What is it?

A financial analyst is a key behind-the-scenes contributor for most defense contractors. Generally, financial analysts play a two-part role: ongoing project financial management in coordination with the program manager and financial support for proposal development. At times, financial analysts will be called upon to conduct internal financial audits and support need for external financial audits.

The finance world may be a lot of screen time with excel or financial programs and playing responder role to the changing whims of clients and program managers; however, it is a job where you should be able to expect a clear picture of your roles and responsibilities. Financial analysts need to be detail-oriented and problem solvers. Sometimes, searching through excel rows for the missing or incorrect number can be painful, but someone has to be responsible for ensuring financial accuracy.

During proposal time, financial analysts will be expected to take the data from the proposal team and create forecasts of costs, overhead rates, billing rates, and yields and then build graphs for the proposal. Some of the financial analyst’s work will be used for the management team to make decisions on whether to proceed with the request for proposal (RFP) and some of the financial analyst’s work will be used in the proposal to the government.

Financial analyst’s ongoing project support involves monitoring hours expended each month and updating remaining contract funds for the programs that the financial analyst supports. Some analysts may support one large program, while others support many small projects. The end of month cycle is the busiest time for a financial analyst, when all the actual program hours and expenses have been updated in the system. Typically, this is the time to update the program financial systems and start generating financial visuals for monthly reports for the program manager, contractor leadership, and program clients. Some programs may require mid-month financial updates as well.

A great way to advance to more managerial roles within the defense contractor financial support world is to carve out time in your schedule to be proactive on the programs you support. Study the data and identify upcoming challenges and opportunities. Be one step ahead of providing information to company leadership. Don’t wait until someone asks you to do your job. Showing leadership skills and mentoring other financial analysts can also help propel you to a team leader position. Depending on how much subject matter expertise is required, some financial analysts could make the leap to program manager. A solid understanding of the finances is a positive element on a project manager’s resume. However, without a well-rounded background, a financial analyst could expect to stay within the finance world.

Education and Training

Financial analysts require a Bachelor’s degree in finance or accounting. Other complimentary degrees, such as business, are acceptable. Proven proficiency with numbers, details, and reporting tools will round out education. Financial analysts who desire career growth or promotions should at least consider additional training in financial planning, government financial regulations, and financial tools. A master’s degrees in finance or business can be more effective in moving analysts into more leadership positions.

Skills and Certifications

Financial analysts need to be detail-oriented and thorough and skilled in financial tracking, budgeting, and forecasting.

Financial analysts need to have the ability to adhere to the Government Accounting Standards Board (GASB) and General Services Administration (GSA).

A Typical Day as a Cleared Technical Writer

(Depending on the size of the company, financial analyst daily activities will vary, but the following is a basic example of typical tasks for a financial analyst.)

08:00 – Arrive at work and log-into your computer. Check emails and respond to pressing emails.

09:00 – Check the mid-month actual figures and enter updated information for projects.

10:00 – Update necessary graphs and reports for the project managers and company leadership.

11:30 – Meet with the proposal team to discuss budget and cost for upcoming Request For Proposal (RFP)

12:30 – Lunch at your desk while updating spreadsheets for the RFP.

13:30 – Meet with your program manager about the timing of program expense reports and team scheduled leave. Discuss impacts to the program budget and determine communications to the team to help improve timely submission of expenses.

14:30 – Begin setting up a new expense file, funding documentation and budget for new program about to begin.

15:30 – Meet with the program manager for the new program to discuss progress and determine the communication process for the two of you. Identify the deliverables that need your inputs each month.

16:00 – Follow up on emails and head home.

Security Clearance Concerns

Depending on the work, financial analysts will need at least a secret clearance. Access to some proposals may require a TS/SCI security clearance.

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Jillian Hamilton has worked in a variety of Program Management roles for multiple Federal Government contractors. She has helped manage projects in training and IT. She received her Bachelors degree in Business with an emphasis in Marketing from Penn State University and her MBA from the University of Phoenix.