Proficiency levels, or the proficiency scale, is a method used to measure one’s ability to impose competence on a job or position. Typical behaviors are associated with each proficiency level, and ones competence to behave as such determines what level of proficiency you reside upon. The scale also provides a description of the minimum level of proficiency required and expected for the job.

Proficiency Levels

The NIH proficiency scale is made up of six levels of proficiency, and range from fundamental awareness (basic knowledge) to expert. Below is a full description of each of the levels of proficiency, and the typical behaviors associated with each level.

N/A (Not Applicable): Does not relate to your position.


Fundamental Awareness (basic knowledge): You have a basic understanding of common concepts and techniques, and you focus on learning.


Novice (limited experience): You have fundamental experience gained through learning, wether in a classroom or via sight training. You are not expected to work autonomously, and must aim to focus on enhancing your own skill or knowledge, whilst understanding issues, concepts, terminologies, and principles related to this competency. You must also hold the ability to seek out and utilize the resource material relevant to this competency.


Intermediate (practical application): You are able to complete tasks successfully whilst working independently, without supervision. Help from an expert may be required at certain times, as to be expected. The focus remains on enhancing your own skill, whilst also applying what you have learnt. You must also understand the application and implication of changes to procedures, policies, and processes in this area.


Advanced (applied theory): You can work autonomously without assistance. You are now considered a port of authority in your area, or a “person to ask” by those at lower proficiency levels. Your focus has now shifted from self improvement to mainly focus on organizational issues. You are able to and have consistently provided practical solutions and implementable ideas which have achieved increased proficiency in the area. You are able to impart your knowledge unto others and help them learn the skills required to enhance their proficiency levels, in a way that they can understand. You can engage in positive conversation with senior professionals regarding this competency, and can assist in the creation of research materials.


Expert (recognized authority): You are regarded an expert in the area. You are able to deliver guidance, provide powerful speeches, and answer any questions related to this area of expertise, as well as create resourceful research material. Your main focus is on strategy and improving optimum functionality and having consistently portrayed an extraordinary ability to apply this competency on numerous projects. You are also able to analyze and explain, through diagram or presentation, any relevant process elements, and highlight any issues or notable trends relatable to this area, in order to nurture a greater understanding among both internal and external colleagues and associates.


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