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What is Public Sector Management?

By Osmand Vitez
Updated Jan 22, 2024
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Public sector management represents the positions found in federal, state and local agencies or municipalities. Positions include city managers, administrators, elected officials and similar types of managers. Individuals in these positions are typically responsible for managing the resources of the agency or municipality, and making decisions that improve the livelihood of people living within the area covered by the management position. Public sector management is somewhat comparable to private sector managers, with a few differences regarding experience or education.

Individuals holding public sector management position are typically highly visible to outsiders. Decision making, appropriations and budget cuts are all viewable to those around the agency or municipality. Public sector managers must have thick skin in order to take heat or harsh comments from individuals second guessing their decisions. They also must remember, however, that they are working for and representing their constituency. People holding elected positions often need to poll constituents or review decisions in terms of public reception. Managers who consistently go against the public or waste agency or municipality funds will not typically last very long in the office.

City managers are perhaps the most common public sector management position unknown to individuals. While mayors and council members represent constituents and need regular elections to continue in office, city managers receive appointment and approval from these elected positions. City managers work with budgets and allocate resources to complete projects voted on by constituents or approved by mayors and council members. City managers will often need a business management degree and some experience in overseeing office positions and other workers. Experience in private sector management is also beneficial for city managers, as the tasks and activities involved in the public management position are very similar.

Other public sector management positions below the city manager are similar to private sector management positions. Managers and supervisors are often at several levels in these structured environments. In many cases, public sector management positions fall in a centralized organizational structure. The city manager will oversee several managers who, in turn, oversee individual departments. Departments can include public works, emergency services, infrastructure and other divisions, based on the size and scope of the agency or municipality.

Though similar to the public environment, receiving promotion in the public sector may be more difficult. For example, mayors and city councils often look for individuals with specific experience to fill city manager positions. City managers, in turn, may then hire individuals to oversee individual departments. Promotions from within the department are possible, although poorly operated departments typically have few people who can fill this position. High turnover in the city manager position can also reduce the loyalty from this position to lower-level workers, limiting the opportunity for promotion.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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