To become a budget analyst, you’ll be responsible for viewing and analyzing your employer’s current budget. You’ll also spend time balancing the budget and maintaining it. If you want to enter into this field, earning a bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting will be optimal to helping you achieve your career goals. You’ll have to hold a bachelor’s degree at a minimum, though some employers may require applicants for higher-level positions to hold a master’s degree in finance or a related field.
Some good news for you? If you don’t have a bachelor's degree in finance, but you already have some strong experience working in an accounting-related field, you may be able to find a position with a smaller company, but your earning potential will be lower than it is for those with a full bachelor's degree.
What is a Budget Analyst?
A budget analyst is the numbers person that everyone looks to for guidance. Stakeholders for your employer will also be involved in looking at the numbers you and reports you create, so accuracy is absolutely vital. You’ll submit a report periodically about your conclusions, which can affect the standing and well-being of your company, so having a variety of skills will be important. Budget analysts must have skills that are highly developed, and you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively.
Steps to Become a Budget Analyst:
Step 1: An Accounting Degree
Step 2: Gain Experience
Step 3: Start Your New Career
Step 1: Obtain an Accounting Degree
No matter where you plan to work after graduation - local government, federal government or public administration - you will need to have at least a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance. So, you should determine which accounting bachelor's degree program meets your needs and request admission.
Once you get into school, you’ll work on passing your classes and earning every credit you need for graduation. Private companies, non-profits, and government agencies all rely on budget analysts to help them create a working budget that allows them to make spending plans far into the future. Once they have both, they will know what they can spend and what they will be spending it on, as well as being prepared for any possible crisis – which is all vital to working within the budget that you helped to develop.
In your budget analysts courses, you’ll learn about the principles of management and strategic planning. Much of the focus will be on research, analysis, the process of compiling and interpreting reports, and how to present these materials to management or other employees. You’ll also need to know how to lead and coordinate other employees and make the best use of the resources you are given.
Another degree program you may want to consider is a leadership bachelor’s degree. Here, you could benefit from a solid foundation as you prepare to become a budget analyst and would include classes in accounting and statistics. If you are looking to get a government as a budget analyst, you may want to also look at obtaining a certified government financial manager certificate.
Step 2: Gain Industry Related Experience
As you approach the end of your degree program and consider applying for budget analysts positions, keep experience in mind. For instance, according to the bureau of labor statistics, a little more than 50% of employers are looking for up to two years of experience, 32% want you to have three to five years of experience, and 7% are looking for six to eight years of experience.
This brings up that old conundrum: “How do I get experience if I can’t get hired?” While this is true, you can consider taking part in an internship as a budget analyst. As you become a budget analyst with experience, you can apply for jobs or internships that will give you experience in accounting or finance so that you can not only learn what you need but gain some experience in the field - this may include work-study or a summer job. You may also choose to start your career as an accountant or working in a finance position before you finish school. This is often the goal of students who earn
You’ll see when you look through job ads that, while some will list experience requirements, others may not. So, you may be able to begin working as a budget analyst even if you only have a little bit of experience through an internship, or none at all.
Step 3: Start Your New Career
Since you know that you don’t absolutely need to have a set number of years of job experience to get into this type of position, it’s time to sit down, browse those jobs websites, and start applying to companies advertising for budget analysts. You should know that the Bureau of Labor Statistics has projected a 3% growth rate for budget analyst jobs, ranging from 2019 to 2029. However, you should also be aware that the required experience may differ in your area. You might end up needing to spend some time working in a more general accounting position before your local companies think you’re ready to work as a budget analyst. It’s a very important decision.
Consider the skills you should have:
- Mathematics - Budget analysts need to use numbers and math heavily
- Analytical Thinking - Budget analysts must be taking budget proposals and breaking them down into their smaller parts, looking for strengths and weaknesses.
- Communication - Your ability to communicate orally and in writing will allow you to convey information and ideas to colleagues, managers, and shareholders. Budget analysts must focus on complex information and justify financial recommendations.
What Does a Budget Analyst Do?
Budget analysts must use their communication skills and analysis ability to collaborate with others in the company as they produce reports that break down income, costs, profits, etc. They may go through budget proposals to ensure their accuracy, and will keep an eye out to make sure the company is in compliance with external and internal regulations and laws.
They work closely with management and the financial management team as both program and department budgets are developed. They analyze data and prepare financial reports regularly to ensure the company’s funds flow smoothly and make plans for future expenses, monitor the company’s spending, work with organization leaders to develop new solutions just in case recommended budgets or plans won’t fit the needs of the company. And, most importantly, they use data in creating planning and spending recommendations to present to the leaders of the company.
Skills to Acquire to Become a Budget Analyst
As noted in the previous section, there are plenty of skills budget analysts must have in order to complete the position requirements. They include communication, reading comprehension, analytical skills, financial management, teamwork, and mathematical skills, among others.
You also need a high level of organizational ability. You’ll be managing projects, a whole department or, if you have been promoted to a higher position, an entire organization. This means you need to be able to keep large amounts of information well-organized.
Budget analysts must know how to work with charts and graphs. What do they mean to you? What are they saying? What nuggets of information do they contain that you’ll need to use? Most importantly, can you create them using the Excel spreadsheet software?
No matter where you work (private company, non-profit, educational institution, or a government organization), your supervisors, the CEO, and the stakeholders will want every snippet of information they receive to be complete. They want it to be well-presented, so they understand completely what you are recommending. If you are working for the government—local, state, or federal—you need to know exactly what the financial picture is for that government department, how they want to utilize their budgets, and what they can do with the money.
Alternative Paths to Consider
Usually, you are required to hold a bachelor’s degree in accounting at a minimum to become a budget analyst. However, if you have a more general bachelor’s degree, you may be able to move into a budget analyst position if you have finance- or budget-related work experience, especially if you are looking to work with a smaller company. You should have sufficient working experience that it will substitute satisfactorily for a degree. If you’ve been working for a few years in these fields, scout around on jobs websites that include budget analyst job announcements. Look for those that say they will consider substituting work experience for a degree. It is these openings you should apply for.
You should have taken undergraduate courses in economics, business, public administration, accounting, political science, or sociology. Even if you don’t earn a bachelor’s degree in accounting or finance, those years of working experience may prove to be a good substitute. With experience you will learn the skills budget analysts need to perform the financial management daily requirements to be successful.
Next, if you earn a few of the right types of certifications, registrations, or licenses, such as a government financial manager credential, it will be easier for you to receive a job offer for a budget analyst’s position. These certifications include those such as the Certified Government Financial Manager, earned from the Association of Government Accountants. For this, you need at least a bachelor’s degree and 24 credits in financial management. You also need two years of professional experience in governmental financial management and you’ll also have to pass several exams. The need for experience required by most certifications makes it a difficult path to follow without the requisite degree in the field, but sometimes it is possible.
Budget Analyst Career & Salary
Where Might You Work?
Once you complete your degree and become a budget analyst, you will consider your job options, you might be considering what options you have for work environment. Depending on your interests, internship, and degree specialization you may have chosen, you should have a number of options available.
First, you may work for a local government or state government, not including hospitals and education, with government accountants. Or you may work in educational services, either private or public. You may also be able to work at the federal government level, though the experience level required for these positions may be higher than it is for others.
And what kind of compensation or annual salary can you expect for these budget analysts positions? The biggest employers of budget analysts report median salaries that looked like this:
- Local Government: $71,000
- State Government: $65,000
- Federal Government: $82,000
- Educational Services (private, state, and local): $66,000
- Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services: $84,000
In your work as a budget analyst, you’ll collect funding requests from department heads and managers. You’ll go through proposals, checking for completeness, accuracy, and proof that the proposals are in line with your organization’s regulations, procedures, and objectives. And you will generally track the expenditures across every department in your company to ensure that current and future budgets make sense. Your job role is vital; managers will be waiting for your financial analysis, ensuring that their budget proposals are in compliance with laws passed by state or federal governments along with their internal regulations; you may also recommend alternative funding methods, if needed.
Going into budget analysis is a good decision; the employment of budget analysts is expected to grow by 3% between 2019 and 2029. This is about as fast as all other U.S. occupations. Because budget analysts play such a large role in carrying out benefit analyses and deciding how budgetary funds will be allocated, the demand for their services will continue in companies of all sizes.
As the world of business continues on a trend toward globalization and a focus on technology, budget analysts will likely spend more and more time delving deeper into the many streams of data they find available to them. The increase in assistive technology does not mean that budget analysts will become obsolete because there will always need to be someone to translate all of that pure data into concepts that can be used by managers to make real world decisions. That is why the field continues to grow even as AI becomes more commonplace in data analysis.
Advancing From Here
At first, you’ll work under close supervision in an entry-level position. While your responsibilities may be limited, once you show how capable you are, you may be promoted within two years up to a mid-level position. Your career path may look like this: budget analyst, budget manager, senior financial analyst, then finance director. It will take you years to move up this pathway while you compile more knowledge, experience, certifications, and managerial experience.
Keep in mind what work you’ll be doing as you apply for budget analyst openings. Budget analysts must be good with math and crunching the numbers. If these two skills fit you, then you’ll do well in a position as a budget analyst. The job market for budget analysts is stable, so you should be able to find work easily, though you might find that you’ll be paid better if you are willing to commute or move to an area where businesses center themselves, such as a large city. In addition, the possibility of staying in your position is good.
- Budget Analyst – Customer-Focused Programs:
You’ll carry out budget functions for operations or customer reimbursable programs. You may also inform on the status and availability of funding in various budget accounts and develop and formulate a portion of the organization’s budget request for the upcoming fiscal year for predetermined customer-focused programs.
- Budget Manager:
These managers prepare detailed budget fund requests; analyze each department’s budgetary planning, and coordinate ongoing budget proposals, recommendations, and other considerations. They will also analyze existing budget data reports as you review charge-backs, shortage, and product supply issues. In larger corporations, they will have many meetings with management where they make suggestions, explain charts and budget details, and give explanations for any budget shortfalls.
- Financial Analyst or Senior Financial Analyst:
Your primary purpose in this position is to offer budgetary support for the organization and the Chief Finance Officer. You’ll carry out limited analyses, developing required data and information for planned reports. You may also create short factual administrative reports and prepare documents necessary to process budget estimates. You’ll work closely with other budget-focused professionals and may lead a team yourself or work under the supervision of a budget analyst, depending on the company’s organizational structure.
- Clinical Budget Analyst:
In this position, you’ll take part in efforts for long- and short-term financial planning for healthcare organizations, programs, and support activities. Depending on the type of organization you work for, you may need prior experience in non-profit budgeting. You’ll interact with teams and committees for budget planning, policies, management, and procedures while also keeping an eye on patient outcomes.
- Additional Budget Analyst Positions:
Certified Government Financial Manager, Financial Management
Find Budget Analyst Jobs Near You
Frequently Asked Questions
What do budget analysts do?
Budget analysts oversee spending, explore alternative funding methods, review financial requests, evaluate budget proposals, report economic and financial developments, and prepare budget reports.
What do program and project managers do?
Program and project managers oversee the success of all the interconnected projects within a program.
What is government financial manager certification?
A government financial manager certification is issues by the Association of Government Accountants in the United States and establish a standard by which government financial management workers are measured.
How much do budget analysts make?
Budget analysts make around $79,000 per year on average.
What skills should budget analysts have?
Budget analysts need to have communication skills, math skills, and writing skills. Budget analysts need analytical skills, and need to be detail oriented.
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