Budget analysts use their expert knowledge of finance to increase their employers' efficiency, maximize profits and reduce wasteful spendingRead on to learn more about the pros and cons of a budget analyst career.
|Pros of a Budget Analyst Career|
|High earnings ($71,000 median salary as of 2014)*|
|Work in a comfortable office setting*|
|Jobs available in various settings*|
|Stable employment during poor economic conditions*|
|Cons of a Budget Analyst Career|
|Meeting deadlines can be stressful*|
|May require travel*|
|Can require overtime*|
|Master's degree required for some positions*|
|Continuing education is common in this career*|
Source: *The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Budget analysts work for businesses, nonprofits and government agencies, using their expert knowledge of finance to increase their employers' efficiency, maximize profits and reduce wasteful spending. In this career, you may examine your employing organization's budget for any areas that need improvement and make suggestions to the CEO, elected official or senior management according to your findings. This may entail presenting your findings in reports or business presentations.
You'll typically use computer software to compile and analyze data. You will usually work at least 40 hours a week in an office setting, but some jobs require extra hours and travel. Final budget reviews, in particular, can require you to work overtime, and you may experience stress involved with meeting strict deadlines.
Job Growth and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment for budget analysts would increase by 6% from 2012-2022, which is a slower-than-average rate compared to other occupations. Due to the development of new statistical techniques and, in turn, the increasing complexity of the job, there's expected to be a greater demand for budget analysts. Additionally, since these professionals ensure efficient use of funds, demand remains high during budget cutbacks, and employment continues to be steady in the midst of poor economic climates.
According to the BLS, the federal government is the largest employer of budget analysts as of 2014. Many others worked for local government, state government, universities and companies. The middle 50% of budget analysts made between $57,000 and $89,000 as of May 2014, with the highest-paid workers making over $107,000.
What Are the Requirements?
Education and Training
The BLS reports that most employers require budget analysts to hold at least a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field, though some employers require you to have a master's degree. In some cases, you can substitute postsecondary training with experience in finance or budgeting. You may also qualify for a budget analyst position in the federal government with a bachelor's degree in a non-finance-related major.
After gaining employment, you'll typically start in an entry-level position, receiving greater supervision and less responsibility. The training process often involves completing a 1-year budget cycle, which will familiarize you with budgeting methods. As you gain experience as a junior budget analyst, you may advance to intermediate or senior analysts status.
Top Skills for Budget Analysts
Obviously, budget analysts must have solid analytical skills and a knack for finance and math. Excellent communication skills are also essential, since you'll have to communicate with company executives on a regular basis, both in writing and verbally. Technical aptitude is also important, and many employers look for applicants who can work with and adapt to various software programs, such as spreadsheets, databases and financial analysis programs.
What Employers Are Looking For
Budget analysts are needed in both public and private sectors in a wide variety of settings. Employers tend to favor applicants with some level of experience in the field and proficiency in industry-specific software and procedures. Here are a few examples of job postings found in March 2012:
- A Virginia-based company was looking for a budget analyst with a bachelor's degree and at least 7 years of related experience to provide budgeting support to the Marine Corps Systems Command. Applicants must have excellent communication skills and experience preparing Funding Action Requests and Purchase Requests as well as being able to obtain security clearance.
- A Washington D.C. company advertised for a budget analyst to work with a military civil engineering division on resource management issues. Candidates should have prior experience in budget analysis and financial management, and they must be able to obtain security clearance.
- A New York-based nonprofit organization was looking for a budget analyst with a bachelor's degree in accounting and prior experience working with a nonprofit. Applicants must have excellent communication skills as well as knowledge of the Microsoft Office suite and nonprofit-specific software.
How to Stand out
Education and experience are the principal factors of employment qualification for budget analysts. If you don't have a degree in finance, you may benefit from including courses in statistics, accounting and financial management in your undergraduate curricula. Even as you become more experienced, you may want to take courses in budgeting and financial management to stay informed of advancements in the field. In fact, it's common for budget analysts to continue their education throughout the course of their careers by taking professional development courses.
Certification is not mandatory, but it can demonstrate proficiency and lead to greater job opportunities. Budget analysts who work for the government can earn the Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) designation offered by the Association of Government Accountants. To qualify, you must complete a bachelor's degree program including 24 credit hours in financial management as well as 2 years of government financial management experience. You'll also have to pass 3 exams in order to receive the designation, and you must complete 80 continuing education hours every 2 years to maintain your status.
Other Careers to Consider
If a career as a budget analyst doesn't seem like the right fit for you, consider a career as a financial analyst. Financial analysts work with businesses, banks and insurance companies to help them make sound investment decisions. The BLS states that a bachelor's degree or higher in business or finance is required for most positions. Compared to budget analysts, financial analysts benefit from greater earnings and job prospects. According to the BLS, the median salary for financial analysts was $76,000 as of 2011, with the top 10% earning more than $145,000. Jobs were projected to grow at a faster-than-average rate of 23% between 2010 and 2020.
If you would rather work in a consulting position, a career as a management analyst may be a better fit for you. Management analysts can work as employees or contractors, providing businesses with advice on how to increase efficiency and profit. The typical requirement for most management analysts is a bachelor's degree or higher in business, finance or another related field. This job also yields higher pay and greater job prospects. The BLS predicted that job opportunities for management analysts would grow by 22% from 2010-2020, and the median salary for these workers was about $78,000 as of May 2011.