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What auditors do and what skills they should have

 Auditors perform audits (inspections of financial accounts) on commercial and public sector organizations.

Auditors are specialists who review the accounts of companies and organizations to ensure the validity and legality of their financial records. They can also act in an advisory role to recommend possible risk aversion measures and cost savings that could be made.

Auditors work in the accounting departments of a huge range of firms and with independent chartered and certified firms, examining the money going in and out of organizations and making sure it is recorded and processed correctly.

Auditors assess local and central government departments with the aim of improving efficiency and effectiveness.

Key activities include:

  • collating, checking and analyzing spreadsheet data
  • examining company accounts and financial control systems
  • gauging levels of financial risk within organizations
  • checking that financial reports and records are accurate and reliable
  • ensuring that assets are safeguarded 
  • identifying if and where processes are not working as they should and advising on changes to be made 
  • preparing reports, commentaries and financial statements 
  • liaising with managerial staff and presenting findings and recommendations 
  • ensuring procedures, policies, legislation and regulations are correctly followed and complied with 
  • undertaking reviews of wages.

 Auditors work typical office hours from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm, Monday to Friday. They may need to work extra hours or during the weekend to meet deadlines, particularly during tax audits.

Auditors sometimes travel to meet clients and visit factory or warehouse locations in order to make stock and equipment checks.

Typical employers of auditors

Auditors can be either internal or external.

Internal auditors:

  • work for professional firms outsourced by client companies
  • work in-house as part of an organization’s accounting team
  • work for large private companies, organizations and charities.

Internal auditors work largely in the private sector to improve the efficiency of businesses and identify where processes are not working as they should. As well as reviewing financial accounts, they also look at aspects of the company such as ethics, environmental sustainability, reputation and growth.

External auditors:

  • work with private firms of accountants, or in the public sector for the National Audit Office
  • carry out obligatory audits of the public sector and governmental bodies
  • may be called to examine the finances of private businesses, especially those working in association with governmental bodies.

External auditors play a vital role in ensuring that money raised by taxes is used effectively and efficiently.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into a career in audit for both university graduates and school leavers, though routes differ depending on whether you are aiming for internal or external audit.

External auditors must first qualify as chartered accountants with a professional accounting body.

Alternatively, you can gain a qualification with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) to work as an auditor in the public sector.

It is also possible for graduates to gain a professional accounting qualification while working for the National Audit Office, which offers a three-year graduate scheme.

Achieving qualifications can take three to five years but you will work while studying. Employers often provide financial help with exams and allow time for study leave.

Internal auditors do not have to qualify as accountants, though it could be helpful. Graduates can have a degree in any discipline but subjects such as accountancy, economics and IT are particularly beneficial. School leavers can enter the profession by starting as a trainee auditor and completing on-the-job training in order to progress.

Key skills for auditors 

  • Self-motivation, determination and confidence 
  • Ability to divide your time between work and study 
  • Meticulous attention to detail 
  • A strong aptitude for math 
  • Excellent problem-solving skills 
  • A keen interest in the financial system 
  • Ability to work to deadlines, under pressure 
  • Ability to work on your own initiative and as part of a team 
  • Strong IT skills 
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills, including good presentation and report writing skills
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