Budget analysis is an important part of business operations. This relatively small occupation that happens to be among the best-paying business and finance roles is growing by thousands of jobs. While a college education is a must for aspiring budget analysts, many different academic disciplines can equip students with the breadth of skills needed to succeed in this career path.
The Work of Budget Analysts
Budget analysts’ primary work responsibilities are exactly what the job title suggests: analyzing and organizing budgets and spending. In practice, though, budget analysts do much more. They collaborate with managers to forecast the costs of future expenses and set the budget for a project, program or overall organization. Budget analysts have to check high-ranking managers’ plans and proposals for financial accuracy and feasibility and, if a proposal does not fit the budget, aid in problem-solving efforts to develop options that are within budget. If there are specific laws and regulations that affect the industry or organization’s budgets, it’s the budget analyst’s job to know about and plan for those requirements. A budget analyst’s job isn’t complete upon setting the budget. These workers must monitor spending to keep the organization on track, review and grant requests to spend money from the budget and create reports that show how much money the organization or an individual program is spending and what budgeted funds remain available.
Because budget analysts have such a wide range of job duties, they need a diverse set of skills to accomplish their job duties. Writing and communication skills, math skills and analytical skills are some of the most important attributes a budget analyst must develop, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported. Since many budget analysts work in government and education settings, they may need special knowledge of the legislative process. A bachelor’s degree is essential if you want to become a budget analyst, according to the BLS. Students have a surprisingly broad list of majors they can choose from to develop the skills needed to prepare for this career path.
Budget analysts should also be detail-oriented and able to keep calm under pressure, especially since deadlines and overtime can make this job somewhat stressful at times.
Business Studies for Budget Analysts
If you want to work in companies and private industry settings, earning a degree in business may be your best option. The versatility of a business administration degree allows you to learn the foundations of all aspects of the business world, which can give you better insight into the overall operations of the companies whose budgets you will oversee. While a general business administration program of study is one major you could choose for this career path, finance and accounting are also popular choices for aspiring budget analysts. These programs of study place more emphasis on the mathematical and quantitative skills you will use as you work on budget proposals and reports.
Another major sometimes associated with business studies is public administration. This field focuses on management as it pertains to public agencies, entities and policies, rather than for-profit companies.
Majors Focusing on Numerical Skills
You can’t create or analyze a budget without using numbers. Because math skills are essential to the job of a budget analyst, many workers approach this field from a background in the mathematical sciences. Majoring in statistics is a smart choice for prospective budget analysts, according to the BLS. In addition to being good at basic mathematical functions like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, budget analysts need to develop the computer science skills to use math-related software such as database programs, spreadsheets and financial analysis software, the BLS reported.
Math and statistics classes also help students develop their analytical and reasoning skills, which come in handy in a budget analyst role.
Majors in the Humanities for Budget Analysis Roles
Surprisingly, some of the recommended majors for prospective budget analysts are not business-focused or math-focused at all, but instead, part of the humanities and liberal arts disciplines. Budget analysts who work with legislators on the development of public policies and programs need math and business skills, but they also need a deeper understanding of how economics and politics work and how policies will affect groups, families and individuals. Political science, economics and sociology are all viable majors that can help you achieve your goal of becoming a budget analyst, according to the BLS.
Studying the liberal arts and humanities also help students cultivate skills in reading, writing, speaking, listening and problem-solving, which they will need daily in their work in budget analysis.