Audit Jobs – Boring? Definitely Not. But Can You Handle The Pressure?

Audit jobs are on the rise.  The recent economic crisis and scandals such as Enron created increased need for both independent and internal auditors. 

  • Organizations are responding to increasing governmental regulation by establishing internal audit procedures to ensure compliance. 

  • External audits are on the rise, also, as a means to protect investors and shareholder interests.  If you are considering a career in audit the future is bright.

What is the role of an auditor?  Let’s explore the career and look at employment options for professionals interested in an auditing career.

Role and Responsibilities

An organization can have millions of transactions during an accounting period.  It is nearly impossible to look at each transaction to make sure it is accurate and appropriate.  For this reason, auditors use statistical sampling to review the transactions of an organization and narrow the focus of their investigation.  Auditors:

  • Verify financial statements to ensure they are free from material misstatements and errors.

  • Review and evaluate the processes and systems of an organization.

  • Inspect an organization’s internal controls and assess the extent that these controls limit exposure to risk.

  • Ensure controls are in place to protect an organization’s assets.

  • Ensure that financial and operational information is reported in a timely, consistent, and accurate way to management and stakeholders.

Independent (external) auditors, by definition, do not work for the organizations they are auditing.  Instead they work for an audit or public accounting firm hired to perform the audit.  This distance gives them the objectivity they need to complete an honest and accurate audit.

Work as an auditor typically involves travel.  If you work for a smaller accounting firm you will perform audits primarily in your local area.  Some travel may be required, however, to visit satellite locations and offices of the client.  If you work for a larger firm you may travel extensively, even internationally, and sometimes for weeks at a time.  

When you are on a client site, you will usually be given a quiet place to work and a contact person within the client organization who can assist you in obtaining information.  You will gather sample data and analyze it, making notes and working with source documents.  You may also observe and interact with client employees as a part of evaluating their processes.

What Can You Expect as An Auditor?

Assisting with an audit is stressful for the management and staff of a client.  Imagine the experience of having someone review random samples of your work over a period of time.  

It is human nature to be concerned about having someone “look over your shoulder” while you work.  

As an auditor, you are a relative stranger to the organization and employees are certain to be guarded and anxious as they work with you.  Be prepared.

You can make your work easier by building a professional rapport with the client’s employees early in the audit process.  A smile, a courteous nature, and a firm handshake will help you get started. 

As you uncover issues or have questions, be careful to investigate as objectively and non-confrontationally as possible.  Be patient while client employees remember and relate to you circumstances involved in transactions that may be months in the past.  All of this will help you conduct the audit smoothly.

Audit jobs are a short way of saying that you need to be prepared for long periods away from home. Loneliness is common among auditors, especially those that travel extensively for their work.  You may not always have the luxury of a team from your firm for companionship.

If you are considering working in one of the many audit jobs available you should evaluate your own willingness to work independently for long periods of time.

Are Audit Jobs A Good Fit For You?

Audit jobs are exciting for the right personality. 

They require a natural curiosity and desire to investigate and problem solve.  They also demand a high level of organization and the ability to communicate well with all types of people in a professional setting.  The pressure of time constraints and the demands of travel and loneliness make the position a challenge if you are not adequately prepared.

There’s really no substitute for audit experience, though.  You will learn an incredible amount about a variety of industries and organizations.  The problems you encounter and the systems you review will expose you to accounting complexities you wouldn’t learn in a classroom setting.

Even if audit isn't a good fit for you long term, the experience of a few years in an audit role will provide professional advantages to you later in your career.