Can You Become a City Manager With a Bachelor's Degree?

City managers, also known as chief executives, are responsible for implementing government policies and executing activities required by laws, rules and regulations. While someone can become a city manager with a bachelor's degree, an advanced degree and relevant work experience are often preferred by most cities.

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City managers need at least a bachelor's degree to prepare to carry out the tasks of the job, but it can help to have a master's degree and relevant work experience.

Recommended Education for City Managers

A bachelor's degree in public administration is the minimum education needed to become a city manager; however, most cities look for individuals with at least a master's degree. Aspiring city managers typically pursue a degree in public administration. Some public administration degree programs offer a city manager concentration that lets students focus specifically on courses that will prepare them for careers in city management. Topics of study within bachelor's and master's degree programs in this field include:

  • State and local government
  • Politics
  • Economic development
  • Budgeting
  • Grant writing
  • Public policy
  • Nonprofit management.

Additionally, most programs recommend or require that aspiring city managers complete a public service internship. Some public administration graduate degree programs only admit students who have some amount of professional work experience.

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Getting a Job as a City Manager

A candidate seeking a city manager position can gain experience working as a management analyst or government department assistant. They can also gain experience working as an assistant city manager or government agency executive. City managers often work their way up through the local government before reaching this top position. They may also start out by managing small towns or cities before moving on to the managing of much larger cities.

Ultimately, the city manager is appointed by the mayor and/or city council. It is important to note that this is not an elected position, and city managers cannot be affiliated with a particular political party. City managers follow the International City-Council Management Association (ICMA) Code of Ethics, which prohibits them from all political activity outside of voting, including campaigning, making donations and advertising for particular candidates. Otherwise, they lose ICMA membership and may face censure.

City Manager's Job Responsibilities

City managers direct the implementation of local, state, federal and international laws. They may also serve as advisors during the legislative process, usually at the local level. In addition, they oversee the activities of the heads of city departments, including budget, public works and human resources. They also coordinate work on operational projects with assistant city managers.

Salary Information for City Managers

As reported by PayScale.com in January 2017, city managers earned a median salary of $83,641 (www.bls.gov). In addition to a salary, city managers may also earn bonuses and profit sharing. The amount a city manager gets paid is largely dependent upon where he or she is located. Here is a breakdown of median city manager salaries by years of experience, according to PayScale.com:

  • Entry-level: $67,611
  • Mid-career: $82,785
  • Experienced: $97,261
  • Late-career: $110,615

If you want to become a city manager, you need to have a bachelor's or master's degree, and you must be appointed by elected city officials. Your salary will likely depend on how long you have worked as a city manager.

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