School of Government partners with OSBM to launch NC Certified State Government Budget Professional Program

Faculty member Whitney Afonso instructing UNC MPA students

Through a partnership with the North Carolina Office of State Budget and Management (OSBM), the UNC School of Government is launching a new certification program for state budget professionals in May 2024. With consultation from an Advisory Board composed of Chief Financial Officers, budget directors, and other state budget professionals, the NC Certified State Government Budget Professional Program offers a first-of-its-kind in the state certification, awarded by OSBM, to students upon successful completion of the program and final examination.

Segmented into a three-week curriculum jointly designed by OSBM and lead School faculty member Whitney Afonso, the program is geared specifically toward the greatest needs for budget professionals to succeed in their roles. These needs were identified and curated by OSBM staff, state agency leadership, School faculty, and career-long state budget professionals. 

In collaborating with OSBM to design the curriculum, Afonso found a partner equally determined to respond to the needs of the state’s budget professionals.

“This is a really exciting undertaking and I have been extremely fortunate to have a great team,” she said. “First of all, our partners at OSBM were really thoughtful about what they saw as the greatest needs and what skillsets they hoped this certification could develop for budget professionals. That includes data analysis, a better understanding of the law, governmental accounting, and much more.”

According to OSBM, the experience collaborating with the School was similarly enriching.

“Working with the School of Government has been a fantastic experience,” said OSBM project lead and UNC MPA alumna Hallee Haygood. “From the start, they have been communicative and ready for all stages of the planning and implementation processes. With three weeks of curriculum to build, OSBM knew it would be a hefty task, but the School has prepared a set of courses packed with skills and knowledge budget professionals across the state will find valuable.”

The first week of the program (May 20-24) will provide participants a foundational introduction to the North Carolina budget process; the second week (June 24-28) will delve into applied data analysis—including topics like program evaluation, data analysis, and performance management; while the third and final week (October 14-18) will focus on understanding the systems and language of budgeting and covers topics like contracting, accounting, and communicating budget information. 

When planning the curriculum, Afonso worked with OSBM to design a training that could meet budget professionals wherever they are on the spectrum of career progression.

“This course is going to provide a critical toolkit for both seasoned budget professionals and those just starting out in their careers,” she said. “The breadth of the course covers everything from how to read and apply the relevant laws to performance management to state and federal grants management. It will be helpful for all in the field.”

While North Carolina will not require completion of the program to determine eligibility for state budget positions, the School and OSBM aim for the program to serve as a preferred credential and benefit career progression for graduates.

“Certification serves as tangible proof of an employee’s skill and knowledge, positioning them as a beneficial part of any agency. For managers, a Certified State Government Budget Professional becomes a trusted resource in their agency,” said State Budget Director Kristin Walker. “Hiring managers gain confidence in certified applicants, knowing they possess requisite skills and knowledge. This program empowers graduates to stand out in their field, which will help advance their careers.”

As applications begin to open for the program, Afonso is looking forward to accepting participants—improving both their career trajectories as budget professionals and the good of the state’s public sphere.

“These weeks will cover high level concepts and get into how you can actually apply them and use them in your work.  It is really exciting and I am confident that this program is going to serve our mission and state.”

Scholarships to apply toward the program are available to a limited number of North Carolina state government employees. To be eligible, scholarship applicants must apply for and be able to attend all three sessions of the program in 2024. Scholarship applications close on April 2, 2024. Scholarship awards will be determined by the NC Office of State Budget and Management. Notifications of award will be sent via email by April 26, 2024.