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In an obituary I read a couple of days ago, #汪耕逝世#中国共产党党员,教授级高级工程师,中国科学院学部委员(院士),世界著名汽轮发电机专家,上海电气集团上海电机厂有限公司原副厂长、副总工程师、上海交通大学兼职教授汪耕同志,于2024年5月8日12点31分因病医治无效,在上海逝世,享年96岁。(南京日报)​​​, there are words 教授级高级工程师 to address an academician of China who passed away.

Does that mean he was a senior engineer as good as a professor in a college?

Why can't he be described simply as a senior engineer?

Is professor a level or a standard against which proficiency or competence is measured?

Are there other versions like 教授级医生,教授级经济学家,教授级运动员, etc?

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  • It is a self-proclaim/promotion made by the person who put up the obituary.
    – r13
    Commented May 10 at 13:31
  • @r13 No, it is a professional title assessed under government-established criteria.
    – xngtng
    Commented Jun 12 at 11:27

3 Answers 3

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It is a professional title (职称).

China's professional title system is an evaluation framework to assess and certify individuals' skills and knowledge in their respective professional fields. Titles are nowadays usually categorized into four levels: junior, intermediate, deputy senior, and senior. But the classification was sometimes not standard for certain fields in certain regions.

Each level has specific qualifications and assessment criteria, e.g. work experience, achievements, and published research; some titles are regulated nationally, some are delegated to provinces. The evaluation process is typically overseen by the government, an official industry association or professional review committees within e.g. hospitals and universities.

For teachers in academic institutions, the levels of titles from lowest to highest are 助教 Teaching Assistant, 讲师 Lecturer, 副教授 Deputy Professor, 教授 Professor.

教授级高级工程师 indicates the senior (highest) level of titles for some engineering fields. 教授级 indicates that it is equivalent to a 教授 title for professors in universities. The modern name is now 正高级工程师. There was only one senior level of engineers called 高级工程师 (Senior Engineer), but to standardize the system, there had to be a level more senior than Senior Engineers, so sometimes people use the term 教授级高级工程师 to indicate that the More Senior Engineers.

In some fields (e.g. medical doctors), junior titles are automatically granted with the licence to practice. In other fields, a title is only granted if you satisfy the conditions and apply. Many private enterprises do not care that much about the professional titles (unless necessary for a regulated profession). But the official professional title has several implications:

  • In public institutions and state-owned enterprises, the employees, who are not civil servants, are often governed according to the level of their professional title: it is tied to their salary and sometimes responsibilities. In this role, it is similar to the pay grades used in Germany, which sometimes also acts as a "rank" (e.g. a W1 professor).
  • For private enterprises, some public tenders require that the bidders to be sufficiently qualified, which is sometimes assessed by the percentage or number of employees with a minimum level of professional titles in the company. This also applies to economic promotion programs (e.g. companies with highly qualified personnel may be eligible for special tax deductions or allocations.)
  • It also acts as a recognition of service and skills in many fields and leads to social status and respect, which is why a senior professional title is often mentioned in obituaries.

This system is unique to China as far as I know, although the human/managerial tendency for ranks leads to systems elsewhere that bear some similarity. For example, in many North American universities, you would have Assistant Professor, Associate Professor, and (Full) Professors; but these are not uniform across institutions and the meaning can even be different in different fileds (e.g. Assistance Professor is sometimes a fancy title given to postdocs). In American hospitals, you have the residents and attending physicians that in China would also be regulated to a certain extent by the title system (but with a few more levels). Or as mentioned, the German pay grades (or pay grades in the U.S. army or even at tech companies like Google and Meta).


Are there other versions like 教授级医生,教授级经济学家,教授级运动员, etc?

For doctors, the highest level of title is 主任医师 (Responsible Doctor). For economists, the highest title is 正高级经济师 (Senior Economist), which can indeed be colloquial called 教授级高级经济师.

Athletes are regulated by another hierarchical system outside the professional titles; they are often not seen as professionals (since it is usually not a life-long professional pursuit). The highest title, or properly speaking the "technical level", in the athlete evaluation system is 国际级运动健将 (International Sport Elite). There, the evaluation criteria is mainly the results in competitions instead of professional knowledge and contributions. For example, to be an International Sport Elite, an athlete in 100-metre sprint must have a time less than 10.25 seconds in a recognized international sport event (e.g. Olympics or Diamond League).

But coaches and trainers are in the professional title system, the highest levels being 国家级教练 (National Coach) and 正高级运动防护师 (Senior Athletic Trainer).

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  • You are much better informed than many others in Chinese national society. Commented Jun 21 at 4:09
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教授级 professor class

高级工程师 senior engineer

It means he's not only a great engineer, but he is also good at teaching at the highest level (qualify to teach at universities)

Are there other versions like 教授级医生,教授级经济学家,教授级运动员

There can be. Not all elites are good at sharing their knowledge through teaching

For example, as a Go teacher, a 9 Dan Go player might not be as good as a 1 Dan who teaches Go for a living

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Can you provide more information on this, such as, the origin text. As a Chinese native speaker, i also feel confused about this.

I guess it may means senior engineer who works in an university as a professor.

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  • The message is from social media Weibo.com, as follows: #汪耕逝世#中国共产党党员,教授级高级工程师,中国科学院学部委员(院士),世界著名汽轮发电机专家,上海电气集团上海电机厂有限公司原副厂长、副总工程师、上海交通大学兼职教授汪耕同志,于2024年5月8日12点31分因病医治无效,在上海逝世,享年96岁。(南京日报) ​​​He is a part-time professor only. Commented May 11 at 7:08

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