According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook , “Budget analysts help organizations allocate their financial resources. They develop, analyze, and execute budgets, as well as estimate future financial needs for private businesses, nonprofit organizations, and government agencies. In private sector firms, a budget analyst’s main responsibility is to examine the budget and seek new ways to improve efficiency and increase profits. In nonprofit and governmental organizations, which usually are not concerned with profits, analysts try to find the most efficient way to distribute funds and other resources among various departments and programs.”
For most of these positions, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum requirement; however, some companies prefer a master’s degree. According to the 2010-11Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Candidates with a master’s degree are expected to have the best opportunities, and about 41 percent of all budget analysts work in government.” Those working in government might also participate in drafting budget-related legislation. Students who wish to enter this field might not find a specific accounting course in budgeting, but several courses touch on this topic. One critical element in budgeting is to understand the operations of the company or entity for which the analyst is preparing a budget.
Budget analysts work with department heads and project managers to gather the proposed budget information from each part of the organization. Once the information is gathered, it is consolidated into financial statements for the entire organization and then presented to senior management for review and approval. Senior management might request information with the budget, such as proposals, alternatives, assumptions, risk factors, and staffing required to conduct the business or nonprofit operations. Once senior management approves the budget, budget analysts monitor the performance of the organization by comparing actual results to the budget and analyzing the reasons for variances from the budget.
According to the 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook, “Budget analysts usually work in a comfortable office setting. They spend the majority of their time working independently, compiling and analyzing data and preparing budget proposals. Some budget analysts travel to obtain budget details first-hand or to personally verify funding allocation.
The schedules of budget analysts vary throughout the budget cycle, and many are required to work additional hours during the initial development, mid-year reviews, and final reviews of budgets. The pressures of deadlines and tight work schedules can be stressful. In 2008, about 48 percent of budget analysts worked 40 hours per week, while about 11 percent worked more than 50 hours per week.
Budget analysts must abide by strict ethical standards. Integrity, objectivity, and confidentiality are all essential when dealing with financial information, and budget analysts must avoid any personal conflicts of interest. Most budget analysts also need mathematical skills and should be able to use software packages, including spreadsheet, database, data-mining, and financial analysis programs. Strong oral and written communication skills also are essential, because budget analysts must prepare, present, and defend budget proposals to decision makers. In addition, budget analysts must be able to work under strict time constraints.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects budget analyst jobs to increase faster than average. This increase will be the result of both employment growth and the need to replace retiring workers. The 2010-11 Occupational Outlook Handbook states, “Wages of budget analysts vary by experience, education, and employer. Median annual wages of budget analysts in May 2008 were $65,320. The middle 50 percent earned between $52,290 and $82,150. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $42,470, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $100,360.” The largest numbers of budget analysts are employed in these areas: aerospace product and parts manufacturing; the federal executive branch; management of companies and enterprises; colleges, universities, and professional schools; and elementary and secondary schools.