How to Become a Budget Analyst: Charting Your Course
By Carrie Mesrobian on 08/23/2021
Is the world of business—and the spreadsheets, finance and forecasting that comes along with it—your thing? Do you like the idea of taking a deep dive into the financial fundamentals of an organization and sorting out what’s going right or wrong? A career as a budget analyst could be a great fit for you.
It’s great to have an idea of where you’d like to take your career, but of course, having a destination isn’t the same as knowing how to get there. If you’re wondering what it takes to become a budget analyst, you’re in the right place. We’ve asked several business pros for their insight on what it takes to become a budget analyst in today’s competitive marketplace.
What is a budget analyst?
“A budget analyst is a specialized financial manager that focuses on researching, building and reporting on an organization’s budgets to optimize business function and maximize revenue,” explains Dennis Hancock, CEO of Mountain Valley MD™.
The role of budget analyst, whether in the private, public or nonprofit sectors, is to help an organization plan and manage financial concerns. Budget analysts review budgets, monitor spending, address compliance and other regulatory issues, inform management of fund availability, and examine proposed budgets to capture a sense of future costs and needs.
“Budget analysts work closely with executives to ensure the business vision is fully executable under the proposed budget,” states Hancock.
Many budget analysts are tasked with preparing annual financial reports and presenting them to key team members and executive leadership. Often, they must communicate various options for obtaining funding, decreasing costs or redistributing resources. This role is usually a full-time position, with additional hours during times when major reports and proposals must be completed.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of budget analysts is projected to increase 3% from 2019 to 2029.1 While you might associate budget analysts with large businesses, their skills are needed in the public sector as well as the U.S. federal government accounts for 22% of all budget analyst hires.1
“Typically, larger and more complex organizations employ budget analysts while smaller businesses can get away with a small and simple financial department or outsource their accounting,” says Hancock.
What is a typical educational background for budget analysts?
“Because the nature of the job involves finances and budgeting, you should be good with numbers,” says Stacey Kane, business development lead at EasyMerchant®.
But the role is not just a matter of shifting numbers around on spreadsheets. Analysts need to understand what these figures represent and how to critically evaluate potential budget options. “They have to be creative and clever with finances,” says Jarret Austin, founder of Bankruptcy Canada CA.
As you might expect, it takes formal training and education to become a budget analyst. According to the BLS, most budget analysts have completed studies at the Bachelor’s-degree level in fields like Finance or Accounting, and some employers may prefer candidates with a Master’s degree as well.1
“Accounting, economics and statistics courses are beneficial in this position because developing a budget frequently necessitates numerical and analytical skills,” says Kane.
Strong analytical skills are also critical for success as a budget analyst.
“Their jobs frequently require them to process a large amount of information, weigh costs and benefits, and solve complex problems,” Kane continues. “Personality wise, candidates aspiring to be budget analysts should be calm and capable of working well under pressure.”
A lot of this pressure comes from communicating their interpretations of budget proposals and configurations, which can include difficult news about future funding and spending cuts.
“A good budget analyst has to have the ability to be frank with their clients,” says Austin. “Oftentimes, they’re giving insights that people don’t want to hear.”
Kane agrees that communicating budget changes and challenges with team members and other stakeholders is an important part of the job. This means that clear, concise writing skills are also important as you’ll need to relay what you’ve learned with colleagues who may not share the same analytical talent.
“You must be able to explain and defend your analyses and recommendations in meetings or committee hearings,” Kane says.
Yearly reviews and reports also will require extra hours for budget analysts (as well as some stress!).
“Being a budget analyst can be stressful at times, particularly during final budget reviews, so expect to work extra hours,” Kane adds. “Further, expect to have deadlines that you must meet at all costs.”
How can I position myself for a budget analyst role?
Jacob Dayan, CEO and cofounder of Community Tax and Finance Pal, advises those seeking this role look for positions with companies in fields that mesh with their own personal interests. Since budget analysts work in almost every industry, it’s possible to target one’s job search toward an organization that does work you can also feel passionate about.
“It is important to find a company that you enjoy working for and align with their mission or values,” Dayan explains.
Hancock believes that cultivating big-picture thinking is a good practice for those pursuing a career as a budget analyst. This means keeping on top of financial news; global, economic and political events; and trends in consumer spending.
“Budget analysis is a huge undertaking, and the stakes are very high,” says Hancock. “Becoming a great budget analyst requires strong financial knowledge and a deep understanding of their company’s industry.”
Chart your course
Now that you know more about the role of a budget analyst as well as the skills and training needed for the role, are you ready to take that first step? Earning a Bachelor’s degree in Finance or Accounting from Rasmussen University can help you reach that goal. If you’re not completely sure becoming a budget analyst is the best for you after reading this, you can learn more about other potential business career paths with our articles “What Can You Do with an Accounting Degree? Exploring Your Options” and “What Can You Do with a Finance Degree? 7 Careers to Consider.”
1Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [accessed July, 2021] www.bls.gov/ooh/. Information represents national, averaged data for the occupations listed and includes workers at all levels of education and experience. This data does not represent starting salaries. Employment conditions in your area may vary.
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