. You pay the premium plus a 2% administrative fee. If you are an exempt employee with CalPERS service credit, you might be able to extend your coverage. See dental benefits for exempt employees who separate.
  • Retiring: You can continue your dental benefits at your own expense. You must retire within 120 days of separating. If you are enrolled in Delta Dental PPO plus Premier Enhanced you must change to another plan.

Employee Assistance Program

Your coverage ends. But, if you're using EAP services when you separate or retire, you can use the rest of your allotted sessions. Also, you can continue EAP coverage for six months if you're laid off.

FlexElect medical reimbursement account

You can continue to make contributions through the end of the plan year. Submit the Reimbursement Account Enrollment Authorization Form - STD 701R to CalHR to continue your contributions. Since you won't have taxable income, the contributions will no longer be pre-tax. If you don't continue contributing, you can only submit claims for expenses incurred before you separated or retired.

Group-term life insurance

  • Separating: You can convert the basic and supplemental coverage to an individual policy. Contact MetLife within 31 days of your separation by calling(800) 252-8524.
  • Retiring: You can continue the basic and supplemental coverage at your own expense. Contact MetLife 30 days before you retire by calling(800) 252-8524.

For more information, see the Group-Term Life Insurance page.

Health insurance

CalPERS administers health benefits. When you separate from State service, your health coverage will terminate.

You may be eligible to extend your health benefits for up to 18 months under COBRA.

Legal services

Your coverage ends. But, if you're receiving benefits when you separate or retire, services will continue on that legal matter.

Long-term disability insurance

  • Separating: You may be eligible to convert your LTD plan to an individual policy. Contactthe LTD coordinator within 31 days of your separation.
  • Retiring: Your coverage ends.

Vision services

You can extend your benefits for up to 18 months under COBRA. You pay the premium plus a 2% administration fee.

  Updated: 5/4/2022
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