A bachelor’s degree is typically required, although some employers prefer candidates with a master’s degree.
Employers generally require budget analysts to have at least a bachelor's degree. However, some employers may require candidates to have a master’s degree. Because developing a budget requires strong numerical and analytical skills, courses in statistics or accounting are helpful. For the federal government, a bachelor's degree in any field is enough for an entry-level budget analyst position. State and local governments have varying requirements but usually require a bachelor's degree in one of many areas, such as accounting, finance, business, public administration, economics, statistics, political science, or sociology.
Sometimes, budget-related or finance-related work experience can be substituted for formal education.
In some organizations, budget analysts learn the job by working through one complete budget cycle. During the cycle, which typically lasts 1 year, analysts become familiar with the steps involved in the budgeting process. Many budget analysts also take professional development classes throughout their careers.
Government budget analysts may earn the Certified Government Financial Manager credential from the Association of Government Accountants. To earn this certification, candidates must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, 24 credit hours of study in financial management, 2 years of professional-level experience in governmental financial management, and pass a series of exams. To keep the certification, budget analysts must take 80 hours of continuing education every 2 years.
Entry-level budget analysts begin with limited responsibilities, but advancement is common. As analysts gain experience, they have the opportunity to advance to intermediate and senior budget analyst positions.
Analytical skills. Budget analysts must be able to process a variety of information, evaluate costs and benefits, and solve complex problems.
Communication skills. Budget analysts need strong communication skills because they often have to explain and defend their analyses and recommendations in meetings and legislative committee hearings.
Detail oriented. Creating an efficient budget requires careful analysis of each budget item.
Math skills. Most budget analysts need math skills and should be able to use certain software, including spreadsheets, database functions, and financial analysis programs.
Writing skills. Budget analysts must present technical information in writing that is understandable for the intended audience.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition