Frequently Asked Questions

What do you look for in a LAO analyst candidate?

Generally, analysts have a minimum of a Master's degree in public policy or administration; business administration; economics; or political science; or a similar degree that has a curriculum that includes both (1) quantitative analytical courses, such as economics and statistics, and (2) qualitative analytical courses, such a public policy analysis. Ideal candidates must have the ability to:

  • Think critically, logically, and analytically about the budget and programmatic information presented in order to develop and retain a knowledge base that is well-grounded and objective.
  • Question assumptions used to formulate budgets or justify program and be skeptical about the information provided. Link disparate sources of information to develop a comprehensive understanding of a program as well as identify inconsistencies in programmatic and budgetary information.
  • Obtain, evaluate, and rigorously analyze data to determine the current state of affairs and clearly define a problem.
  • Develop feasible, practical, and reasonable options and recommendations to address specific problems that are defensible on an analytical basis and free of policy or political bias.
  • Present information clearly—both oral and written. Analysts must testify before budget subcommittees and be able to quickly and directly respond to questions about their program areas.
  • Work well with others in a fast-paced and production-oriented environment.
  • Maintain relationships with legislative, administrative, and intergovernmental staff, as well as industry groups and nonprofit organizations in the assigned policy area and serve as a resource to Members of the Legislature.

How much overtime will I work and when?

Most overtime will be worked in the months of January, February, May, and June because these months coincide with the release of the Governor’s January 10 budget proposal and the Governor’s release of the revised budget in May. On average, the amount of overtime analysts worked in the months of January and February 2022 combined was approximately 90 hours. In May and June 2022, the average combined overtime worked by analysts was 30 hours. Note, however, that the hours of overtime worked can vary widely in either direction, depending on budget workload (for example, a number of new proposals in the Governor’s proposed budget) and/or non-budget workload (for example, a number of ballot measures requiring analysis). Analysts may need to occasionally work overtime during other times of the year, but generally below the levels indicated above.

After a certain amount of overtime has been worked, the office will grant compensatory time off, or paid leave, that the employee can use under specified circumstances.

What kind of work flexibility will I have?

Full-time staff work an eight-hour day plus overtime as needed, in addition to a one-half- or one-hour lunch break.

In-office work is required Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays. Telecommuting is offered most Mondays and Fridays, workload permitting. Core hours at the LAO—when all full-time staff are expected to be working—are from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM, however, staff must be flexible to start earlier or work later based on workload needs. Staff can work the remaining hours of their eight-hour day based on what works best for their schedules. For example, an individual starting work at 9:00 AM could work until 4:00 PM (with a one-hour lunch) and then work an additional hour in the evening from 7:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

In addition, with the approval of a manager, staff can work a modified schedule such as four ten-hour work days each week to get to the required 40-hour work week for full-time staff.

Will I travel?

Most of the travel that you do will be associated with learning your program area. For example, you may travel to San Luis Obispo for two-day meeting of the California Transportation Commission meeting where transportation policy and the implementation of bond funding will be discussed. Typically, site visits are in-state and last a day or two. The duration and frequency of site visits is up to you and your manager and what you determine is necessary to fully understanding your program area. You may also travel to attend conferences related to your subject area. The length of travel associated with conferences will depend on the length of the conference you attend.

What training will I receive?

During your first year at the LAO you will receive a significant amount of classroom and on-the-job training to further develop your skills.

Training is provided in the following areas:

  • State budget process
  • State legislative process
  • Identifying and analyzing issues
  • Writing
  • Testifying
  • Becoming a program expert

In addition, analysts in various sections throughout the office will present information about the projects they are working on or provide informational sessions in their policy areas throughout the year. Topics for these sessions have included how K-12 education is funded in California, tax subsidies for the film industry, and a discussion about state and local mandates.

Analysts also attend a wide variety of conferences and educational seminars, and conduct site visits in support of their continuing professional development.

The buddy system. The LAO uses a mentorship program, informally known as the "buddy system", to provide new analysts an additional support network, beyond other new analysts, the manager, and members of the section during their first year in the office. The buddy system pairs a new analyst with two more experienced analysts, who informally help the new analyst learn about the LAO and smooth their adjustment to the office.

The buddy system includes regular coffee breaks or lunches to help ensure that informal relationships are being developed. The buddies provide opportunities for the new analyst to shadow more experienced analysts. Also, the more experienced analysts will review with the new analysts sessions of the buddies testifying during recent budget hearings to help new analysts develop their testifying skills.

What does nonpartisan mean?

The LAO’s mission is to provide analysis and nonpartisan advice to the Legislature on fiscal and policy issues. We strive to maintain our nonpartisanship in many ways, by (1) basing our work on data and objective analysis, not on a particular political orientation or bias, (2) seeking information and perspectives from groups across the political spectrum, and (3) providing the same services and analyses to both political parties. We expect all staff to conduct themselves in a manner that promotes this mission and maintains our nonpartisanship, integrity, and professionalism. Because the office’s credibility is inextricably linked with perceptions about our nonpartisanship, analytical staff must exercise sound judgment with regard to the extent and types of political activities they engage in.

What is the salary range for analysts at the LAO?

The following shows the salary ranges for the Fiscal and Policy Analyst (FPA) position. (Salary data current as of September 2022.)

Fiscal and Policy Analyst (eight step range)

$77,532 - $109,104 per year

Senior Fiscal and Policy Analyst (four step range)

$111,804 - $129,420 per year

Principal Fiscal and Policy Analyst (four step range)

$132,612 - $153,540 per year