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Auditor

Auditors inspect and verify the accounts of companies and other organisations to see how well they are controlling their finances.

An external auditor produces an independent, professional review of a company's annual accounts to make sure the information is accurate and provides a fair view of the financial position. They may also audit other public service organisations, such as housing associations, charities, colleges and universities, to make sure public money is well spent and to see if any savings can be made.

Internal auditors usually have a wider responsibility, reviewing and evaluating how risks are controlled across all parts of an organisation, not just its finances.

Auditors usually work standard offices hours, though external auditors may need to be more flexible, to meet clients' demands. Part-time work and job sharing is possible.

Although mainly office based, external auditors do visit clients.

Trainee auditors studying for accountancy exams earn between £15,000 and £25,000 a year. Senior audit managers in large organisations can earn up to £90,000, potentially £150,000 as an audit director or head.

An auditor should have:

  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • a good understanding of the organisation or sector they are working in
  • the ability to interpret and analyse complex figures
  • a planned, well-organised approach to work
  • strong IT skills
  • an interest in how businesses or organisations work.

There are around 4,000 qualified auditors in the UK.

External auditors may work for:

  • accountancy firms
  • the National Audit Office (NAO)
  • the Audit Commission.

Internal auditors can work in-house, either as an employee or providing sub-contracted services, for:

  • commercial companies
  • not-for-profit organisations and charities
  • the banking and finance sector
  • accountancy practices firms.

External auditors must be qualified accountants. See Industry and Commerce Accountant, Private Practice Accountant and Public Sector Accountant articles for more details about the entry routes and ways to train and qualify as an accountant.

Most external auditors join organisations as graduate trainees and study towards a professional qualification with one of the accountancy bodies.

The National Audit Office runs a two-year fast-track scheme for school leavers, leading to accountancy qualifications.

Internal auditors can start work from a wide range of academic backgrounds, but experience in business or finance is often an advantage.

Training involves work experience and a series of professional examinations. It normally takes three to five years to complete. Trainees then specialise as auditors.

In larger accountancy firms, it is possible to specialise in other areas of auditing, such as value for money and risk assessment. Very experienced auditors may become self-employed consultants.

What is the work like?

Auditors inspect and verify the accounts of companies and other organisations to see how well they are controlling their finances.

They may be employed by a company or group as an internal auditor, or they may produce independent reviews of an organisation's accounts as an external auditor.

An external auditor produces an independent, professional review of a company's annual accounts to make sure the information is accurate and provides a fair view of the financial position. They may also audit other public service organisations, such as housing associations, charities, colleges and universities, to make sure public money is well spent and to see if any savings can be made. Annual audits are required by law for most organisations.

Typical tasks include:

  • examining interim and end-of-year accounts
  • collecting and reviewing specific financial data and transactions
  • conducting departmental reviews and interviewing key personnel about working practices
  • assessing financial risk controls
  • ensuring value for money is delivered
  • identifying and recommending ways in which clients can improve their working practices
  • preparing and submitting audit reports.

In contrast, internal auditors usually have a wider responsibility, reviewing and evaluating how risks are controlled across all parts of an organisation, not just its finances. They are more concerned with identifying weaknesses in the organisation's control systems, and work with managers to make improvements.

Hours and environment

Auditors usually work standard offices hours, though external auditors may need to be more flexible, to meet clients' demands. Part-time work and job sharing is possible.

Although mainly office based, external auditors do visit clients. Assignments can involve frequent travel, visiting main offices and regional sites, and possibly nights away from home.

Internal auditors tend to travel between different company sites and the head office.

A driving licence may be useful.

Salary and other benefits

These figures are only a guide, as actual rates of pay may vary depending on the employer and where people live.

  • Trainee auditors studying for accountancy exams earn between around £15,000 and £25,000 a year.
  • Part-qualified auditors with two to three years' experience usually earn around £30,000 to £45,000 a year.
  • Senior audit managers in large organisations can earn up to £90,000, potentially £150,000 as an audit director or head.

Skills and personal qualities

An auditor should have:

  • excellent interpersonal and communication skills
  • a good understanding of the organisation or sector they are working in
  • the ability to interpret and analyse complex figures
  • an understanding of audit principles
  • a planned, well-organised approach to work
  • good project management skills
  • an objective, logical and enquiring mind
  • strong IT skills
  • tact and the ability to give constructive feedback
  • a confident and professional manner.

Interests

It is important to:

  • enjoy working with figures
  • be interested in how businesses or organisations work.

Getting in

There are around 4,000 qualified auditors in the UK.

External auditors may work for:

  • accountancy firms
  • the National Audit Office (NAO), which audits central government departments
  • the Audit Commission, which audits public bodies like local authorities and the National Health Service (NHS).

Most external auditors are based close to major cities and financial institutions, although their work can mean travelling to clients throughout the UK. The NAO and Audit Commission often place trainee auditors in regional offices.

Internal auditors can work in-house, either as an employee or providing sub-contracted services, for:

  • commercial companies
  • not-for-profit organisations and charities
  • the banking and finance sector
  • accountancy practices firms.

Jobs are advertised online, in accountancy publications such as Accountancy, Accountancy Age and Internal Auditing, by specialist recruitment agencies and in national and regional newspapers.

Entry routes

External auditors must be qualified accountants, having completed a professional qualification with any of the following organisations:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland (ICAI)
  • Association of International Accountants (AIA).

Members of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) can conduct audits in the public sector, and those who have studied on the CIPFA's public audit route and obtained the Certificate in Company Audit & Accounting (Cert. CAA) may also audit private companies. Those qualifying with the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) can conduct internal audits only.

Most external auditors join organisations as graduate trainees and study towards a professional qualification with one of the accountancy bodies. Employers often accept any degree subject, but maths, accountancy, business studies, economics and finance degrees may be more relevant. Certain degrees may provide exemptions from some of the professional examinations. Candidates should check specific details with each accountancy body.

Entry to degrees is usually with a minimum of five GCSEs (A*-C) and two A levels or equivalent qualifications, though it is important to check with individual universities as requirements vary.

The Diploma in business, administration and finance may be a useful starting point.

The National Audit Office runs a two-year fast-track scheme for school leavers, leading to the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) qualification. Entry is with a minimum of five GCSEs (A*-C) or equivalent, including English and maths, and applicants either should have or expect to get 300 UCAS points at A level or equivalent.

See Industry and Commerce Accountant, Private Practice Accountant and Public Sector Accountant articles for more details about the entry routes and ways to train and qualify as an accountant.

Internal auditors can start work from a wide range of academic backgrounds, but experience in business or finance is often an advantage. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers the Diploma in Internal Audit Practice, which is the primary professional qualification required for practising internal auditors. The entry requirement is a degree or an employer's endorsement of the candidate's ability to study at this level.

Training

Training involves work experience and a series of professional examinations. It normally takes three to five years to complete. Trainees then specialise as auditors. Students may study part time, full time or by day release.

Authorised external auditors need to have worked as a qualified accountant for at least two years and hold a practising certificate from their qualifying professional accountancy body. The criteria for gaining a practising certificate varies:

  • ICAEW, ICAS, ICAI or AIA - at least one-third of post-qualifying experience in individual professional training records must come from an auditing role
  • ACCA - taking the audit and assurance exam option during training and later passing an audit orientation course and test
  • CIPFA - at least one-third of pre-qualifying experience in individual professional training records must come from an auditing role.

Internal auditors may take the IIA Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk or the IIA Diploma in Internal Audit Practice, then the Advanced Diploma in Internal Auditing and Management or the IT Audit Certificate.

All auditors must commit to continuing professional development (CPD) to maintain their professional accountancy membership.

Getting on

There are many different opportunities for qualified accountants in both the private and public sectors. Taking advanced qualifications in accountancy and internal auditing may help progression to senior management and partner jobs. Senior internal auditors may take the IIA Advanced Diploma in Internal Auditing and Management.

In larger accountancy firms, it is possible to specialise in other areas of auditing, such as value for money and risk assessment. Once qualified, switching into taxation, forensic accounting or insolvency is possible.

Very experienced auditors may become self-employed consultants.

Further information

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, ACCA Connect, 2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW. 0141 582 2000. Website: www.accaglobal.com

Association of International Accountants (AIA), Staithes 3, The Watermark, Metro Riverside, Newcastle upon Tyne NE11 9SN. 0191 493 0277. Website: www.aiaworldwide.com

Audit Commission, 1st Floor, Millbank Tower, Millbank, London SW1P 4HQ. 020 7828 1212. Website: www.audit-commission.gov.uk

Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA), 3 Robert Street, London WC2N 6RL. 020 7543 5600. Website: www.cipfa.org.uk

Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), Metropolitan House, 321 Avebury Boulevard, Milton Keynes MK9 2FZ. 01908 248040. Website: www.icaew.com/careers

The Institute of Internal Auditors, 13 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX. 020 7498 0101. Website: www.iia.org.uk

National Audit Office (NAO), 151 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 9SS. 020 7798 7000. Website: www.nao.org.uk

 

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