Some people choose a career in local government because they have a desire to serve the community where they grew up or where they live now. Others seek the financial benefits and job security that a government position can provide, while others crave the excitement and challenges that come from working closely with local citizens and organizations on a daily basis. Whatever the reason—a career in local government can be a smart, rewarding decision.
Working for local government encompasses a wide range of career paths. There are many different positions available among the various agencies and organizations that keep local governments functioning, and each one requires unique skill sets. Here’s a look at four different career paths available in local government.
Budget or Fiscal Manager
The financial aspects of running a government agency are complicated. Unlike the private sector, government finances are open to intense scrutiny by many different people and watchdog groups. Though the responsibilities of a budget or fiscal manager vary, their main responsibilities often include monitoring budgets, collaborating with other departments to ensure uniform budgets and financial policies, supervising finance staff, and assisting other departments in creating budgets. Budget or fiscal managers also handle the challenges that occur as a result of funding cuts or economic downturns. On the legal side, budget or fiscal managers are generally responsible for compliance as well.
Education: Most managers have either a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA). While an MBA teaches strategies for generating profits, an MPA helps professionals create effective financial plans for the public sector, given the unique budgetary constraints of government entities.
Salary: This varies depending on the role. Budget analysts can expect to earn a median salary of 68,200, and financial managers can expect a median salary of $103,910.
City or County Manager
The city or county manager is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day functions of local government operations. This includes working with department heads, administering budgets, and managing personnel. The city or county manager also handles emergency situations such as severe weather or security issues. This position is often hired and not elected, and it can involve sensitive political negotiations.
Education: The city or county manager position generally requires an MPA, which provides professionals with the leadership skills needed to move into management positions within the public sector.
Salary: There is a wide range of salaries and benefits for this position, but the median salary is about $68,500.
Corporate Social Responsibility Manager
The corporate social responsibility manager focuses on three areas: environment, safety, and health. This person is responsible for creating and directing programs that allow businesses and organizations to become positive influences on the community. Though some local governments hire consultants to fill this position, it’s a relatively new role that is seeing high demand as companies recognize its benefits. In order to effectively collaborate with companies and local government organizations, a corporate social responsibility manager must have strong communication and leadership skills.
Education: A MPA equips professionals with the skills to become leaders in this complex field.
Salary: The salary for this position will depend on experience, but the average salary is $69,000.
Human Resources Management
A human resources manager is responsible for creating and implementing procedures and policies to ensure that all labor laws are being followed. An HR manager handles issues such as sexual harassment and disciplinary procedures, organizational communication, and employee benefits. This person communicates with other managers to establish an overall company strategy related to hiring, firing, and other personnel issues.
Education: This position generally requires a graduate degree in HR, an MBA, or an MPA.
Salary: The median salary for an HR professional is $99,000.
There are many options for professionals looking to work at a local government level. In addition to the management options listed here, there are openings in IT, fundraising, and public affairs. Most of these positions require a specialized education, and a Master of Public Administration (MPA) can be the key to preparing for many of these roles. An MPA offers a wide range of skills that will allow you to succeed in a variety of local government positions.
About the Author:
Rebecca Lindegren is the community relations manager for MPA@UNC , UNC Chapel Hill’s online masters in public administration program. In addition to higher ed, she is also passionate about digital marketing, social media, and cycling. Check her out on twitter.