How do I Become a City Manager?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2019
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A city manager is an executive typically in charge of a city's regulations, laws, budgets and governmental policies. The position may be elected or appointed. The requirements a person must meet to become a city manager depend on the city for which he wants to work. Some cities list requirements that start with the minimum of earning an associate’s degree. In most cases, however, a person who wants to work in this position will need a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree to pursue this field. A city may make an exception to education requirements, however, if a person has a significant level of related experience and is otherwise considered qualified for the job.

A person who lands this job is responsible for a wide variety of tasks related to running a city efficiently. He may, for example, be responsible for making decisions about building projects and zoning. He may also make decisions for the health and safety of city residents. A person with this job may supervise various city departments and make decisions for budget allocations as well.


Since running a city can mimic running a business in some ways, gaining experience with managing a business may prove helpful for a person who wants to become a city manager. A person who is interested in this career may seek a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in business administration as preparation. Another possible educational choice is a degree in public administration. Some people may secure this position without earning such a degree, however, especially if they have a good amount of related experience. Additionally, those who’ve previously served on a city board or association may be seen favorably when applying for this position.

Among the college courses a person may take to prepare to become a city manager are those related to business and communications. Computer, math, and technology courses may also help a person to prepare for this career. Government, economics, social studies, and public speaking classes may prove helpful as well.

To become a city manager, a person typically has to apply to city council. Some people may gain a leg up over other applicants by completing an internship with the city manager’s office before applying or even by working as an assistant to a city manager. Sometimes networking may prove helpful as well. In some places, a prospective city manager may also have to pass an exam to prove that he has the knowledge and level of competency important for a person in this position. In some jurisdictions, the position is elected and a prospective candidate must launch a successful political campaign for the position.


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