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Budget analysts help public and private institutions organize their finances. They prepare budget reports and monitor institutional spending.
Budget analysts typically do the following:
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 60,800 jobs in 2014. The industries that employed the most budget analysts were as follows:
|Educational services; state, local, and private||15|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||13|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||10|
|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.
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.
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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. 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.
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 $71,220 in May 2014. 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 $46,230, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $107,230.
In May 2014, the median annual wages for budget analysts in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||$79,440|
|Local government, excluding education and hospitals||66,910|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||62,840|
|Educational services; state, local, and private||60,620|
Most budget analysts work full time, and overtime is sometimes required during final reviews of budgets.
Employment of budget analysts is projected to grow 3 percent from 2014 to 2024, slower than the average for all occupations.
Efficient use of public funds is increasingly expected at the Federal, state, and local levels. Budget analysts should be in demand for their ability to manage the allocation of public funds. Many state and local governments, which previously had hiring freezes due to revenue shortfalls, are now seeing growth in revenue and spending. This should allow for increased hiring of budget analysts, as these governments fill positions that were previously left vacant. Budget analysts working in state government are projected to grow 2 percent, while those working in local government are projected to grow 6 percent.
However, recent slowdowns in federal spending and employment have limited overall employment growth at the federal level. Because of this, budget analysts working in the federal government are projected to decline 10 percent.
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.
|Occupational Title||Employment, 2014||Projected Employment, 2024||Change, 2014-24|