What An Auditor Does
The field of audit and assurance is vast, though it’s typically broken down into two main categories. First, there are internal auditors who work directly for the companies that require their services to help them improve their processes or detect fraud. Internal auditors look deep into risk management, control, and governance processes, to help ensure that the organization meets its goals. When weaknesses or breaches of law and guidelines are found, the internal auditor may also be called upon to provide actionable solutions to help the company improve.
As a second category, external auditors verify the validity of an organization’s financial statements. Their reports are generally public, as they’re used to fulfill legal requirements or provide investors with reliable information.
Who would enjoy a career in Audit & Assurance?
Auditing is a very systematic branch of accounting. Those who do well in the field are very detail-oriented, analytical, and find mathematics to be second-nature. People who enjoy solving puzzles, as opposed to performing physical activities, and those who are prepared for rigorous examinations/ certifications will have an easier time getting into a position, plus will enjoy their job more.
Who mightn't like the career?
Sometimes pressure is put on auditors to produce a specific result, rather than follow the data. For this reason, those without strong resolve may have difficulty in the field. If numbers and attention to detail are not your thing, you might also want to steer clear of an audit career.
People who enter the field intending to become an auditor usually have a degree in accounting. For those who move in from other career paths, a finance degree is often sufficient, provided the candidate has the skills and work experience the organization is looking for.
In the United States, candidates must test to become a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), and the requirements vary by state. Other certifications may also be necessary, such as the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation, or beneficial, such as the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) and Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) qualifications. The rest of the world generally uses the term “Chartered Accountant.” Canada requires certification at a provincial level and has three governing bodies that provide it. A number of agencies across the United Kingdom are permitted to grant the title of Chartered Accountant, and the certification is usually valid throughout the UK. Australia and New Zealand share governing bodies.
Work as an intern in the field is beneficial, but not required. When applying for a position, you should learn as much about the company as possible and tailor your resume or CV accordingly. Interviews vary by accounting firm and company, although a lot of practice interview materials are typically available on the career sections of their websites.
Moving into Audit & Assurance from another career
For those in general accounting, forensic accounting may be a lucrative career switch based on its high demand and the elevated clientele and job responsibility. With the right certifications and continued education, it can be a smooth transition. Those with experience in finance and budget analysis may find success using their experience in conjunction with criminal justice and law education too. This career may also be a great choice for people working in the related fields of law enforcement, government, or law, provided finance and accounting skills are present.
Role: Entry-level jobs may be referred to as junior or associate positions, and individuals in this role will support the efforts of the senior auditor. Projects will vary greatly from one to the next. In internal auditor positions, individuals may oversee a single area of the organization’s finances or may be required to audit numerous areas. For example, an auditor may examine the employee benefits package, then move on to the IT department’s spending, and so on, or he may be expected to focus only on employee benefits, but may travel from one business location to the next.
An external auditor, on the other hand, typically works for an independent firm or government agency, and will verify the numbers organizations present in their finances are accurate.
Role: Senior auditors, also referred to as lead auditors, are typically expected to have certifications and are often responsible for the accuracy of the work the junior auditors submit. The roles are very similar, though leads may have more interaction with people outside Audit & Assurance, as they gather data necessary to perform assessments.
Audit Supervisor / Manager
Role: It’s common for a person to work for 5-7 years as an auditor before moving into some type of management role. Larger companies may have audit managers who coordinate the efforts of the auditors and help come up with actionable solutions for an organization’s internal challenges.
Role: Those on the executive track may take positions such as Financial Controller, CFO, or CEO within larger companies. In these cases, they not only oversee the Audit & Assurance team, but perhaps an entire accounting department, area of the company, or the entire company.
Individuals with globally-recognized certifications may have an easier time moving from one country to the next, though almost every jurisdiction offers an expedited pathway to local certification for those who have already registered in another country. Working in a global firm such as Ernst & Young, PwC, Deloitte and KPMG can also make international moves significantly easier.
Once in a position, travel is fairly rare for those in auditor positions, unless an organization has multiple locations that require on-site audits. Travel for CFOs and other execs varies greatly from one organization to the next as well.
Junior Auditor: According to PayScale, the average salary of an internal auditor is about USD$41,000 in America, CAD$48,000 in Canada, £21,000 in the UK, AU$48,000 in Australia.
Senior Auditor: USD$67,000, CAD$64,000, ₤34,000, AU$61,000.
Audit Manager: USD$85,000, CAD$90,000, ₤51,000, AU$100,000.
Chief Financial Officer: USD$134,000, CAD$141,000, ₤113,000, AU$166,000.
It’s fairly uncommon for people in lower auditor positions to receive bonuses unless they’re part of a greater company benefits package. In these cases, bonuses do not typically amount to more than 5% of an individual’s pay. However, those who become CFOs may have bonuses that increase their wages considerably; adding as much as one-third their salary on top of existing payments.
Why an Auditor move on
Whilst some people stay in the accounting and audit field and excel into management, partnership or executive positions, for those who find the job too tedious, or the pressures too great, there are many opportunities outside of Audit and Assurance. It is common for external auditors to use their training as a stepping stone into other areas such as Finance or Management Consulting which is often viewed as more strategic and lucrative.