Accounting is the field of financial reporting, but within this field are many job roles and specializations. One important area of the accounting profession is auditing. Auditors concern themselves with the examination of financial data and documents. If you want to work in auditing, you will need a bachelor’s degree in auditing or accounting. As you progress through your auditing career, professional certifications and a graduate degree are options that can help you advance.
Work in the Field of Auditing
There are two different kinds of auditing: internal and external. An internal auditor works for the company or organization he or she is auditing. External auditors work for a different organization, such as a government entity or a group of shareholders.
Auditors go over the organization’s financial records to determine accuracy and compliance with accounting standards such as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. In their examinations, both internal and external auditors look for inaccuracies that suggest mismanagement of finances in forms such as fraud or embezzlement. Internal auditors are also responsible for finding opportunities to improve an organization’s operations. Internal auditors look at financial reports as well as other aspects of the business, from company policies to information technology solutions. In many ways, internal auditors act almost as in-house business consultants, making recommendations on ways the company can increase productivity, reduce waste and improve overall business operations.
One specific kind of internal auditor is information technology auditor, a professional who uses accounting and IT knowledge to examine the controls that govern the organization’s computer systems, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Auditing and Accounting Studies
Auditing skills are integral to success in the field of accounting. Whether or not your financial reporting role is categorized as an auditing position, you need to know the theory, practices and techniques of auditing. As a result, most bachelor’s degree programs in accounting include at least one auditing course, if not more. Similarly, auditors need to know the foundations of accounting principles and practices in order to do their work, so they must have an educational background in general accounting, as well.
Only a few schools offer specialized undergraduate degrees in auditing, such as a bachelor’s degree in internal auditing, the BLS reported. Certainly, these focused programs attract some aspiring auditors, but most auditors start their careers with a more general accounting degree. Some accounting programs offer an auditing concentration, sequence or specialization as part of their degree program.
When you study accounting and auditing at the bachelor’s degree level, you will take courses in a range of topics, including financial accounting, cost accounting, auditing and accounting information systems. Coursework typically begins with introductory classes, such as principles of accounting, and progresses through intermediate accounting coursework. General business classes, too, are important for success in an auditing or accounting role, particularly if you aspire to work as an internal auditor. You may find yourself completing core business studies in economics, finance, marketing, human resources, management and organizational behavior alongside your focused accounting coursework.
Specialized auditing coursework might include classes in fraud examination, information systems auditing, case studies in internal auditing and auditing internship opportunities.
Certifications and Advanced Education for Auditors
It’s possible to become an auditor with only a bachelor’s degree in accounting, or with a bachelor’s degree and some accounting work experience. However, some employers – especially large corporations or one of the “Big Four” accounting firms – may prefer or require that candidates for auditing roles have more education and training than just an undergraduate degree. If you aspire to move up to roles such as senior auditor, having a professional certification or a master’s degree can be especially valuable.
Probably the most recognized credential for auditors is Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). This globally accepted general auditing certification that requires the passing of a three-part professional exam. The IIA also offers other auditing certifications. The Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP) credential is ideal for auditors who work or want to work in the public sector, while the certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA) designation is for internal auditors working in banks or financial services. The other two certifications, Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) and Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), focus on a specialized area of expertise, rather than a work setting. External auditors can also benefit from attaining credentials, such as the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certification.
If you’re considering graduate school, a master’s degree program in auditing or forensic accounting could prove valuable. In these programs, you will take advanced and specialized courses such as fraud auditing, fraud examination, white collar and financial crimes, forensic accounting, advanced internal auditing and auditing practice. Often, a master’s degree in auditing or accounting can be completed in just one to two years, and having this advanced degree can help you move into senior auditing or management roles.
Often, it’s the experience gained through internships and attributes such as communication, analytical and leadership skills, as much as technical auditing and accounting knowledge, that help new graduates succeed in auditing roles.