WordPress User Roles Explained

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If you’re collaborating with multiple authors, working with an editorial staff, or requiring subscribers to create user accounts in order to comment, an understanding of the WordPress user roles is essential. This video will help you sort out your options by explaining the permissions associated with each role, and demonstrating how the WordPress administrative interface changes depending on a user’s role.

The video covers the current standard WordPress roles: Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, Subscriber. Along the way I walk you through each of the roles showing you what the WordPress admin area looks like to users who are assigned each of these roles.

Video Transcription

As you probably know WordPress is a multi-user system and when you create a new user in WordPress you're asked to assign a User Role and this is where confusion generally ensues.

There are five user roles that comes standard with WordPress and you're probably, the first time you go to create a new user, you're probably a bit confused what user role is the right role to assign to your new user.

In this screencast I'm going to answer all of your questions about user roles and walk through all the different roles and demonstrate to you what permissions are assigned to each one of the default user roles.

There are five user roles in WordPress: Administrator, Editor, Author, Contributor, Subscriber. Now there are plugins that allow you to create your own user roles if you have some very specific needs or workflow needs. I'm not gonna get into that in this particular video. You should just know that these user roles can be extended by adding new user roles. If there's interest I can do a video on advanced user roles and advanced security in WordPress.

But this screencast is gonna focus on these five user roles. These are the ones you'll see when you go to create a new user. And for the vast majority of you just addressing the issue of what user roles does and what permissions are associated with them will meet most of your needs.

And each user role has a group of capabilities assigned to it. Capabilities basically are permissions to do specific things in WordPress. So it may be the ability to write a post and publish a post. It's the ability to edit other people's post as well as your own post. There are hundreds of capabilities that can be assigned to different user roles and in this video you'll get a sense of which capabilities correspond with each of the five user roles.

I'll start at the top with the Administrator and work my way through each different user roles starting with the most permissive and working down to the least permissive which is Subscriber.

First of all is the Administrator. This is usually the blog owner. When you set up your WordPress website, do the installation and log in, you are automatically set up as the Administrator. And you really need to be the Administrator to run your website. You need to be the Administrator to install plugins and change themes and perform upgrades. These are all the things you do to run your website. Now it may be you need someone with more technical ability to assist you in running your WordPress site. If that's the case then you would create an Administrator account for your technical support person. However, Administrator is not one of those roles you want to assign very freely. When you assign a user the Administrator role you need to make sure that it's someone you can trust because they have complete control of your website. They can do pretty much anything the site owner can do.

And when you first log in as a user who is designated as an Administrator this is what you'll see. You'll notice the menu to the left, that is the full menu. That is everything that WordPress has to offer. As I work through these roles, that menu will get smaller. As we work down to the least permissive you'll see that there's almost nothing a subscriber can do. And the other roles are everything in between.

Next down is the Editor. The Editor has complete control over content but no control over configuration or how WordPress operates. So an Editor can publish a post, an Editor can edit other user's posts. An Editor can approve, reject posts, moderate comments but an Editor cannot install plugins or change themes.

And this is what the Editor sees when the Editor logs in. All of the configuration options on the left side menu have been removed. However, the Editor has complete access to all of the content - so posts, media, links, pages, comments. Additionally the Editor can manage is or her own profile.

Next down is an Author. Authors can write posts and publish them. But they can only edit their own posts. And they can only manage comments related to their own posts. Now note that an Author can publish without going through an Editor. The Editor is not required a post for an Author.

So if you've got a multi-author blog and you don't wanna have an editorial workflow that requires review before a post goes on your website, your authors should be set out as the Author user role. That way they'll have the ability to log in and create new content and put it online immediately without anyone reviewing it. If, on the other hand, you are trying to run a publication that has more editorial control, when your authors are set up in WordPress you don't want to give them the Author role, you'll wanna give them the user role after this which I'll talk about in a second but let me show you what the Add New Post page looks like for an Author.

When an Author is writing a post you'll see over here that Author has the ability to click the Publish button and that would publish the post. And again on the left the main menu is pared down to just the bare minimum once we get to the author level. And when an Author goes to the list of posts, the Author will only have the ability to edit her own posts.

Next up is Contributor and as I was saying if you are trying to implement an editorial workflow where you've got an Editor reviewing content before it goes live on your website, your authors then should be set up as Contributors.

Contributors can log in and create posts and they can submit posts but they don't have the ability to publish those posts. So a user with higher permission in this case an Administrator or an Editor would have to publish those posts.

And so when a Contributor logs in and tries to create a post this is the screen they see. And you'll notice over here, in the Publish box, the button that formerly said Publish for an Author now says Submit for Review. So there's no illusion that the Contributor is posting something directly to the site. It's right up front that the Contributor is gonna have to wait for an Editor or Administrator to review the post and determine that it should be published.

And the final user role is Subscriber. Subscribers can log in and they can leave comments, and they can modify their profile and that's all they can do. This is a very useful user role for sites where you wanna maintain high degree of control of your comments. You can require in your Discussion Settings that the user be logged in to leave a comment. And in that case the user would be logged in as a Subscriber. Basically it's a user account for your readers that have very limited capability. They have the ability to leave a comment and change their email address.

And so when a Subscriber logs in all they really see is the user profile. They can change their name and their email address but that's about all they can do.

And so that is a quick and hopefully clear overview of the five different WordPress user roles.



  1. Pavan says

    Thank you for this informative video on WordPress User Roles as well as the entire series. I am a new WordPress admin and these videos are the first resource that I think of when I need to learn about functionality.

  2. says

    this article (and video) is exactly what i have been looking for. i am going to be teh administrator of a blog, with several authors, and this tells me exactly how to administer it.

    many thanks

  3. says

    That’s so much for the video tutorial. I was searching for the meaning of contributor because I have so many of them and wondering should I delete them all. You explained the five types of users very well.

  4. Iris Clyne says

    Your description of the 5 user roles seems to focus only on posts. What about capabilities at each level as it relates to pages?

  5. Kirk Biglione says

    Hi Iris,
    It’s the same for posts and pages. Users who have access to one will have access to both.

  6. Martin Allman says

    Excellent tutorial on this subject, now makes perfect sense to me, thank you for providing this.

  7. PA Gallery says

    Hi Kirk

    I want someone to have Editor capabilities plus be able to add tags and categories – is this possible without giving them full administrator status?



  8. Linda Willis says

    Both quick and very clear, Kirk. Thank you. I especially liked that you showed the admin panel for each user role – great visual reinforcement of the text.

    FYI – my screen blacked out on the Subscriber screen, about 7 minutes in. Tried reloading and refreshing but it happened again. Present in both full screen and regular. It miight be my PC, but thought I’d let you know as it’s not happened to me before.


  9. Kirk Biglione says

    Thanks for the bug report Linda. Looks like there was a problem exporting the updated video. I’ll be posting a new one shortly.