Budget analysis requires tools and skills for budget formulation (its development, documentation, and defense) and budget execution (idistribution of approved resources to organizational levels and its control and accountability).
The analyst needs a broad perspective. Understanding of public administration processes is essential for a proper perspective on why events unfold as they do, and to provide the best possible analysis of budgets and budget requests. Skills acquired in the study of political science, economics, and public administration are essential for successful budget analysis.
A budget analyst needs tools: Accounting and its conventions and definitions, and how they affect the treatment of costs and accounting periods. Statistics and computer skills to make sense out of masses of data, or where information is scarce, and to present findings and budget presentations.
The budget analysis task requires an understanding of a wide range of subjects:
- The programs of the agency and the processes involved in carrying out the agency's mission, and how they relate to other Federal government functions.
- The Federal budget development and execution requirements and processes, as well as the requirements and organizational culture associated with the specific agency in which the analyst works.
- Personnel-related topics: Pay and its types (straight time, overtime, holiday, geographic differentials, shift differentials, various pay systems associated with different personnel systems). Effects of pay raises and promotions on the budget and the use of funds.
- The analyst also needs to know how to communicate effectively detailed information, which many times is in the "bad news" category. Communicating findings is facilitated by the presentation of information in summary form, verbally and by use of graphs and diagrams. Skills for these tasks are very valuable.
- Finally, all of the skills and knowledge will not take the analyst very far without personal qualities of honesty, integrity, and hard work that will allow success in a process that is relentless and unforgiving.
The classification standards for this type of work that the Federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has published provided additional information on what is involved, See “Professional and Administrative Work in the Accounting and Budget Group, GS-0500, December 2000,” (https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/classification-qualifications/classifying-general-schedule-positions/standards/0500/gs0500pa.pdf). You may also want to look at a few other documents at OPM's site that are related to budgeting and financial management.