What Is the Best Degree Path for Becoming a Budget Analyst?

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If you love numbers, enjoy organizing, and like to plan, a career as a budget analyst might be a great fit. Budget analysts help businesses by organizing and allocating their financial resources. They keep track or organizational spending to ensure everything stays within budget. But what degree do you need to be a budget analyst? Typically, the job requires a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation, however, some employers prefer candidates hold graduate degrees.

In this article, we’ll explore the best degrees for budget analyst roles, as well as other important aspects of the job, such as:

  • Earnings potential
  • Job outlook
  • The degree required
  • What it takes to become a budget analyst

How Do You Become a Budget Analyst?

It’s important to know how to become a budget analyst before planning your educational path. Budget analysts need a bachelor’s degree to enter the occupation. But what budget analyst degree do you choose?

As indicated above, employers seek entry-level budget analysts with bachelor’s degrees in a variety of disciplines. From business to psychology, these majors will help you qualify for an entry-level position. Most commonly, students major in business, economics, finance, or a quantitative-based social science. It’s important, no matter which major you choose, to also take courses in accounting, economics, and statistics. Since work as a budget analyst requires strong analytical and mathematical skills, it’s also important to take courses that hone these skills.

Some employers prefer to hire applicants who hold master’s degrees. A master’s degree shows an employer you have strong research skills, including abilities to analyze and synthesize data. However, not all employers require a graduate degree. Helpful graduate degrees may include:

  • Accounting
  • Business Analytics
  • Computer Science or Programming
  • Data Science
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Mathematics

In lieu of a graduate degree, some employers might accept work experience. In rare cases, work experience may even be substituted for a bachelor’s degree. Since this is uncommon practice, it’s best to pursue, at minimum, a bachelor’s degree before applying for work as a budget analyst.

What Degree Does a Budget Analyst Need?

To enter the occupation, the best degree for budget analyst jobs is a bachelor’s degree. A four-year degree is typically required by employers, though some may ask for additional education. The most common budget analyst degree programs at the bachelor’s level include:

  • Accounting
  • Business
  • Economics
  • Mathematics
  • Psychology
  • Social Science

The most popular degree for budget analyst roles is business. In a bachelor’s in business program (BBA), you’ll be exposed to core business functions, such as economics, finance, management, marketing, and supply chain management. It’s important, when majoring in business, to also take courses in accounting and statistics because when working as a budget analyst, you’ll need to draw on analytical and numeracy skills.

The education for budget analyst jobs is not as narrow as one might think. You don’t have to major in business, or even a business-related discipline. Some budget analysts major in psychology or another social science. These degrees prepare students for careers as budget analysts by teaching them how to think critically. Also, many social science programs are more quantitative than qualitative. This means students take courses in statistics and mathematics.

They emerge from the program with a better understanding of how decisions with data get made. They also learn how to interpret data. These skills help aspiring budget analysts know how to analyze numbers and solve complex problems.

As a budget analyst, you’ll work with budgets. You’ll estimate both current and future financial needs, as well as monitor the organizational spending within a business. To carry out these tasks efficiently and accurately, you will need to have a strong mathematical background with stellar analytical skills. You’ll also need to write reports and deliver complex information to wide audiences. As a result, you should plan to take courses that build on these skills.

Accounting, business, economics, finance, and math are excellent courses that help grow your skillset and prepare you for a career as a budget analyst.

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What Does It Take to Be a Budget Analyst?

  • Education
  • Experience
  • Important Qualities

Budget Analyst Schooling
As you embark on a budget analyst college major, such as accounting or finance, you’ll spend about four years on the degree. Bachelor’s degree programs take approximately four years to complete unless you’ve enrolled in a fast-track program. Accelerated degrees, on average, take 36 months to complete. A bachelor’s degree is required for work in an entry-level budget analyst position.

Experience
While enrolled in your budget analyst major, it’s important to take courses that help hone skills you’ll use on the job. You’ll need to develop strong analytical and data analysis skills, as well as experience working with numbers. Courses like accounting, data analytics, economics, finance, and mathematics all help hone skills required for the job.

But in addition to coursework, you might consider an internship, work experience, or volunteer opportunities working with accountants, financial managers, or professors. Valuable experience may even be substituted for formal education in rare cases.

Important Qualities
Now that you’re familiar with how to become a budget analyst, it’s equally important to determine if you’re a good fit for the occupation. Below are several important qualities to have for a successful budget analyst career.

  • Analytical skills: Budget analysts must have strong analytical skills. The nature of the job requires it. They must be able to process information, analyze costs, and solve challenging problems.
  • Communication skills: To be able to explain complex problems in meetings or committee hearings, strong communication skills are required. Budget analysts must also be able to defend analyses, which requires effective communication skills.
  • Detail-oriented: One must be highly detail-oriented when analyzing budgets. Line items must be addressed, errors caught, and numbers added. To perform careful analysis and create efficient budgets, budget analysts must be detail oriented.
  • Mathematical skills: Since budget analysts work with numbers and financial management software, strong math skills are a must.
  • Writing skills: Technical information must be written in a way that is understandable to the intended audience. As a result, strong writing skills are needed for the job.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Budget Analyst?

The time it takes to become a budget analyst varies. A degree for budget analyst jobs at the entry-level takes four years to complete. If you want to attend graduate school, as some employers prefer to hire budget analysts with a master’s degree, plan on spending an additional two years beyond the bachelor’s degree. With a graduate degree, budget analyst schooling takes a total of six years to complete. But for most seeking entry-level positions, four years in school will open doors for you as a budget analyst.

How to Become a Budget Analyst Without a Degree

Without a budget analyst degree, such as a bachelor’s degree, it’s difficult to work in this profession. Budget analyst schooling consists of an earned bachelor’s degree, and in some cases, a master’s degree. In some cases, analysts have landed entry-level roles from the experience they have. However, this is extremely rare.

But in these rare cases, work experience may be substituted for formal education. Candidates seeking budget analyst roles without a degree should have experience in budget and finance work.

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Certifications or Licenses for Becoming a Budget Analyst

Once you’ve completed your degree to become a budget analyst it’s time to think about licensure and certification, especially if you plan to pursue a role in federal, local, or state government. Budget analysts working in government agencies may earn the optional credential of Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM). This credential is awarded by the Association of Government Accountants (AGA).

To qualify for the CGFM credential, candidates must have the following:

  • A minimum of a bachelor’s degree
  • Abide by AGA’s Code of Ethics
  • Complete professional-level experience in governmental financial management
  • Pass required examinations

Individuals with CGFM credentials must then maintain their certification. To do so, CGFMs must complete continuing education from time to time. CGFM credentials are not required by all employers but do aid in career advancement.

How Much Money Does a Budget Analyst Make?

Now that you know how to become a budget analyst, it’s important to know what to expect in terms of wages and job outlook. Budget analysts earn competitive wages. However, certain factors can impact earnings over the duration of your career.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for budget analysts is just under $79,000. However, the highest 10% of earners in this occupation see more than $121,360 per year. Since the average earnings for all occupations is $41,950, the pay for budget analysts is significantly higher.

But certain factors impact earnings. The most significant factors impacting wages include:

  • Industry type
  • Geographic location

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are five top paying industries for budget analysts. Two of the industries offer higher than average earnings for this occupation. The top five industries and their corresponding median annual wages include:

  • Federal government: $86,480
  • Professional, scientific, and technical services: $84,050
  • Local government agencies, excluding education and hospitals: $74,870
  • State government agencies, excluding education and hospitals: $70,650
  • Local, private, and state educational services: $67,800

In addition to industry type, geographic location also impacts the wages seen by budget analysts. The BLS reports employment and wage statistics through the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS), an industry profile for budget analysts, among other occupations. According to the OEWS, there are five top paying states for budget analysts. The top five states offer higher than average earnings. These states and their annual mean wages for budget analysts include:

  • District of Columbia: $104,330
  • Maryland: $97,390
  • Virginia: $97,020
  • Maine: $94,320
  • California: $93,610

Various metropolitan areas also offer higher than average wages for this occupation. In fact, three of the top 10 metro areas offer six-figure salaries, on average, for budget analysts. The top 10 high paying metro areas include:

  • San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California: $107,870
  • Washington, DC-Arlington-Alexandria: $104,650
  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim-California: $101,450
  • Iowa City, Iowa: $97,900
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, California: $96,030
  • Vallejo-Fairfield, California: $95,050
  • Huntsville, Alabama: $94,990
  • Oxnard-Thousand Oaks-Ventura, California: $94,330
  • Fort Wayne, Indiana: $93,650
  • Binghamton, New York: $93,070

For those looking to earn high wages as a budget analyst outside a metropolitan area, there are five top paying nonmetropolitan areas for this occupation. Two of the nonmetro areas listed below offer just as competitive of salaries as those offered in metro areas.

  • Southwest Maine nonmetro area: $107,320
  • Northeast Virginia nonmetro area: $105,920
  • Northern New Mexico nonmetro area: $86,690
  • Alaska nonmetro area: $83,400
  • North Valley-Northern Mountains region of California nonmetro area: $77,490

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What is the Job Outlook for Budget Analysts?

According to the BLS, a five-percent employment growth is expected for budget analysts through 2030. Since the average employment growth for all occupations is 8%, growth for this occupation is slightly slower. However, even with limited growth, approximately 4,300 openings for budget analysts should result each year–on average–through the next decade. Most of the anticipated job openings will result from:

  • Replacement of individuals who exit the workforce
  • Replacement of individuals who retire
  • Replacement of individuals who transfer to another occupation

In addition to the above reasons, demand for budget analysts should result from the continued demand for efficient use of public funds. As organizations and businesses push for more efficient ways to manage public funds, more budget analysts will be needed. However, some states will face budget constraints, though employment for budget analysts should remain steady. In fact, even during times when businesses and organizations face tight budgets, the need for budget analysts should remain steady thanks to the nature of their role. Budget analysts oversee managing resource allocation, so even during these times, their role will be needed.

For the next decade, budget analysts should see a steady, though stable, job outlook. Despite limited employment growth, the profession will see job openings each year that will result in hiring recent college graduates. However, candidates with the proper education and skills will see the best job prospects.

BDP Staff
February 2022

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This concludes our article on what is the best degree path for becoming a budget analyst.

Brenda Rufener
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Julie McCaulley
Expert

Carrie Sealey-Morris
Editor-in-Chief