How To Become a Director of Economic Development

Qualifications. Cities generally require economic development directors to hold a bachelor’s degree in economic development, urban planning, marketing, business administration or public administration. Economic development experience is also required.
  1. Earn a bachelor’s degree. Earning a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming an economic development director. …
  2. Gain experience. Explore opportunities to gain relevant experience. …
  3. Earn a master’s degree. …
  4. Pursue earning a certification.

Ask The… Economic Development Director

What does a director of economic development do?

A director of economic development focuses on ways to strengthen local economies and diversify a citys tax base. They focus on businesses that may make a significant economic impact on the city, which includes serving new and existing businesses. Economic development directors develop plans to attract and keep businesses. They persuade new businesses to open locations in the city and existing businesses to stay and, if possible, expand their operations.

Directors of economic development monitor trends within their respective cities. This includes tracking market trends and collecting data about various groups. They also maintain a list of available properties that businesses may use, such as open land, industrial spaces and retail spaces. A director of economic development uses what they find to develop strategic programs to promote financial and economic growth and make recommendations to the city manager or city council.

A director of economic development explores new ways for the city to improve its economic strength. This may include attending fundraising events for business and civic groups and making connections with donors who may be valuable economic partners. They also help develop and write tax policies and proposals for how the city may award different business incentives.

What is a director of economic development?

A director of economic development, or an economic development director, is a government employee who maintains a strategic focus on a citys economic development. They often work for city, county or state governments. A director of economic development may be the highest official within their department and supervise other economic development professionals, and they often report to and advise other officials, such as the city manager.

A director of economic development oversees and plans the economic development of geographic areas. They study market trends to identify potential threats and opportunities to the local economy. Economic development directors focus on developing and strengthening the local economy to create new jobs to help keep current residents and attract new residents.

How to become a director of economic development

Here are steps to follow for how to become a director of economic development:

1. Earn a bachelors degree

Earning a bachelors degree is the first step in becoming an economic development director. Select a degree program that may assist you get a job to provide you with relevant experience. Consider earning your bachelors degree in:

2. Gain experience

Explore opportunities to gain relevant experience. Although working as a director of economic development is a government job, consider working in the private sector. This may help you learn how to effectively build relationships with business leaders.

Becoming an economic development director requires an understanding of economic development and financial programs. Look for opportunities to learn more about working with tax increments, writing public policies and planning developments. Its also important to monitor financial trends and opportunities for cities.

Directors of economic development often lead teams of people. As you advance in your career, look for opportunities to direct or supervise others. Some positions prefer candidates that, as a minimum, have experience working as a department head.

3. Earn a masters degree

Most director of economic development positions require candidates to have a masters degree. Select a program similar to your bachelors degree to further your specialty, or consider selecting a different program related to economic development to develop new skills. Consider pursuing a masters degree in a program like:

4. Pursue earning a certification

Many director of economic development positions seek candidates with certifications and licenses. In addition to a valid drivers license, these positions seek candidates with certifications from professional organizations related to economic development or planning. Consider earning certifications such as the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) certification from the American Planning Association and/or the Certified Economic Developer (CEcD) certification from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Skills for director of economic development

Here are some skills important for a director of economic development to develop:

Director of economic development salary

Heres an example of what a job description for a director of economic development may include:


Responsible for leading efforts for the citys economic development. Overseeing programs through all stages, including initial planning, development, implementation and analysis. Collaborating with internal and external partners to foster and improve the citys economic base. Recruiting, retaining and redeveloping businesses into economic opportunities. Promoting the city as an economic development destination to potential businesses. Preparing and giving presentations and reports about economic development programs, activities, projects and recommendations.

Essential responsibilities and duties


How can I start a career in economic development?

To be an economic development specialist, an aspirant needs a bachelor’s degree in business, management, human resources, education, or instructional design. Although, greater chances go to those who hold a master’s degree in business management, administration, or marketing.

What degree do I need for economic development?

Many prospective economic development graduate students have bachelor’s degrees in disciplines such as political science, international affairs, economics, sociology, anthropology, business, or mathematics.

Is economic development a good career?

The career itself is very rewarding, and like any career, the earlier you begin, the more exposure and experience you will get. The phenomenal thing about economic development in government is that you will be exposed to everything.

What are the 5 levels of economic development?

Unlike the stages of economic growth (which were proposed in 1960 by economist Walt Rostow as five basic stages: traditional society, preconditions for take-off, take-off, drive to maturity, and age of high mass consumption), there exists no clear definition for the stages of economic development.

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