Auditors monitor the financial processes of businesses and individuals by performing a variety of analytical services. Auditors review financial records, examine information systems and attempt to detect sources of fraudulent or inefficient processes. They should also be familiar with federal and state tax laws, auditing regulations and business law. Senior positions may require auditors to demonstrate management or leadership abilities. Auditors must be able to work with accountants and other financial professionals to develop auditing policies when necessary. Auditors should have at least a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance, though employers may prefer a graduate degree. Career prospects are best for auditors with certification.
Bachelor of Science in Accounting
A bachelor's degree program in accounting teaches students various accounting and bookkeeping methods and processes. Students learn how to perform mathematical operations and apply economic theories to business organizations and financial systems. Programs require four years of study and include courses in mathematics and statistics and the following:
- Financial accounting
- Microeconomics and macroeconomics
- Cost management
- Financial planning
- Accounting research
Master of Science in Accounting
Students in an accounting master's degree program learn advanced financial theories and trends. Students learn how to provide accounting services for individuals, businesses and nonprofit organizations. Master's degree programs involve heavy research and typically require completion of a thesis project. Common courses include:
- Applied financial analysis
- Managerial accounting
- Strategic decision-making in finance
- Corporate finance and investments
- Organizational behavior
Employers typically prefer to hire auditors with 2-5 years of experience. Senior auditors, who often have supervisory responsibilities, may be required to have more than five years of experience. Auditors may gain relevant experience by first obtaining lower-level accounting or bookkeeping positions.
Licenses and Certifications
Employment opportunities are best for auditors with certification. Most employers prefer or require auditors to have certified public account (CPA) or certified internal auditor (CIA) credentials.
CPA certification is granted by each state's Board of Accountancy. In nearly all states, accountants or auditors must have 150 academic hours of training, which requires training beyond the typical 120 hours of an undergraduate degree. Therefore, CPA candidates usually have completed graduate-level accounting courses.
To become certified, auditors must pass the Uniform CPA Examination, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The exam involves four sections which can be passed at once or on separate testing occasions, though exam-takers are required to pass all four sections within 18 months of passing the initial section. To retain CPA credentials, auditors and accountants must obtain continuing education credits.
The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) offers CIA certification for auditors who have completed a formal training program and acquired at least two years of experience. Auditors must pass a comprehensive exam that addresses tax and auditing regulations, proper auditing processes and additional areas of financial review. To remain certified, auditors must participate in continuing education courses offered by the IIA.
Workshops and Seminars
The IIA offers a number of online and in-person training seminars. Seminars cover topics like operational auditing, risk-based auditing, enterprise risk management, audit reporting standards, financial project management and auditing ethics. Some workshops may be used for meeting certification continuing education credits.
Colleges, universities and employers also offer auditing workshops. As internal auditing becomes a larger industry, more colleges are offering related courses and programs. College workshops are typically presented by experienced faculty members with extensive accounting and auditing experience. Newly hired auditors may participate in workshops designed to familiarize auditors with an employer's specific auditing policies.
Additional Professional Development
Professional development resources are available from the IIA. This organization offers numerous opportunities for professional guidance, including research studies and reports, conferences, online discussion groups, an online career center and a bookstore. The IIA publishes Internal Auditor magazine and several industry newsletters.
Advancement opportunities are best for auditors with extensive experience and a master's degree in accounting. Auditors with sufficient experience and qualifications can seek senior and supervisory positions with financial institutions, government agencies and corporations. Auditors can also pursue a Ph.D. in accounting to strengthen their professional background.
Auditor training programs are offered at the undergraduate and graduate level. A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credential helps employment opportunities, while workshops and seminars are available for continuing education purposes, in addition to professional development via the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).