Minimum requirements to become a county manager typically include a bachelor’s degree in public administration, business, accounting, or a related field. Some counties, especially large communities with numerous employees, require a master’s degree to become a county manager. A county manager might begin his or her career in an entry-level job to gain experience with county government while obtaining the necessary education to become a county manager. He or she might initially oversee a department in the county, such as public works, planning, or the comptroller’s office.
In some communities, an internship program provides valuable experience in county government operations. These opportunities are typically combined with university courses in public policy and other relevant classes. A person’s education and experience might help him or her become a county manager in the future.
Some universities offer mentorship programs in county administration. A current county manager typically spends a week at the college to discuss career options with students who seek to become a county manager. He or she might lead lectures on public administration and emerging issues in county government to help students prepare coursework to meet current requirements.
A county manager serves as the overall supervisor of all departments. He or she is usually responsible for budgets, hiring and firing, capital improvement plans, and major county purchases. This administrator is typically hired by a county board of supervisors that serves as the county manager’s boss. The manager is charged with implementing decisions made by the board and advising them of any issues critical to running the county. He or she often represents the county at social and charitable functions.
The job usually provides a good salary and prestige. A person who wants to become a county manager needs good leadership and communication skills. He or she must be able to think critically and use good business judgment. The ability to explain complex operations to the county board in a clear manner is also an asset. As the top administrator for the county, a county manager should have good people skills to deal with the public and other county employees.
A county manager must also stay abreast of federal, state, and local laws that pertain to public policy. These statutes routinely factor into planning decisions, environmental concerns, and record-keeping requirements. The county manager should operate the county’s business without violating laws that regulate how government operates.