Be a Certified Public Administrator: Certification and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Research the requirements to become a certified public administrator. Learn about the job description and duties, and read the step-by-step requirements to start a career in public administration.

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Certified Public Administrator

A certified public administrator is an individual who has been designated as a Certified Public Manager (CPM) after graduating from a training program accredited by the National Certified Public Manager Consortium. These managers typically work in the public sector overseeing agency departments, specific teams or other components of the government. Many of these administrators work overtime on a regular basis and may need to be on-call.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's for advanced positions
Degree Fields Varies; public administration, business, or related field
Certification Voluntary; the Certified Professional Manager (CPM)
Experience CPM credential requires experience
Key Skills Strong written and verbal communication, management, strategic planning, and problem-solving skills; understanding of public policy and administration
Median Annual Salary (May 2018) $96,180 (for Administrative Service Managers)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ISEEK, National Certified Public Manager Consortium, Various CPM programs.

A job as a certified public administrator requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree. A master's degree would be needed for advanced positions. The area of study in which an individual earns a degree may vary. However, programs in public administration and management are available. The Certified Professional Manager (CPM) credential is voluntary, but earning this requires the completion of a CPM program. Pursuing the CPM credential typically requires some related professional experience. The key skills that a person seeking this job should have include strong skills in written and verbal communication, management, strategic planning and problem solving, as well as an understanding of public policy and administration. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for administrative service managers was $96,180 annually as of May 2018.

Step 1: Bachelor's Degree

While the educational requirement for public administration or management careers will vary by the job or agency, students can learn more about the field through a related bachelor's degree program, such as the Bachelor of Public Administration or Bachelor of Science in Public Management and Policy. Programs like these offer training in areas that include environmental policy, communication skills, public sector budgeting and conflict resolution.

One success time for this career choice is: volunteer in the community. Since this position is sometimes appointed, local community involvement and networking is recommended. Jobs such as district manager, city manager or revenue director could require a considerable amount of support from citizens or other government bodies, so local goodwill is extremely important. Volunteering with not-for-profits and local charities can be a good way to gain or maintain approval.

Step 2: Get Work Experience

City managers may work as consultants or management analysts before they choose to work in the public sphere as administrators in order to gain work experience. Another option is to begin working in a government department as an assistant or intern, which will allow an aspiring city manager to work closely with other executives in government positions. Advancing to a position such as an assistant city manager can provide increased experience that could be used as a platform when working towards becoming a certified public manager.

Step 3: Get Certified

National CPM Consortium programs typically consist of 300 hours of instruction, which may be divided into phases or levels. According to the National CPM Consortium, some common instructional topics include developing self, personal and organizational integrity, leading people, managing work, systemic integration, becoming an agent of change and public service. Program attendees will also complete job-related projects, such as a developing a professional development plan, pass an exam and attend an executive seminar. Courses in the programs also cover topics like capital budgeting, work and labor laws, planning dynamics, hiring and firing employees and risk management.

Depending on the program, students may be given the opportunity to complete the program through self-directed study, with a group or on a single-course basis. Usually, classes meet periodically, such as only twice per month. Graduates of these programs are identified as Certified Public Managers.

Another success tip for those looking to enter this field is to consider joining the American Academy of Certified Public Managers (AACPM). The AACPM offers multiple membership levels. Its most basic level is that of a fellow, which is for individuals who have graduated from a CPM program and are eligible for all benefits offered by AACPM. Also look to pursue additional training. Obtaining a master's degree, such as the Master of Public Administration, may help with career advancement or even standing out among other applicants.

Those considering a career as a certified public administrator will need to earn a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a field like public administration and look into completing a CPM program as this certification, along with community involvement and other management experience, will likely improve the individual's managerial skill set that is important for this career choice.

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