Staff Position Description


The purpose of the Penn State Staff Position Description is to document the responsibilities of a position. It focuses on a specific position, providing details regarding the primary job duties, requirements, position scope, and supervisory and fiscal responsibilities (if applicable).

The information provided in the Position Description correlates to a staff job profile and level, therefore, it is important that it accurately represents the way the position is currently/should be functioning.


Getting Started

All sections of the position description must be completed. Incomplete or missing information may lead to an inaccurate reflection of the nature of the position and in the case of a classification review request, may delay the process.

There are three main sections of the Position Description. Click on the headings below to learn more about each section (printing this page will allow you to view this page in its entirety):

1. Position Summary

In 2-4 sentences, provide a high level overview of the primary purpose of the position. Keep in mind you’ll be able to elaborate in more detail about the duties, scope, responsibilities later in the Position Description. 

Examples of well-written position summaries:

  • “The purpose of this position is to serve as an admission counselor for Penn State World Campus. This includes interacting with prospective students via email, phone, webinars, and face-to-face, planning and coordinating recruitment events and communication campaigns, and coordinating the World Campus Alumni Ambassador Program.”
  • “This position is responsible for the leadership, strategic direction, project management, and operations for the recently established Online Professional Education unit within Penn State Outreach and Online Education (Outreach). In addition to these strategic and operational roles, a significant portion of this resource must be devoted to developing and fostering high level relationships with University leaders within Outreach, the administration, and Colleges, including: Deans, Assoc. Deans, department heads, and faculty in order to understand potential opportunities within academic units and connect them to the most appropriate resource to help them address their needs.”

2. Primary Duties

List between three (3) and ten (10) primary duties of this position and estimate the percentage of time spent on each duty over a given period of time. When indicating the percentage of time spent on each duty, consider what is performed over a given period of time.

Order the duties based on percentage of time, from most to least. The percentages must total 100%. Each duty should not be smaller than 5% or greater than 50%. The chart below provides assistance in determining percentage of time.

Percent to Hour Conversion
% of Time Day (8 hrs) Week (40 hrs) Month (173 hrs) Quarter (520 hrs) Year (2080 hrs)
5% 0.4 2 9 26 104
10% 0.8 4 17 52 208
15% 1.2 6 26 78 312
20% 1.6 8 35 104 416
25% 2 10 43 130 520
30% 2.4 12 52 156 624
35% 2.8 14 61 182 728
40% 3.2 16 69 208 832
45% 3.6 18 78 234 936
50% 4 20 87 260 1040

Strive to be accurate and concise. Be specific to the work being performed on a day-to-day basis. Use words which convey a good understanding of the work being performed rather than vague generalities.

Use the following pattern to write a primary responsibility statement: Action Word + Subject + Activities. For example: Reviews and validates (Action Words) transactions (Subject) by ensuring completeness and accuracy of the account balances (Activities). 

3. Scope, Supervision, Fiscal Responsibility, and Problem Solving

Of the options presented, choose the appropriate Scope of Responsibilities for this position.
  • University-wide: Scope spans the entire University (e.g., Colleges, Commonwealth Campuses, and Administrative units)
  • College, Commonwealth Campus, unit-wide: Scope is specific to one or more College, Commonwealth Campus, or Administrative unit but not the entire University (e.g., College of Medicine, Smeal College of Business, Penn State Behrend, or Intercollegiate Athletics)
  • Department: Scope spans the entirety of a department within a College, Commonwealth Campus, or Administrative unit (e.g., Psychology, Residential Dining, Comparative Medicine, or Center of Performing Arts)
  • Function, process, or job-specific: Scope is limited to the area of responsibility (e.g., Lab Coordinator, Education Program Specialist, or Facilities Representative)
  • Provide additional details if applicable
Determine the type and scope of Supervision the position has:
  • If the position has authority to make decisions related to hiring, compensation, performance evaluation, etc. for full-time employees, select “Direct Supervisor for Full-Time Employees.”
  • If the position is not a direct supervisor of full-time employees but assists with scheduling, prioritizing tasks, etc. for a team, select “Indirect Supervisor for Full-Time Employees.”
  • If the position has authority to make decisions related to hiring, scheduling, etc. for wage payroll, student, and/or temporary workers or volunteers, select “Direct Supervisor for Only Wage Payroll, Student, and/or Temporary Workers or Volunteers.”
  • If the position has no supervisory responsibilities, select “None.”

If the position has supervisory responsibilities, indicate the number and level(s) of direct staff that the position supervises. If the position supervises both individual contributors and other supervisors, select both options.

Select the highest level of supervisory responsibilities. For example, if the position is a direct supervisor to both full-time staff and student workers, select “Direct Supervisor.”
Indicate whether the position has Fiscal/Financial Responsibility:
  • Describe the position’s level of involvement, if any, with budgets (e.g., planning/forecasting, approving).
  • Indicate if the position also has budget responsibilities for grants.
  • Indicate if the position has final signature authority (i.e., ability to sign contracts on behalf of PSU per policy FN11) and if so, the scope (e.g., University-wide, Department-wide).
  • Indicate the dollar amount of fiscal responsibility if you selected any of the above.
  • Provide additional comments as applicable.
Indicate the typical nature of the Problem Solving encountered in this position on a regular basis.
  • Routine: Problems encountered are routine, somewhat repetitive, and generally solved by following clear directions and procedures.
  • Moderate: Problems are varied, requiring analysis or interpretation of the situation. Problems are solved using specialized knowledge and skills, and general precedents and practices.
  • Complex: Problems are highly varied, complex and often non-recurring; require novel and creative approaches to resolution. New concepts and approaches may have to be developed.

Consider problems and issues faced on a day-to-day basis. Do these problems differ in nature? Can they be solved with clear directions or do they require training, critical thinking, and/or creativity?

Best Practices

Things to keep in mind when completing the Position Description:


  • Consider the normal day-to-day responsibilities
  • Use a factual and impersonal style when writing the Position Description
  • Write clear, concise, and complete sentences
  • Begin each task with a present tense action verb
  • Focus on key responsibilities critical to the position
  • Base the content on the responsibilities and duties of the position
  • Include expectations of a fully proficient incumbent meeting all position requirements
  • When indicating the percentage of time spent on each duty, consider what is performed over a given period of time
  • The percentages must total 100% and should not be smaller than 5% or greater than 50%
  • Use explanatory phrases telling why, how, where, or how often to add meaning and clarity

Do not...

  • Cut and paste information from job profiles, matrices or any other reference tools
  • Use narrative, first person form, or specific individual names
  • Use unnecessary words that add “fluff” to the duty
  • Base the content on what the person doing the position can or can’t do
  • Include one time, short-term assignments or an exhaustive list of all, minor, or occasional tasks
  • Write the Position Description based on the desired classification outcome
  • Write the Position Description as a procedure manual on how to do the position
  • Utilize a template Position Description when positions have notable differences

If you have questions about completing and submitting your Position Description, please contact your HR Consultant or [email protected].