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

  • By: Tara Astbury
  • July 20, 2023

Appointed by the city council, a city manager is considered a consultant and advisor to members and the mayor. For this reason, competence, good judgment, and creativity are foundational requirements when pursuing this role. 

In this position, you will wear many hats, one of which is ensuring the city’s spending habits and financial obligations align with the city council’s directions. Your general goal is to make city operations effective and efficient, such as ensuring that only the right software solutions for local governments are being used. 

Below, you will discover how to become a city manager (step-by-step) and how city council management software can help you and council members hold effective meetings and make decisions faster. 

What is a City Manager?

The city council appoints a city manager to oversee the city’s day-to-day operations. The manager serves as the chief administrative officer. In some municipalities, the person is considered the chief executive officer of the city government. 

In this position, you will attend every city council meeting, present recommendations on municipal operations, and participate in active discussions. You will also be responsible for the daily administrative functions of the municipality. This includes implementing policies and programs established by the city council. The city council supervises the city manager. 

City Manager Roles and Responsibilities

The job description of a city manager can vary from one city government to another. But generally, a city manager’s roles and responsibilities comprise the following: 

  • Enforcing the city’s rules, regulations, or standards
  • Overseeing city contracts and personnel
  • Implementing policies made by the city council
  • Creating, monitoring, and executing the city’s annual budget
  • Directing and supervising the work of municipal departments

The city manager’s responsibilities may vary depending on local or state laws and charter provisions. But the main goal of this person, regardless of the jurisdiction, is to make sure city operations are effective and efficient (including meetings in some cases). With these crucial responsibilities, how much do city managers earn? 

City Manager Salary

The salary of a city manager varies depending on the city, as well as the person’s skills, additional certifications, and experience. However, according to Payscale, the average annual pay for a city manager in the U.S. in 2023 is $94,068. 

Now you understand the city manager’s roles and the average salary. Here’s a step-by-step procedure for securing the position in your city: 

5 Steps to Become a City Manager

Becoming a city manager requires the right education and experience, just like any other top job. Common requirements include skills in short-term and long-term planning, economic development, budgeting, and finance. Outstanding communication, managerial, and interpersonal skills can also make you an ideal candidate for this position. That said, here are the steps for how to become a city manager: 

1. Complete a Bachelor’s Degree

Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum educational requirement for city managers. Bachelor’s programs like public administration — related to government administration, organization theory, and public policy — are ideal if you are chasing this job title. Alternatively, a bachelor’s in business administration can help kickstart your career as a city manager. 

2. Secure an Internship

Experience proves critical when hunting for a city manager position. So look for internships whenever you can. Volunteer for positions with local government organizations to get firsthand knowledge of how a city operates and the responsibilities involved in running it. 

This helps you sharpen your skills, acquire practical knowledge, and connect with people who can guide you along your professional journey. The more experience you gain through an internship, the better you prepare for the city manager role. 

3. Earn a Graduate Degree

Sometimes, your bachelor’s degree might not be enough to become a city manager. Besides several years of experience, some cities require a person with more advanced education, such as a master’s degree in public or business administration. 

Consider earning a graduate degree to maximize your chances of securing the role and getting paid handsomely. You can do so part-time while simultaneously working in other relevant roles. 

4. Start as an Assistant City Manager

Every career person aspiring to be at the top of their field understands the gist: start small, and slowly (but consistently) climb the career ladder. The same applies to the city manager role. You may not always get the position immediately when you apply for it. 

Most career managers started in lower positions, such as assistant city managers, before advancing to their current roles. That way, you gain experience that helps you meet the requirements for the city manager role later in your career. 

5. Consider Obtaining a Certification

While additional certifications are not mandatory, they can demonstrate how committed you are and reinforce that you sufficiently qualify for a city manager position. Obtain accreditation through the International City/County Management Association or other credible organizations focused on public management. 

Getting Started With eScribe

As the city manager, you will attend city council meetings. One of the critical determinants of a successful council is the meeting’s effectiveness and how quickly members make decisions. For this reason, you need to ensure your council has the technology and tools it requires to hold highly productive and more effective meetings. 

City managers can improve their council’s effectiveness using city council management software such as eScribe. As a powerful technology designed for local governments, the software provides a central space for council members to store and easily access council information. 

It also has features that improve meeting effectiveness, streamline communication, and enhance collaboration among city council members. These features include: 

  • Meeting Manager: Create, share, modify, and collaborate on meeting materials in real-time.  
  • Meeting Minutes: Take minutes directly within the platform and mark motions as the meeting progresses. 
  • Reporting and Workflows: Manage deadlines, track statuses, save time, and handle reports and approvals with ease.
  • Collaboration Tools: Give elected officials the freedom to work from anywhere by providing secure access for searching for and reviewing content, downloading meeting materials, and keeping track of comments, notes, and action items.

eScribe is the right software solution for city councils and other local government agencies. Don’t just take our word for it. Learn how the software streamlined processes for the City of Greensboro