Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances. They prepare budget reports and monitor institutional spending.
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, legislators, and 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 recommend funding levels based on their findings. Although elected officials (in government) 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 program spending cuts 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 effectively communicate their recommendations 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 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.
Budget analysts held about 61,700 jobs in 2012. They worked in a variety of settings, including government agencies, universities, and companies. Although budget analysts usually work in offices, some may travel to get budget details firsthand or to verify funding allocations. The industries that employed the most budget analysts in 2012 were as follows:
|Federal government, excluding postal service||20%|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||14|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||12|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||10|
Budget analysts spend most of their time analyzing data and preparing budget proposals. In nonprofit and government organizations, analysts try to find the most efficient way to distribute funds and other resources among various departments and programs. In private firms, a budget analyst's main responsibility is to review the budget and seek new ways to improve efficiency and increase profits.
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.
A bachelor’s degree is typically required to become a budget analyst, although some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree.
Employers generally require budget analysts to have at least a bachelor's degree. However, some employers may require candidates to have a master’s degree. Because developing a budget requires strong numerical and analytical skills, courses in statistics or accounting are helpful. For the federal government, a bachelor's degree in any field is enough for an entry-level budget analyst position. 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, 2 years of professional-level experience in governmental financial management, and they must pass a series of exams. To keep the certification, budget analysts must take 80 hours of continuing education every 2 years.
Entry-level budget analysts begin with limited responsibilities, but advancement is common. As analysts gain experience, they have the opportunity to advance to intermediate and senior budget analyst positions.
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.
The median annual wage for budget analysts was $69,280 in May 2012. 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 $45,720, and the top 10 percent earned more than $103,590.
Most budget analysts work full time, and overtime is sometimes required during final reviews of budgets.
Employment of budget analysts is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Budget analysis is getting more complex as more types of data and statistical techniques become available. The greater complexity of the job and its expanding job duties are expected to create a need for more budget analysts.
Efficient use of public funds is increasingly expected. During periods of budget cutbacks, the expertise of budget analysts remains in high demand, meaning employment remains more stable in comparison with other public employees. Therefore, some employment growth from 2012 to 2022 is likely, but it also may be tempered by limited government spending.
This occupation has fairly steady turnover, as budget analysts often leave the occupation to pursue opportunities to work in similar areas. These opportunities include positions as higher-level budget analysts at other organizations and positions in related business and financial occupations, such as financial analysts. For this reason, job prospects are expected to be good for entry-level budget analysts.