There are no typical days at CBO. Some days analysts write quick-turnaround cost estimates for legislation that is headed to the floor for a vote. Other days bring opportunities to work in-depth on studies of budgetary and economic issues. Still other days might involve preparing testimony for Congressional committee hearings, hosting a foreign delegation here to learn about how CBO does its analysis, or participating in a conference or seminar.
One thing is certain: CBO analysts take on significant responsibilities from day one. If you're up for that challenge, keep reading to learn about the positions available at CBO. Or you can find out more about the work we do and the way we do it.
Economists and Policy Analysts
As an economist or policy analyst at CBO, you would conduct empirical analysis, develop budgetary or economic models, and write CBO reports. That work requires economists and policy analysts to have a clear understanding of the latest research findings in their field, first-rate empirical skills, and excellent judgment about using data and research findings to examine the effects of actual and proposed public policies. CBO encourages its economists and policy analysts to participate in the broader public policy community by publishing their work in professional journals, presenting their papers at conferences, and circulating their preliminary research through CBO's working paper series. Generally our economists and policy analysts have a Ph.D. in economics or a related field.
Senior Adviser—Academia or Not
Microeconomic Studies Division
When I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I was hoping to contribute to policy discussions at the national level in a serious way. And I was hoping to do so quickly. I can think of no better place for that than CBO. I know my work has informed debates among policymakers, and it has been cited by major news outlets. It is gratifying to know that people listen to what CBO says.
Coming out of graduate school, I was faced with the decision of whether to go “academic” or not. I must say, I’ve never regretted opting out of those tenure-track assistant professor days (and nights). Besides, CBO offers a variety of outlets for its analysts’ work. Some of the projects here are longer term, giving you time to really delve into the details of an issue (an example is our 2014 paper The Effects of a Minimum-Wage Increase on Employment and Family Income). Other projects are shorter term and focus on answering a specific question more quickly (for instance, our 2010 issue brief Social Security Disability Insurance: Participation Trends and Their Implications). CBO is very supportive of analysts who want to publish in academic journals (as I have) and encourages participation in conferences and in the economics community overall. Since coming here, I have also taken the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor in the Georgetown economics department. The ability to switch things up is one of the things that keeps the job fresh and interesting.
CBO has a stellar reputation for producing excellent and objective analyses of tough issues in a timely and accessible way. That’s no mean feat. We are a small agency, but the bang for the buck here is incredible. The people are smart, hard-working, dedicated, and engaged. There is at least one expert on every domestic program or policy issue. Our editorial staff cannot be beat and our support staff is fantastic.
The work is rewarding and interesting in its own right, but it is the people at CBO who keep things lively and fun on a day-to-day basis. CBO’ers are sailors, glass blowers, linguists, sports enthusiasts, runners, triathletes, actors—the list goes on and on. We also have people who devote time and energy to a wide variety of charities, including Race for the Cure, homeless shelters, and mentoring programs for local at-risk youth. It really is amazing—no one seems to do anything halfway around here!
Economist/Policy Analyst—Making a Difference in Public Policy Debates
Ph.D., Public Health Sciences (Health Policy and Administration)
Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division
Before joining the Congressional Budget Office, I was very familiar with the agency’s work and its influential role in the policymaking process because of my background in health policy. CBO has a long-standing reputation as an authoritative source of nonpartisan and objective information, and its rigorous analysis is often relied upon by policymakers. On graduating from the Ph.D. program at the University of Illinois, I decided to look for a position that would allow me to make a firsthand difference in public-policy debates. Although I initially started my career in the private sector (at Truven Health Analytics and Kaiser Permanente), I was fortunate that CBO gave me the chance to apply my training to real-world scenarios in the public sector. In 2014, I joined the Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division, which works on a range of issues, including those related to Medicare, Medicaid, and the health insurance marketplaces.
Because health care is a high-profile policy issue that is the focus of much of the agency’s analysis, I have had the opportunity at CBO to analyze major legislation that aims to reform the health care system. I have also written a working paper that examined private-sector prices for hospital admissions, shorter blog posts on health insurance, and an academic journal article on the competition posed by health insurers that are vertically integrated with providers. Being able to see the real-world impact that my work has had in shaping national health policy discussions has been both meaningful and rewarding.
I continue to be awed by the vast amount of expertise at the agency. I have learned a tremendous amount from the smart, wonky, and collegial staff. As as a result, I have become a better analyst. I have also found the work at CBO to be important, interesting, and challenging. I should mention that an additional perk of working here is that we have a softball team!
Economist/Policy Analyst—Public Service
Financial Analysis Division
When I joined CBO, I had already spent nearly 20 years working in the financial sector. My interest in moving to government service grew out of a search for a way I could contribute to the wider discussion of important policy issues facing that industry, particularly because of the recent housing and financial crises and the intensifying scrutiny of the effect that banks and other financial institutions were having on the federal budget and the broader economy.
After researching a variety of public- and private-sector organizations involved in the policy arena, I identified CBO as an ideal place to pursue the work I was interested in. Most important to me was CBO’s reputation as a nonpartisan voice, and the evidence of its consistent approach to examining all sides of an issue and thoroughly reviewing the pros and cons of relevant policy approaches. I also appreciated the clarity of its descriptions of the often-complex financial, economic, and procedural details that underlie its analyses.
When I arrived at CBO, I realized quickly that the agency’s reputation is just one benefit of working here. Beyond that are the impressive breadth and depth of knowledge of CBO’s staff members, their ease at welcoming new colleagues, and their willingness to share institutional knowledge. I had experienced nothing like it during my career. In addition, the agency encourages the engagement of its staff with a constellation of outside organizations—in government, business, industry, and academia—to promote fuller understanding of the issues we study.
The nature of the work itself has exceeded my expectations. In particular, I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate in projects that span a spectrum of federal financial programs—in my case, involving everything from housing to agriculture to energy. I cannot imagine another organization providing as diverse a set of opportunities for analysts to enhance their skills and knowledge.
CBO's budget analysts prepare the agency’s projections of federal spending and revenues, analyze the President’s annual budget proposals, and estimate the effects of legislative proposals on the federal budget (and sometimes on state and local governments and on the private sector). The agency’s budget analysts use their understanding of government programs, the federal budget, available data, and empirical evidence to build models and form estimates of the effects of current and proposed public policies. They work closely with Congressional staff in a fast-paced environment where both timeliness and accuracy are vital. Most of CBO’s budget analysts have a master’s degree in public policy, public administration, economics, or a related field.
Budget Analyst (Previous Intern)—Great Beginnings
Master’s, Public Policy
Budget Analysis Division
I began my work at CBO as a summer intern in the Budget Analysis Division, working on income support programs. Since I attended graduate school locally, I was able to continue interning at CBO part time during the two semesters following my summer internship. I wanted to work at CBO because of its reputation for doing serious, nonpartisan, policy analysis. Some of my favorite courses in graduate school were in economics and statistics, and I wanted an internship that would allow me to use the skills I learned in those courses.
CBO was an ideal place to intern. I was given primary responsibility for developing several cost estimates, and had many opportunities to contribute to the important work being done in the Budget Analysis Division. In addition, my colleagues at CBO were eager to expose me to interesting work they were doing and to teach me new skills that are necessary to do that work.
When I was offered a full-time job at CBO following my graduation, it was an easy decision to stay. In the Budget Analysis Division, each analyst has primary responsibility for producing projections and costs estimates for a specific program area. Therefore, even new analysts are able to do important work that helps the Congress.
The best part of my job at CBO is that the work is never dull. I constantly learn new things and encounter new policy questions. Although this makes the job challenging, CBO provides the support necessary to do it well. The other analysts I work with are incredibly smart and helpful, and our managers are always working to help us do our jobs effectively.
As an assistant analyst at CBO, you would work under the direction of other CBO staff members on a wide range of topics and products. Your work could involve analyzing legislative language, conducting quantitative analysis, or even taking on a project of your own. Most of CBO’s assistant analysts have completed an undergraduate degree in economics or a related field, and many come to the agency with technical experience in statistical and econometric programs. The experience you would gain as an assistant analyst would put you in an excellent position to attend graduate school, and most of CBO’s assistant analysts leave the agency after a few years to pursue an advanced degree.
Assistant Analyst—Continuous Learning
B.S., Quantitative Economics and Community Health
Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division
After spending two summers in Washington, D.C., during college, I knew I wanted to come back to pursue a career in public policy after graduating from Tufts. I had an interest in health policy and wanted to hone my technical skills, deepen my understanding of policy research, and explore various career paths before going to graduate school.
At CBO, I work in the Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division and also support health analysts in the Budget Analysis Division. My projects include updating and documenting CBO’s new health insurance simulation model and researching populations eligible for Medicaid’s long-term services and supports. I particularly enjoy working with graphics editors and data visualization experts to think creatively about how to concisely represent CBO’s analyses. I have applied those skills in helping with CBO’s reports on federal subsidies for health insurance coverage, single-payer health care systems, and other topics.
One of the best parts of my job at CBO is that I am encouraged to pursue projects and skills outside my comfort zone. My colleagues are always open to my questions and have helped me learn new coding languages, understand federal regulations, and dive into new data sets. They welcome my ideas for improving our models and ask me to think creatively about solving problems. I have also had the opportunity to attend a variety of events and trainings, on topics such as unconscious bias, SAS programming, Medicaid work requirements, and data visualization.
Working at CBO has helped me build an extensive network of professional connections. I have met with coworkers to learn about their educational and career paths and to get advice on how to make the most of my time at CBO and my future opportunities.
Although I was familiar with Washington, D.C., starting a new job can sometimes be challenging socially. I was pleasantly surprised by how welcoming my CBO colleagues were. I value my relationships with the other Assistant Analysts and the inclusive and supportive community they have developed. We celebrate birthdays over lunch, engage in lively debates, and enjoy playing on CBO’s softball team together.
At CBO, I feel valued as a team member and appreciate the culture of continuous learning. As we tackle projects together, I know that my colleagues consider my interests and opportunities for growth. Although my stay here is temporary, I cherish the intellectually stimulating work and the inclusive, collaborative, and enthusiastic atmosphere.
As a CBO intern, you would work closely with CBO’s experts on substantive projects that support the agency’s mission to serve the Congress. Our internships will help you to lay the foundation for thinking critically about public policy and help you to understand the relationship between analysis and policymaking. CBO’s interns, who are generally graduate students in economics, public policy, health policy, or a related field, frequently return to CBO as analysts after graduation.
CBO’s visiting scholars strengthen the vital links between the agency and the broader community of public policy analysts. CBO’s nonpartisan, objective analysis covers the wide array of activities that affect the federal budget and the economy, and so demands that the agency have an extensive reach.
Visiting scholars work at CBO for a limited period—usually one year or less—on policy-related research. As a visiting scholar, you have a unique opportunity to address complex budgetary and economic policy issues. Scholars are typically professors on sabbatical or senior staff on leave from other organizations. If you are interested and meet the qualifications, you should contact Human Resources (202-226-2628) for more information.