City Managers


Employment Prospects


Cities large and small have council-manager forms of government and require city managers for the administration of policies and programs. Counties and suburbs also have managers. The International City/County Management Association reports that 85 percent of U.S. cities with a population of 2,500 or more, as well as an additional 372 counties, use a council-manager form of government. Those with a master's degree in public administration may find work as a city planner. Other employment possibilities include working as an administrator of a hospital or an association, or in private industry. Some professionals with this background work as instructors for undergraduate public administration programs at universities or community colleges.

Starting Out

Nearly all city managers begin as management assistants. As a new graduate, you'll work as a management analyst or administrative assistant to city managers for several years to gain experience in solving urban problems, coordinating public services, and applying management techniques. Or you may work in a specific department such as finance, public works, civil engineering, or planning. You'll acquire supervisory skills and also work as an assistant city manager or department head assistant. After a few years of competent service, you may be hired to manage a community.

Other avenues of potential employment include online job listings and professional journals. Those willing to relocate to smaller cities at lower salaries should have better job opportunities.

The position of city manager is not entry level and competition is keen. You will need five to 10 years of experience as an assistant city manager, department head, or in another managerial position before you will be considered for a position as a city manager.

Advancement Prospects

An assistant to a city manager is gradually given more responsibilities and assignments as he or she gains experience. At least five years of experience are generally necessary to compete for the position of city manager. City managers are often employed in small cities at first, and during their careers they may seek and obtain appointments in growing cities. Experienced managers may become heads of regional government councils; others may serve several small jurisdictions at one time. Those city managers with a master's degree in business management, political science, urban planning, or law stand the best chance for employment.

Tips for Entry

Visit and for job listings.

Join professional associations such as the International City/County Management Association (ICMA) to access training and networking resources, industry publications, and employment opportunities.

Attend the ICMA Annual Conference ( and other industry events to network and to interview for jobs.

Become credentialed from ICMA in order to show employers that you have met the highest standards established by your industry.

Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. Additionally, ICMA offers information on internships and fellowships at its Web site,