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What it Takes to be a Successful Analyst

​What Do I Need to Know About State Government?

In any position in state government it is important to have a grasp of the scope of authority of state government in general, the responsibilities of each branch of government, and how the executive branch -- under which state agencies operate -- is organized.

Our government is made up of different agencies, and each agency has different jurisdictional areas.

In general, every state agency, department, branch, bureau and commission (to name a few of the most common organizational titles) has a set of laws referred to as "enabling authority" which establish the mission and purpose of that organization.  In addition, every state organization follows the laws contained in the Government Code for hiring decisions, rules on how to hold meetings, the public records act, and a variety of other operating requirements.

This video from the California Channel and Legischool Project will help explain what government does and how the system works: Checks and Balances: The Three Branches of State Government.


What Do Successful Analysts Have in Common?

The work of an analyst does not come with a road map.  Analysts in California state government perform a wide variety of duties depending on the department and the program responsibilities.  Your job experience and scope of duties determine the level of responsibility and independence expected of you on the job.  You may be working in areas where the problems are not well defined or where solutions require new or inventive approaches (and it is your responsibility to define the problem and identify and recommend the solutions).

Analytical work, in addition to the performance of staff work, involves substantial responsibility for:

  • problem definition

  • developing a unique project plan

  • identifying alternative solutions

  • implementing the desired course of action

  • monitoring results

For example, as a beginning analyst, you may conduct research and identify every approach in existence to address a particular problem.  As a more advanced analyst, you might propose new solutions, assess the costs and impacts of implementing that proposal, prepare budget documents to support it, and identify staffing needs.

In sum, good analysts are able to handle, and even thrive in, an environment where change is a constant and ambiguity is a given.  Succeeding as an analyst means you continuously learn new subjects and demonstrate your willingness to take on progressively more complicated problems and propose effective solutions.  That challenge is what makes analyst jobs attractive, whether you are already a state employee or looking at an analyst position as your first job into state service.

Entry into this series requires that you exercise flexibility and be willing to learn and become familiar with other functions within the organization and control agencies.  Most importantly, State Service is a public service conducted with honesty, ethics, and integrity every day.


How to Find a Career That's Right For You

If you have wondered if an analyst job is the right fit for you, the Federal Government's Occupational Information Network (O*NET) is a database that describes hundreds of job occupations and is a wonderful resource to help you map to job occupations that may interest you.  When you click on to the self-assessment link,

  1. go to the Interest Profiler Instrument (this may take you to a registration page)

  2. scroll to the bottom and

  3. click on to the Interest Profile Instrument link.

  4. After you've completed the assessment  the second part is matching your interests to an occupation.

  5. You will need to go back to the main page where you found the Interest Profile link

  6. and click on O*NET Occupations Master List.  This manual will give you a list of careers that match your interest. 

Examples of Analytical Work

  • Conducting or coordinating a project to provide a recommendation for management review on a program policy by researching options (for example, reviewing how similar programs operate in other states, and their feasibility in California).
  • Providing total (fiscal, organizational, staffing, conformance with policy, etc.) program evaluation or audits for a geographic area of the State, a particular statewide program area, or grants projects or contracts.
  • Proposing and assessing new program models, systems or evaluation tools, or as pilot projects with intent to use on a statewide basis.
  • Reviewing new legislation or analyzing proposed law changes and describing the costs and impacts of implementing the legislation on the department.
  • Researching or developing program analysis methods, management information systems, and planning systems.
  • Evaluating a total program area in a major staff services function for a small State department or an organizational or geographical segment of a large State department.

 How to Become an Analyst

A good place to start is reviewing the online guide Become an Analyst for the State of California (PDF) | Become an Analyst for the State of California - Text Only (RTF). In this guide, you will see suggested competencies, an Individual Development Plan (IDP), and a self-assessment.  As you go through the guide, discuss any questions or concerns you have about becoming an analyst with your supervisor or mentor.  You can either complete this assessment on your own or meet with your supervisor, mentor, or someone you trust.

If you are currently working for the State of California, but not in an analyst position, you may be able to transfer into an analyst position.  You may also have to take and pass the Staff Services Analyst (SSA) transfer exam.  Each department is responsible for giving their own transfer exam to their employees.  Please work with staff in your department's personnel office for help determining what you need to do to meet the eligibility requirements for appointment to an analyst position.

If you are not currently working for the State of California, you will need to take an open exam to establish your eligibility for appointment to an analyst class.  An open  examination for the Staff Services Analyst classification  is available online for both state employees and those who are not employed by the state. 

Once you obtain your civil service exam test results (i.e., score), then look at the job vacancy listings for analyst classifications with various departments that interest you.  Follow the instructions for applying and apply separately to each state department in which you are interested, as department processes may vary.

Analyst Classifications in State Service

These four analyst job classifications are commonly used in State service.

Staff Services Analyst is an entry level analyst. Entry level is also a learning level. New employees are not expected to work independently at first. As they learn the intricacies of their jobs they will become independent workers.

Associate level classifications are full journey level. Employees at this level must work much more independently and their duties are typically more complex than at the entry level. 

Class Specs and Minimum Qualifications

 The links lead to classification specifications, or class specs for short. While every job in State government has its own specific duties, the class spec is the more general list of job activities shared by everyone in that classification. California civil services uses class specs to document the concepts, required knowledge, skills, abilities, and minimum requirements for appointment to a job.

Pay special attention to the minimum qualifications. You need to meet the minimum qualifications of classification before you can qualify to take an exam. 

Take an Analyst exam 

Staff Services Analyst

If you meet the minimum qualifications found in the class spec, take the Staff Services Analyst Online Exam​ ​to get on the list for Staff Services Analyst (SSA). You must obtain a passing score on the exam to be eligible for vacant Staff Services Analyst positions.

Other Analyst Classifications

Check the State jobs site and search for job title "Analyst" to find both open exams and vacancies for analyst positions.

  Updated: 7/14/2015
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