Budget Analysts Overview

Budget analysts will be in greater demand now to meet the need of companies seeking sound financial analysis. At minimum professionals need a bachelor’s degree to work in this position though some employees prefer or even require a masters degree and earning one will open doors to the best opportunities. The government employs about 41 percent of all budget analysts.

Nature of the Work for Budget Analysts

Budget Analysts

In general, budget analysts are responsible for helping organizations including private businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations, allocate their financial resources by developing, analyzing and executing budgets in conjunction with predicting future financial needs. Budget analysts who work in the private sector focus on examining the budget and looking for new ways to increase profits and improve efficiency. However, since government and nonprofit organizations aren’t concerned with profits, budget analysts working in those sectors typically look for more efficient ways to distribute funds and other resources across programs and departments.

Beyond managing the budget, budget analysts often have a hand in policy analysis, program performance evaluation and the drafting of legislation related to budget. They may also be in charge of training government or company personnel on new budget procedures.

Budget analysts receive financial and operation proposals from department heads and managers at the start of every budget cycle that detail programs, estimated financial needs of each and funding initiatives proposed to meet those needs. Then, the analysts must review these budget estimates and proposals to determine accuracy, completeness and whether or not they conform to pre-established regulations, objectives and procedures. A cost-benefit analysis is sometimes necessary in reviewing these financial requests, assessing program tradeoffs and looking for new funding methods. They can also get a better understanding of an organization’s financial picture by looking at past budgets and researching economic and financial developments that could impact income and expenditures.

Once the initial review is complete, budget analysts consolidate each departmental budget into capital and operating budget summaries. Within these summaries, budget analysts create arguments for or against funding requests. They submit these summaries to senior management or in government settings, elected officials. Then if the projected results are unsatisfactory, budget analysts must help the top managers, such as an agency head or chief operating officer, analyze the plan and come up with alternatives. The final budget approval is usually out of the hands of the budget analyst and up to the organization head or elected officials.

Budgets must be monitored periodically throughout the year. So budget analysts review reports and records to determine whether or not allocated funds are being used as originally specified. When deviations occur between actual spending and the approved budget, budget analysts must explain the variations and recommend a revision to alleviate or avoid such deficits such as reallocating excess funds or cutting programs. Budget analysts must also keep their program managers abreast of the status and availability of money in the organization’s accounts.

Now budget analysts can produce, review and compile much more data and information thanks to data and statistical analysis software. Spreadsheets, financial analysis and database software is an integral part of a budget analyst’s work and helps them understand different budgeting options to provide the most accurate and up to date information to agency leaders. To help consolidate all the pieces of a organization’s operation into a single computer system, more and more organizations are choose to use Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) programs for budget-making. These ERP programs can help budget analysts estimate the possible effects of a budget alteration on different parts of an organization.

Most budget analysts work in an office setting. Since much of the work is compiling, preparing and analyzing budget proposals, most of the day is spent working independently. Some occasional travel is necessary depending on the position to verify funding allocation or obtain budget details in-person.

Budget cycles often determine budget analysts’ schedules. Long hours are common during initial development stages, mid-year reviews and year-end reviews. In fact, almost half of all budget analysts worked 40 hours per week in 2008, while 11 percent worked more than 50 hours per week. Stress goes hand in hand with deadline pressures and tight work schedules.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement for Budget Analysts

At minimum, budget analysts need a bachelor’s degree, but some employers favor or require applicants to hold a masters degree. At the entry-level budget analysts usually have just a few limited responsibilities and after a year or two they are promoted to intermediate level positions and later to senior level positions that each add to the list of responsibilities and duties.

While some organizations look for budget analysts with masters degrees, typically the minimum requirement is a bachelor’s degree. For entry-level budget analyst positions with the Federal Government, a bachelor’s degree in any field will suffice. Requirements vary in state and local government though and a bachelor’s degree in a related field is usually needed such as economics, statistics, accounting, finance, business, political science, public administration or sociology. Regardless of major, statistics or accounting courses can prove invaluable to budget analysts who need strong analytical and numerical skills on the job. On rare occasions, related experience working in finance or budgeting can take the place of formal education.

Typically budget analysts learn on the job as they go through a complete budget cycle, which usually is one year. During that cycle, analysts begin to see the steps needed in each part of the budgeting process. Throughout their careers many budget analysts take professional development courses as well.

Strict ethical standards must be followed when dealing with financial information. Budget analysts need to avoid personal conflicts of interest and must place top importance on confidentiality, objectivity and integrity. In addition to mathematical skills, most budget analysts also need to know their way around computer software packages to complete spreadsheets, databases and financial analysis. On the job, budget analysts prepare, present and defend budget strategies to decision makers so strong oral and written communication skills are important. Strict deadlines are common in the field so analysts need to be able to work with time constraints.

Budget analysts begin their careers working closely under their supervisors in entry-level positions with limited responsibilities. Workers who show their capabilities are often promoted within a year or two to intermediate level positions and then to senior level positions with more experience. Senior budget analysts enjoy high visibility and a job that is very important to the organization and so they’re often promoted to management positions in various parts of the organization or other organizations.

Budget analysts who work for the Federal, state or local government may earn the Certified Government Financial Manager designation from the organization Advancing Government Accountability, which represents government accountability officers. Candidates need a bachelor’s degree at minimum, 24 credit hours of financial management courses and 2 years of professional-level experience in governmental financial management. Plus, they need to pass a series of three exams covering topics on governmental financial management and control, governmental environment and governmental accounting, financial reporting and budgeting. Every 2 years, budget analysts must complete 80 hours of continuing education to maintain the certification.

Top 10 Most Popular Financial Services Schools

1. Florida State College at Jacksonville (Jacksonville, Florida)
2. CUNY Bernard M Baruch College (New York, New York )
3. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)
4. Instituto de Banca y Comercio, San Juan (San Juan, Puerto Rico)
5. DePaul University (Chicago, Illinois)
6. University of Illinois, Urbana, Champaign (Champaign, Illinois)
7. Florida International University (Miami, Florida)
8. New York University (New York, New York)
9. Pace University, New York (New York, New York)
10. University of Florida (Gainesville, Florida)

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Top 10 Most Popular Online Financial Services Schools

1. University of Phoenix - Online School
2. Kaplan University - Online School
3. Ashworth College - Online School
4. DeVry University - Online School
5. Ashford University - Online
6. South University - Online Programs
7. American InterContinental University - Online School
8. Saint Leo University Online
9. Colorado Technical University - Online School
10. ITT Technical Institute Online

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Employment and Job Outlook for Budget Analysts

Number of People in Profession

60,970

Changing Employment (2008-2018)

Employment is projected to grow faster than average (increase 14 - 19%).

In 2008, 67,200 budget analysts were working. One of the top industries employing these workers is government, responsible for 41 percent of the jobs. Other top industries for budget analysts include schools, manufacturing, management services and professional, scientific and technical services.

Overall, jobs for budget analysts are expected to grow faster than average. The best opportunities will likely go to those with a masters degree.

Between 2008 and 2018, employment of budget analysts is projected to grow by 15 percent, which is faster than average for all occupations. The continued demand for sound financial analysis in the private and public sectors will be drive the demand for more budget analysts.

Also, financial control and budget planning is becoming more complex and specialized within companies and organizations, so the task requires more attention. Computer applications for budget analysis have recently become highly sophisticated helping budget analysts to analyze and process data much quicker. Therefore, those in charge at agencies have started to demand an increasing amount of information about the budgeting process along with more data and analysis. In turn, workloads have increased and caused a demand for more workers. This process should continue, and thus more and more budget analysts will be needed.

Beyond this employment growth, jobs will become available due to workers who leave or retire from the occupation. A masters degree will open doors to the best opportunities. An understanding of the Enterprise Resource Planning, spreadsheets, databases, data-mining and financial analysis software packages will also help candidates stand out.

Earnings and Salary for Budget Analysts

While wages vary based upon education, employer and experience, the median annual salary for budget analysts is $65,320. The highest 10 percent earn above $100,360, the lowest 10 percent earned below $42,470 and the middle 50 percent earned from $52,290 to $82,150. A look at the industries employing the most budget analysts shows a salary breakdown as follows:

  • Elementary and secondary schools: $57,700
  • Colleges, universities and professional schools; $58,190
  • Management of companies and enterprises: $70,460
  • Federal Executive Branch: $70,650
  • Aerospace product and parts manufacturing: $70,830
  • Budget analysts working for the Federal Government: $80,456

Annual Salary for Budget Analysts

On average, Budget Analysts earn $66,660 per year.

10% 25% 75% 90% $43,570/yr $53,460/yr $83,110/yr $100,880/yr

Hourly Wage for Budget Analysts

On average, Budget Analysts earn $32.05 per hour.

10% 25% 75% 90% $20.95 $25.70 $39.96 $48.50

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook