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What Is a City Manager and How to Become One

City Manager

What Does a City Manager Do?

As a city manager, you have a host of official political and administrative duties carried out at the instruction of a city council or mayor. In smaller municipalities, a city manager may directly implement a wide range of governmental policies, while in larger towns and cities, you generally head up different departments within city government, such as the budget office, human resources, or public works. Regardless of the size of the city, you have a role with significant responsibilities related to budgetary, managerial, and operational strategies and goals.

What Are the Qualifications to Become a City Manager?

The qualifications to become a city manager include significant experience within city government, as well as a number of educational and professional achievements. You should have a bachelor’s degree, and although the specific subject is not always relevant, having studied accounting, political science, urban planning or policy, public health, or business administration can be useful. In larger cities, you may need a master’s degree or significant experience in a managerial position. Essential qualifications include experience with building budgets, understanding of complex urban planning and city laws, and excellent leadership, managerial, and analytical skills.

What Is the Difference Between a City Manager and a Mayor?

The major difference between a city manager and a mayor is that a mayor is elected by the citizens, while a city manager is an appointed position. In some municipalities, there is no mayor. Instead, the city governments are council-led, and the council appoints you to carry out administrative policies and implement the resolutions of the council. In a mayor-council government, the mayor typically appoints the manager, but you perform many of the same tasks. Mayors are also more public figures, but city managers may sit on a community board or other advisory committee in addition to their operational role.

City Manager Job Description Sample

With this City Manager job description sample, you can get a good idea of what employers are looking for when hiring for this position. Remember, every employer is different and each will have unique qualifications when they hire for a City Manager role.

Job Summary

Our city is seeking a dedicated, talented administrator with a history of public service to serve as City Manager. As City Manager, you will enact and administer policy determined by our city council. You will also oversee and foster leadership within city organizational structures. You should be thoroughly familiar with the democratic decision-making processes inherent to a municipality of our size, and you should also have sharp communication and problem-solving skills. Our ideal candidate has a long track record of successful leadership, especially within government and public service.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Implement policy and decisions arrived at by city council
  • Support municipal goals and initiatives
  • Foster administrative excellence and leadership within local organizational structures
  • Oversee daily operations of a number of city departments
  • Liaise between city executive offices and neighboring municipal leadership

Requirements and Qualifications

  • Five years of experience within a public administrative role
  • Master's degree in public administration, planning, or a related field preferred
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Demonstrable history of successful leadership