Working in audit
More than ever, financial accountability is essential across all areas of business – and that’s what the role of the auditor is all about. If you are interested in dissecting the inner financial workings of almost any company, a career as an auditor may be for you. The insights gained by an auditor by really getting ‘under the bonnet’ of how a business works means that an audit qualification provides a critical path into a successful business career.
Auditors benefit from attractive salaries, career progression and international work prospects. In simple terms, statutory (or external) auditors are independent specialists who check the financial records and report to shareholders. External auditors typically work for firms of Chartered Accountants and carry out independent financial audits which are required by law. They may also advise on efficiencies and financial risks and controls. Internal auditors perform internal company audits, risk assessments and they advise on good corporate governance and structures within an organisation.
What will I do as an auditor?
If your idea of an auditor is boring, office based and repetitive, then think again. Auditors are regularly off-site with clients, using IT software to analyse financial performance and to confirm the validity and legality of their financial records. No two days will be the same, and you’ll often be working multiple client assignments with exposure to senior executives and directors. Your ultimate responsibility will be to the shareholders of the company, so you’ll also learn to adopt a healthy dose of ‘professional scepticism’ to ensure a company’s financial controls are appropriate in accounting terms and that the financials reported by a company are reliable. You’ll be a mix of trouble-shooter and investigator, advising the business objectively on issues you may encounter. The audit’s conclusions will be subject to close scrutiny from existing and potential shareholders as well as management, so the role carries considerable responsibility. Key activities include:
• collating, checking and analysing financial data
• examining company accounts, records and financial reporting systems
• gauging levels of financial risk
• ensuring that controls to safeguard assets are effective
• identifying if and where processes are not working as they should, and advising on changes to be made
• preparing reports and commentaries for senior management and boards
• liaising with managerial staff and presenting findings and recommendations
• considering whether procedures, policies, legislation and regulations are correctly followed and complied with.
Auditors can come from any degree subject, but most audit trainees have studied accountancy in college and qualified with a 2:1 degree. Once you have graduated you can work as an auditing assistant and learn on the job. During this time, you will study towards the accounting qualifications needed to practice as an auditor. For more information, contact Chartered Accountants Ireland or any of the other professional accountancy bodies. In most cases, trainees in public practice will have chosen to specialise in the area of audit as part of their professional education and will have generated broad audit experience as part of their training contract.