Auditors and accountants play a critical role in any organization, ensuring sound financial accounting practices and regulatory compliance. As an auditor, you may work on behalf of a business, nonprofit organization or government agency such as the Internal Revenue Service.
What Does an Auditor Do?
Auditors review the financial records of private businesses, nonprofit organizations, public agencies, and individuals to ensure accuracy and comprehensive reporting. They may work on behalf of a client or for a government regulatory agency.
Government auditors examine the records of government agencies and of businesses and individuals subject to government regulation or taxation. The government auditor's job may include responsibilities such as:
- Auditing the internal financial records or data systems of a government agency
- Reviewing financial data in support of fiscal policy initiatives and preparing financial impact reports
- Assisting in budget analysis and administration
- Ensuring that agencies receive the appropriate revenue from businesses, citizens or other public agencies
- Reviewing tax returns and conducting audits for the Internal Revenue Service
- Examining financial institutions to ensure compliance with federal regulations
Government auditors may work for local, state or federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service or Congressional Budget Office.
Internal auditors audit an organization's financial information and data systems. Key responsibilities of an internal auditor include:
- Testing and improving the organization's internal controls for regulatory compliance and financial reporting accuracy.
- Auditing internal financial records for accuracy, completeness and compliance with regulations
- Developing automated systems to facilitate user access to accurate, timely financial records
- Review auditing systems to identify possible sources of financial mismanagement or fraud
- Assessing internal company operations to determine their efficiency and compliance with internal policies
Internal auditors may specialize in one of these responsibilities, focusing on either the financial, information systems or policy audit.
What Are the Steps to Becoming an Auditor?
Auditors must develop specialized accounting skills and technical training using financial reporting systems and databases. Formal training is a requirement for a career as an auditor; most auditors get their start with a bachelor's degree. Take these steps to establish your career in auditing:
- Take high school courses in mathematics, computer and IT training, and business, if available.
- Earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or a related field. You can also learn how to become an auditor with a degree in business administration, or a specialized program in areas such as internal auditing or information technology auditing.
- Build your practical skills by pursuing a summer or part-time internship alongside your education.
- Secure an entry-level auditor position, working under the supervision of an experienced auditor.
Establishing yourself as an auditor requires both formal training and on-the-job practice. The fundamentals you learn in college will help you succeed during on-the-job training.
How to Become a GREAT Auditor
You can learn how to become an auditor in college. Becoming a great auditor takes dedication and a drive for continued learning once you're established in a career.
- Apply for Auditing Certification - Apply for professional certification in an auditing specialty. For example, as a government auditor you can earn recognition as a Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP). As an environmental auditor, you have access to the Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA) or Certified Energy Auditor designation.
- Earn a Graduate Professional Degree - To advance your career, consider an MBA in accounting or auditing. These professional training programs are widely available online.
- Professional Continuing Education Resources - You can also develop your expertise through continuing education courses, seminars and conferences. Professional associations that offer training include The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the Association of Healthcare Internal Auditors (AHIA), Council of Higher Education Internal Auditors, and the National Association of Construction Auditors, among others.
- Specialize - Increase your value to an employer by building specialty expertise in your industry sector. You may choose to establish your expertise in one of these auditing specialty roles: Information technology, environmental, compliance, health care auditor, higher education, financial crimes investigator, taxation, construction auditor, or insurance premium auditor.
- Network - Advance your career by connecting with peers and potential mentors. The Institute of Internal Auditors has local chapters nationwide. Government auditors can join The National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers or the National State Auditors Association, both of which have local affiliates.
With favorable job opportunities forecasted for the coming decade, now is the perfect time for you to learn how to become an auditor. The Department of Labor expects employment for auditors and accountants to grow 22 percent between 2008 and 2018. The best opportunities will go to auditors with master's degrees or certification. Start your career as an auditor and tap into a bright future in financial, technical or regulatory auditing.
Resources for Auditors
- Bureau of Labor Statistics
- Internal Revenue Service
- Congressional Budget Office
- The Institute of Internal Auditors
- Association of Healthcare Internal Auditors
- National Association of Construction Auditors
- The National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers
- Accountants and Auditors, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/accountants-and-auditors.htm#tab-2