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Inside HR

Career pathing and development

As stated in the career development policy, a great place to work is a vibrant learning and scholarly community where employees are connected to the university's mission, vision, core values and strategic priorities. It is a place of opportunity, a place to do meaningful work and where success is supported and careers thrive. By capturing the individual and collective potential of each employee, the quality of service provided to faculty, staff, students and patients is enhanced. Essential to this goal is an institutional commitment to substantive career planning and development throughout the university, including the managerial support necessary for employees to be successful. An effective career development program will allow VCU to attract and keep the best employees.

Employees will have the opportunity to grow professionally through a number of career opportunities that are job specific and/or career related to enhance their skills and grow within their current position and at the university. This growth and movement is an example of "career pathing." Career paths are visible and flexible career plans that provide opportunities for employees to advance through their careers by moving horizontally through stages of emerging, proficient, accomplished and expert, as well as advancing up through the job title series as they gain competencies and experience. Different career paths are designed for individual contributors with deep subject matter expertise distinct from those who aspire to a management or leadership role.  

Managers can support and reward employees as they progress through their career path. This is accomplished through career development planning as part of the annual performance review process. Employees work with their managers to create an annual career development plan that addresses personal and career development needs related to the employee’s current position or to prepare the employee for future career interests and aspirations. The plan identifies specific development opportunities to help the employee obtain knowledge, skills, and abilities in the coming year. At the conclusion of the year, during the annual performance review process, the employee and manager discuss progress made against the prior year plan and develop a new career development plan for the year ahead.  

Moving across and up the market range

There are two ways employees may advance their salary relative to career development: (1) across their current market range and (2) up to a new market range. There are four stages in the career planning process to move across the market range:

  • Emerging: Applies basic knowledge, skills and abilities (KSA’s) to perform the necessary responsibilities while developing new specialized KSA’s; may need guided supervision; has no or limited experience and tasks can be learned on the job; limited decision making required
  • Proficient: Applies KSAs to a variety of tasks and projects; performs focused assignments that require prior experience; may need minimal guidance in addressing situations that are not routine
  • Accomplished: Performs broad and/or focused assignments requiring significant experience or specialist training in particular area; works under minimal supervision; applies KSAs to enhancing strategies and procedures; recognized by peers as a resource; problem solving requires analysis of unique issues/problems without precedent or structure
  • Expert: Applies KSAs to multiple components; leading knowledge and skill across or in leading multiple projects/orgs; demonstrates knowledge of trends in field; serves as leader and/or expert in role; provides coaching to others; applies KSAs to creating, developing, implementing, and enhancing strategies and procedures; has strategic focus

The second way for employees to advance through their career path is to move up the job series to the next level in their position. Built within the new job family structure, most job titles have three levels:

  • Level 1: Individuals in Level 1 typically possess basic knowledge, skills and performance ability and typically perform less complex tasks while learning relevant concepts and best practices on-the-job. 

  • Level 2: Individuals in Level 2 typically possess expanded ability to effectively manage more complex tasks, as well as expanded knowledge within the applicable functional area. Individuals in Level 2 demonstrate a developed understanding and appropriate application of fundamental concepts relative to the job content. 

  •  Level 3: Individuals in Level 3 typically possess extensive related experience and rely heavily on experience and sound judgment to complete tasks. Level 3 employees may lead projects of critical importance and typically possess a broad and comprehensive degree of working knowledge in the field. May also be a recognized expert in the field relative to the job content.

For example, a job series might be Accountant 1, 2, and 3; Senior Accountant 1, 2, and 3. Each job title in the series will have a unique market range. Employees are eligible for salary increases as they achieve milestones in their career path, both across the stages in their job series (emerging, proficient, etc.) and up to the next job title in the series (1, 2, 3).  


Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU Human Resources
Lindsey House | 600 West Franklin Street | Box 842511
Richmond, VA 23284-2511
Phone: (804) 828-0177

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