Where Can A Career In Audit Take You?
Although there are many similarities between auditors and accountants (and much of the training is the same or very similar), there are notable differences in the two roles.
Put simply, an auditor is a professional that is required to conduct an “audit” – an investigation into the accuracy of the accounts of a business. This means that an external auditor will usually spend their time working across different business clients, scrutinising the work that the business’s internal finance team has conducted. Whilst accountants will have a similar amount of work to conduct throughout the year, auditors often have their busier periods quarterly, or towards the end of the tax or financial year.
As an auditor you are most likely to be employed by an audit or professional services firm, meaning you are not directly responsible for preparing the accounts that you are auditing. This means that you will have an unbiased approach to the work that you are performing on behalf of your clients.
Types of jobs within audit
There are various specific roles with audit – some of these include:
- Internal auditor– working within an organisation to ensure their finances are all correct and compliant
- External auditor – working for an audit firm, moving from client to client
- Tax auditor – a branch of audit that ensures clients are complying with difference laws regarding tax
- Forensic auditor – a specific type of audit that looks into situations where fraudulent activity might have taken place
Skills & interests required
It goes without saying that you’ll need to have a head for numbers to have a career in audit. Clear communication, diligence and teamwork are also vital. You will need to possess a highly professional manner, especially if you are regularly meeting with clients or stakeholders. An upfront manner and the ability to explain potentially difficult situations to senior managers calmly is very important.- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Commercial Awareness
- Data Analysis
- Problem Solving
Typical Career Progression Routes for Graduates in Audit
The career route taken to qualify in audit is highly structured and very well established, with similarities to the route taken by those training to become accountants – audit is a branch of accountancy, after all.
You will need to study and pass a number of exams in order to qualify as an auditor. These may be sponsored or supported by your employer, especially if you’re in a large organisation. The exact time it takes to qualify will depend on your organisation and your own diligence/success within the programme.
The two qualifications that you can take are:
ACA (Association of Chartered Accountants) - 15 professional qualification exams, taken over approximately three years
ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) - 14 professional qualification exams, taken over approximately four years
Companies will offer one or the other to their trainee accountants.
Some of the biggest and most respected audit and professional services firms offer graduate schemes, which are highly structured and last two to three years. Gaining a place on these schemes can be tough, but they are without a doubt the best places to be if you want to progress quickly.
The next step for many of those who have qualified in audit can be to become either an audit manager, financial analyst or a finance manager.
Tips for getting into the field
Audit is a competitive and popular industry, especially if you want a job within the biggest and most prestigious companies - so it’s vitally important to know what employers will look for when you’re applying for roles.
Obviously, a strong head for maths and a clear and defined logical approach are both essential.
There are also a large number of general, non-industry-related things that you can do to put yourself in a good position to start applying for jobs. These include:
- Tailoring your CV for each specific role, making sure you focus on previous experience and relevant skills
- Applying for internships and/or work experience – this is a no-brainer: as well as ensuring that you’ve experienced the field before you start applying for jobs within it, it’ll show that you’re committed and allow you to start acquiring the practical skills you’ll need in your future job
- Take on similar roles– for example as an accounts assistant or similar, during holidays or whilst you apply for higher-level roles right after graduation
- See what the top companies in the field require– start by looking for case studies from the big firms, and note what backgrounds and skills their current employees have
- Get the relevant accreditation – in this case, the ACA or ACCA is what you need to be working towards
- Use your contacts – university professors, those you met on work experience, people you can approach through social media or LinkedIn – they’re all potentially the stepping stone to your next role, and they might very well be happy to help you
As with accountancy, graduates working as trainee auditors are likely to earn between £20,000 and £30,000, progressing to around £60,000 with a few years of experience. At the highest levels this industry pays higher salaries than many other careers, with many people earning over £60,000 per year.
Here are the average salaries for a few different levels of auditor:
Internal auditor – £29,406
Auditor – £29,221
Senior auditor – £36,949
Audit manager - £46,585
Audit senior manager - £73,093
Internal audit director - £85,538
Audit partner - £150,000+
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
Graduates in mathematics-based subjects such as finance or economics are best suited to positions within this industry, although with further study (ACCA, CIMA or similar – see details above) you can pursue this area even if your degree isn’t directly related. It isn’t uncommon for graduates with degrees such as history to decide that audit is actually the career they want to pursue.
Having said that, there are obviously some degrees that are more likely to lead you into this area that others. Many auditors will have studied the following subjects:
Institute of Chartered Accountants England and Wales (ICAEW)
Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland
Chartered Accountants Ireland
Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants