What is a Budget Analyst?

A budget analyst helps organizations and companies manage their finances. These individuals prepare budgets and develop projections based on past economic and spending trends. Budget analysts are crucial for maintaining profitability, reaching financial goals and attaining long-term growth. They may work in a number of industries with small and large companies. Jobs can be found with financial firms, healthcare providers, educational institutions, government agencies and more.

Job Duties of a Budget Analyst

One of the main responsibilities of budget analysts is developing a company’s budget. This may require the analyst to work with project and department managers, as well as stakeholders, to figure out the benefits and costs of different programs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Budget analysts also research data, analyze their findings and review financial records. Throughout the process, the analyst may recommend spending cuts and funding levels.

Budget analysts are also tasked with making sure that bookkeeping, budgets and other finances comply with company standards, laws and regulations. They may recommend changes to other stakeholders and management regarding more efficient ways to use their funds. Additional duties include providing technical analysis, monitoring spending for deviations and preparing annual reports and other documents.

In addition to analyzing budgets, these individuals must also effectively communicate their recommendations to the responsible parties within the company. For instance, if there is a significant difference between the actual spending and the approved budget, a budget analyst may write a report that explains these variations. He or she will then recommend strategies or changes to make up the differences.

Budget analysts must also make sure they are informing program managers of the availability and status of funds to reduce the chance that the company will go over-budget. Monitoring spending is critical to ensure this doesn’t happen, and the budget analyst must also estimate future financial needs based on the organization’s current spending and budget.

Budget analysts who work in the government often attend committee hearings in order to meet with legislators and explain their recommendations. In some cases, a budget analyst may evaluate a program’s performance, draft budget-related legislation or provide policy analysis. Although elected government officials or top executives are typically the ones to make the final decision on the budget, they still rely on the budget analyst to prepare information for them so that they may make this decision.

Education Requirements for Budget Analysts

Budget analysts are typically required to hold a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. However, some employers may request that applicants hold a master’s degree. Since developing a budget requires strong analytical and numerical skills, courses in accounting or statistics are helpful. If an individual is seeking a position with the federal government, a bachelor’s degree is enough education for an entry-level job. Local and state government requirements also vary, but in most cases, a bachelor’s degree in sociology, political science, statistics, economics, public administration, business, finance or accounting indicate a solid educational foundation.

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The budget analyst occupation, as a whole, has steady turnover since budget analysts often decide to take advantage of other opportunities in similar fields. These may include positions in related financial and business occupations such as financial analysts or higher-level budget analysts at other organizations. For this reason, according to the  Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects are expected to be good for the entry-level budget analyst.