Budget Analysts: What They Do and How to Become One

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Budget analyst working at her desk

Budget analysts help organizations with oversight and management of their finances. They might work for public companies or private institutions, including universities, nonprofits, corporations, health care organizations and government agencies — all of which rely on annual budgets to determine the allocation of funds, from employee salaries to new technology purchases. Budget analysts provide the information organizations need by crafting financial reports, monitoring spending and creating proposals for future budgets. If you are considering this career path, you are probably wondering, “What does a budget analyst do?” Read on to find out.

What Does a Budget Analyst Do?

The day-to-day work of budget analysts includes planning budgets and tracking spending. By collecting and analyzing data on how finances are spent, they make recommendations to leadership teams regarding financial allocation. As such, budget analysts should possess the following competencies:

  • Advanced Mathematics Skills: Numbers are at the core of any budget analyst role. Calculus, algebra and statistics are all basic skills budget analysts should master. Experience with technical tools such as Excel is also useful.
  • Analytical Prowess: Budget analysts not only crunch numbers but also analyze them. Statistical analysis determines the relationship between defined variables, such as the money spent on employee team-building initiatives and employee retention rates. The goal of statistical analysis is to identify trends using previously recorded data.
  • Organizational Ability: Oversight of a project, department or organization’s finances requires attention to detail and the organization of vast amounts of data.
  • Expertise with Charts and Graphs: To make their analysis results easier for others to grasp, budget analysts may need to present them visually. Leveraging tools such as Excel to create charts and graphs facilitates this task.
  • Communication Skills: Budget analysts break down complicated financial details into comprehensible language. Many workplaces will need simplified reports for decision-makers to use.

Mastery of these competencies will help budget analysts plan and track budgets, as well as present findings and make recommendations to organizational leaders. Their senior officials and work environments will vary depending on the employer, as illustrated below.

Corporations or Businesses: A large corporation with national reach may use several budget analysts, each one overseeing a single department or a handful of projects, in which case they might report to a department head. In the case of smaller businesses, such as a midsize retailer, a budget analyst may have oversight over the entire organization and report to C-suite executives.

Government Agencies: Government agencies at the local, state and federal levels require budget analysts. For example, city budget analysts may recommend investing in infrastructure projects to the city council. Alternatively, they could report on forensic accounting files for the Internal Revenue Service or Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Educational Institutions: Both public and private universities and secondary schools must distribute funds efficiently to maximize learning. For example, a budget analyst at a college could inform a dean or department chair on investments in computers and other educational technologies.

Health Care Organizations: Hospitals, private clinics and public health care providers all fall under the category of health care organizations. For example, a budget analyst may consult with the head of cardiology and determine whether a new EKG machine is within the facility’s budget.

Research Facilities: Technical and scientific research facilities span an array of industries, from organizations furthering artificial intelligence research to nanophysics laboratories. Budget analysts might report to the head of a research department or even the entire organization on questions such as financial support for researchers and monetary capacity for new technology.

How to Become a Budget Analyst: Attain an Advanced Education

Although the precise educational requirements for budget analyst positions vary depending on the industry and organization, an undergraduate degree in a business-related field or technical discipline, such as accounting, finance or mathematics, is a must. These areas of study share basic coursework that will prepare students to perform advanced financial analysis using statistics, calculus and Excel.

An advanced degree can expand career options, paving the path for higher-paying opportunities. Graduate students may gain the advanced financial and technical knowledge needed to take on greater responsibilities at more competitive organizations.

For instance, Rider University’s online Master of Accountancy offers three specialty concentrations: Business Analytics, Finance and Forensic Accounting. The Business Analytics concentration develops professional skills across a broad range of business specialties, including organizational operations and marketing. The Finance concentration could put students on the corporate path to become a future chief financial officer. And a specialty in Forensic Accounting is ideal for those interested in working in the criminal justice system, law firms or a government agency such as the FBI.

Depending on the chosen path, additional certifications and licenses may be necessary. For example, those wanting to work for the FBI as a forensic accountant need additional certifications and experience with government contracts and budgets. Alternatively, those pursuing a career in health care might seek accreditation as a health care financial professional.

How to Become a Budget Analyst: Gain Valuable Work Experience

In addition to classroom learning, hands-on experience will give aspiring budget analysts the tools needed to work independently. What does a budget analyst do? The roles and duties differ depending on the organization and industry, but completing internships while in school can lead to an entry-level accounting or finance position, such as bookkeeper, financial assistant or bill and account collector.

  • Bookkeeper: Bookkeepers produce financial records for diverse organizations. They record, update and verify financial transactions and statements. Bookkeepers earn a median pay of $40,240, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
  • Financial Assistant: A financial assistant does administrative work for an organization, including carrying out money-related transactions and keeping track of financial records. The BLS reports a median annual salary of $39,570 for this role.
  • Bill and Account Collector: In this position, individuals work for collection agencies or accounts receivable departments, attempting to collect overdue bills and negotiating payment plans. The BLS reports a median salary of $36,020 per year for this position.

Start a New Career — Become a Budget Analyst

Entry-level jobs are only the beginning of a successful career as a budget analyst. According to the BLS, budget analysts earned a median salary of $76,220 in 2018, while PayScale lists the average salary of a senior analyst as around $78,000, as of August 2019. The BLS projects the employment of budget analysts to increase by 7% between 2016 and 2016, so there will be a continued need for professionals with the qualifications and credentials to fill these roles. Rider University’s online Master of Accountancy can pave the way to success and open up many career paths. Choose from three concentrations: Business Analytics, Finance or Forensic Accounting. Whichever one you choose, this advanced degree can result in more options and greater earning potential in the future.

Recommended Readings

Career Spotlight: What Can You Do with a Master’s in Accounting?

What Types of Accounting Jobs Are Available for Advanced Degree Graduates?

What Are the Top Careers with Accounting Degree Requirements?

Sources

FBI Jobs, Business Analysis & Administration

Houston Chronicle, “Attributes of a Budget Analyst”

PayScale, Senior Budget Analyst Salary

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bill and Account Collectors

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Bookkeeping, Accounting and Auditing Clerks

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Budget Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Financial Clerks