Budget Analyst - Federal Agency Money Matters


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Budget Analysis as a Career:  Information and Opinion from the Budget Analyst

"Budgeting is a team sport."  Laszlo Bockh.


Introduction

Budget analysis is fulfilling and interesting.  It can also be the basis for a successful and rewarding career.  I must warn you that I am biased on this matter.  After all, I have spent over 30 years doing this.  (See my bio.)  I enjoyed myself, and I was rewarded.

I would like to help you to have a rewarding and successful career, and to assist in deciding if budget analysis has a role in your career.  (And I make no distinctions between budget and program analysis.  To do budget you must know the program, and to do program you must understand the budget.)  There is much help available on the Internet and other places for making career decisions and finding work.  I have collected some of the ones I have found to be the best for me.  I hope that these sources will also help you.

The sources of information are useful if you are a budget analyst and want to further develop in your career.  They are also helpful if you are investigating budget analysis as a career for your future.  The links are organized by my areas of inquiry:

Seeking a Job/Career - what is right for me?
Budget Analysis as a Career - what would I be doing?
What You Need to Know as a Budget Analyst - how do I prepare?
Leads to Budget Analysis Jobs - where can I find a job?
Reading materials - and links to recommended books.
Prospects - increased employment opportunities.
Interview questions you may face - click to go to new page.
Click for my view on workloads involved in budget analysis work.

I add materials as time permits and I become aware of relevant materials.   Suggestions for adding materials are welcome - go to ASK.  I also provide my own opinions to assist you.

 

Seeking a Job/Career:

First Steps:  Find out what is right for you.
  • Before you go looking for a job, a career, or make a career change, make sure that you have fully researched what you are about to engage in.  Many people waste time looking for the right job or the right career.  But there are efficient ways to do this.  These ways are not easy, and they involve work, but doing the work is much better than wasting your time or life on the wrong thing.  I have enjoyed, by and large, the work that I have done as a budget analyst and related activities, but this does not mean that you will get the same enjoyment out of it, or succeed at it.  It may not be for you at all.  You have to assess your own interests and desires and capabilities, reach your own conclusions, and make your own decisions:

     

    • If you are a college student, go to your career counseling center.  These centers usually have many sources of help and can assist you in figuring out what is right for you.

     

    • If you have graduated, check with your college, especially if you are in the same geographic area.  Many of them provide assistance to alumni.

     

    • If you want to use the Internet, there are also many sources for assistance in self-assessment:

       

      • I would start with the JobHuntersBible Web site. This site is replete with advice and links to many sources of advice, self-assessment, and other help.  (It is "designed as a supplement to ...What Color Is Your Parachute? A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers," by Dick Bolles.)

       

      • Another source, for more intensive directed work for a fee, is the Rockport Institute, which provides "career counseling, coaching, life planning and leading edge career testing services for people seeking a career change leading to increased career satisfaction and success, as well as for younger people making an original career choice."  (Nick Lore, the founder of Rockport, also authored The Pathfinder.)

    By using these sources and doing your homework, you should be ready to make some career decisions.

First Steps:  Finding a first or new job.
  • I assume that you are organized and know how to set priorities for yourself.  If you are not, you will have a problem in doing budget work.  Things do get hectic, and you cannot do it all - you can do anything, but not everything.  You have to set priorities.  Doing so applies very much to career choices and job choices.  If you need to figure out how to set priorities (yes, it is essential for everything you do), I recommend you visit David Allen.   Even if you are the best at setting priorities and know where you are going a visit is well worth it.  Read David's thoughts.

 

  • After you have decided what career to pursue, or before you change jobs, or start out on the search for that first one, and after you are sure of your priorities (or at least that you need to set them), make sure that you visit and take a careful look at http://www.asktheheadhunter.com.   The Headhunter tells you many things directly relevant to today's workplace and today's careers, as well as what to put on your resume and how to go about getting the job you want.  The point of view and the information are invaluable.  If you want a new job, or if you want to reinvigorate your existing job, visit and study this site.
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Budget Analysis as a Career

  • What do budget analysts do?  They establish the relationships between resources and the organization's mission and functions.  They do many things in their day to day work (such as analyze accounting reports, write budget justifications, research program activities, attend briefings on programs, and examine budgets and financial plans), but ultimately the work is related to the need for and use of resources to accomplish organizational objectives.

 

  • The Occupational Outlook Handbook (currently in the 2004-05 edition) has a description of budget analysis that is a good starting point to find out what budget analysis involves in a day to day basis.  I recently helped in writing the description for the next edition.  I made some points that you should keep in mind in considering budget analysis as a career:

     

    • It is very important that budget analysts understand the operations or programs they are working for or reviewing.  There is nothing worse than a budget or program analyst who only cares about the numbers.  The financial facts and figures and the descriptions associated with them are essential elements of budget analysis, and are essential for the proper management of any enterprise, small or large, public or private.  But the numbers mean nothing without the context of the work that is carried out and what is to be accomplished by doing the work.

     

    • A good budget analyst must have an interest in the programs and operations involved, must have detailed knowledge about them, and must fully comprehend why operations are carried out.  (This knowledge is used to define organizational objectives and performance measures.)  This is what makes the work interesting and fulfilling.

     

    • If all you are interested in are numbers, budget analysis is not a career that will make you happy or one in which you will succeed.

     

    • A corollary is that you could have a career in budget analysis doing work that is related to things that you have an interest in.  For example, if you have an interest in prairie conservation you may work as a budget analyst for organizations which deal with prairies, such as the Nature Conservancy or the Bureau of Land Management.

 

  • If after you have reviewed the Occupational Outlook Handbook description you would like more detailed information, or different perspectives on the work, the following may be helpful:

     

    • The National Association of State Budget Officers, http://www.nasbo.org has a training course on the Internet. Reviewing the contents of the course should give you a thorough idea of what you may have to learn or what areas you may want to specialize in.  Look at MODULE 6: Analytical Methods for Budget Analysis.

     

     

  • For a current view of what is involved in budget work at the most senior level of the Federal government, read Federal Agency Budget Officers:  Who Needs Them?, by Herbert G. Persil, in Public Budgeting and Finance, Winter 1999, v. 18, No. 4, pages 114-121.  (Sorry, this article is not available on the Internet.  Click for the reference.)  For my views on workloads associated with budget work, read my January 18, 2000 opinion.
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What You Need to Know as a Budget Analyst

  • For an introduction to what is required to be a budget analyst, go to:

     

     

    • The classification standards for this type of work that the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published - look for the GS-0560, Budget Analysis Series at http://www.opm.gov/fedclass/html/gsseries.htm, available in various file formats.  You may also want to look at a few other documents at OPM's site that are related to budgeting and financial management.

 

  • The sites listed in the preceding section, on budget analysis as a career, are also useful in targeting knowledges and skills needed to be a budget analyst.
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Leads to Budget Analysis Jobs

  • Go to the References page for links to organizations that list available jobs or that list other organizations that may list jobs.  A wide network of budget and budget analysis sites can be accessed from this page.  I am not aware of any single site that consolidates all these jobs.  You have to visit each site.

 

  • There is an opportunity for people with senior experience in budgeting for overseas assignments.  I have not seen references to these jobs at the other sites, so I list them here.  The U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Technical Assistance has a program to assist other countries to develop capabilities in budgeting and financial management.  Treasury hires  people for assignments in these countries.  Click to visit the site.  People with extensive budgeting experience may be interested in the positions for Budget Policy and Management Advisors.
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Job prospects:

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects year 2008 employment for budget analysts in all industries to be 67,300, or an increase of 13.7% over the 59,200 employed in 1998.

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Career reading materials - Links to amazon.com for what others say about these books and purchasing

TriggerGETitat87x32.gif (1131 bytes) What Color Is Your Parachute? 2004 A Practical Manual for Job-Hunters and Career-Changers, by Dick Bolles
"Updated and revised annually, 'Parachute' is essentially two books in one: a practical manual for job-hunters and a guide for career changers."

TriggerGETitat87x32.gif (1131 bytes) The Pathfinder, how to choose or change your career for a lifetime of satisfaction and success, by Nicholas Lore
"Through goal setting, list making, and other techniques, the book leads readers though the process of deciding exactly what they want to do for a living and finding a way to make it happen."

TriggerGETitat87x32.gif (1131 bytes) Zen and the Art of Making a Living, a practical guide to creative career design, by Laurence G. Boldt
"... one of the most innovative, unconventional, and profoundly practical career guides since "What Color Is Your Parachute?"

TriggerGETitat87x32.gif (1131 bytes) Do What You Are, discover the perfect career for you through the secrets of personality type, by Paul D. Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger
Representative comment from readers:  "It helped me to have the courage to get out of my field and jump into one more suited to my strengths."
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Copyright 1998-2010 Laszlo Bockh and Mary Blakeslee