How to Become a City Clerk (Step-by-Step)

  • By: Tara Astbury
  • February 26, 2024

The position of clerk dates back centuries when scribes were responsible for keeping records of important events and transactions. Over time, the role evolved and became more specialized. In the United States, the position of city clerk has been a crucial part of municipal government since colonial times. 

Early city clerks were tasked with keeping records of town meetings and documenting important legal proceedings, such as land transactions and property disputes. As towns and cities grew in size and complexity, so did the role of city clerks. 

Today, city clerks play as vital a role as ever. They’re responsible for managing a wide range of administrative duties, including:

  • Preparing agendas for city council meetings
  • Overseeing local elections
  • Ensuring compliance with state and federal regulations

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in local government and want to contribute to the efficiency and integrity of civic processes, securing a role as a city clerk could be a great option. As the record keeper and custodian of important documents for the city council, a city clerk plays a crucial role in ensuring transparency and accuracy in government decision-making.

What Does a City Clerk Do?

The city clerk is responsible for providing support to local government officials and acting as a liaison between the city council and the public. Thus, city clerks drive many types of civic engagement simply by doing their jobs. 

Roles and Responsibilities of a City Clerk

  • Maintains city records and documents, such as meeting minutes, ordinances, and resolutions. This ensures transparency and accountability in government actions.
  • Serves as the official custodian of city records. This means that they are responsible for ensuring the preservation and accessibility of important city documents for future use.
  • Processes city licenses and permits, such as business licenses and building permits. This helps to ensure that businesses and construction projects are operating within the guidelines of the city.
  • Facilitates public meetings, including city council meetings, public hearings, and standing committee meetings. City clerks must coordinate schedules, prepare agendas, and provide administrative support during meetings. Well-run meetings encourage attendance and feedback from the public, as well as other examples of civic engagement
  • Oversees municipal elections, including registering voters and verifying signatures on petitions. This helps to ensure that elections are conducted fairly and impartially.

City Clerk Salary

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for municipal clerks in the United States is $46,280 (data as of May 2022). However, factors such as location, level of experience, and education can impact a city clerk’s salary. For instance, city clerks in larger cities may earn a higher salary than those in smaller municipalities. Additionally, advanced education, such as a master’s degree in public administration, may result in a higher salary.

Qualifications and Requirements

To become a city clerk, you need to have a specific set of skills, education, and experience.


  • Exceptional organizational skills: A city clerk is responsible for managing a vast amount of information and documents. They must be organized to ensure all records are up-to-date and easily accessible.
  • Strong communication skills: To succeed in the role, one must possess exceptional organizational skills to manage the vast amounts of documents and information communicated with council members, city officials, and the general public. They must be clear, concise, and diplomatic.
  • Attention to detail: A city clerk must have an eye for detail and be thorough in their work. Errors can be costly, so they must ensure that all documentation is accurate and up-to-date.
  • Efficiency in working: The ability to multitask and work well under pressure are essential in this role, as city clerks are responsible for overseeing a variety of tasks simultaneously.
  • Tech-savviness: With the continuous evolution of technology, it is increasingly important for city clerks to have knowledge of current computer software solutions for local governments. They should be comfortable working with spreadsheets, databases, and other tools that facilitate recordkeeping and data management

Education and Experience

On the education side, city clerk candidates typically hold a bachelor’s degree in public administration, political science, or a related field. A master’s degree is often preferred, particularly by large municipalities.

As for experience, candidates who’ve previously worked in local government are well-positioned to succeed as city clerks.  Administrative experience is often an advantage, too, as being a city clerk requires a considerable amount of clerical office work. 

Furthermore, familiarity with local and state regulations and policies is beneficial, as is experience working with public records and related administrative duties, such as managing meetings and agendas. 

How to Become a City Clerk

1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

A bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum educational requirement for becoming a city clerk. You should have a degree in a relevant field, such as public administration, business administration, political science, or another related field. Your coursework should include classes in accounting, communications, legal procedures, and government structures.

2. Secure an Internship

Securing an internship is a valuable step in the process of becoming a city clerk. An internship allows you to gain hands-on experience in a municipal setting, work closely with experienced professionals, and develop the necessary skills for the job. Internship programs are available through colleges and universities or through local government agencies.

3. Earn a Graduate Degree

While a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement, a graduate degree is highly recommended. Earning a master’s degree in public administration or a related field can increase your job prospects and open up new career opportunities. A graduate degree can also help you develop leadership skills and deepen your understanding of public policy.

4. Secure an Assistant City Clerk Position

An assistant city clerk position is an excellent way to gain the necessary experience and knowledge to become a city clerk. An assistant city clerk typically assists the city clerk with recordkeeping, clerical duties, and customer service. This role provides valuable hands-on experience in municipal government and can lead to a promotion to city clerk.

5. Leverage Your Professional Network

Networking is an essential component of any job search, including the search for a city clerk position. Building professional relationships with colleagues, peers, and mentors in the industry can help you learn about job opportunities, gain valuable insights, and make important connections. Attending industry conferences and joining professional organizations can be an effective way to expand your network.

By following these steps and gaining the necessary experience and education, you can set yourself up for success in the competitive and rewarding field of municipal government.

Apply for the Position of City Clerk

Once you have assessed your qualifications and determined that you are a suitable candidate for the position of city clerk, the next step is to submit an application. 

  • Research the job posting: The first step is to read through the job posting carefully. This will give you a clear idea of the job requirements, qualifications, and any specific application instructions.
  • Prepare your resume and cover letter: Once you have a good understanding of the requirements for the position, you should begin preparing your resume. Make sure to highlight your qualifications, education, work experience, and any relevant certifications. In your cover letter, highlight why you are interested in the position and what specific skills and experiences you bring to the table.
  • Gather supporting documents: Depending on the job posting, you may be required to submit additional supporting documents, such as transcripts, certifications, or letters of recommendation. Make sure to gather these documents in advance.
  • Submit your application: Once you have all the required documents ready, you can submit your application according to the instructions provided in the job posting. Most often, applications are submitted online, through a job portal or the city’s website. 
  • Follow up: After submitting your application, don’t forget to follow up with the hiring manager to ensure that they have received it. You can either send an email or make a phone call to inquire about the status of your application. 

Applying for the position of city clerk can be time-consuming, but required for securing the job. Don’t forget to tailor your application to the job posting and make sure to highlight why you are the best candidate for the position. It’s important that you are able to keep up with new technologies, processes, and procedures. Highlight any experience you have with electronic document management systems, as this will show that you are comfortable with the digital tools required for the job.

eScribe Powers Effective City Councils

As technology continues to evolve and change the way we live and work, it’s no surprise that it’s also empowering city councils to run more effectively. Government meeting software such as eScribe offers purpose-built solutions for driving improved board governance — all at a price that works with local budgets. 

eScribe helps cities and municipalities across the country improve their processes, enhance their decision-making, and get more done. The eScribe platform does that with features such as:

  • A simple yet elegant design emphasizes ease of use, so all government employees can use eScribe  regardless of their tech experience.
  • Streamlined workflows speed up or eliminate manual tasks altogether, reducing errors and a reliance on paper docs.
  • Collaboration tools connect stakeholders in real time, making it easier for local governments to get more done between meetings.

See how eScribe helped Greensborough, North Carolina’s city government save time and money — all while reducing stress and increasing effectiveness — in this case study.