A fiscal manager presenting a budget plan
Article

What Is Fiscal Management? A Look at Career Options Including Public Administration


Public Administration

The nature of government, with its massive and sometimes slow-moving bureaucracy, would appear as opposed to the ever-increasing speed at which modern businesses function. Attempts to operate government agencies in the same manner as private companies have met with limited success, leading some analysts to conclude that management in the public and private sectors should remain separate and distinct.

Yet, the principles of management, particularly fiscal management, do generally apply to both sectors. Fiscal management involves the planning, directing and controlling of financial resources, whether for a private company or public agency. In particular, public administrators working for government agencies benefit tremendously when they apply modern management principles and techniques to make the government operate more smoothly and effectively.

Individuals pursuing careers in fiscal management should understand how it improves the efficiency of financial operations in the public sector as well as in business. And those planning to pursue careers in government should ask: What is the primary purpose of fiscal management in public administration?

Defining Fiscal Management

The primary duty of fiscal managers is ensuring that an organization operates within its budget. Fiscal managers are charged with the oversight of an institution’s revenues and expenditures, including accounting operations, payroll functions, financial reporting and compliance, and adherence to financial plans. A key element of the work of fiscal managers is the creation of internal controls to identify and prevent fraudulent activities by staff or outsiders.

From a public administration perspective, fiscal managers play lead roles in setting a government agency’s fiscal policy. Under the Keynesian approach to fiscal policy, any increase or decrease in revenue (in the form of taxes) and expenditures (government spending) affects inflation, employment, and the supply of money in the economy. The two primary types of fiscal policy are expansionary, which is intended to grow the economy; and contractionary, whose goal is to slow economic growth, such as to stem a high rate of inflation. The expansionary policy entails increasing government spending, lowering taxes, or a combination of both. Conversely, contractionary policy involves cutting government spending and increasing taxes.

Fiscal management in the private sector affects nearly every aspect of a business’s operations: from improving the efficiency of internal operations to devising effective marketing plans and setting financial goals. As technology continues to automate many financial reporting functions, fiscal managers now spend more time analyzing financial data to support decision-making by senior managers. In addition to staying up-to-date on changes to tax law and other financial regulations, fiscal managers must understand their organizations’ lines of business. For public administration, they must be experts in government appropriations and budgeting procedures.

A government’s fiscal policy differs from its monetary policy in that the former manages spending and revenue collection, while the latter adjusts interest rates and the amount of money in circulation via central banks such as the U.S. Federal Reserve.

How Norwich University Prepares Students for Fiscal Management Roles

Whether in business or government, fiscal managers play vital roles in ensuring financial processes run smoothly and contribute to an organization’s efforts to achieve its goals. Preparing for this important position requires gaining a range of skills related to financial management and analysis, problem-solving, and interpersonal communication. These areas are among the strengths of Norwich University’s online Master of Public Administration (MPA) program, whose Fiscal Management concentration is tailored to provide the skills and experience that tomorrow’s public sector leaders will require.

Core and concentration courses within the MPA program curriculum help students gain a solid conceptual understanding of what fiscal management is, and how best to apply the principles of fiscal policy in government agencies and organizations of all types. Among the topics covered in the Fiscal Management concentration are balancing budgets, business decision-making, and financial performance analysis.

These are the core courses in the MPA degree program:

  • Foundations of Public Administration and Policy teach students the foundational elements of public administration, including governance, intergovernmental relations, strategic planning, and organizational theory. The course emphasizes leadership skills and the importance of professional ethics, accountability, and competence.
  • Public Administration Research and Analysis cover essential research methodologies, including the use of statistical techniques in social science research as it relates to managerial control, quality assurance, and best-evidence management.
  • Public Organization Resources and Processes offer students an in-depth understanding of human resources, legal requirements, and organizational leadership in public organizations. Topics covered include how to recruit and retain qualified workers, establishing a positive organizational culture, and techniques for managing conflict and change.

Courses in the Fiscal Management concentration go more in-depth in this field:

  • Fiscal Management Accounting and Contracting focuses on the legal and regulatory parameters entailed in financial reporting, accountability for public organizations, and analysis of government financial performance. Students receive study guides published by the Association of Government Accountants’ Certified Government Financial Manager (CGFM) for the CGFM certification exam.
  • Fiscal Management Finance/Tax and Budgeting presents the four key components of public finance: budget preparation, strategic planning based on financial management principles, raising capital by issuing bonds and levying taxes, and management of cash and employee retirement funds.

Norwich University partners with Federal Publications Seminars (FPS), which creates high-quality programs and material for government contractors. FPS participants are awarded academic credit toward the completion of their Norwich master’s degree.

Careers in Fiscal Management

At a time of shrinking government budgets and complex regulatory environments, communities need public administrators who possess the skills to fill a range of positions. The Fiscal Management concentration of the Norwich University MPA program helps prepare students for different positions. Here’s a quick look at four of the roles. 

  • Town managers, also called city managers or chief administrative officers, are responsible for managing and directing the day-to-day operations of a municipality under the supervision of a mayor, city council, or other authority. Their duties include budgeting, financial analysis, risk management, labor relations, and execution of policy set by the governing authority. The median annual salary for city managers is $90,019, according to September 2019 data from the compensation website PayScale. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that jobs for administrative services managers, which include town and city managers, will increase by 7% between 2018 and 2028.
  • Audit supervisors ensure the accuracy of financial reports. They also confirm compliance with all applicable regulations, assess the efficiency of financial systems, and recommend improvements to senior managers. September 2019 PayScale data indicate that audit supervisors earn a median annual salary of $76,890. According to the BLS, the number of accounting and auditor jobs is projected to grow by 6% between 2018 and 2028.
  • Public financial managers produce financial reports, manage investments, and devise strategic plans for future financial needs. The goal of public financial management is to improve the lives of a community’s residents by making the most efficient use of public funds. According to September 2019 PayScale data, the median salary for public financial managers is $60,000. The BLS reports that employment of financial managers is predicted to increase by 16% between 2018 and 2028, with variation among industries.
  • Senior budget analysts develop the budget for an organization in conjunction with program and project managers. They create a single organization-wide budget by combining the budgets of each program and department. They monitor all financial operations to ensure compliance with the budget, and they support decisions made by senior managers by providing information and analytics. According to September 2019 PayScale reports, senior budget analysts earn a median annual salary of $77,638. BLS projections indicate that budget analyst jobs will increase by 4% between 2018 and 2028.

Explore a Future in Fiscal Management

The Fiscal Management concentration of the Norwich University online MPA program teaches the skills that communities demand in public administrators. Whether for a non-governmental organization, non-profit organization, or government agency, the MPA program prepares graduates to bring knowledge and innovation to leadership roles in the public sector.

Learn more about how the Fiscal Management concentration of Norwich University’s Master of Public Administration program prepares graduates to pursue advanced roles in public administration and finance.

Recommended Reading

MPA vs. MBA: Is Your Career Track in Business or Public Administration?
A Rewarding Career: Public Administration Salary Ranges at a Glance
Careers in Public Administration: The Public Affairs Specialist Job Description at a Glance

Sources

Is Government Ready for Business Management Practices?, American Society for Public Administration
Production Process in Fiscal Management, Houston Chronicle
Financial Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Monetary Policy vs. Fiscal Policy: What’s the Difference?, Investopedia
What Is Fiscal Policy? Business News Daily
How to Become a City Manager, GovtJobs.com
Average City Manager Salary, PayScale
Administrative Services Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Accountants and Auditors, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Audit Supervisor Salary, PayScale
Financial Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Showcasing Good Public Financial Management, International Federation of Accountants
Average Public Financial Management Salary, PayScale
Financial Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Budget Analysts, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Average Senior Budget Analyst Salary, PayScale