How to become a budget analyst

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Balancing the corporate budget is a critical financial process in businesses across every industry. At any given moment, a large organization has multiple budgets in place, including those for materials and supplies, human resources, information technology systems, and more. Any overages can quickly eat into company profits, preventing expansion of future revenue streams and growth.

Man in professional dress leading a meeting, standing in front of projector with line graph.

In this way, budget analysts are incredibly important, and a role that no organization can operate without. In the finance field, budget analysts are responsible for planning, balancing, and maintaining the budget, and the opportunities in this career role are on the rise.

Students and professionals working toward a finance degree, such as the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business online Bachelor of Science in Finance, have several postgraduate career opportunities available to them. One of these is the budget analyst role, which was recently ranked No. 5 in Forbes’ “Highest Paying, Fastest Growing Jobs.”

Today, we’re taking a more in-depth look at what a budget analyst does, the education and licensure required to pursue this role, and what advantages this career path can offer.

What is a budget analyst, and what responsibilities do they have?

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, a budget analyst can work in the public or private sector, and their main role is helping businesses and other institutions organize and maintain their finances. Overall, most budget analysts work in full-time positions and operate in an array of different industries, including enterprise and smaller private companies, government organizations, universities, and other firms.

The typical responsibilities held by an internal budget analyst include:

  • Collaborating with project managers and other department heads to establish and unify the company’s budget, particularly as it pertains to different business sectors
  • Combining the budgets of different programs or departments into a single, comprehensive budget for the review of executives or other key stakeholders
  • Reviewing and verifying budget proposals to ensure that all included information is correct and complete, and that proposals are also in step with current compliance standards or other applicable laws
  • Explaining funding request recommendations for C-suite officers within the company, or to legislators and/or the public, as needed and depending upon the work setting
  • Supporting the efforts of the chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and other managers, including assisting with proposal analysis
  • Seeking out proposal alternatives if current forecast results are unacceptable or can be otherwise improved
  • Tracking the institution’s spending according to established budgets
  • Monitoring available funds and keeping executives and stakeholders apprised of these amounts
  • Analyzing and projecting the organization’s future financial needs

As the BLS explains, budget analysts use a wide variety of financial and accounting processes to determine costs, forecast results, assess the potential of current or alternative budget proposals, perform cost benefit analyses, and ensure that the business can achieve its desired budgetary results. Overall, it’s up to the budget analyst to ensure that spending doesn’t exceed established limits and that the company can meet certain cost-saving or similar goals.

Requirements: education and other necessary credentials

To obtain a position as a budget analyst, individuals must meet a few key requirements for educational experience and certifications.

Most employers require at least a bachelor’s degree, such as the Collat School of Business online Bachelor of Science in Finance. However, hiring managers may consider candidates who don’t have a related degree, but have strong experience in finance- or accounting-related work. In other instances, depending on the working environment and sector in which the organization operates, the employer may require a master’s degree, according to Truity.

In addition, professionals seeking to become a government budget analyst must meet credential requirements and earn their Certified Government Financial Manager certificate from the Association of Government Accountants. To qualify for this, professionals must hold at least a bachelor’s degree that includes 24 credit hours of financial management study, as well as at least two years of professional experience handling government financial management processes. The process includes a series of exams to earn the initial certification, and professionals must also complete 80 hours of continuing education every two years to maintain their certification.

While this may seem like a time-consuming and challenging process, the advantages include increased job opportunities in the government field, as well as potentially higher compensation. The BLS notes that the federal government is one of the largest employers of budget analysts, with 21% of professionals working in this sector. In addition, analysts working for federal agencies are the second-highest paid individuals in this role, earning an average of $82,200 annually. Only analysts working in the scientific and technical service field can earn more, with a median annual wage of $83,890.

Other critical skills

Whether through educational or professional experience, it’s especially helpful for those seeking budget analyst positions to have expertise and qualities including:

  • Analytical skills: This role demands that individuals be able to examine and factor an array of different elements into their proposals and recommendations. It’s imperative for professionals to be able to think quickly and analyze financial situations according to the company’s internal goals and overarching economic conditions.
  • Mathematical skills: Budget analysts must understand and solve complex equations, and complete processes like cost benefit analyses and economic forecasts. Math skills, as well as an understanding of related software for spreadsheets, database functions, and financial analysis, are critical.
  • Communication and collaboration skills: Particularly in large enterprise or government agency settings, budget analysts must work with other department leaders to compile and unify financial documentation to create a comprehensive budget. In these situations, the ability to effectively explain processes and guide the efforts of other stakeholders is advantageous.
  • Detail oriented: With so many different factors at play involving an organization’s budget, it’s beneficial for these individuals to keep a close eye on details and perform careful and thoughtful analysis of budget elements.
  • Writing skills: In addition to in-person communication and collaboration, budget analysts must also create budgetary reports and recommendations.

Individuals who can think analytically, have an interest in finances, and are skilled in organization, planning, and analysis are well-suited for this type of career.

Where a bachelor’s degree fits in

Budget analysts are increasingly in demand, especially to assist government accountants and public administration processes. The BLS predicts that there will be 4% growth for the job outlook of this position, and more than 2,000 budget analyst roles will need to be filled from 2018 to 2028.

Individuals considering this career path can start their journey by building the necessary skills and expertise through a bachelor’s degree program, like the online Bachelor of Science in Finance from the University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business. Students can develop knowledge and experience in areas including financial research and management, portfolio management, business communications, international financial management, and more.

To learn more about how this type of degree can prepare you for a budget analyst or other in-demand career, connect with an expert enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Reading:

The role of capital budgeting in technology decision-making

What is the Securities and Exchange Commission?

Sources:

What to know about a career as a budget analyst

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Truity