Jerry Leventer

Explanation of WordPress User Roles & Permissions: Administrator, Author, Editor, Contributor, & Subscriber

February 4th, 2009 · 15 Comments · Wordpress Issues: Installation, Upgrade, Themes, Widgets, & Plugins

A friend asked me to explain what the different user roles in WordPress 2.7 were capable of and what permissions they had.

I decided to post my findings here so everyone can benefit.

Here’s a simple list:
from Hippo Web Solutions

By default there are five Roles, each of which has progressively more power:

  • Administrator
  • Editor
  • Author
  • Contributor
  • Subscriber

Capabilities represent the various tasks that you can perform given a particular role:

  • publishing, editing, and deleting posts and pages
  • moderating comments
  • managing users
  • managing themes and plugins

Here’s what the authors of the WordPress Codex have to say about version 2.0 (couldn’t find anything more up-to-date in the Codex):

Summary of Roles

  • Administrator – Somebody who has access to all the administration features
  • Editor              – Somebody who can publish posts, manage posts as well as manage
    other people’s posts, etc.
  • Author            – Somebody who can publish and manage their own posts
  • Contributor    – Somebody who can write and manage their posts but not publish posts
  • Subscriber      – Somebody who can read comments/comment/receive news letters, etc.

Tags: ·

15 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Hyla Weimann // Feb 5, 2009 at 1:49 am

    thank you for this. It is very well written with good content. I am sure it will be useful to many people.

  • 2 Welcome Editors - Digital Musics // Mar 10, 2009 at 9:52 am

    […] accounts.  When you register, it sends me an email.  I then upgrade your account status to ‘editor,’  which means you can post news/events/comments without our […]

  • 3 interlina // Mar 21, 2009 at 6:47 am

    what about insert image/ upload file. user with contributor don’t have right to insert image with add media tool

    can you tell me, how to enable this acess?

  • 4 Jerry Leventer // Mar 21, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Interlina – If you are assigned the role of “Contributor” on someone else’s blog, you will not be able to enable access unless you request to be given higher permissions by the owner of the blog.

    If you are the owner of the blog, login to the Dashboard, find the User area, and change the user access there.

  • 5 rodrigo // Apr 9, 2009 at 3:41 am


    I’ve installed a plugin but I need change the permission to work wth it, because is only for Administrators but I need it for Editor or Author…. How can I edit these permissions ?



  • 6 Jerry Leventer // Apr 9, 2009 at 2:14 pm

    Hi Rodrigo,

    Perhaps I’m not understanding your question but…

    If the Plugin itself has permission settings, use those. Otherwise, you need to create a user with the proper permissions to access it.

  • 7 Patrick // Apr 30, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Hi, I’d like to to a mass modification of about 1000 users, giving them all “author” status.

    I see that promoting a single user from subscriber to author changes this line in wp_usermeta:

    wp_capabilities | a:1:{s:10:”subscriber”;b:1;}


    wp_capabilities | a:1:{s:6:”author”;b:1;}

    And it adds a new field to user_meta for that guy:

    wp_user_level | 2

    I’d be grateful if you could explain these cryptic fields so I can make this mass change with one or two sql calls.


  • 8 Jerry Leventer // Apr 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

    Patrick, you are definitely on the right track with this. I would suggest creating a few test accounts and work with those to see if you can change them in bulk.

    Here’s the page in the Codex:

    I would also suggest you refer to the forums for a more detailed answer, if that doesn’t work. Please report back here if you find out anything. Thanks! :)

  • 9 Patrick // May 1, 2009 at 3:06 pm

    Well I did it, but it wasn’t easy because of the use of wp_usermeta. All that data should be in wp_users.

    Not only is it separated out, it’s also in a horrible format of keys and values, so you can’t even do table joins with wp_users. Ugh. Keeping user data in meta tables were a really bad decision by someone.

  • 10 Jerry Leventer // May 1, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing your solution, Patrick.

  • 11 Patrick // May 5, 2009 at 8:16 am

    I forgot to mention that it does work. You just need to make those two database changes to promote people from subscriber to author.

    But now my project is going to be eliminating the wp_usermeta table and putting data only in wp_users. And in normal columns. None of this key-value stuff.

    After that, I plan to eliminate wp_post2cat and just have a single category for each post, in the wp_posts table.

    The fewer tables, the better.

  • 12 Misty // Jun 25, 2009 at 2:11 am

    Thank you so much for writing this! I appreciate it very much because I was a bit confused when I was looking for add a new user to my blog and I wasn’t sure which role I was suppose to give to them. Than you again!

  • 13 istanbul guide // Apr 5, 2011 at 8:39 am

    Hi Guys,
    I need a contributor can manage his/her comments too. Is this available with contributor role or eny else? Thanks.

  • 14 jaa // Jul 20, 2011 at 4:46 am

    Thank you for Help

  • 15 Dallas_BK // Dec 11, 2012 at 8:23 am

    I was disappointed with the descriptions in the official Codex. WP is of course a great platform and an overall great piece of software, but the documentation is not always complete and/or doesn’t get updated when WP gets updated. Frustrating!

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