Although a bachelorís degree generally is the minimum educational
requirement, many employers prefer or require a masterís degree.
About 52 percent of all budget analysts work in Federal, State,
and local governments.
Nature of the Work
Deciding how to efficiently distribute limited financial resources
is an important challenge in all organizations. In most large
and complex organizations, this task would be nearly impossible
without budget analysts. These workers play the primary role in
the development, analysis, and execution of budgets, which are
used to allocate current resources and estimate future financial
requirements. Without effective budget analysis and feedback about
budgetary problems, many private and public organizations could
Budget analysts can be found in private industry, nonprofit organizations,
and the public sector. In private sector firms, a budget analyst
examines budgets and seeks new ways to improve efficiency and
increase profits. Although analysts working in nonprofit and governmental
organizations usually are not concerned with profits, they still
try to find the most efficient distribution of funds and other
resources among various departments and programs.
Budget analysts have many responsibilities in these organizations,
but their primary task is providing advice and technical assistance
in the preparation of annual budgets. At the beginning of each
budget cycle, managers and department heads submit proposed operational
and financial plans to budget analysts for review. These plans
outline prospective programs, including proposed funding increases
and new initiatives, estimated costs and expenses, and capital
expenditures needed to finance these programs.
Analysts examine the budget estimates or proposals for completeness;
accuracy; and conformance with established procedures, regulations,
and organizational objectives. Sometimes, they employ cost-benefit
analysis to review financial requests, assess program tradeoffs,
and explore alternative funding methods. They also examine past
and current budgets and research economic and financial developments
that affect the organizationís spending. This process enables
analysts to evaluate proposals in terms of the organizationís
priorities and financial resources.
After the initial review process, budget analysts consolidate
individual departmental budgets into operating and capital budget
summaries. These summaries contain comments and statements that
support or argue against funding requests. Budget summaries then
are submitted to senior management, or, as is often the case in
local and State governments, to appointed or elected officials.
Budget analysts then help the chief operating officer, agency
head, or other top managers analyze the proposed plan and devise
possible alternatives if the projected results are unsatisfactory.
The final decision to approve the budget, however, usually is
made by the organization head in a private firm or by elected
officials in government, such as the State legislature.
Throughout the remainder of the year, analysts periodically monitor
the budget by reviewing reports and accounting records to determine
if allocated funds have been spent as specified. If deviations
appear between the approved budget and actual performance, budget
analysts may write a report providing reasons for the variations,
along with recommendations for new or revised budget procedures.
To avoid or alleviate deficits, budget analysts may recommend
program cuts or reallocation of excess funds. They also inform
program managers and others within their organization of the status
and availability of funds in different budget accounts. Before
any changes are made to an existing program, or before a new one
is implemented, a budget analyst must assess the programís efficiency
and effectiveness. Analysts also may be involved in long-range
planning activities such as projecting future budget needs.
The amount of data and information that budget analysts are able
to analyze has greatly increased through the use of computerized
financial software programs. The analysts also make extensive
use of spreadsheet, database, and word-processing software.
Budget analysts have seen their role broadened as limited funding
has led to downsizing and restructuring throughout private industry
and government. Not only do they develop guidelines and policies
governing the formulation and maintenance of the budget, but they
also measure organizational performance, assess the effects of
various programs and policies on the budget, and help draft budget-related
legislation. In addition, budget analysts sometimes conduct training
sessions for company or government agency personnel regarding
new budget procedures.
Budget analysts usually work in a comfortable office setting.
Long hours are common among these workers, especially during the
initial development and midyear and final reviews of budgets.
The pressures of deadlines and tight work schedules during these
periods can be stressful, and analysts usually are required to
work more than the routine 40 hours a week.
Budget analysts spend the majority of their time working independently,
compiling and analyzing data and preparing budget proposals. Nevertheless,
their schedules sometimes are interrupted by special budget requests,
meetings, and training sessions. Some budget analysts travel to
obtain budget details and explanations of various programs from
coworkers, or to personally verify funding allocation.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Private firms and government agencies generally require candidates
for budget analyst positions to have at least a bachelorís degree,
but many prefer or require a masterís degree. Within the Federal
Government, a bachelorís degree in any field is sufficient for
an entry-level budget analyst position, but, again, masterís degrees
are preferred. State and local governments have varying requirements,
but a bachelorís degree in one of many areasóaccounting, finance,
business, public administration, economics, statistics, political
science, or sociologyómay qualify one for employment. Many States,
especially larger, more urban States, require a masterís degree.
Sometimes a degree in a field closely related to that of the employing
industry or organization, such as engineering, may be preferred.
Some firms prefer candidates with a degree in business because
business courses emphasize quantitative and analytical skills.
Many government employers prefer candidates with strong analytic
and policy analysis backgrounds that may be obtained through such
majors as political science, economics, public administration,
or public finance. Occasionally, budget-related or finance-related
work experience can be substituted for formal education.
Because developing a budget involves manipulating numbers and
requires strong analytical skills, courses in statistics or accounting
are helpful, regardless of the prospective budget analystís major
field of study. Financial analysis is automated in almost every
organization and, therefore, familiarity with word-processing
programs and with financial software packages used in budget analysis
often is required. Software packages commonly used by budget analysts
include electronic spreadsheet, database, and graphics programs.
Employers usually prefer candidates who already possess these
Those seeking a career as a budget analyst also must be able
to work under strict time constraints. Strong oral and written
communication skills are essential for analysts because they must
prepare, present, and defend budget proposals to decision makers.
In addition, budget analysts, along with all other financial
officers, must abide by strict ethical standards. Integrity, objectivity,
and confidentiality are all important to budget analysis, and
budget analysts must avoid any personal conflicts of interest.
Entry-level budget analysts may receive some formal training
when they begin their jobs, but most employers feel that the best
training is obtained by working through one complete budget cycle.
During the cycle, which typically is 1 year, analysts become familiar
with the various steps involved in the budgeting process. The
Federal Government, on the other hand, offers extensive on-the-job
and classroom training for entry-level trainees. In addition to
on-the-job training, budget analysts are encouraged to participate
in various professional development classes throughout their careers.
Some government budget analysts employed at the Federal, State,
or local level may earn the Certified Government Financial Manager
(CGFM) designation granted by the Association of Government Accountants.
Other government financial officers also may earn this designation.
To do so, candidates must have a minimum of a bachelorís degree,
24 hours of study in financial management, and 2 years of government
work experience in financial management. They also must pass a
series of three exams that cover topics on the organization and
structure of government; governmental accounting, financial reporting,
and budgeting; and financial management and control. To maintain
the CGFM designation, individuals must complete 80 hours of continuing
professional education every 2 years.
Budget analysts start their careers with limited responsibilities.
In the Federal Government, for example, beginning budget analysts
compare projected costs with prior expenditures, consolidate and
enter data prepared by others, and assist higher grade analysts
by doing research. As analysts progress in their careers, they
begin to develop and formulate budget estimates and justification
statements, perform detailed analyses of budget requests, write
statements supporting funding requests, advise program managers
and others on the status and availability of funds for various
budget activities, and present and defend budget proposals to
Beginning analysts usually work under close supervision. Capable
entry-level analysts can be promoted to intermediate-level positions
within 1 to 2 years, and then to senior positions within a few
more years. Progressing to higher levels means added budgetary
responsibility, and can lead to a supervisory role. Because of
the importance and high visibility of their jobs, senior budget
analysts are prime candidates for promotion to management positions
in various parts of their organizations, or with other organizations
with which they have worked.
Budget analysts held 58,000 jobs throughout private industry
and government in 2004. Federal, State, and local governments
are major employers, accounting for 52 percent of budget analyst
jobs. About 23 percent worked for the Federal Government. Many
other budget analysts worked in manufacturing, financial services,
or management services. Other employers include schools and hospitals.
Competition for budget analyst jobs is expected over the 2004-14
projection period. Candidates with a masterís degree should have
the best job opportunities. Familiarity with computer financial
software packages also should enhance a jobseekerís employment
Employment of budget analysts is expected to grow about as fast
as the average for all occupations through 2014. Employment growth
will be driven by the continuing demand for sound financial analysis
in both the public and the private sectors. In addition to employment
growth, many job openings will result from the need to replace
experienced budget analysts who transfer to other occupations
or leave the labor force.
The increasing efficiency of computer applications used in budget
analysis has increased worker productivity by enabling analysts
to process more data in less time. However, because budget analysts
now have much more data available to them, their jobs are becoming
more complicated. In addition, as businesses and other organizations
become more complex and specialized, budget planning and financial
control will demand greater attention. These factors should offset
any adverse effects of computer applications on employment of
In coming years, all types of organizations will continue to
rely heavily on budget analysts to develop and analyze budgets.
Because of the importance of financial analysis performed by budget
analysts, employment of these workers should remain relatively
unaffected by any downsizing in the Nationís workplaces. In addition,
budget analysts usually are less subject to layoffs than are many
other workers during economic downturns because financial and
budget reports must be completed during periods of both economic
growth and slowdowns.
Salaries of budget analysts vary widely by experience, education,
and employer. Median annual earnings of budget analysts in May
2004 were $56,040. The middle 50 percent earned between $45,170
and $70,530. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $36,850, and
the highest 10 percent earned more than $87,380. Median annual
earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of pharmacists
in May 2004 were:
According to a 2005 survey conducted by Robert Half Internationalóa
staffing services firm specializing in accounting and financeóstarting
salaries of financial, budget, treasury, and cost analysts in
small companies ranged from $29,750 to $36,250. In large companies,
starting salaries ranged from $33,500 to $40,000.
In the Federal Government, budget analysts usually started as
trainees earning $24,677 or $30,567 year in 2005. Candidates with
a masterís degree began at $37,390. Beginning salaries were slightly
higher in areas where the prevailing local pay level was higher.
The average annual salary in 2005 for budget analysts employed
by the Federal Government in nonsupervisory, supervisory, and
managerial positions was $67,767.
Budget analysts analyze and interpret financial data, make recommendations
for the future, and assist in the implementation of new ideas
and financial strategies. Other workers who have similar duties
include accountants and auditors, cost estimators, economists,
financial analysts and personal financial advisors, financial
managers, loan counselors and officers, and management analysts.
See the Career Database for
more information on these careers.
Information about career opportunities as a budget analyst may
be available from your State or local employment service.
Information on careers in government financial management and
the CGFM designation may be obtained from:
Association of Government Accountants, 2208 Mount Vernon Ave.,
Alexandria, VA 22301. Internet: http://www.agacgfm.org/
Information on careers in budget analysis at the State government
level may be obtained from:
National Association of State Budget Officers, Hall of the
States Building, Suite 642, 444 North Capitol St. NW., Washington,
DC 20001-1511. Internet: http://www.nasbo.org/
Information on obtaining positions as occupational health and
safety specialists and technicians with the Federal Government
is available from the Office of Personnel Management through USAJOBS,
the Federal Governmentís official employment information system.
This resource for locating and applying for job opportunities
can be accessed through the Internet at http://www.usajobs.opm.gov/ or through an interactive
voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850 or TDD (978)
461-8404. These numbers are not tollfree, and charges may result.
Source: Bureau of
Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition