Case study

Audit senior — Michael Thompson

Three years into his career in audit, Michael has completed his qualifications and is moving into a managerial position

How did you get your job?

A friend recommended the global accountancy firm they worked for and I applied for its graduate scheme and successfully obtained an audit role within the financial services team.

How has your degree helped you?

Studying civil engineering certainly helped me develop an analytical skillset which is directly applicable to working in audit, particularly when dealing with complex models or concepts.

The project-based aspect of my degree gave me valuable experience of working in teams and being able to produce documents for others to use. A lot of the work I do is passed to partners within the firm, board members and clients, so it needs to be well written and clearly presented.

What's a typical working day like?

A typical day for me will run from 9am to 6pm, and I can be based either in the office or out working with clients. I'll have a handful of calls or meetings with the client each day and in between these I'll be completing audit work.

In the first two or three years of being in the job I completed my ACA training and exams, which took up about a quarter of my time. I spent a couple of weeks at a time at college with everyone from my graduate intake, which was a bit like going back to school.

What do you enjoy most about the job?

The range of experience you get from working in audit is second to none. I've worked with a range of clients, from those that have 40 or so companies spread across Europe, to those with about 15 employees working out of a loft in Shoreditch, and they all provide different services. This means there's huge diversity in the work I do from week to week, so I've been able to gain an understanding of multiple parts of the financial services sector.

What are the challenges?

Audit work is quite seasonal, so there are periods where you're expected to work longer hours which can be challenging, particularly when trying to study for exams on the side.

Also, some of the work can be quite dry, particularly when you first start. However, as you move up the ranks you work in more complicated and interesting areas and the role becomes more client-facing.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role has developed considerably since I started. Initially, I began as a trainee who was juggling work with study and exams and trying to learn plenty of new concepts as quickly as possible. Now I have the ACA qualification, I'm charged with managing small teams and often act as the key contact to clients who have been in the industry for a decade or more.

One of the great things about audit work is that you get to study the ACA, which can then be used to explore opportunities outside of audit if you decide the field isn't for you. In a couple of months, I'll be starting a new role as a finance manager for a technology start-up, and from there I hope to become a director and CFO one day.

What advice can you give to others?

It's important to gain a real understanding of what audit is, so you know whether it's right for you.

I'd recommend seeking out a summer internship, as this can help you get a feel for audit and the relevant experience you gain will help when you apply for graduate roles.

Explore the options outside of the Big 4 accounting firms when applying for roles. While these look great on your CV if you decide to move on, smaller firms can often offer a much better work-life balance and breadth of experience for similar pay.

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