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Auditor Career Guide

What is an auditor?

An auditor is a professional who examines and verifies a company’s or individual’s financial records to ensure accuracy and compliance with established accounting standards and regulations. By providing an independent perspective, they help reinforce transparency, instill confidence among stakeholders, and uphold the integrity of financial information.

Whether working from within an organization (internal auditing) or as an external consultant, their primary mission is to provide an objective assessment, identify discrepancies or inefficiencies, and recommend corrective actions.

Duties and responsibilities

At the heart of an auditor’s duties is the examination of financial statements to ensure their accuracy and conformity to accounting standards, such as the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). They review accounting systems and records, test accounting procedures, and verify transaction details.

These professionals may also assess the effectiveness of internal controls, identifying risks or potential fraud indicators. Upon completion of the audit, they typically prepare a detailed report of their findings, offering insights and, if needed, recommendations for improvements. For external auditors, this report is crucial for shareholders, investors, and regulatory agencies, assuring the financial health and practices of the audited entity.

Work environment

Auditors can be found in diverse environments. While many are employed by accounting firms, especially the “Big Four” (Deloitte, PwC, EY, and KPMG), others work within corporations, government agencies, or nonprofit organizations.

The nature of their work often demands travel, particularly for external auditors, who must visit client sites to access records, interview personnel, and understand company operations firsthand. Whether working solo or as part of a team, they engage heavily with financial documents, databases, and accounting software, requiring both analytical abilities and meticulous attention to detail.

Typical work hours

Generally, auditors work a standard 40-hour week. However, during peak times like the close of a fiscal year or during specific audit engagements, they may work longer hours, including weekends, to meet tight deadlines.

For those in public accounting firms, especially the larger ones, the audit season can be particularly demanding, often requiring extended hours and potential travel. Conversely, those in internal audit roles may have more consistent schedules, though peak times can still arise during internal review periods or regulatory inspections.

How to become an auditor

In order to become an auditor, you will need a combination of education, training, and experience. In this career guide section, we cover the steps you’ll need to take to achieve your goal:

Step 1: Earn a bachelor’s degree

After high school, earn your bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or business. All auditing jobs will require at least a four-year degree, so find an accredited college or university and begin working for your degree before starting your job search.

Step 2: Take additional courses specific to auditing

You’ll have access to many courses through your college experience, but great online resources are available if you want to dive deeper into auditing roles before applying for a job. Here are a few courses that we recommend:

  • Fundamentals of Audit – A Crash Course from Udemy can provide a strong foundation in all the basics. Work through case studies and learn about the scope of the position. You’ll be able to distinguish the difference between auditing and investigation and learn about the types of auditor positions available. 
  • Coursera offers a pair of classes that are beneficial as well. Auditing 1: Conceptual Foundations of Auditing and Auditing 2: The Practice of Auditing are perfectly paired to provide a fantastic overview of auditing. Learn the concepts and applications auditors use to assess, evaluate, and manage audit risks and evidence. 
  • Receive one-on-one instruction and learn to become a pro internal auditor with the Lead Auditor Tools for a Professional Internal Audit course from Udemy. Get the tools you’ll need to prepare questions, learn how to document throughout the process, and properly handle the feedback on your reporting. 
  • Data is essential to auditors. Take the Introduction to Data Analytics for Accounting Professionals course from Coursera to better understand the foundations of data analytics and how they apply to organizations. Ensure you have a data-driven mindset and the technical knowledge to understand data. 

Step 3: Obtain professional certification

Earning certifications can help you stand apart from other candidates. There a quite a few available, but here are two well-known options:

  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) – The Certified Internal Auditor certification remains the only globally recognized certification for an internal auditor. As a result, having this certification can be immensely beneficial for professionals who want to either work in the internal field or prove their competency in multiple fields.
  • Certified Quality Auditor (CQA) – The Certified Quality Auditor certification indicates a professional who understands the basics and advanced aspects of auditing, financial analysis, and other requirements for this position. This certification program is verified and endorsed by the NCCA, which means it is widely recognized and beneficial for auditors. 

Step 4: Consider earning a master’s degree

If you want to move quickly into a higher-level auditor position, consider applying for a master’s program. Some positions require additional education, and you can get a head start or even work on it while gaining experience with entry-level positions. 

Step 5: Seek out job opportunities

Once you are ready to apply for jobs and interview, check the common job listing sites for companies and industries you’re interested in. Put together your resume and include all additional coursework and certifications you have to help yours stand out. 

How much do auditors make?

There are many variables that go into determining how much an auditor makes, from company size to experience to education, just to name a few. The top-paying places of employment and specific industries are (shown in annual mean salary):

  • Pipeline Transportation of Crude Oil – $123,230
  • Computer and Peripheral Equipment Manufacturing – $123,210
  • Other Information Services – $112,900
  • Securities and Financial Investments – $107,610
  • Federal Executive Branch – $107,170

The top-paying states for auditors to work in are (shown in annual mean salary):

  • District of Columbia – $123,304
  • New York – $111,790
  • New Jersey – $105,950

Browse auditor salary data by market

Types of auditors

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for auditors.

Internal auditor

Large organizations often have their own internal audit department. This team is responsible for risk management and verifying that the companies’ policies and processes are being followed. The controls and compliance procedures must be evaluated, and internal auditors will handle those evaluations.

External auditor

External auditors are independent of organizations and are hired to come in and evaluate the company with an unbiased and outsider perspective. These professionals will review financial statements and report back to clients.

Information systems auditor

Organizations utilize information systems auditors for evaluating information technology systems and controls. This role is essential for security and reliability as it will ensure that the network is secure and the company won’t fall prey to hackers and other technical issues that could impact productivity. 

Tax auditor

Everyone files taxes, and you’ve probably seen information about your audit risk. On the other side are the auditors who review tax documents and numbers to ensure people follow the tax laws and regulations.

Compliance auditor

Many industries face a collection of laws and regulations specific to the type of work they do. It’s important that everything is followed, and compliance auditors help to ensure that. This role is aware of all the relevant laws, regulations, and policies while developing strategies to reduce the risks. 

Forensic auditor

A small number of auditors work in forensics and partner with law enforcement agencies to help solve cases like fraud and embezzlement. This role will provide information for court cases and assist in active investigations that require a deep dive into cases.

Auditor career path

The typical career path for an auditor starts with an entry-level role, such as an audit associate or junior auditor. In this phase, you’ll likely be working under the guidance of more experienced auditors and learning the ropes, including how to conduct internal or external audits, compliance checks, and financial analyses.

As you gain experience and pursue advanced certifications like the Certified Public Accountant or Certified Internal Auditor, you may move up to a senior auditor position. Here, your responsibilities will expand to overseeing audit projects and possibly even leading a small team.

The next logical step is often a managerial role like audit manager or internal audit manager. At this level, you’ll be in charge of planning and executing audit strategies for the entire organization and liaising with senior management or external stakeholders. Some professionals then move on to roles such as director of audit, where you will have an organizational-wide impact and may report directly to C-level executives or a board.

There are also specialized paths, such as becoming a forensic auditor, which involves investigating financial discrepancies and fraud. Finally, many leverage their skills to move into C-level roles like Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or start their own consulting firms.

Your expertise also opens the door for transition into other areas like finance, risk management, or compliance, often at a high level, given your broad understanding of organizational operations and regulatory requirements.

Top skills for auditors

This role demands a variety of skills ranging from a strong analytical mind to excellent communication abilities. Here are the top skills that are crucial for success as an auditor:

Analytical skills

Auditors sift through heaps of financial data to identify errors, inconsistencies, or signs of fraudulent activity. An analytical eye helps them spot discrepancies that may otherwise go unnoticed, ensuring that a company’s financial statements reflect its health.

Attention to detail

These professionals deal with complex financial documents that require a meticulous approach. Missing even a small error can have significant ramifications, including inaccurate financial statements or non-compliance with laws. Having a high degree of attention to detail is crucial for conducting thorough and accurate audits.

Ethical judgment

They are often seen as the gatekeepers of financial integrity within an organization. Their assessments carry weight and can impact a company’s future in many ways, including its stock price and public perception. Ethical judgment is thus crucial, as they must remain impartial and report findings honestly, even when there is pressure to do otherwise.

Communication skills

While the core of auditing is dealing with numbers and financial statements, effective communication is equally essential. They must clearly convey their findings, suggestions, and evaluations to financial and non-financial stakeholders. Whether writing detailed reports or explaining complex issues during meetings, strong communication skills ensure the message is understood and acted upon.

Regulatory knowledge

An in-depth understanding of industry regulations and compliance standards is imperative. Different sectors, such as healthcare or banking, have specific rules that auditors must know to effectively assess whether an organization is compliant. Without this knowledge, they run the risk of overlooking key aspects of compliance, which could lead to severe consequences for the organization.

Demand for auditors and accountants should increase as the global business grows. Companies will continue to grow and merge, requiring qualified professionals to review increasingly complicated financial records. 

Also, according to Surgent Professional Education, automation and AI are growing in the auditing sector. Rather than this technology replacing humans, AI will excel at performing lower-risk, and lower-skill functions, allowing humans to focus on higher-skill-level areas of the auditing process.

Employment projections for auditors

The job outlook for auditors is expected to increase by 6% through 2031. This is as fast as average compared to other occupations. The demand for thorough financial documentation is expected to increase in response to recent financial crises and corporate scandals. Regulatory changes and tax law adjustments may also continue to spur demand for those who can navigate complex financial landscapes.

Auditor career tips

Soft skills and traits for auditors

Auditors spend their workday analyzing information and compiling recommendations to improve the system. It’s important to have good analytical skills, and understanding the laws and structures allows you to assess the information properly. Critical thinking and a strong ethical conviction will also be helpful to your role.

Commonly required skills and qualifications

Auditor positions will all have different requirements for education and certifications. Having an understanding of the software programs used for finance is important. Project management experience will help these professionals view each assessment as a project, and you can report the information back appropriately to the stakeholders.

Develop a professional network

One of the best ways to grow your career is to network with others in your industry. Mentors are helpful to learn from and offer guidance. You can also join organized and established groups to network. Here are a few recommended options:

  • Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA)
  • American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA)
  • Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)
  • LinkedIn communities and groups
  • International Federation of Accountants

Where the auditor jobs are

Top companies

  • Deloitte
  • PwC
  • EY
  • Grant Thornton
  • KPMG

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • New York
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania

Top job sites

  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Dice
  • CareerBuilder
  • Accountingfly


What kind of job opportunities are available for auditors?

Most auditor positions are in the financial sector, both internal and external. Some specialize in taxes as well. For auditing jobs that aren’t exclusively accounting-based, look for information technology auditing positions that work on networks, hardware, and software.

Do auditors make good money?

Auditors have great pay potential in their career path. There are also many opportunities for continuing education to boost your paycheck throughout your career.

What qualifications do I need to become an auditor?

Aspiring auditors should have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field. Get a CPA, CIA, or another related certification to increase your job opportunities. Advanced degrees in business and finance may be required for some levels of auditing positions.

Is continuing education required for auditors?

Auditors who are part of a professional network or are CPAs will be required to complete at least 20 hours of qualifying continuing professional education every year. This will allow them to stay up-to-date and current with regulations, technology, and processes. 

Are there certifications required to become an auditor?

Each state has its own regulations for auditors depending on what kind of work you are doing. Those working for publicly traded companies must be CPAs and have a state license. Other positions may have their own specific certifications, so make sure to check the job posting for more information.

What are the most challenging things about being an auditor?

Auditors face a lot of deadlines, so there may be some long work days nearing those dates. Finding issues in the system can also be stressful because you may have to report that information to people who will be on the defensive. Staying objective is important but can be challenging.

What are the most important skills for anyone wanting to become an auditor?

The most important skills for an auditor are critical thinking and the ability to be analytical and unbiased in any situation. Strong communication and good time and task management skills will also be helpful.

Which organizations and industries hire auditors?

Auditors are utilized in government organizations and corporate environments. Typically, the roles are in the financial space, but some work in inventory and information technology as well.

Do all auditors need to understand accounting principles?

Auditors working on any part of an organization’s financial system will need a strong understanding of accounting principles and processes. In order to dive into a company’s records and assess, you’ll need to understand the desired outcome to compare it to the current setup.