IAS Hierarchy: Designations & Posts

27 Jan 2023  Read 96631 Views

UPSC or IAS exam, just reading this down can freak us out as it is considered the toughest exam in India due to its huge syllabus & low pass percentage. The Union Public Service Commission of India is our country’s chief recruiting agency vested with the responsibility of conducting end-to-end recruitment & selection activities for several services under it. Amongst these, the prime ones are the All India services that constitute three arms: the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) & Indian Foreign Service (IFS). The Civil Servants or the recruits from all these services serve the Indian government and the respective states where they are placed. Each of them holds a strategic position in the Centre-State govt. and PSUs.

Each & every arm has its own ranking system and pay scales. Not to forget, the salaries of all these civil servants (IAS, IPS, IFS) are determined by the 7th Pay Commission of India (for central government employees). This article discusses the rank or hierarchy of IAS officers along with their recruitment process. So, let’s get started.

What is the Indian Administrative Service or IAS?

Amongst the arms of All India Services, IAS is the only administrative arm, which is usually the most desirable one of all, as when we recall UPSC, we regard it as the IAS exam and not IPS or IFS. However, each of these is equally tough, and the most respected jobs in India.

  • Once an IAS cracks the exam & accepts the service, the IAS officer joins for a probationary period as a Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM). 

  • Later, after the probation period is over, the officer is assigned an executive or administrative role in a district as a District Magistrate (DM), also known as the Collector. 

  • As a District Magistrate (DM), he is responsible for law & order and heads the police and prosecuting agency, whereas as a Collector, he is the chief Officer of the revenue administration and is responsible for the collection of land revenue, the Collector is even the highest revenue judicial authority in the district.

  • The term for such an administrative role can last for several years, after which the IAS officer may be promoted to a Divisional Commissioner & put in charge of the entire state administrative division.

  • Civil servants are the permanent Indian bureaucracy that is an inseparable part of the executive branch of the Indian Government, thereby ensuring the continuity to the administration. 

IAS Recruitment process

Presently, there are three modes of recruitment to IAS:

  1. Through the Civil Services Examination conducted by UPSC every year

UPSC exam is conducted in three phases; a preliminary examination comprising of two objective-type papers (General Studies Paper I & General Studies Paper II, also referred to as Civil Service Aptitude Test or CSAT). A mains examination constituting 9 papers of conventional (essay) type, in which two papers are qualifying, and only marks of seven are counted, followed by a personality test that is an interview.

  1. Through the promotion of State Civil Service officers to IAS

A state civil service officer can be promoted to IAS as per Regulations 5(4), 5(5), {5(3AA) and 5(4) for IFS} of Promotion Regulations wherein the selection for promotion to the All India Services is on the basis of merit.  

  1. Through the selection of non - State Civil Service officers

As per the sections of IAS (Appointment by Selection) Regulations 1997, a Non-State Civil Service Officer is eligible to be considered for selection to the IAS, provided he/she- (a) is of outstanding merit and ability

(b) holds a Gazetted post in a substantive capacity

(c) has completed not less than 8 years of continuous service under the State Government on the 1st of January in which his/her case is being considered in any post which has been declared equivalent to the post of Deputy Collector in the State Civil Service

(d) has not attained the age of 54 years on the 1st day of the January of the year for which the Select List is to be prepared. 

Designations of IAS Officers

IAS officers’ designations when on assignment in the field are as follows:

  • Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO)

  • Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM)

  • Joint Collector/ Chief Development Officer (CDO)

  • District Magistrate (DM)/District Collector/Deputy Commissioner

  • Divisional Commissioner

  • Member Board of Revenue

An IAS Officer, except for the Cabinet Secretary grade, holds multiple posts for every other grade. Refer to this table to know the designations and promotions in detail. 

Grade Position held under the State or Central Government


Junior Time Scale

(1st year, Probationary)


Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM) in a sub-division of a district/Section Officer in state secretariat (Entry) /Assistant Director to Government of India. (First post held after cracking the exam)

Senior Time Scale

(4th year)


Additional District Magistrate (ADM) /Additional Collector/Additional Deputy Commissioner of a District or Under Secretary in the State Government.


Junior Administrative Grade

(6th year)


District Magistrate (DM) /Collector/Deputy Commissioner of a District or Additional Secretary in the State government or Joint Director/Deputy Secretary to the GoI.


Selection Grade

(10th year)


District Magistrate (DM) /Collector/Deputy Commissioner of a District or Special Secretary in the State government or Director in the Government of India.


Super Time Scale

(17th year)


DM promoted to Divisional Commissioner in a division or Secretary in the State government or Joint Secretary to GoI.


Above Super Time Scale

(24th year)


Principal Secretary in the State Government or Additional Secretary to the Government of India.


Apex Scale

(31st year)


Chief Secretary of States or Secretary to Government of India.


Cabinet Secretary Grade

(35th year, single post)

Cabinet Secretary of India.


Let’s bifurcate this table into District, state and central roles for the post of IAS officers at each rank for better understanding.

  Rank of IAS Officers  

Pay Level






Sub-divisional Magistrate


Assistant Secretary

Rs. 56,100


Additional District Magistrate

Deputy Secretary


Rs. 67,700


District Magistrate

Joint Secretary

Deputy Secretary

Rs. 78,800


District Magistrate

Special Secretary cum Director




Divisional Commissioner

Secretary cum Commissioner

Joint Secretary



Divisional Commissioner

Principal Secretary

Additional Secretary



No equivalent rank

Additional Chief Secretary

No equivalent rank



No equivalent rank

Chief Secretary




No equivalent rank

No equivalent rank

Cabinet Secretary of India


*In both these tables, the positions or position name for state and central secretariat might differ due to local administrative reasons. So, we recommend you to consider it synonymously.


An IAS Officer plays a significant role in policy formulations of the states and central governments, and broadly speaking, he/ she is responsible for multiple roles like maintenance of law and order by functioning as an Executive Magistrate, collection of revenue & its administration like revenue courts and general administration in the area under them. The major reason for having a permanent lobby of bureaucrats is that they act as an intermediate between the public and government through good execution and deliverance skills.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 275 Post(s)

She is a Legal Content Manager at Finology Legal! With a Masters in Intellectual Property Rights (IPR), a BBA.LL.B from ITM University, and patent analyst training from IIPTA, she truly specializes in her field. Her passion for IPR and Criminal laws is evident from her advanced certification in Forensic Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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