Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances. They prepare budget reports and monitor institutional spending.

Duties

Budget analysts typically do the following:

  • Work with program and project managers to develop the organization’s budget
  • Review managers’ budget proposals for completeness, accuracy, and compliance with laws and other regulations
  • Combine all the program and department budgets together into a consolidated organizational budget and review all funding requests for merit
  • Explain their recommendations for funding requests to others in the organization, to legislators, and to the public
  • Help the chief operations officer, agency head, or other top managers analyze proposed plans and find alternatives if the projected results are unsatisfactory
  • Monitor organizational spending to ensure that it is within budget
  • Inform program managers of the status and availability of funds
  • Estimate future financial needs

Budget analysts advise various institutions—including governments, universities, and businesses—on how to organize their finances. They prepare annual and special reports and evaluate budget proposals. They analyze data to determine the costs and benefits of various programs, and they recommend funding levels based on their findings. Although government officials or top executives in a private company usually make the final decision on an organization’s budget, they rely on the work of budget analysts to prepare the information for that decision.

Sometimes, budget analysts use cost–benefit analyses to review financial requests, assess program tradeoffs, and explore alternative funding methods. Budget analysts also may examine past budgets and research economic and financial developments that affect the organization’s income and expenditures. Budget analysts may recommend cutting spending on particular programs or redistributing extra funds.

Throughout the year, budget analysts oversee spending to ensure compliance with the budget and determine whether changes to funding levels are needed for certain programs. Analysts also evaluate programs to determine whether they are producing the desired results.

In addition to providing technical analysis, budget analysts must communicate their recommendations effectively to officials within the organization. For example, if there is a difference between the approved budget and actual spending, budget analysts may write a report explaining the variations and recommend changes to reconcile the differences.

Budget analysts working in government may attend committee hearings to explain their recommendations to legislators. Occasionally, budget analysts may evaluate how well a program is doing, provide policy analysis, and draft budget-related legislation.

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Work Environment

Budget analysts held about 56,900 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of budget analysts were as follows:

Federal government 21%
Educational services; state, local, and private 13
Professional, scientific, and technical services 11
State government, excluding education and hospitals 11
Local government, excluding education and hospitals 10

Although budget analysts usually work in offices, some may travel to get budget details firsthand or to verify funding allocations.

Work Schedules

Most budget analysts work full time, and overtime is sometimes required during final reviews of budgets. The pressures of deadlines and tight work schedules can be stressful.

Education and Training

A bachelor’s degree is typically required to become a budget analyst. Courses in accounting, economics, and statistics are helpful.

Education

Employers generally require budget analysts to have at least a bachelor's degree. Because developing a budget requires strong numerical and analytical skills, courses in accounting, economics, and statistics are helpful. Federal, state, and local governments have varying requirements, but usually require a bachelor's degree in one of many areas, such as accounting, finance, business, public administration, economics, statistics, political science, or sociology.

Sometimes, budget-related or finance-related work experience can be substituted for formal education.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Government budget analysts may earn the Certified Government Financial Manager credential from the Association of Government Accountants. To earn this certification, candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, 24 credit hours of study in financial management, and 2 years of professional-level experience in governmental financial management. They must also pass a series of exams. To keep the certification, budget analysts must take 80 hours of continuing education every 2 years.

Personality and Interests

Budget analysts typically have an interest in the Thinking, Persuading and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a budget analyst, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Budget analysts should also possess the following specific qualities:

Analytical skills. Budget analysts must be able to process a variety of information, evaluate costs and benefits, and solve complex problems.

Communication skills. Budget analysts need strong communication skills because they often have to explain and defend their analyses and recommendations in meetings and legislative committee hearings.

Detail oriented. Creating an efficient budget requires careful analysis of each budget item.

Math skills. Most budget analysts need math skills and should be able to use certain software, including spreadsheets, database functions, and financial analysis programs.

Writing skills. Budget analysts must present technical information in writing that is understandable for the intended audience.

Pay

The median annual wage for budget analysts was $76,540 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $50,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $116,510.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for budget analysts in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Federal government $83,070
Professional, scientific, and technical services 82,830
Local government, excluding education and hospitals                         72,880
Educational services; state, local, and private 67,760
State government, excluding education and hospitals 67,230

Most budget analysts work full time, and overtime is sometimes required during final reviews of budgets. The pressures of deadlines and tight work schedules can be stressful.

Job Outlook

Employment of budget analysts is projected to grow 4 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations.

Demand for efficient use of public funds at the federal, state, and local levels will lead to continued demand for budget analysts. Although many states are facing budget shortfalls, employment of these workers should remain steady. Because budget analysts are responsible for managing the allocation of resources, the need for these workers remains even during times of tight budgets.

Job Prospects

Since this occupation has relatively few job openings due to separations, jobseekers are likely to face competition for the limited number of budget analyst positions.

For More Information

For information about the Government Financial Manager certification, visit

Association of Government Accountants

 

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