Guide to Becoming a City Manager

Becoming a city manager with a Masters of Public Administration & Policy

Working at local, state or federal levels of government is a fairly common career path for those who have graduated with a master’s of public administration. Since this field is extraordinarily wide, MPP program graduates or current students with an interest in government employment may find it best to concentrate their studies or job search on a specific niche.The position of a city manager is one of the high-ranking administrative jobs an MPP graduate can pursue and possibly attain. Due to the responsibilities and prestige that come with city management, it may be incredibly competitive, so interested MPP students should ensure that they have the knowledge and experience to present themselves as the best possible candidate for the job.

What is a City Manager?

Although one can describe a city manager’s position in a single phrase – implementing the policies created by the legislative body of a city or town – the realities of the job are considerably more complex. It is necessary to understand city management as comprehensively as possible before working toward attaining such a job.

California City Management Foundation (CCMF): This organization’s webpage describes, in succinct but informative terms, what exactly it means to be a city manager, while also providing some interesting contextual information on the history of the city management position.

Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):  Although this page of the BLS’ Career Guide to Industries has a wide focus on employment in state and local government, it spends a reasonable amount of time on city management in particular. It states that a master’s in public administration (MPA) or a related field, such as public policy, is highly desirable for candidates who are interested in this position.

International City Management Association (ICMA):The ICMA is arguably the most prominent professional organization dedicated to the field of city management and related local government positions. On this webpage, it explains the responsibilities that are typically associated with city or town management.

Social Development Department, World Bank: This research paper provides a detailed examination into the intricate workings of local government. Although it does not offer a great deal of specific information related to city management, it nonetheless may be of considerable interest to Masters in Public Administration degree holders who are interested in city management or other administrative government positions.

City of Melbourne, Florida:  On this city’s website, MPA program graduates can learn a great deal about the council-manager form of government, which is how most city management positions are structured within the greater scope of a municipality’s government.

Organizations with resources and job postings for prospective city managers with Masters of Public Administration degrees

To better their chances of success on their path to achieve a job as a town or city manager, MPA degree holders may want to take advantage of as many resources as possible. The organizations listed below may be of assistance toward that end.

Municipal Management Association of Northern California (MMANC):Here, a number of open job postings in city management positions (or related fields) in the Northern California region can be found. MPA program graduates may be able to find similar organizations in their own area.

Public Affairs Council (PAC):Although not all of the positions listed here are directly involved with city management, they are all related to the sort of administrative and policy-based work that is the foundation of work as a city manager. As a result, they may be viable as jobs to build the experience necessary for city management.

Oregon Emerging Local Government Leadership Network (OELGL):Several of the positions listed here are in city administration (virtually identical to city management) or assistant city management. Others may provide pertinent experience to pursue city management in the future. MPP degree holders can find similar groups in their own state.

Alliance for Innovation: This webpage details a number of job postings for city administrators and assistants to the city manager, along with some less directly related to the city management and administration field.

Town of Barre, Vermont:  Many towns have internship programs like the one detailed here, which helps provide on-the-job training for MPP students looking to break into city management.

City managers who hold a Masters in Public Administration

Many city managers hold either MPP or MPA degrees and count them among their chief academic distinctions. The following examples depict just two of these individuals, who may provide inspiration for MPP graduates hoping to attain these positions.

City of Alamosa, Colorado:Current city manager Nathan Cherpeski holds an Masters of Public Administration, and gained his experience working in the finance department and city manager’s office in Redding, California.

City of Bonita Springs, Florida: In addition to his MPA degree, Bonita Springs city manager Carl L. Schwing boasts 11 years of experience as an assistant city manager in the city of Cape Coral, elsewhere in Florida. His example proves how extensive experience and a quality education in public policy and administration are essential requirements of becoming a city manager.