Defining "Senior" level job title

How do you define a senior level job title?

I have to admit that I personally don’t give to much thought to what “level” I am in my professional career. I don’t place much value in these classifications. I mean, I could be a new grad with an extensive portfolio and products available in retail that I developed while in school, but should I still be considered “entry level”. On the other side of the coin, I could be a fifty something with 25+ years of professional experience, considered a “senior” designer, but still have no sense of styling, problem solving, management skills, or work ethic.

The big reason why I am even asking this question is because I work with a mechanical engineer that just recently started at my office. He is 29, has little professional engineering experience, though does have an undergraduate and masters degree in engineering. He insists that he be called a “Senior Mechanical Engineer” because is is older than the other engineers on staff by a couple years and he has a masters. He wants to list his job title on his business card, email signature, and our company website as “Senior” engineer.

Is there a professional list of qualifications for levels of job titles?

What would you tell this engineer if you were in my shoes?

To answer both questions, I would tell him to go online and search for positions at other companies with that particular job title as the description and look at the pre-requisites. This should give him a fair idea of where he stands with his experience level and education in mind. This will also help prevent you from “putting him in his place”, thereby creating a bad relationship between the both of you.
Another thing to keep in mind, most places don’t consider internship experience as actual job experience. I just had this discussion with my current boss about what level I should be considered. While I only have a year and a half out of school experience, I have about 2 1/2 years internship experience on top of that. Our HR department doesn’t take this into consideration when looking at candidates. He personally just divides that by half. But it usually is never considered 100%.
Probably more of an answer than you wanted, but I hope that helps.

What level did this engineer interview for? The title should have been worked out during the hiring process.

I have positions open for “Senior Interaction Designers” and this is pretty well understood by candidates and a topic of our first conversation. I’m looking for a few years of proven, real-world experience. Senior means that I can trust them to manage themselves in every situation, meet with customers themselves etc. A masters degree means strong education, but not strong work skills–that comes with experience. BTW, like gender, age should have absolutely nothing to do with title (but is rather a side effect of years of experience.)

Thanks for the replies. I think that you have definetely given me some great insight regarding how I should deal with the situation.

To answer your questions cg, this individual was hired to fill the role of a mechanical engineer with a research and materials and processes background. The position he was hired for was not for a Senior role. As I mentioned before I am not a big fan of such labels. I tend to think that they are demeaning and cause subordinate roles that tend to be unproductive. Actually it was another engineer who first brought this issue to my attention, feeling that he was being demoted or looked down on. Since the firm I work for is small in size, we expect everyone to possess characteristics that would lead them to manage themselves, be self reliant, drive projects and meet with clients in a professional manner.

josht, I did do a quick search for “senior mechanical engineers” and found that most typically require a “Professional Engineering Certification” and at least 5 years of professional experience. This individual has neither. It is more dry cut with an engineer it would seem since there are certifications like this, but it does beg the question, what about designers? I would agree with cg, that it should not be a set number of years experience, and I would never think that gender has anything to do with it.