An auditor's job is to inspect and verify organisations' financial accounts. By law, large, listed and public interest organisations in the UK must publish audited accounts. It is also necessary to audit other public service organisations, such as housing associations, charities, colleges and universities, to make sure public money is well spent and to see if any savings can be made. Auditors can be 'external' or 'internal' (and work for the organisation they audit).
An external qualified accountant auditor produces an independent, professional review of an organisation's annual accounts, making sure the information is accurate and provides a fair view of the financial position.
In addition to examining interim and end of year accounts, and collecting and reviewing specific financial data and transactions, auditors are increasingly responsible for assessing financial risk controls and ensuring value for money is being delivered.
An annual external audit can take several weeks to complete. During this time, auditors liaise with internal financial and business teams. They may work as part of a larger external audit team, focusing on specific activities, for example:
In comparison, internal auditors may advise more on operational and strategic issues, as well as risks to the organisation's reputation. Their job is more focused on continually monitoring:
An auditor usually works between 37 and 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday. External auditors may need to be more flexible, to meet clients' demands. Part-time and job sharing is possible.
Although mainly office-based, auditors do visit clients. Assignments can involve frequent travel, visiting main offices and regional sites, and possibly nights away from home. A driving licence may be useful.
Auditors are likely to use a laptop computer and mobile phone to operate flexibly out of the office.
Starting salaries for trainee auditors may range from £14,000 to £25,000 a year.
There are approximately 265,000 qualified accountants working in the UK, plus an estimated 135,000 completing their professional training. Many accountants choose to specialise and work in audit. Demand for qualified external and internal auditors is currently high.
External auditors work with:
Although the work takes auditors to clients throughout the UK, most are based close to major cities and financial institutions. The National Audit Office, for instance, has offices in London, Blackpool and Newcastle. Trainee auditors may be placed in a regional office.
Internal auditors can work in-house for commercial companies, not-for-profit organisations, in the banking and finance sector, or for accountancy practice firms, either as employees or providing subcontracted services via chartered accountancy firms. Some may be self-employed.
Most employers recruit direct each year. Check their websites for details. Jobs are also advertised in sector publications, specialist recruitment agencies, such as www.auditprofessionals.com, and national and regional newspapers.
Registered auditors need a professional accountancy qualification.
The majority of auditors join as graduate trainees and study towards a professional qualification with one of the accountancy bodies. Applicants to a graduate programme may need a UCAS tariff score of at least 240 points.
Typically, recruiters accept any degree subject, but maths, accountancy, business studies, economics and finance are particularly relevant. Some degrees may give candidates exemptions from some of the professional examinations. Each accountancy body differs, so candidates should check specific details.
However, there are alternative routes to qualify as an accountant:
Applicants with appropriate A levels/H grades can start work directly as trainee accountants and sit the professional accountancy exams while they work in an accountancy firm.
With GCSE's/S grades, it is possible to start work as an accountancy technician, and there may be Apprenticeships with some employers.
Young people taking an accountancy technician route may work towards the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) accounting qualification, progressing to full accountancy training after gaining experience.
The Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) offers a similar training route leading to the Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) qualification. With AAT or CAT qualifications, trainees are exempt from some papers in the professional accountancy exams.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Many accountancy firms also offer summer internship programmes and work experience placements to students.
Internal auditors can start work from a wide range of academic backgrounds. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers a number of professional internal audit qualifications, such as the Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk, which has no academic requirements.
The IIA Diploma in Internal Audit Practice requires two A levels/three H grades and five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including maths and English. Employers must endorse applications for candidates who do not have the minimum qualifications.
Training involves gaining relevant work experience and passing a series of professional examinations. Trainees then specialise as auditors. Students may study part time, full time or by day release. It normally takes three to five years to complete the training.
There are six chartered accountancy bodies in the UK, five of which can approve their members to be registered auditors. These are:
The Institute of Internal Auditors provides professional qualifications for internal audit only. There are three separate qualifications:
Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk - providing an introduction to basic internal audit skills and principles.
Diploma in Internal Audit Practice - aimed at practising internal auditors.
Advanced Diploma in Internal Auditing and Management - for experienced and senior auditors, and for qualified accountants who want a specific qualification in internal auditing.
The Association of International Accountants also offers a Diploma in Auditing for people already working in the accounting and finance field.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is mandatory, and taking advanced qualifications in chartered accountancy and internal auditing can support progression to senior jobs.
Laboratory technicians carry out routine laboratory tests and perform a variety of technical support functions to help scientists, technologists and others with their work. They can work in research and development, scientific analysis and testing, education and manufacturing.
They are employed in a wide range of scientific fields which affect almost every aspect of our lives.
An auditor should have:
The opportunities for qualified accountants are extremely diverse, with careers in both the private and public sectors. Accountants specialising in auditing can progress to senior roles, such as partner or manager.
Within the larger accountancy firms, it is also possible to specialise in other areas of auditing, such as value for money and risk assessment.
Very experienced auditors may become self-employed, providing external consultancy services.
Some of the larger private practice firms may offer short-term overseas postings.
Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT),
140 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4HY
Tel: 0845 863 0800
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants,
ACCA Connect, 2 Central Quay, 89 Hydepark Street, Glasgow G3 8BW
Tel: 0141 582 2000
Association of International Accountants (AIA),
Staithes 3, The Watermark, Metro Riverside, Newcastle upon Tyne NE11 9SN
Tel: 0191 493 0277
Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA),
3 Robert Street, London WC2N 6RL
Tel: 020 7543 5600
Financial Services Skills Council, 51 Gresham Street, London EC2V 7HQ
Tel: 0845 257 3772
Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW),
Gloucester House, 399 Silbury Boulevard, Central Milton Keynes MK9 2HL
Tel: 01908 248040
The Institute of Internal Auditors,
13 Abbeville Mews, 88 Clapham Park Road, London SW4 7BX
Tel: 0845 883 4739
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.