Which is a better job - an IBPS PO or IBPS SO

Updated On -

Jun 18, 2020

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Banking jobs have always been a lucrative option for lakhs of aspirants in the country because they are secure, prestigious and high-paying. There are many national level entrance tests for the banking services conducted by institutes like IBPS and individual banks like SBI, and Indian Bank, to recruit banking officials at various entry-level and mid-level posts. IBPS specifically is an institution which recruits for 17 central and state banks of India in different positions like, clerk, PO and SO.

While the educational qualification requirement, age limit, and skillsets are similar for all these posts, there are certain basic differences in the job roles, pay package, and gravitas of the position. The aspirants often face a major confusion between the joining as Bank PO and Bank SO. In this article, we are going to share the major differences between both the posts and also give pointers which will help you to choose between the two.

Read Life & Responsibilities of a Bank PO after recruitment

IBPS PO and IBPS SO- Selection Process, Exam pattern

IBPS conducts the PO and SO exam once every year to recruit probationary officers and Specialist Officers for 17 banks all over India. The primary difference between these posts is the designation for which you are recruited. While the probationary officers have a more generic job description that may or may not be relevant to their stream of education, the specialist officers have works that are more relevant to their stream of education. Hence, the eligibility criteria specifically vary for both these job roles.

IBPS PO and IBPS SO Eligibility

The following are the detailed eligibility and educational qualification required for both the posts-


To be eligible for IBPS CWE the candidate must have a basic graduation degree which can be BA, BCom, BSc, B.Tech, and similar options, from a university or institute that is recognized by the Government of India. Candidates who have equivalent degrees are also eligible for this position. Computer literacy is another major factor that is necessary for this post. Language proficiency is also judged before recruiting IBPS PO candidates. Also, the candidate should be within 30 years of age.


The educational qualification for IBPS SO varies based on the post that you are applying for. The recruited are known as specialist officers because they are selected for very specific tasks related to the bank. The following are the different posts and the qualification needed for them that you should be aware of-

Prepp Test Series

Post  Qualification 
IT Officer Scale 1 Engineering/technology degree in computer science/IT/Computer Application/ECE/AEIE or Post Graduation in any of these disciplines or graduates who have qualified the DOEACC ``B” level exam.
Agricultural Field Officer Scale I 4-year graduation degree in Agriculture/Horticulture/Veterinary Science/Dairy science/ fishery science/agro-forestry/pisciculture/agri-marketing and cooperation
Rajbhasha Adhikari Postgraduates in Hindi with English as a subject in graduation or post-graduation in Sanskrit with English in graduation
Law officer scale 1 Bachelors’ degree in Law and a part of the Bar Council.
HR/Personnel Officer Scale 1 Graduate/ Full-time postgraduate/ Full-time diploma in Personnel Management/industrial relation/HR/HRD/Social Work/labour Law
Marketing officer scale 1 Graduate and Full-time MMS/MBA in marketing, full-time PGDBA, PGDBM and specialization in Marketing.

Read Different Posts Available in the Banking Sector

IBPS PO and IBPS SO Selection Process

The selection process includes the steps of examination that the candidate has to go through in order to get selected in one of these posts.

  • For IBPS PO, the procedure is online and there is a preliminary test, followed by a mains examination. After that, there will be an interview and the subsequent final result.
  • For IBPS SO, there is a preliminary test, mains test, interview, and provisional allotment.

IBPS PO and IBPS SO Cut-off Marks

The IBPS cut-off marks depend on several factors like the number of candidates appearing for the exam, the overall difficulty level of the question papers across the states, and the previous years’ cut-off marks. Hence, it slightly varies from year to year. The following are the cut-off marks that you can expect in each of the exams-


The following are the scores for different categories in 2018-19 IBPS PO-

Category Maximum marks Minimum Marks
SC 55.34 35.78
ST 47.33 31.60
OBC 53.02 40.29
Unreserved 63.91 43.87
HI 34.69 25.16
OC 50.69 31.36
VI 56.11 40.09
ID 43.69 20.36

IBPS SO final cut-off marks-

The final cut-off marks for the different posts is different for IBPS SO-

Posts General OBC SC ST HI OC VI
IT Officer 61.50 57.75 53.55 46.50 40.60 50.15 60.10
Law Officer 52.95 49.20 44.95 39.55 NA 39.65 36.70
Agriculture Field Officer 41.65 40.90 34.65 30.00 26.50 27.20 28.95
Rajbhasha Adhikari 44.15 45.05 43.35 34.20 NA 38.75 69.05
Marketing Officer 53.30 51.90 47.35 38.50 33.70 39.40 NA
HR/Personnel Officer 60.75 53.50 50.70 46.65 43.40 NA NA

Check IBPS PO 2020 Bank Preference

IBPS PO and IBPS SO Exam Pattern

The exam pattern for IBPS PO and IBPS SO is also different. This means that your preparation must be done by taking a different approach. There is a slight difference in the syllabus of the preliminary exam and you should make sure that when you are preparing for both, you take the syllabus into consideration. The following is the exam pattern of both IBPS PO and IBPS SO to give you scope for comparison.

IBPS PO Prelims Exam Pattern

  • The IBPS PO has one single objective type paper which comprises three sections which are English language, numerical ability, and reasoning ability.
  • There are sectional marks, cut-off, and time limits as well.
  • English has 30 questions while reasoning ability and numerical ability have 35 questions each. The total number of questions is 100 and the marks is also 100.
  • The time limit for each section is 20 minutes. The total time duration of the paper is 60 minutes.
  • There is a 0.25 marks deduction for wrong answers.

IBPS PO Mains Exam Pattern

  • There are four sections in the objective type mains paper which are reasoning and computer aptitude, English language, data analysis and interpretation, and general economy and banking awareness.
  • There are 40 questions allotted for general awareness, 45 questions for reasoning and computer aptitude and English language and data analysis have 35 questions each. The total number of questions is 155.
  • There are also 2 descriptive type questions for letter writing and essay writing and the total marks are 25 and the time allotted is 30 minutes.
  • For reasoning and computer aptitude you will get 60 minutes. For the English language, 40 minutes is allotted. There are 45 minutes for the data analysis section and 35 minutes for the general economy.
  • The total time duration of the IBPS PO Mains exam is 3.5 hours.
  • There is negative marking as well for the mains exam and there is a sectional time limit too.
  • The total marks for the entire exam including the descriptive type questions is 225 marks.

IBPS SO Prelims Exam pattern

  • The IBPS SO Prelims exam comprises reasoning, English language, and general awareness with reference to the banking industry.
  • There are 50 questions each from all the three sections and the marks allotted per question is 1.
  • The duration of each section is 40 minutes.
  • The total number of questions is 150 and the total marks is 150. The total time duration of the exam is 2 hours.

IBPS SO Mains Exam Pattern

  • There are separate exams depending on the post for which you are applying.
  • For all the posts like law Officer, IT Officer, Agricultural Field Officer, HR/Personnel Officer, and marketing officer you have to appear for the professional knowledge test. There are 60 questions and the maximum marks are 60 and the duration is 45 minutes. It is a bilingual test and conducted in both English and Hindi.
  • For the post of Rajbhasha Adhikari there are two papers- the professional knowledge objective paper and the professional knowledge descriptive paper.
  • The professional knowledge objective paper has 45 questions and the maximum marks is 60 and the duration is 30 minutes. It is a bilingual paper in both English and Hindi.
  • The professional knowledge descriptive paper has 2 questions in English and Hindi and the time duration is 30 minutes.

When you compare the exam pattern, IBPS SO is definitely less prolonged. On the other hand, for IBPS PO, the syllabus of mains and prelims overlap largely making it easier to finish the syllabus with less effort and time. If you are preparing for both IBPS PO and IBPS SO, only the English and reasoning ability syllabus will overlap for the preliminary exam. However, if you simultaneously prepare for IBPS PO Mains too, you can also cover the entire IBPS SO Prelims syllabus at the same time. Though, no such strategy will work for IBPS SO Mains where the syllabus is entirely different and based on the specific core knowledge related to the post.

Check IBPS PO Pattern & Syllabus

IBPS PO and IBPS SO- Pay-scale, perks, and benefits

The salary and perks associated with any type of banking services is the primary attraction for many candidates regarding these posts. The basic pay is lucrative for both IBPS PO and IBPS SO. It works as a major motivation for many aspirants and is also considered the most stable job opportunity in the country.

IBPS PO Salary and Perks

  • The basic salary of an IBPS PO in the public sector banks is between INR 23,000 and INR 27,000.
  • There are various perks like HRA, Dearness Allowance, etc. which altogether adds up to an amount of INR 39,000 to 42,000.

IBPS SO Salary and Perks

  • The basic pay of the specialist officer is approximately INR 23,700.
  • It has similar benefits like IBPS PO such as HRA and dearness allowance, travel allowance, etc.
  • The overall salary drawn by an IBPS SO varies depending on the location of posting. In the metro cities, it is approximately INR 30,758. In state capitals, it is around INR 30,448, and at the district level and rural branches it is approximately INR 29,927.

As you can see from the above information, the salary range of an IBPS SO is slightly lower than that of an IBPS PO. However, the workload and job description is much simpler for an IBPS SO which we will be discussing in detail in the next segments.

IBPS PO and IBPS SO- Growth Opportunities

A major factor regarding choosing between IBPS SO and IBPS PO is the opportunities for growth. Both are entry-level positions in the banking sector and eventually, the recruited employees will be promoted over the years to mid-senior and senior positions related to their relevant posts. This is a very important criterion for the ambitious who want to reach the top of the hierarchy in the banking sector in the minimum time.

If you are an IBPS PO, there is ample scope for such growth. Over the years, if you perform really well, you can quickly climb up in the position through internal promotion exams or simply in the due course of time based on your experience. An IBPS PO can be promoted to the position of branch manager, assistant manager, and ultimately to the position of MD in the bank.

On the other hand, the IBPS SO will also get promotions but within their specific department. The scope for promotion is similar to IBPS PO, however, opportunities to be promoted into the senior managerial positions in the bank are few.

Check IBPS PO Application & Registration

IBPS PO and IBPS SO- Job descriptions

The work profile or job description of an IBPS PO and IBPS SO is very different from each other. This is one of the major differences in these two posts and also a crucial factor that affects your decision on which is the better career path for you.

  • The IBPS PO is recruited on a probationary basis for two years during which period they have to work across all aspects of banking services and evaluate accordingly. The task can range from direct customer interactions, handling clients’ grievances, to administrative and managerial works too. They are also in charge of supervising and checking the clerical works. After the probationary period is over, the job role remains more or less the same with more emphasis on promoting banking services and managing basic administrative works too.
  • The IBPS SO however does not have a job role that is related to interaction. They have to work in their specific department and communicate mostly with other employees internally for the fulfillment of their job roles. Their work does not involve bringing and retaining customers but their job ensures that all the other departments in the bank can work smoothly and in harmony with each other. The job role varies depending on which department you are joining as a specialist officer. That means, your graduation and post-graduation level knowledge will be useful in this particular segment.

IBPS PO vs. IBPS SO- Work Culture and Advantages

Anyone applying for IBPS SO can also apply for IBPS PO but not everyone eligible for IBPS Po is also eligible for IBPS SO. Keeping this in mind, it is very important for aspirants to compare and contrast the advantages and work culture and its demands and then make an informed decision about which is the better segment. We have shared some details about the nature of the work, the culture, and the advantages associated with both IBPS SO and IBPS PO to simplify this choice further.

IBPS PO- Work culture and Nature

  • The role of the IBPS PO is challenging and involves donning many hats. There are various different responsibilities related to banking services that an IBPS PO has to look after. This means you need excellent interaction skills and have to communicate with all types of customers from different social strata, irrespective of the location where you are posted. But at the same time, you get numerous opportunities to contribute positively to the growth of your bank as well as the economy of the country through your services.
  • The work environment is exciting and there is always something new to explore. You will get a lot to learn about the new policies and schemes of the bank before anyone else in an entry-level position. The posting can be in rural, semi-rural, or urban locations and the job role will vary accordingly. While working in a metro city will have its perks, you should also be ready to work in remote locations with minimal facilities.
  • There are lots of benefits like transportation allowance, dearness allowance, travel benefits, and other regular perks that are associated with any banking services.
  • IBPS PO will have to be ready for frequent transfers. However, the number of transfers and frequency depends on your performance and the banks’ transfer policies. You have to be flexible enough to adapt to these frequent changes and still excel at your designated role.
  • The promotion is fast especially if you can excel in the internal promotion exams of the bank. Otherwise, it usually depends on your years of experience. An IBPS PO can become the general manager of the bank in less than 20 years through their hard work and dedication to their service.
  • There is a significant learning curve in this specific job profile. Each day brings new opportunities for gathering experience and also to display your presence of mind and decision-making abilities. The role of IBPS PO helps you to learn to cope with difficult situations in the job front and excel through it. Eventually, these experiences will help you to give your best as you get promoted to more responsible posts within the bank.
  • Compared to other positions, the role of an IBPS PO is more stressful and demanding since it is the backbone of the banking business. These officers are usually liable for increasing the business of the bank and making sure that the bank is ahead of all the fierce competition in this segment.
  • Job security is high and there is a prospect for constant growth. You are able to get more and more opportunities over the years to prove your value as an employee and the overall benefits, respect, and security associated with the service are lucrative.
  • In short, there is more diversity in the role of bank PO, and irrespective of your graduation subject and specialization, you will get ample opportunities to grow. An aspirant who is ready to handle such diverse nature of the work is ideal for the post.

IBPS SO work culture and nature

  • Compared to IBPS PO, the role of the specialist officer is less hectic and demanding. The job role is limited within a certain department in the bank depending on the post for which you have been recruited.
  • The IBPS SO does not have to deal with the customers and they work internally only with the employees of other departments. This means, if you do not have good communication skills, it will not pose a problem in your growth curve as long as you can perform well in your job.
  • The lifestyle of an IBPS SO is better maintained as you can expect posting urban and metro locations every time since these posts are mainly required in the branches located in the cities. Throughout your career, you are likely to be posted in regional head offices, and zonal offices which are located in locations that have all kinds of basic amenities required for maintaining an urban lifestyle.
  • The frequency of transfer is also less as there are few branches where they need specialist officers. This means, the IBPS SO will get transferred for 4-5 times at most throughout their career span.
  • The chances of promotion become limited as well for the IBPS SO as the job role is very specific and not entirely related to the marketing and growth of the banking services. If you want to get promoted within the general banking service and to the executive and managerial level, you have to switch to general banking.
  • If your academic stream was chosen out of passion, and you enjoy applying the knowledge and keeping up with your studies, this post is suitable for you. You will have to apply the subjects you specialized within the post that you are recruited for through IBPS SO. This means the relevance of your subject is not lost over the years.
  • The job is not at all stressful and the role is very limited to your department alone. However, you have to give your best for issues that are relevant to your job description.
  • The salary is on par with the generalist officers even though the workload is far lesser. Moreover, the facilities and benefits are the same. However, since the scope of promotion is limited, chances are that after 10-20 years of service, the salary increment will not be as much as that of the IBPS PO who had already risen up the banking hierarchy more.

Check IBPS PO Result & Counselling

IBPS PO vs. IBPS SO- Which is better?

It is a hard decision to make between IBPS PO and IBPS SO as both have many advantages and disadvantages associated with them. Moreover, the job description is very different which makes the two not comparable at all. In the end, it all comes down to which factors you prioritize and see as an advantage.

The following table can give you a gist of the different factors that are often compared while choosing between the two.

Factor to consider IBPS PO IBPS SO
Educational qualification Anyone with a graduation degree can apply for this post. Candidates with graduation and post-graduation degrees relevant to the SO posts are only eligible to apply.
Challenges and stress It is a general banking service and hence the work schedule is challenging and hectic. Whether this is an advantage or disadvantage entirely depends on your perspective. It is a very specific service related to one department in the bank and hence the job is not stressful or challenging. This also means it can get monotonous.
Promotion and growth The scope for promotion and growth is high and faster. The scope for promotion is limited unless you switch to general banking over the years.
Transfer frequency Frequent transfer and posting in remote branches. Fewer transfers and posting is always in an urban branch.
Role of academics Your academic knowledge has little or no role to play in your career. Your academic knowledge plays a vital role in prosperity throughout your career.
Preparation efforts Preparation of the exam is more difficult as it has barely any relation to your academic career. The preparation of the exam can be easy if you are still in touch with the studies related to your academic subject.
Job security Job security is high. Job security is high.
Communication Skills Excellent communication skills are essential without which fast growth in career is difficult in this field. Communication skills are not elemental for IBPS SO and hence, it will not hinder your prospects and growth.

Check IBPS PO Practice Papers

When you compare and contrast all the features of IBPS PO and IBPS SO, you will note that in terms of growth and career opportunities, IBPS PO is more suitable. But if you prefer a less stressful job role which helps you to maintain a good and stable lifestyle, IBPS SO is more preferable. Irrespective of which one you choose, the preparation must always be done with full zeal. The IBPS exams 2020 are yet to commence and then you have all the opportunities needed for preparing for either of the exams. Hence, we hope you will make the most of the time and give your preparation the best shot!


Ques. If I am a graduate in geography, can I apply for IBPS SO?

Ans. No, the posts available through IBPS SO do not have any requirement of graduation is Geography. However, if you have a post-graduation degree or equivalent that is relevant to the available posts, you will be eligible to apply for IBPS SO. For example, a graduate in geography with post-graduation in marketing, or post-graduation in industrial relations or HR will become eligible for the relevant posts.

Ques. What is the age limit of applying for IBPS SO?

Ans. The minimum age to apply for IBPS SO is 20 years and the maximum age limit is 30 years. Reserved categories can get 3-10 years of age relaxation depending on which category they belong to.

Ques. Which is a better designation- IBPS SO or IBPS PO?

Ans. IBPS PO has better opportunities for growth within the banking industry hierarchy while IBPS SO offers a more sophisticated job role relevant to your field of study. It comes down to which one is more important to you.

Ques. Will I be transferred to rural areas if I am an IBPS SO?

Ans. IBPS SO is generally required and posted in the bank branches within metro cities and urban areas. However, if you are chosen for a post like Agricultural field Officer, you may have posting in rural branches of the bank too.

Ques. Do I have the flexibility of bank preference in IBPS SO?

Ans. Yes, just like IBPS PO, you can also select bank preferences in IBPS SO.

Ques. Is IBPS PO more difficult to crack than IBPS SO?

Ans. The syllabus of IBPS SO and PO Prelims overlaps largely, but in the case of mains, they are completely different. When you are preparing for IBPS SO, you have an extra edge regarding the syllabus as the subject is closely related to your graduation and post-graduation speciality. However, it comes down to how well you can prepare the syllabus for either exam and how far you are still in touch with your degree-program studies. If you are more confident about your degree course studies, you will find IBPS SO easier to crack.

Ques. Will my graduation specialization help in the job role of IBPS PO?

Ans. Irrespective of the graduation subject you had, the job role for IBPS PO remains the same for all. This means unless you are a graduate in commerce, or finance or economics, your degree-course subject will have little relevance to the job role that is designated to an IBPS PO.

*The article might have information for the previous academic years, please refer the official website of the exam.