Auditors use their skills in mathematics and their knowledge of relevant finance law to prepare and examine financial documents for accounting firms, tax preparation businesses, government agencies and finance companies. Some specialize as internal auditors who prepare reports destined only for the eyes of decision makers within the corporation. Others serve as external auditors whose work goes in front of investors, reviewers and the general public.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected that auditor and accountant jobs will grow 10 percent by 2026, and the median accountant and auditor salary stands at $69,350 per year. As in other professions, years of experience and valuable skills can increase an auditor’s earnings substantially. The highest earners in the field exceed $122,220 in annual wages. Top-paid auditors typically serve in the finance and insurance industries or take on management roles.
Those auditors with skills in risk management, financial analysis and financial reporting can expect to earn higher-than-average pay, according to Payscale. Auditors with 10-20 years of experience often pull in 25 percent more than those just starting out.
People with an aptitude for math and a love for puzzling out intriguing problems may find that the well-paying, fast-growing field of auditing is the right place for them.
An Auditor’s Role
An auditor’s role is to assure a company’s investors, its staff, the government and any regulatory agencies that the enterprise’s financial statements are accurate. Though auditors typically get lumped in with accountants, the two professions are different. Accountants are a business necessity, employed by a single firm and charged with keeping track of income and expenses. Auditors, on the other hand, may move from company to company, check the work of accountants and usually concentrate on creating end-of-year reports or helping investigate documents in cases of suspected fraud.
Auditors can work for top audit firms like Price Waterhouse Coopers or Deloitte & Touche LLP, or they can take jobs with the federal government by serving agencies such as the U.S. Federal Reserve, the Department of Energy, or the Internal Revenue Service.
Regardless of their industry, all auditors help improve financial accuracy, efficiency and performance. There work is so significant that U.S. News & World Report has ranked accountants (and auditors) among the top 10 business professions.
In general, an auditor needs to stay current on financial law, regulatory requirements in their industry, technology and auditing software. Many prospective auditors gain these competencies through academic programs and hands-on experiences, such as internships.
The Institute of Internal Auditors Research Foundation (IIARF) conducted a study in which it ranked the top five key competencies that internal auditors need based on more than 13,000 responses from 107 countries. They are:
- Communication skills for writing and delivering reports and presentations
- Identifying problems and devising solutions using critical and analytical thinking
- Staying up to date with the industry, especially with changes in regulations and laws
- Knowledge of internal audit standards and ethics
- Enterprise Risk Management to plan, lead and control corporate activities to minimize the effects of risk on capital and earnings
The IIARF’s report identified and ranked other important skills, such as organizational ability, conflict resolution and staff training and development. To grow in their profession, auditors need a mix of technical ability and people skills coupled with extensive knowledge of financial law and regulations.
Educational Background of Auditors
Auditors often launch their careers by earning an undergraduate degree in accounting or finance. Those programs equip students with skills in mathematics and problem-solving along with rigorous training in accounting laws and practices. Some schools offer a bachelor’s degree in business with a specialization in accounting, an approach that can provide a well-rounded business curriculum plus deep knowledge of accounting practices.
Some employers prefer candidates who have a graduate degree in accounting or business administration. For instance, by pursuing an online MBA, like the one from Jessup Online, professionals can gain leadership skills that businesses value. Jessup’s program features faculty members who are experts in their fields and have worked as CEOs, marketing directors and vice presidents of finance. No GMAT is required for admission.
Many employers also expect auditors to hold professional designations. One example is the Certified Internal Auditor credential offered by The Institute of Internal Auditors, which requires auditors to have a four-year degree and two years of experience to sit for the exam.