How to Become a Budget Analyst
| Accounting.com Staff
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Budget analysts help government agencies, large corporations, and nonprofits organize their finances, monitor and control spending, and coordinate the allocation of funds. These professionals need accounting and financial management knowledge. The responsibilities of a budget analyst include carefully analyzing past, current, and potential developments in the overall economy and in the organization's industry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 4% growth in budget analyst jobs from 2018-2028. This guide lists professional resources and includes information about necessary skills, education, and qualifications for budget analysts.
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WHAT SKILLS DO YOU NEED TO BECOME A BUDGET ANALYST?
Budget analysts work extensively with both abstract and concrete information. They also collaborate and communicate with other professionals and interact with technology daily. Below are five major skills budget analysts need to succeed. College programs help students develop and hone these abilities.
- ANALYTICAL THINKING
Analytical thinking involves breaking down large ideas and studying their individual parts. Budget analysts employ this skill frequently to identify budgetary strengths and weaknesses, draw objective conclusions, and develop solutions.
Since budget management deals with finance and the allocation of funds, numerical and mathematical skills are crucial. Budget analysts must quickly and accurately add, subtract, multiply, and divide -- on paper or with a calculator.
Effective communication skills help analysts convey information to others. These professionals use written and verbal communication to collaborate with staff and executives, share and justify financial recommendations, and condense complex information. Budget analysts produce informative materials including reports, charts, and graphs.
- READING COMPREHENSION
Budget analysts must be able to understand the meaning and context of written words. Professionals in the field apply reading comprehension skills while researching trends and data, reading publications, and dealing with internal communications.
Technology skills allow budget analysts to complete daily tasks quickly and efficiently. Budget analysts use various types of hardware and software to retrieve and enter data, process information, perform calculations, and communicate with others.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A BUDGET ANALYST?
Aspiring budget analysts usually need to earn a bachelor's degree. Common undergraduate majors of budget analysts include accounting, business, economics, and finance. Some employers hire entry-level budget analysts who hold a degree in another discipline, as long as the candidate can verify their qualifications through other credentials or experience. Aspiring budget analysis professionals should take classes in statistics, accounting, and economics.
Bachelor's degrees traditionally require 120 credits, which most full-time students complete in four years. Part-time learners generally take longer to graduate; degree completion times depend on the number of classes a student takes each term.
Financial firms; higher education institutions; and local, state, and federal government agencies typically require budget analysts to hold at least a bachelor's degree. However, some employers, such as small businesses, may accept candidates with several years of relevant work experience in lieu of a formal education. Qualifying experience can include paid work involving budgeting or financial planning.
For bachelor's degree-holders, gaining work experience outside the classroom is a vital step toward employment. Prior to graduation, learners should look into local internships to bolster their resume.
Not all budget analysts need professional certification, but local, state, and federal government offices often prefer certified job candidates. For example, the certified government financial manager (CGFM) credential from the Association of Government Accountants requires candidates to hold a bachelor's degree, at least 24 college credits in financial management, and at least two years of professional experience working for the government.
Candidates for the CGFM credential must pay an application fee, submit required documentation, and pass a series of examinations. To maintain active CGFM certification, professionals must complete 80 hours of continuing education every two years.
While a bachelor's degree is the standard minimum education requirement for entry-level budget analyst positions, ambitious professionals can consider pursuing a graduate degree. Master's degree-holders often secure high-demand jobs at prestigious financial firms. A master's degree can also help professionals advance into intermediate and senior budget analyst roles. Most master's programs require two years of full-time study.
WHAT EDUCATION DO YOU NEED TO BECOME A BUDGET ANALYST?
No college degree or professional credential guarantees a particular position or career. However, following an academic plan based on your career aspirations can improve your likelihood of professional success. This section reviews the most common education requirements and qualifications for budget analyst positions.
Most employers require analysts to hold a bachelor's degree. Popular majors for this career field include accounting, business, economics, and finance. Some budget analysts hold a degree in another field, such as statistics, public administration, or political science. Generally, any undergraduate degree satisfies the minimum education requirements for entry-level work in this field, as long as the candidate has the necessary analytical and accounting skills.
GENERALLY, ANY UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE SATISFIES THE MINIMUM EDUCATION REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY-LEVEL WORK IN THIS FIELD, AS LONG AS THE CANDIDATE HAS THE NECESSARY ANALYTICAL AND ACCOUNTING SKILLS.
Earning a master's degree can help qualify professionals for advanced positions. Popular fields of graduate study for budget analysts include business administration, accounting, and finance. Employers generally require or prefer candidates for senior budget analyst positions to hold a master's degree.
Even without formal college education or a bachelor's degree, job candidates may be able to qualify for a limited number of entry-level budget analyst position. Some employers accept several years of relevant work experience as an alternative to formal education. However, competing with degree-holders for employment can be challenging. Candidates without a degree can search for jobs with smaller companies, which often attract fewer job applicants than larger corporations or government agencies.
BUDGET ANALYST CAREER DEVELOPMENT AND CREDENTIALS
Budget analysts can earn professional credentials and complete continuing education throughout their career to pursue higher level positions. Budget analysts can choose from a variety of certification options that match their industry, specialization, and career goals. The sections below explore popular credentials and continuing education options for budget analysts.
Certifications and Continuing Education
Well-suited for budget analysts who work in the government, individuals who hold CGFM certification demonstrate strong abilities related to governmental accounting, auditing, financial reporting, internal controls, and budgeting.
This respected credential signifies professional competency and personal initiative. The credential can help distinguish job candidates from the competition. Budget analysts earn CGFM certification by fulfilling the education, experience, and examination requirements set by the Association of Government Accountants.
Most professional certifications require candidates to complete continuing education coursework to qualify for renewal. However, continued learning can be valuable for all budget analysts, regardless of whether they hold additional credentials. The types of continuing education below are common options for budget analysts.
- Independent Study: Individuals can read industry materials and scholarly journals or watch webinars.
- Training Programs: Students can participate in online or in-person continuing education courses or lectures.
- Teaching and Presenting: Professionals can prepare and lead a college-level course or present at an industry conference.
- Authorship: Individuals interested in research can write or contribute to the publication of a book or scholarly paper that is relevant to the industry.
Credentials and Licensing
- CERTIFIED PUBLIC ACCOUNTANT
Budget analysts may benefit from CPA certification, which qualifies holders to practice public accounting. To qualify for the CPA exam, candidates must meet certain education and experience requirements, which vary by state.
- CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER
This credential demonstrates that an individual meets rigorous standards set by the CFP Board. To qualify for the CFP credential, candidates must fulfill education, experience, examination, and ethics requirements.
- CHARTERED FINANCIAL ANALYST
This credential demonstrates a worker's broad knowledge base related to investment management, financial analysis, quantitative analysis, and other topics relating to general finance. Structured as a rigorous self-study program, candidates for the CFA credential complete three exams over four years.
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CAREER AND PROFESSIONAL RESOURCES
- American Association for Budget and Program Analysis
AABPA supports government managers and analysts, corporate executives, and students. Members receive benefits including networking opportunities, access to scholarly journals, and college scholarship opportunities.
- American Finance Association
The AFA promotes the academic study of financial economics. AFA members receive access to the Journal of Finance, networking opportunities, and a professional directory.
- Association of Government Accountants
AGA offers professional certification opportunities and career support for financial management professionals employed in local, state, and federal government offices. Membership benefits include networking and professional development opportunities.
- Government Finance Officers Association
GFOA represents and supports finance professionals working for the local, state, and federal government. Membership is open to students, entry-level professionals, and experienced employees. Benefits include best practice guidance, professional development resources, and networking opportunities.
- National Association of State Budget Officers
NASBO represents state budget offices in all 50 states. This nonpartisan, nonprofit organization works to further education and research. Staff members of NASBO-member offices automatically receive associate membership.
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