Budget analysts develop, implement, scrutinize, and report on how an organization distributes its funds. Budget analysts help private businesses, non-profits, and government agencies decide how to apportion their spending, weighing the institution’s directions and goals against its current financial state in order to maximize efficiency, delivery of services, and profits. In larger organizations, analysts may work with managers and representatives of departments or divisions on their individual budgets or on overall institutional budgets, depending on their particular position. Some budget analysts also provide training, review policies, or write financial regulations.
A budget analyst’s work flow is determined by budget cycles often based on a fiscal year. Budget cycles follow a typical pattern, beginning with a review of budget proposals based on accuracy, completeness, compliance with policies and regulations, cost-benefit analysis, and organizational goals. Analysts then submit these budgets to higher-level professionals for approval. Once budgets are approved, analysts spend the rest of the cycle ensuring that they are implemented correctly, monitoring and reporting on any deviations, suggesting re-allocations if necessary, and keeping track of accounts and funds.
Budget analysis requires strong mathematical and organizational skills, attention to detail, and a knack for communicating complex ideas to others. Additionally, budget analysts must be fluent with sophisticated software programs, which help them compile and review financial information from many sources within an organization.
Most budget analysts work a standard 40-hour week in an office setting, with additional hours necessary at budget cycle peak periods.
Education, Training, and Essential Skills
Most budget analysts have a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, business, economics, statistics, sociology, political science, or public administration. Federal government requires a bachelor’s degree for all entry-level positions. Some state government positions require a master’s degree.
Core education, regardless of the specific degree, should include statistics, accounting, and a strong mathematical curriculum. For higher-level positions, employers increasingly look for candidates with master’s degrees or a combination of formal education and strong work experience. Most budget analysts refresh their skills regularly with professional development courses or continuing education, particularly in emerging financial analysis software packages.
In addition to formal education, budget analysts require a set of skills to be successful, including familiarity with budget-related software, systems, and technologies; computer fluency; the ability to work under strict deadlines; strong analytical, mathematical, and communication skills; and ethical behavior.
Advancement and Professional Development Opportunities
Budget analysts often advance through promotions from entry-level or subordinate positions. Since each organization’s financial structure and budget cycle is unique, newly-hired analysts often spend the first year or two learning the particulars of an institution’s process; promotion to higher-level positions is a matter of gaining experience.
Additional certification and professional development can increase a budget analyst’s competitive edge for promotion or jobs in other organizations. Budget analysts employed by government agencies can apply for a Certified Government Financial Manager designation, which requires a combination of formal education, experience, passing the examination, and continuing education credits to maintain the certification.
Outlook and Income
Overall, the employment rate for budget analysts is expected to grow by 15% over the next decade, driven by larger, more complex businesses, increased financial regulation, and advances in budget analysis software that allow organizations to demand more sophisticated financial analysis. Budget analysts with master’s degrees and knowledge of data mining, financial analysis, and specialized enterprise resource planning software will be most competitive in the job market.
Annual median salaries for budget analysts are about $65,000, with higher median salaries associated with positions in the federal executive branch, aerospace manufacturing, and management of companies and enterprises. Budget analysts employed by colleges, universities, professional institutions, and elementary and secondary schools earn lower rates. Overall, government is the largest employer of budget analysts.