Internal Audit: A Career Guide

Have you considered a role in internal audit? There are many different routes across the audit field which may be suited to you.

Internal audit has been one of the most active markets in recent years, and there is no sign of it slowing. As businesses are increasing, their audit functions are expanding too. As a result, in today’s market there is perennial demand for internal auditors.

In this article, we explore what is involved within an internal audit role, what type of skills and qualities are required, and the opportunities a career can offer.

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Q. What is internal audit?

According to the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (CIIA), the definition of an internal audit role is to ‘provide independent assurance that an organisation’s risk management governance and internal control processes are operating effectively.’

Q. What do internal auditors do?

Internal auditors are vital to any company or organisation. They not only concentrate on the financial objectives but also on other internal systems and potential issues, including employee behaviours and company reputation.

Similar to external auditors, they have a duty to work and report independently from the company or organisation and must not be influenced by the operations they audit.

Unlike external auditors, they are influential to continuous improvements across the organisation. They work with management by advising necessary improvements and changes to be made.

According to the CIIA, internal auditors may be involved in the following on a daily basis:

  • Assessing the management of risk
  • Assisting management in the improvement of internal controls
  • Evaluating controls and advising managers at all levels
  • Evaluating risks across the business
  • Analysing company-wide operations and confirming information
  • Working with other assurance providers
  • Presenting findings to senior management and proposing process changes
  • Working to various regulations

Q. What type of person makes a good internal auditor?

If you’re considering internal auditing as a career, you’ll need to host a variety of skills to handle the diverse range of tasks and responsibilities. These are the key skills required to shine in internal audit:

  • Analytical – A numerical mindset is a must for all financial audit roles
  • Detail oriented – You must be process-driven and meticulous in your work
  • Strategic – This is essential when providing advice for process improvements. You’ll use historic data to plan ahead for a more efficient business
  • Strong communicator – You will be dealing with internal stakeholders at all levels. You should be confident in pushing back to different areas of the business and communicating ideas

Q. What are the benefits of a career within internal audit?

  • Adding value – By becoming a subject matter expert in the field you will provide value within your team and across the wider business. Through your audit assessments, you will increase process efficiencies and in turn drive business costs down. You will also be contributing to strategic plans moving forward.
  • Exposure – You’ll be working across different departments, gaining an understanding of the three lines of defence – audit, risk and compliance. You will also liaise and engage regularly across the whole business, building a composite picture of the firm. 

Within this role, you will become an expert of the processes and procedures from start to finish. Experience also includes bringing new and innovative ideas to the team. Many internal audit roles involve presenting findings to senior management and offering strategic advice looking forward.

  • Projects – Internal audit delivers the opportunity to lead and contribute towards a variety of engaging projects across the business. You will work on approximately 5 / 6 projects at one time, providing variety within the role. You will also have the opportunity to gain ownership of these projects and lead others on these audits.
  • Professional development – Demand for specialists within internal audit is prevalent across entry, mid and senior levels. In an ever-increasing regulatory environment, regulatory control is becoming even more predominant, thus, demand for the internal audit skill-set is high. 

Furthermore, experience within internal audit will also open up numerous opportunities for you internally and externally within audit and wider risk, compliance, accounting and operations. 

Q. What does a long-term career look like for an internal auditor?

You can choose to stay within internal audit, progress to management and oversee the entire process. You may also be able to transition into another of the ‘three lines of defence’ and build upon your process mapping, risk awareness and regulatory knowledge within the organisation.

Alternatively, after a few years in the internal audit field, your skill-set will be transferable to external audit where you can use your audit and stakeholder engagement skills to successfully transition into the external space.

If you want to progress with internal audit long-term, there are options to specialise and study towards becoming a Chartered Internal Auditor (CIA). This is a globally recognised certificate. Alternatively, you can become chartered by experience later in your career.

Q. What can I expect to earn with a career in internal audit?

In our most recent salary guide, we broke down internal audit salary ranges into entry, mid and senior levels.

  • Entry level - £21,000 - £35,000
  • Mid level - £35,000 - £50,000
  • Senior Manager level - £50,000 - £75,000
  • Head of Function - £100,000 +

As you can see, the salary ranges are quite broad, with them being dependent on qualifications, experience and time within the industry.

If you are considering an internal audit career, a point to bear in mind is that once you qualify in audit your salary will jump to £35,000 plus. You will then have numerous opportunities available to you for career progression and development, with senior roles commanding salaries in excess of £50,000 per annum.

Q. How do I become an internal auditor?

If you are entry level, there are some graduate roles for internal auditors which require little or no experience at all. However, some exposure to accounting or audit through internships will set you ahead of the competition.

If you are an external auditor within accounting practice, you’ll have plenty of transferrable skills. The client exposure will provide client relationship skills which are also required for internal audit.

Although it helps to have an accounting foundation in order to get up to speed quickly, you may have enough skills to transition into financial audit with a background in risk and compliance.

Q. Is internal auditing a satisfying career?

To enjoy a career in internal audit, you should be highly analytical, have a strategic mind-set, and enjoy communicating and implementing improvements across the business.

If you acquire these necessary skills and drive, a career in internal audit can be a very satisfying career. You will become a subject matter expert, building on your industry knowledge and growing your network.

As an essential asset to the company, you will find yourself following a valued and rewarding trajectory.

Maybe it’s time to conduct an audit on your career?

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