Eligibility: Who Is Eligible To Apply For The Credential?

To be eligible to receive the credential, an individual must be a local government chief administrative officer or assistant chief administrative officer, adhering to the ICMA Code of Ethics and its rules of enforcement as a requirement of membership. A member must also be in service to local government or have clearly demonstrated a commitment and connection to the profession within the last five years.

Members who have received a private censure for violating the ICMA Code of Ethics are eligible to apply for the credential.

Members who have been publicly censured or have had their credential revoked as a result of an ethics violation should wait a period of time (five years is recommended) before being eligible to receive a credential, and must demonstrate focused professional development in ethics.

Qualifications: How Do Members Earn The Credential?

A certain combination of education, experience, and continuing professional development will be required to earn the credential.


Executive experience includes full-time, appointed service as a manager/CAO and/or service as a senior assistant or similar position. Although the nature of the duties and responsibilities are more important than the position title, generally speaking, department head, assistant to, and administrative assistant experience does not meet the criteria for full credit. Responsibilities limited to one functional area, for example, do not qualify for full credit, while responsibilities across several functions will be considered.

Other experience can count toward the requirement on a half credit basis if the applicant currently occupies an executive (full credit) position in local government and has been in an executive-level position in local government for the last three years; for Candidate status the applicant must have occupied an executive position in local government for the past one year. Previous local government department head experience receives half credit. An applicant whose primary experience has been in some area other than local government (such as significant executive experience in the private sector, the military, or in other levels of government) will be given the opportunity to demonstrate how the applicant’s prior experience qualifies as executive experience based on the criteria defined below.

To be counted toward the required accumulation of experience, the professional role must include all of the following executive level responsibilities in local government:

  • Staff Management
    Supervising the development and performance of staff in the organization.
    Having a continuing direct relationship with operating department heads on the implementation and administration of programs.
  • Financial Management
    Having significant responsibility for the preparation and administration of operating budgets.
    Interpreting financial information to assess the fiscal condition of the governmental entity, determine the cost-effectiveness of programs, and compare alternative strategies.
  • Policy Facilitation and Implementation
    Having significant responsibility in the development and analysis of public policy alternatives and in the implementation of policy once adopted.
    Helping elected officials and other community leaders identify, work toward, and achieve common goals and objectives.
  • Service Delivery
    Ensuring effective performance in the delivery of local government services by anticipating future needs, organizing work operations, and establishing timetables for work units or projects.
    Having responsibility for diverse, major staff and/or line functions
    Having significant decision-making responsibility

Combining Education and Experience:

The credential requires a minimum number of years of executive service that varies depending on the education of the applicant. The applicant’s degree must be from a regionally accredited or DETC accredited university. The minimum number of years of experience are:

Masters degree in public administration or policy: 7 years
Other graduate degree: 8 years
Baccalaureate: 9 years
Less than Bachelor’s 15 years (CAO only)

Members who do not have a degree or have less than a baccalaureate degree, but who have 15 years in a local government CAO position (not senior assistant other positions), may apply for the credential.

Continuing professional development:

To qualify for the credential, the applicant must complete the ICMA Management Assessment (formerly Applied Knowledge Assessment) to help identify professional strengths and areas for improvement.

Applicants will complete a short application describing what was learned from the ICMA Management Assessment (formerly Applied Knowledge Assessment) and a plan for addressing, over the next year, the identified development needs. They will also report on how the 40-hour professional development obligation was met during the preceding year.

Within five years of obtaining the credential, holders of the credential must complete one of ICMA’s multirater assessments or submit a report of some independent evaluative experience.

What if a Member Doesn’t Yet Meet the Credentialing Requirements?

Members who do not yet meet the combined education/experience requirement but who expect to attain it within two years may apply for Credentialed Manager Candidate status. Benefits of candidate status include being able to receive the full credential as soon an individual meets the requirements due to already being approved, as well as being able to plan more structured activities.

Experience Requirements As Senior Local Government Executive

  MPA/MPP Other Graduate Degree Bachelor's Less than Bachelor's
CM 7 years 8 years 9 years 15 years (CAO only)
CM Candidate 5 years 6 years 7 years 13 years (CAO only)

Leadership Development Program Experience Credit

ICMA also offers credit for graduation from its leadership development programs as well as credit for approved non-ICMA leadership development programs. Graduation from one of these programs should be indicated on the credentialing application to receive credit. The following experience credit can be used towards meeting credentialing requirements:

ICMA Leadership Development Programs

Other Leadership Development Programs