Budget analysts 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 (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/) has a description of budget analysis (at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/budget-analysts.htm) that is a good starting point to find out what budget analysis involves day to day.  I helped in writing the description for a prior edition, and 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.  A budget or program analyst who only cares about the numbers is not doing a good job.  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 using the resources involved 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.

For a 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.  (This article is not available on the Internet free of charge; it must be purchased.)  For my views on workloads associated with budget work, see my page on workloads.