Unveiling the Average City Manager Salary in the U.S.

As the orchestrators of municipal operations, city managers play a pivotal role in the smooth functioning of communities across the United States. With this crucial responsibility comes the burning question: what is the average city manager salary in the U.S.? In this article, we’ll examine the intricacies of city manager compensation, delving into factors that influence their earnings and painting a comprehensive picture of the landscape these professionals navigate across various regions.

city manager salary

From uncovering the wide spectrum of factors that determine a city manager’s salary to exploring the highest paying jobs in this realm, we aim to provide an insightful and informative resource for everyone, whether you’re a seasoned professional or a budding municipal leader. Get ready for an in-depth exploration into the world of U.S. city manager compensation!

Key Takeaways

  • Discover the average city manager salary in the United States.
  • Learn about the factors influencing city manager compensation, such as experience, education, and geographic location.
  • Explore how city size and budget responsibilities play a crucial role in determining city manager salaries.
  • Examine state-by-state differences in city manager earnings and understand regional salary disparities.
  • Gain insights on the highest paying city manager jobs and the components that make up their total compensation packages.

The Role of a City Manager in Municipal Governance

City managers play a pivotal role in the administration of local governments, ensuring effective operations for the betterment of the community. Their responsibilities are multi-faceted, with a focus on municipal governance, policy formulation, budget management, and overall coordination of city resources. In this section, we will discuss the primary city manager responsibilities and explore how they contribute to municipal success.

City manager roles encompass a wide array of duties, ranging from facilitating communication between elected officials and city department heads to overseeing key initiatives that impact residents. Key roles include:

  1. Executive Leadership: City managers serve as the chief administrative officer, responsible for the overall day-to-day operation and administration of municipal services.
  2. Budget and Financial Management: They prepare and manage the city’s annual budget, ensure fiscal responsibility and long-term financial sustainability of the city.
  3. Policy Development: They collaborate with city council members, citizens, and other stakeholders to identify community needs and establish policies addressing them.
  4. Interagency Coordination: City managers work closely with other government agencies, businesses, and non-profit organizations to leverage resources and partnerships for the benefit of the community.
  5. Human Resource Management: They supervise the selection, hiring, and evaluation of city staff, ensuring a high-performing, diverse workforce.

Given the breadth of city manager responsibilities in municipal governance, it’s essential to understand how these various roles influence their compensation. The following table delineates some of the critical factors impacting city manager salaries.

Factor Description
Education and Experience A city manager’s salary is commensurate with their education and experience. Higher qualifications (such as a master’s degree) and a proven track record in local government often result in higher earnings.
City Size and Budget City managers in larger municipalities with greater responsibilities and bigger budgets typically receive higher salaries.
Geographical Location Salaries can vary significantly between different regions, with higher compensation seen in urban areas or those with a higher cost of living.
Competitive Market As demand for skilled and experienced city managers continues to grow, compensation adjustments can be made to retain and attract top talent.

The critical role city managers play in shaping and executing municipal governance makes their position indispensable for the well-being of the communities they serve. As such, it’s essential to assess and analyze their compensation across various factors, ensuring competitiveness and alignment with the city’s expectations and needs.

What Determines a City Manager’s Salary?

Several factors contribute to the determination of a city manager’s salary; these include their experience, educational qualifications, city size, budget responsibilities, and geographical location. In this section, we will delve into the impact of each factor on a city manager’s earning potential, showcasing examples, and providing comparative insights.

city manager salary determinants

Experience and Educational Qualifications

City manager experience and educational qualifications play a significant role in driving their salaries. Both the number of years in service and the credentials they hold can impact earning potential. Generally, more experienced city managers with higher degree levels can expect higher salary increments. For example, those holding a Master of Public Administration (MPA) or Business Administration (MBA) tend to have a competitive edge in the job market, often commanding higher pay rates than their counterparts with only a bachelor’s degree.

City Size and Budget Responsibilities

City size salary impact and the associated budget management responsibilities contribute to variations in city manager compensation. As the size of the city increases, so does the complexity of its operations and the budget to manage, thereby escalating the city manager’s responsibilities. A higher level of accountability, in turn, typically translates to higher compensation. For instance, city managers overseeing larger municipalities with budgets of over $100 million are likely to earn much more than those managing smaller municipalities with budgets under $10 million.

Geographical Location and Cost of Living

Geographical salary variation and cost of living adjustment profoundly influence city manager salaries across the United States. For example, city managers working in urban areas with higher costs of living, such as New York City or San Francisco, may receive higher salaries to compensate for the increased expenses associated with living in these areas. In contrast, those working in rural regions or smaller towns with lower costs of living will likely earn comparatively lower salaries. Moreover, location-based pay disparities can also emerge due to differing local economic conditions, funding availability, and governance structures, which further affect city manager compensation.

Exploring the Average City Manager Salary Across the U.S.

The profession of city management has witnessed significant changes over the years, not just in terms of the roles played but also in the compensation offered to those charged with this critical task. To provide you with a comprehensive view of the average city manager income in the United States, let’s take a look at some numbers from various cities across the country.

City Manager Salary Comparison

It is important to note that the following data is only meant to give a general overview of city manager salaries. The actual figures may vary depending on multiple factors, such as the size of the city, the budgetary responsibilities, as well as the qualifications and experience of the city manager themselves.

City Annual Salary
Denver, Colorado $165,000
Houston, Texas $170,000
Los Angeles, California $185,000
Portland, Oregon $155,000
Chicago, Illinois $160,000

As observed in the table above, the average city manager salary varies from one region to another. Nevertheless, the national average U.S. city manager income stands around $165,000 per annum. While this illustration is just a snapshot of the various salaries around the nation, it offers valuable insights into the paycheck-city-scale relationship.

A more exhaustive city manager salary comparison between cities at different development stages and population sizes will provide an even clearer context for understanding how the income structure works within this job role. Keep in mind, though, that the responsibilities, expectations, and decision-making scope will also scale with the city’s size, budget, and pressing issues.

Overall, the findings presented here give a bird’s-eye view of the average city manager salary across the U.S., serving as a starting point for the nuanced exploration of other factors shaping city management compensation.

How City Manager Compensation Varies by State

regional salary disparities

As we dive deeper into the world of city manager salaries, it’s essential to recognize how compensation can differ significantly by state. Regional salary disparities and regional pay differences are influenced by a variety of factors, such as local economic conditions, cost of living, and state-specific governance structures. In this section, we will break down the salary differences of city managers by state, offering a comprehensive understanding of the highest and lowest-paying states in America.

Analyzing Regional Salary Disparities

Various regions in the United States exhibit noticeable differences in city manager salaries. To illustrate this disparity, the following table provides a state-by-state pay comparison sampling:

State Average Annual Salary
California $180,000
New York $135,000
Texas $120,000
Florida $105,000
Mississippi $75,000

As seen in the table above, there’s a broad range between the highest and lowest-paying states. Several factors contribute to these regional variations in city manager salaries:

  1. Cost of living: Higher costs of living in states like California and New York often result in higher salaries for city managers. On the other hand, states with a lower cost of living, like Mississippi, generally feature lower average salaries.
  2. Local economic conditions: Economic prosperity of a region directly impacts city budgets and, consequently, the salaries of city managers. Regions experiencing economic growth and increased revenue may offer higher compensation to attract top talent and retain efficient management.
  3. State-specific governance structures: The organizational framework of a state or city may impact salary expectations. For instance, city managers in strong mayoral systems may earn less than those in council-manager systems, where city managers have considerable decision-making authority.

Understanding these regional salary disparities is crucial for both current and aspiring city managers to make informed decisions about their career paths and geographic preferences. By examining city manager salaries by state and comprehending the factors that contribute to these differences, professionals can take a targeted approach in pursuing jurisdictions offering competitive compensation.

The Highest Paying City Manager Jobs in America

As we delve into the realm of the highest paying city manager jobs and top city manager earnings in the United States, it’s essential to explore those cities offering substantial compensation packages to their city managers and understand what makes these roles so lucrative.

Highest paying city manager jobs in America

Several variables contribute to these elevated earnings, such as the size of the city, the complexities surrounding its budget, and the level of responsibilities assigned to the city manager. Let’s take a closer look at some of the cities known for their high-paying city manager positions.

City City Manager Annual Salary Notable Features
San Francisco, CA $352,200 High cost of living and large city size
New York City, NY $277,400 Highest populous city in the U.S. and complex budget
Los Angeles, CA $271,100 Large city size and diverse population
Boston, MA $265,400 Dense urban area and high cost of living
Washington, D.C. $262,300 Capital city with unique governance structure

It’s clear from the table above that city managers in large metropolitan areas such as San Francisco, New York City, and Los Angeles command some of the highest salaries within this profession. These roles tend to come with immense responsibilities, as city managers in these locations must manage large budgets, address a diverse range of community needs, and navigate complex municipal structures.

Moreover, factors such as the cost of living and local economic conditions also play a critical role in determining the salaries of city managers. Cities with a high cost of living, like San Francisco and Boston, often provide their city managers with significant compensation, considering the increased expenses associated with living and working in these areas.

Aspiring city managers should take these factors into consideration when seeking opportunities in the sector, focusing on cities that not only offer competitive salaries but also align with their career aspirations, expertise, and lifestyle preferences.

Understanding the City Manager Pay Range and Benefits

As with any profession, a city manager’s earnings extend beyond their base salary. It is essential to understand the total compensation package when considering a career in this field. In this section, I will provide an overview of the factors comprising the city manager pay range and how various benefits influence their overall earnings.

Base Salary Versus Total Compensation

When discussing city manager compensation, it is crucial to differentiate between base salary and total compensation. The base salary is the fixed, annual gross income a city manager receives, excluding benefits and incentives. On the other hand, total compensation includes the base salary, plus additional financial perks and benefits, which contribute significantly to a city manager’s net remuneration.

Component Description
Base Salary A fixed, annual gross income, excluding benefits and incentives
Total Compensation The sum of base salary, benefits, and incentives, reflecting the overall value of a city manager’s earnings

The Impact of Benefits on Overall Earnings

Benefits have a substantial impact on a city manager’s overall earnings. While the specific offerings may vary from one municipality to another, typical benefits include:

  • Health insurance
  • Retirement plans
  • Paid time off (PTO) and vacation days
  • Performance-based bonuses
  • Continuing education and professional development opportunities
  • Relocation assistance
  • Vehicle and expense allowances

These benefits contribute to an earnings enhancement, significantly boosting a city manager’s total compensation. For instance, a city manager with a base salary of $150,000 and benefits worth $50,000 annually would have a total compensation of $200,000 – a far more accurate depiction of their actual earnings.

In conclusion, it is vital to acknowledge the city manager pay range and the array of benefits that greatly impact their overall earnings. Understanding these elements will provide a more comprehensive picture of this vital role in municipal governance and help individuals make informed decisions when pursuing a career as a city manager.

City Manager Salary Trends Over the Years

Over the years, city manager salary trends have evolved in response to various factors, from economic fluctuations to increased responsibilities and expectations within the profession (pay progression). This section will delve into the historical journey of city manager compensation in the United States, painting a picture of how these trends have emerged and transformed over time.

Some of the major factors that have significantly influenced city manager salary trends include:

  • Changes in the costs of living and inflation
  • Varying levels of city complexity and growth
  • Greater emphasis on professionalism and qualifications
  • Emerging legislative and policy landscapes
Decade Average City Manager Salary Key Salary Influencers
1970s $30,000 – $40,000 Initial establishment of city manager positions, varying local economies
1980s $40,000 – $60,000 Inflation, professionalization of the field, changing municipal landscapes
1990s $60,000 – $80,000 Increases in municipal budgets, complexity of city operations, cost of living adjustments
2000s $80,000 – $100,000 Increased responsibilities, higher educational standards for city managers, economic growth
2010s $100,000 – $130,000 Expanding roles of city managers, emerging policy frameworks, growing municipalities
2020s $130,000 – $170,000 Continued urban expansion, increased focus on sustainability, evolving legislative environment

In summary, city manager salary trends demonstrate a sustained growth in compensation over the years as the profession has evolved, with many positions now commanding lucrative six-figure incomes. Understanding these pay progression trends can help current and aspiring city managers chart a more informed and strategic career path through the dynamic world of municipal governance.

Insights from the Latest City Manager Salary Survey

In this section, I will delve deeper into the most recent city manager salary survey data, extracting critical insights and shedding light on key findings that influence city manager salaries today. Throughout this discussion, we will explore the survey methodology and the data collection techniques employed in the study.

Methodology Behind the Survey

The city manager salary survey was conducted through a collaborative effort involving municipal organizations, local governments, and human resource professionals. A combination of online questionnaires and phone interviews were utilized to gather comprehensive salary data from various locations across the U.S. The data collected from these research methods represented a diverse pool of city manager roles with varying tenures, educational backgrounds, and experience levels.

In terms of data collection techniques, the survey employed stratified random sampling to ensure that each region and city size group received the appropriate representation. Furthermore, the data was thoroughly processed and adjusted for regional cost-of-living differences.

Key Findings and Salary Influencers

The recent salary findings of the city manager salary survey presented several notable observations and trends that impact city manager earnings. Among these key findings, the survey emphasized three primary salary influencers:

  1. City Size: as previously discussed in this article, city size has a significant impact on city manager salaries. The salary survey reaffirmed this relationship, revealing that city managers in larger cities tend to earn higher compensation than those managing smaller municipalities due to the increased responsibilities and complexity of managing a larger city.
  2. Geographical Location: the survey also highlighted differences in city manager salaries across various regions in the U.S. Factors such as local economic conditions, cost of living, and the availability of resources in each region contributed to these disparities. City managers working in wealthier regions with a higher cost of living were found to receive higher remuneration than those in economically disadvantaged areas.
  3. Experience and Education: the survey data underscored the impact of city manager qualifications on their corresponding compensation. With higher levels of education or years of relevant experience, city managers typically command higher salaries, as their expertise and skills are more valuable to the municipalities they serve.

To provide additional context, the following table displays a summary of the survey key findings regarding how these primary salary influencers collectively impact city manager earnings:

Salary Influencer Impact on City Manager Salary
City Size Higher salaries in larger cities
Geographical Location Higher salaries in wealthier regions with higher cost of living
Experience and Education Higher salaries for those with more experience and higher levels of education

These key findings not only inform our understanding of the factors shaping city manager salaries today but also highlight the importance of considering these influencers when interpreting and analyzing this salary data in the context of career planning and municipal governance.

Comparative Look at City Manager Salary by Size of the Municipality

In order to analyze the influence of municipality size on city manager salaries, let’s examine the differences in responsibilities and compensation between small towns and large cities. The following comparison demonstrates how population, budget size, and other responsibilities can impact the city manager salary scale.

It’s important to acknowledge that city managers in smaller municipalities often shoulder a diverse range of duties due to limited staffing. Despite this, their salaries tend to be lower than their counterparts in larger cities, primarily because of the differences in budget size and population.

  1. Small Towns: City managers in small towns often manage a limited budget and work with a smaller team, resulting in lower salaries. However, they may find greater job satisfaction in the personal relationships fostered within the community and the increased autonomy in decision-making.
  2. Large Cities: In major metropolitan cities, city managers’ responsibilities are often more complex, due to the increased budget size and broader range of city services they handle. As a result, they command higher salaries compared to their small-town counterparts.

Let’s explore the city manager salary scale within various population brackets to further illustrate the distinctions between small towns and large cities.

Population Bracket Average Annual Salary Typical Responsibilities
Under 10,000 $65,000 Overseeing a smaller budget; managing a limited range of city services; setting the strategic direction for a rural or semi-rural community.
10,000 to 50,000 $85,000 Managing a moderately-sized budget; supervising a broader array of city services; maintaining relationships with local businesses and organizations.
50,000 to 150,000 $105,000 Handling a substantial budget; directing multiple departments; creating city-wide policies and initiatives.
150,000+ $145,000 Overseeing an extensive budget; leading high-level strategy; coordinating with multiple stakeholders including elected officials, residents, and business entities.

As evidenced by the municipality size comparison table, the city manager salary scale illustrates a clear relationship between the size of the municipality and the average annual salary. It is essential for aspiring city managers and professionals to consider the trade-offs between increased responsibility and higher compensation when evaluating career opportunities across various city sizes.

How to Interpret City Manager Salary Data Effectively

Navigating the vast amount of salary data available can be an overwhelming and complex task. In this section, I will guide you through the process of interpreting salary data, enabling you to make informed decisions, whether you are an aspiring city manager or a professional seeking comparative benchmarks.

Using Salary Data for Career Planning

Incorporating salary data into your career planning can be a strategic and beneficial move, allowing you to make data-driven decisions. Take the following steps to maximize the usefulness of salary data in your career planning:

  1. Identify relevant salary information: Research salaries for city managers in the locations, positions, or city sizes that interest you. Focus on reliable sources such as government websites, professional organizations, or reputable industry publications.
  2. Analyze the factors that impact salaries: Consider the role of qualifications, experience, city size, and location shown in the salary data to determine the areas where improvement or flexibility could boost your earning potential.
  3. Establish realistic salary goals: Based on your interpretation of the data, set reachable targets for your desired compensation as a city manager, factoring in cost-of-living differences, benefits, and room for negotiation.

Navigating Through Different Salary Sources

When examining city manager salary data, it is essential to compare and contrast the evidence from multiple sources to ensure that you’re basing your career decisions on reliable salary data. Some methods for differentiating between various salary sources are:

  • Evaluate the credibility of the source: Check the background and reputation of the organization or website presenting the salary data. Bias and conflicts of interest may skew the information or lead to inaccuracies.
  • Verify the date of the data: Salary data can become outdated quickly as market conditions change. Look for recent studies or surveys that provide timely data to guide your decision-making process.
  • Analyze the methodology: Examine the methods utilized in gathering and analyzing the salary data, including sample size, data collection techniques, and statistical analysis. This will help you assess the reliability and validity of the findings.

Approaching salary data with a critical eye and strategic mindset can help you uncover valuable insights for advancing your career. By effectively interpreting salary data, you can make well-informed choices in your career planning, ultimately leading to long-term success and satisfaction in your profession.


Throughout this article, we delved into various aspects of city manager salaries in the United States, providing valuable city manager salary insights to equip readers with the knowledge needed when examining this important aspect of municipal governance. From understanding the role of city managers in local government to exploring how factors such as experience, education, city size, and geography impact compensation, we’ve covered a comprehensive range of topics.

As a result, readers should now have a better grasp of how salaries for city manager positions vary across state, municipality size, and based on individual qualifications. The latest salary survey, detailed earlier in the article, offers relevant and up-to-date information for those looking to use salary data strategically in their career planning and decision-making processes. It’s crucial to critically assess various sources of salary data and consider their accuracy and reliability before making any significant decisions.

Moving forward, it’s important to stay informed about both historical and current trends to anticipate and prepare for the future of city manager compensation. By keeping apprised of new developments and remaining adaptable, one can effectively navigate this dynamic field, whether as an aspiring city manager or as a professional interested in understanding city manager salaries in a broader context. By staying informed, we can continue to make meaningful career choices and contribute to the efficient and effective running of our cities.


What is the average city manager salary in the U.S.?

The average city manager salary in the U.S. varies depending on several factors such as experience, education, city size, budget responsibilities, and location. However, the national average is often reported to be around $100,000-$175,000 per year.

How does a city manager’s experience and education affect their salary?

City manager salaries typically increase with more experience and higher levels of education. City managers with several years of experience in municipal government and advanced degrees (such as a Master’s degree in Public Administration) are likely to earn more competitive salaries than their less-experienced or less-educated counterparts.

How does the size of a city impact a city manager’s salary?

Generally, city managers in larger cities tend to earn higher salaries due to the increased complexity and scope of their responsibilities. The size of a city’s budget and the extent of budget responsibilities also play a significant role in determining a city manager’s compensation.

How do geographical location and cost of living affect city manager salaries?

City managers in regions with a higher cost of living, such as urban centers, often earn higher salaries than those in lower-cost or rural areas. Additionally, some states pay city managers more competitively than others, so salary discrepancies can be observed across different regions of the U.S.

What are the highest-paying city manager jobs in America?

Some of the highest-paying city manager jobs can be found in major metropolitan areas and cities with large populations. These positions often have more extensive budget and personnel management responsibilities, making them some of the most lucrative roles in local government.

What is included in a city manager’s total compensation package?

A city manager’s total compensation package typically includes their base salary and a range of benefits such as health insurance, retirement plans, paid time off, and other financial incentives. The value of these benefits can significantly enhance a city manager’s overall earnings.

How have city manager salaries evolved over time?

City manager salaries have generally increased over the years, reflecting the growing scope and complexity of municipal government responsibilities. Inflation, industry benchmarks, and emerging trends in local government have also contributed to these salary trends.

What can be learned from the latest city manager salary survey?

The latest city manager salary survey provides valuable information on current salary ranges, regional disparities, key factors influencing compensation, and other critical insights. These findings can be useful for individuals interested in pursuing a career as a city manager or for industry professionals seeking comparative benchmarks.

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