I have custom roles in my setup and I want to be able to automatically change a user's role thru a function. Say user A has a SUBSCRIBER role, how do I change it to EDITOR? When adding a role we just:

add_role( $role_name , $role_display_name , array( 'read' =>  true,
                                                   'edit_posts' => false,
                                                   'delete_posts' => false, ));

How about changing a role? Is there something like:

change_role($old_role, $new_role);

UPDATE: I think this one will do:

$wp_user_object = new WP_User($current_user->ID);

See the WP_User class, you can use this to add and remove roles for a user.

EDIT: I really should have provided more information with this answer initially, so i'm adding more information below.

More specifically, a user's role can be set by creating an instance of the WP_user class, and calling the add_role() or remove_role() methods.


Change a subscribers role to editor

// NOTE: Of course change 3 to the appropriate user ID
$u = new WP_User( 3 );

// Remove role
$u->remove_role( 'subscriber' );

// Add role
$u->add_role( 'editor' );

Hopefully that's more helpful than my initial response, which wasn't necessarily as helpful.

  • remove_role() and add_rule() save data to the database? – b_dubb Oct 29 '19 at 21:42
  • 1
    Yes @b_dubb, both methods save to db through the update_user_meta() method here. See add_role() here and remove_role() here – Gonçalo Figueiredo Jan 7 '20 at 12:58
  • That's pretty handy. Thanks. – b_dubb Jan 7 '20 at 21:07
  • 1
    set_role() will remove all roles and add the specified role in one command – G-J Apr 18 '20 at 22:11

Just note that there is a simpler way to change the user role which is especially helpful when you do not know the current role of the user: ->set_role()


// Fetch the WP_User object of our user.
$u = new WP_User( 3 );

// Replace the current role with 'editor' role
$u->set_role( 'editor' );
  • Remember that set_role will remove the previous roles of the user and assign the new role. – shasi kanth May 3 '16 at 12:52
  • 1
    This is perfect for custom registration forms. First register users with no roles and after that add role when they confirm email. – Ivijan Stefan Stipić Sep 15 '17 at 17:34

To extrapolate on t31os's answer you can slap something like this in your functions file if you want to do this programmatically based on a condition

$blogusers = get_users($blogID.'&role=student');

foreach ($blogusers as $user) {

    $thisYear = date('Y-7');
    $gradYear = date(get_the_author_meta( 'graduation_year', $user->ID ).'-7');

    if($gradYear < $thisYear) {
        $u = new WP_User( $user->ID );
        // Remove role
        $u->remove_role( 'student' );

        // Add role
        $u->add_role( 'adult' );
  • I think your usage of $blogID is wrong. get_users() will use the current blog ID per default anyway. – fuxia Oct 29 '12 at 19:27
  • yep, in my case the paste was just from a multisite example. I didn't define it here either so obviously it would throw an error. – Adam Munns Nov 26 '12 at 17:46

You can change the role of any user by editing the users profile. No need to add any more code when this option is already built into WordPress.

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You could use code to change all current users with the subscriber role to editor:

$current_user = wp_get_current_user();

// Remove role
$current_user->remove_role( 'subscriber' );

// Add role
$current_user->add_role( 'editor' );
$wuser_ID = get_current_user_id();
if ($wuser_ID)
      // NOTE: Of course change 3 to the appropriate user ID
      $u = new WP_User( $wuser_ID );

      // Remove role
      $u->remove_role( 'subscriber' );

      // Add role
      $u->add_role( 'contributor' );

There's a WordPress function for that!

I think it is best to use WordPress functions, if and when they are available.

You can use the wp_insert_user() function, where one of the arguments that you will need to provide is the $userdata['role']. In this argument you can specify the role that you want to change the user into.

  • wp doesn't recognize that function. I got an "undefined function" error. – Joann Dec 1 '10 at 11:42
  • By the looks of it, wp_insert_user() seems to do the exact same. When you provide an ID, that ID gets updated. No ID is adding new user. Don't really know what the difference between wp_update_user() and wp_insert_user() is, yet. – Coen Jacobs Dec 1 '10 at 11:46

you have to include the /wp-includes/registration.php, if you use the code as a stand alone script. Regards Uwe


You can use wp_update_user. Your code shoud be like this:

    $user_id = 3;
    $new_role = 'editor';

    $result = wp_update_user(array('ID'=>$user_id, 'role'=>$new_role));

    if ( is_wp_error( $result ) ) {
        // There was an error, probably that user doesn't exist.
    } else {
        // Success!

I know its a very old Post, but i have found that the roles for users are stored in wp_usermeta table with key wp_capabilities in meta_key column.

If you want to change the user role you can do it by this simple function.

function change_role($id, $new_role){
    GLOBAL $table_prefix;
        $new_role_array = $new_role;
        $new_role_array = array( $new_role => true );
    return update_user_meta($id, $table_prefix.'capabilities', $new_role_array);

There is two way to use this function.

If you want to change the role for a single role.

change_role(2, 'editor'); // editor is the new role

Or if you want to add multi roles to the user, use the roles as array in the second parameter.

$roles_array = array('editor' => true, 'administrator' => true); // roles array
change_role(2, $roles_array);

Good luck.

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