How to Become a Budget Analyst: A Vital Role in Business
A budget is one of the most important documents created by an organization to manage and prioritize its operations. In presenting the organization’s expenses related to departmental activities, the budget outlines its goals in support it the mission statement.
While business executives or officials set broad objectives on how to spend money, the budget analyst translates those goals into dollars and cents.
While the duties of a budget analyst vary from organization to organization, most participate in the budgeting process. An analyst is involved in budget proposal evaluations, budget development, proposed budget presentations to executives, and budget tracking as monies are spent over a budget period.
Budget analysts are employed in companies; state, local, and federal government agencies; educational institutions; and not-for-profit organizations. For many organizations, budget analysts must possess advanced mathematical, statistical, and computational skills to process, understand and analyze large data sets in efficiently creating and managing budgets. To prepare for a career as a budget analyst, professionals should consider advanced education through programs such as an online Master of Science in Business Analytics.
The Role of the Budget Analyst
Budget analysts work with colleagues throughout an organization in budget development. They create deadlines for the submission of funding requests and review them for accuracy and compliance with laws and other regulations. Budget analysts also consolidate departmental budgets into one organizational budget, allowing executives to review requests to determine their merit and helping managers to find places to shift money to better meet organizational goals.
Budget analysts prepare regular reports throughout the budget term as well as an annual report that reviews the budget year. These reports provide the opportunity to compare actual to budgeted results at the end of each reporting period. Budgets sometimes are adjusted to meet new circumstances such as a change in overall economic conditions. Budget analysts review options and make recommendations for adjustments to operational leaders.
Among the tools budget analysts use are software programs that range from spreadsheets to more sophisticated applications. Some larger organizations use enterprise resource planning programs in their budgeting. Such programs consolidate an organization’s operating information into one place to help analysts estimate how a change in one department’s budget will affect other parts of the organization.
The Path to Becoming a Budget Analyst
Budget analysts should have specific skills and education that reflect a high degree of comfort in working with numbers.
Key Skills for Budget Analysts
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employers seek budget analysts with:
- Analytical skills and the ability to process a variety of types of information and to evaluate costs and benefits.
- Attention to detail for careful analysis of each budget item.
- Communication skills to explain and defend their analyses and recommendations in meetings or legislative committee hearings.
- Familiarity with financial software including spreadsheets, database programs, and financial analysis programs.
Education and Certification Requirements
For most budget analyst positions, the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor's degree, typically in a subject such as accounting, economics, finance, business, or public administration. Some employers require a master's degree, particularly for advanced budget analyst positions, while some companies might accept financial work experience in place of a higher degree.
Budget analysts who work in government can earn the Certified Government Financial Manager certification from the Association of Government Accountants. The requirements include 24 credit hours of study in financial management, two years of professional experience in governmental financial management, and passing scores on exams.
The Norwich University online Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program can deepen the core competencies associated with budget analysis as well as provide advanced training and skills that enhance a budget analyst’s value to an organization.
The online MSBA offers strong quantitative and data analysis training that can help analysts process, understand, and analyze large data sets. Coursework in the MSBA includes quantitative analysis, operations management, data mining, and big data modeling, all important areas of expertise for a budget analyst to understand.
Budget Analyst Salary and Job Growth
The median annual salary for budget analysts in the U.S. was $76,540, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2019. Budget analysts in the top 10% of the salary range earned $116,510.
The BLS also reports that budget analysts working for the federal government earned a median annual salary of $83,070 as of May 2019. Those working for scientific, professional, and technical firms made $82,830.
Where do budget analysts make the most money? According to PayScale, budget analysts in Washington, D.C., earn an average of 27.8% more than the national average. Budget analysts also draw higher than average salaries in Arlington, Virginia (23.6% more), and Los Angeles (11.9% more).
The BLS projects that the number of business analyst positions will increase by 4% between 2018 and 2028, which is about the same as the average rate of growth for all jobs.
Build a Career as a Budget Analyst
Individuals interested in becoming budget analysts should consider gaining specialized skills. Professionals who can identify and apply the fundamental concepts of statistics, data analysis, quantitative modeling, simulation, and optimization to solve complex problems are in demand by employers in the public and private sectors. Learn more about how Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Business Analytics program can help individuals advance in their careers as budget analysts.
Budget Analysts, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Budget Analyst Job Description, Accounting Tools
Attributes of a Budget Analyst, Houston Chronicle
What Is CGFM?, Association of Government Accountants
Average Budget Analyst Salary, PayScale