How to Become a Municipal Administrator

How to Become a Municipal Administrator: Career Path Guide

Although there are other paths you can take, a very effective route for becoming a municipal administrator is to follow these general steps:


1. Determine if municipal administration as a field is suited to your interests and qualities

2. Pursue a degree related to Public Administration

3. Pursue a diploma/certificate in Local Government Authority

4. Get entry-level work experience in municipal administration, preferably while you're a student

5. Progress into roles of greater responsibility as you gain experience/education

6. Work your way into a role as a municipal administrator, or assistant municipal administrator


If you’re thinking about getting into this field, then keep reading to find out more about what municipal administrators do, how much money they typically earn, and what you can do to become one! 



What is a Municipal Administrator?

Municipal administrators are responsible for supporting the elected representatives of their Council in carrying out their duties and mandates. They must plan, organize, direct and coordinate the affairs of the Municipality, which may be a town, county, village, hamlet, large metropolitan area, or other form of municipality.



What Does a Municipal Administrator Do?

The specific responsibilities of a municipal administrator can vary quite a bit from job to job; they assume responsibilities that are determined by the city or other type of municipality that employs them. Their job descriptions vary widely, depending on the size of the city, the structure of its government and any statutory imperatives. In general however, municipal administrators may be responsible for the following:


•​ Summarizing and organizing materials sent to Council members

•​ Researching requested topics and preparing action recommendations based on the findings of research

•​ Reviewing and evaluating Municipal administration policies

•​ Carrying out the policies, plans and programs that are established and approved by the Members of Municipal Council

•​ Assisting Members of Council in using their time and facilities in the most efficient manner

•​ Assisting in the preparation of the financial program of the Municipality, including annual budgets and financial reports

•​ Developing and maintaining a list of projects, appropriate priorities, and action programs, including a time/due-date calendar

•​ Researching funding sources and preparing grant applications

•​ Serving as a representative of the Municipal Council in communications with Local, Regional, and Federal agencies in matters pertaining to the Municipality



What Kind of Degree Will I Need?

There is no set educational path for becoming a municipal administrator; each City Council sets its own educational requirements for the role. However, many municipalities require their administrators to have an undergraduate degree in Public Administration or Political Science, Finance, Accounting, Business Administration, Urban/Regional Planning, and/or a certificate in Local Government Authority.





What Experience Will I Need?

Although the experience requirements for becoming a municipal administrator can vary, you would likely be required to have experience working for a municipal government, and be able to demonstrate proficiency in a prescribed list of duties.


Many municipal administrators get into their role by moving up the ranks in public administration. They get a start in a specific administrative area within the city, such as finance, accounting, engineering, planning, law enforcement, emergency services, public services, elections, or others, and then move into supervisory or management positions.


Please Note: Moving up the public administration ladder may also involve moving to a different city or town to pursue an appropriate job vacancy.



Will I Need Certification?

The requirements for certification can vary from region to region, although many Canadian provinces/territories and American states require that you have certification from a regional board of examiners. Certification generally consists of meeting education and experience requirements, and possibly passing an exam.



Is Becoming a Municipal Administrator Right for You?

Determining if a career field suits your personality as well as your professional ambitions is crucial if you plan on staying in that field for more than a few months. Take a look at the ideal attributes of a municipal administrator below; if they describe you, then it’s you might be very well-suited for a career in this field:


•​ You’re interested in a career in public administration

•​ You're interested in a career that involves reviewing and interpreting legislation

•​ You can make important decisions with confidence

•​ You can motivate, lead and inspire others

•​ You’re firm but fair, and enjoy leadership

•​ You’re willing to work long hours, in the evenings and on weekends if need be

•​ You’re willing to make hard and unpopular choices, like putting people out of work

•​ You’re interested in a position of considerable scope, influence and responsibility

•​ You have a commitment to lifelong learning and development

•​ You’re comfortable working with financial forms and statements

•​ You want to make a difference in the community you work in



What is the Salary Level of a Municipal Administrator?

The salary level of a municipal administrator can vary quite a bit depending on factors such as the population size of the municipality, their years of service, their level of education and certification, and on whether the administrator is employed by an urban or rural municipality. 


Salary in Alberta: According to the 2015 Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working as part of the Senior Government Managers and Officials occupational group (which includes municipal administrators) earn an average salary of $154,827 per year.



Who Creates Jobs for Municipal Administrators?

Municipal administrators can be found all over Canada and the United States; in hamlets, villages and towns with populations as small as a few hundred residents, to large metropolitan cities with populations of several million. 

A municipal Council is typically responsible for hiring an administrator when there is a vacancy. They may do so simply by posting a job and accepting applications, or by employing a headhunting firm to organize the candidate search. 



Municipal Administrator Jobs

Our job board below has a listing of relevant job postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

What Career Advancement Options Are There?

Since the variety of tasks and skills to learn and apply is virtually endless in this profession, you would have many opportunities for career advancement if you display competence, motivation and initiative in your work. For example, you could:


• Take on a "joint administration" role (being the administrator for two or more neighbouring municipalities)

• Become the administrator of a bigger city (considered a common "promotion" in the field)

• Become the administrator of a smaller city, town or hamlet (generally considered less stressful)

• Move outside of the public field, and become the executive director of a non-profit foundation

• Become an executive in a publicly or privately owned company

• Start a management consulting firm, or do freelance consulting



What are the Working Conditions of a Municipal Administrator?

Municipal administrators work in an office environment. They are often required to attend meetings in the evening, and may work longer than the usual 40-hour work week.



What are Careers Similar to “Municipal Administrator”?

Listed below are careers that may be in the same field, or they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and/or responsibilities as “Municipal Administrator”:


• Administrative Director

•​ Administrative Officer

•​ Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

•​ City Councillor 

•​ City Manager

•​ Health Care Administrator

•​ Mayor

•​ Public Works Supervisor 

•​ School Administrator



What Scholarships Are There for Aspiring Municipal Administrators? 

The “Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career” section below lists fields of study that are relevant to becoming a municipal administrator. You can search for relevant scholarships by finding those majors on our "Any Field of Study Scholarships” page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you qualify for, even if it's just because you meet 1 of the criteria, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Sources for This Career Guide

The following resources were used to gather information for this “How to Become a Municipal Administrator” career path guide:


• Work - Hiring Employees: “What Are the Duties of a City Administrator?” Laura Reynolds (n.d.). Houston Chronicle website. Retrieved May 19, 2017.

• Municipal Relations: “Common Questions: Responsibilities of a Municipal Administrator.” (n.d.). Government of Saskatchewan website. Retrieved May 19, 2017.

• Occupational Profile: “Chief Administrative Officer.” (n.d.). Government of Alberta - Alberta Learning Information Service website. Retrieved May 19, 2017.



Majors in Our Database Relevant for this Career

We have career guides for over 60 university majors in our database. Below we've outlined those that are most relevant to becoming a municipal administrator. Click on the links to see what else you can do with these majors!


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