If you’re interested in a career as an auditor, you might be searching for a highly specialized bachelor’s degree in a subject such as internal auditing. These programs are rare, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting that only “a few” colleges across the U.S. offer this program of study. One concern that may further narrow your options for where you earn your college degree is whether you will need to take a lot of math courses to graduate. Like other accounting professionals, auditors work with numbers and financial data. However, an undergraduate program in internal auditing may not require as much math as you fear it will.
Required Math Courses in Auditing Degree Programs
Generally, there are two types of required courses that students must take: the general education classes that students in all majors must complete to graduate from the university and the program-specific core requirements needed to earn a degree in your major. In some internal auditing specialties within an accounting degree program, the only true math classes required are college-level algebra and introductory statistics. A minor in internal auditing might require no additional math classes beyond those required for the accounting degree, which may be as basic as a single applied mathematics course needed to meet general education criteria. Some internal auditing degree programs may allow students to test out of the general education math coursework if they scored well on an Advanced Placement (AP) Mathematics Test.
Often, the math classes required for an auditing or accounting degree program are intended for non-math majors. These courses, like business calculus and business statistics, tend to focus more on practical application than on complex theories and formulas that have little use in the real world.
If you’re not devoting your curriculum to math studies, what courses will you take in an auditing program? Students typically have to complete coursework in a breadth of business topics, such as marketing, finance and leadership. They also take variety of introductory through intermediate accounting courses, because even in a specialized auditing program, knowing the fundamentals of accounting is important. The specialized coursework auditing students might complete may include fraud examination, case studies in internal auditing, information systems auditing and hands-on internship opportunities with an accounting firm or other business.
Specialized degree programs in auditing are more common at the master’s degree level than at the bachelor’s level. These graduate programs usually don’t require further math coursework.
The Relationship Between Math and Accounting
Auditing, or the review and examination of financial records, is a crucial part of the field of accounting. Auditors examine an individual’s or organization’s statements and other financial documents created by accountants to look for inaccuracies or inconsistencies, specifically those that could indicate fraud, embezzlement, mismanagement of finances or wasted resources. The math skills auditors need to possess are similar to those needed for other roles in accounting.
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Most of the mathematical tasks performed in auditing and accounting work is basic arithmetic. Addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are the most common functions accountants and auditors need to know. They must be able to use formulas to create documents such as balance sheets and tax forms, but these formulas tend to be simple and consistent. Accountants use calculators and spreadsheet software for much of the mathematical functions they perform, so being comfortable with accounting technology is often just as important as an aspiring auditor’s math skills.
The idea that an accounting degree or a career in auditing is only for math experts is a common accounting myth. While auditors and accountants work extensively with numbers on a daily basis, the most important math skills needed for this career are basic arithmetic functions. Other abilities, such as logic and critical thinking skills, organizational skills, problem-solving skills, research skills and communication skills are more important for students majoring in accounting and auditing to have than advanced math skills. As accountants transition from the old role of number-cruncher to a new role of analyst, advisor and consultant, understanding the theory of accounting and how to apply those concepts to real-world auditing issues becomes increasingly important.
You might be surprised at how important technology skills are for auditors and accountants. Much of the math today’s accountants and auditors do involves software applications.