Internal auditors deal with operating issues crucial to the smooth running of any organisation - you'll need initiative and analytical ability to succeed
As an internal auditor, you'll provide an independent guarantee that an organisation's risk management, governance and control processes are operating effectively.
You'll work within businesses and organisations to monitor and evaluate how well risks are being managed, how business is running and if internal processes are working.
Auditing also includes a consulting service, advising management on how to improve their systems and processes.
The scope and nature of audits can vary significantly, but the main priority of your work is to ensure any issues that affect the survival and prosperity of the business are dealt with.
The work of an internal auditor differs to that of external auditors as they look at more than financial and accounting risks. They also consider factors such as reputation, growth, environmental impact, treatment of employees and ethics.
Your work with senior management will provide evidence to stakeholders that they are managing their business effectively.
The work of internal auditors is varied and your range of tasks can include:
- attending meetings with auditees to develop an understanding of business processes
- travelling to different sites to meet relevant staff and obtain documents and information
- researching and assessing how well risk management processes are working and recording the results using software such as Microsoft Word and Excel
- providing ad hoc advice and guidance to managers and staff at all levels, sometimes by delivering courses and training sessions
- performing risk assessments on key business activities and using this information to guide what should be covered in audits
- anticipating emerging issues through research and interviews and deciding how best to deal with them
- providing support and guidance to management on how to handle new opportunities
- agreeing recommendations with relevant staff members to make improvements to operations and helping to secure backing for them in meetings
- preparing reports to highlight issues and problems and distributing the reports to the relevant people
- assessing how well the business is complying to rules and regulations and informing management of any issues that need addressing
- managing a variety of stakeholders and their expectations through regular communications.
- Internal auditors with one to three years' experience can expect to earn salaries of £22,000 to £35,000. Those who are just starting out may earn slightly less.
- Salaries tend to increase at a steady rate over time, with those who have three to seven years' experience earning £32,000 to £53,000.
- If you're working as an experienced manager or at director level, you could see a salary of over £70,000.
Figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours tend to be normal office hours. Those working in large practices typically work some irregular overtime.
What to expect
- The work is usually office based.
- Opportunities for part-time work, flexible working and career breaks are available, but tend to vary by employer.
- Many jobs are based in London and main cities but due to many organisations needing internal auditing, opportunities are available in smaller towns in the regions.
- Internal auditing is a corporate function mainly in medium to large organisations and, as such, work may be available on a global level, particularly with companies that have overseas offices.
- Around 25% of internal auditors are women. Many of the large employers of internal auditors will have equality and diversity policies in place.
- Lifestyle implications, such as dress code, behavioural requirements, levels of responsibility and stress and disruption to social/home life vary by job and are often similar to other office-based roles.
- Travel within a working day may be required in order to visit other sites when on audit fieldwork.
- The amount of travel varies by employer but there may be opportunities for overseas travel, especially with global audit functions.
Internal audit is a varied role and individuals come from a range of backgrounds and levels of education. The career is open to all graduates but a degree, HND or foundation degree in one of the following subjects may be considered beneficial and could increase your chances of future promotion:
If you don't have a degree, HND or foundation degree it's still possible to enter the profession, particularly if you have some related pre-entry work experience. You'll be able to progress as you develop on-the-job knowledge and responsibilities.
A postgraduate qualification isn't necessary but it can be useful. Relevant subjects include an MBA or other Masters-level qualification in related subjects, such as economics or business studies.
The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) has two apprenticeships designed for those with some experience in other fields but who don't hold a degree. These are:
- Internal audit practitioner - a Level 4 apprenticeship. Designed for those who are newly appointed to an internal audit role or existing internal audit staff who’d like to improve their knowledge and understanding of internal audit. You will work towards two IIA qualifications: the IIA Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk and the Internal Audit Practitioner.
- Internal audit professional - a Level 7 apprenticeship. For experienced internal auditors and includes the full CIA qualification. It leads directly to Chartered membership of the institute (CMIIA).
You need to demonstrate the following characteristics and skills:
- the ability to use your own initiative
- analytical thinking and attention to detail
- the ability to work effectively on your own and as part of a team
- strong ethical standards and high levels of integrity
- the ability to think objectively and demonstrate sound judgement
- strong communication skills, both written and verbal
- organisation and facilitation skills
- resilience under pressure
- flexible thinking and ability to adapt to change.
Finding work experience will increase your chances of getting a job in internal audit. Summer internships and work placements are available with accountancy and consultancy firms. Student membership with IIA is a helpful resource, providing access to trade press, updates in the sector and networking opportunities.
While there are no legal requirements for businesses to have internal auditors, many companies and organisations recognise the benefits of it and therefore have internal auditing departments.
This means the pool of employers is large and includes:
- accountancy firms - such as the 'big four' - KPMG, Ernst & Young, PwC and Deloitte. These companies employ internal auditors to perform audits on behalf of their clients within their clients' businesses and organisations.
- private and publicly traded companies - where internal auditors perform in-house audits within the business.
- public sector - delivering in-house audits in organisations such as central government departments, local authorities, regulators and higher education institutions.
Opportunities for employment in internal auditing are worldwide. IIA has a wide scope, comprised of roughly 10,000 members from the UK and Ireland alone. It's also a part of the Global IIA, which operates across 190 countries.
Look for job vacancies at:
- Barclay Simpson - Internal Audit Jobs
- the audit & risk recruitment company
You may want to consider sending speculative applications to raise interest from prospective employers.
Specialist recruitment agencies such as Renaix also handle vacancies.
Training varies by employer but is typically carried out on the job. It's also possible to take professional qualifications with IIA, which are available at various levels:
- IIA Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk - suitable if you're new to internal audit, as this qualification will provide you with the essentials of audit, governance, risk and assurance. This is a modular course and takes around one year to complete.
- Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) - this is a globally-recognised postgraduate award and is the first step to achieving chartered internal auditor status.
- Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership (QIAL) - this consists of three exams in internal audit leadership, organisational leadership and ethical leadership, as well as a professional experience journal (PEJ). After you have completed these, you can apply for chartered status. If you wish to use the designation QIAL, you will also have to complete a presentation and interview.
Information on the requirements for each qualification is available at IIA - Qualifications.
IIA also runs many courses, conferences and events that are good for networking and developing knowledge and skills. Events cover relevant topics including audit of taxation, preventing organisation failures, assurance mapping and audit report writing.
IIA members have to commit to maintaining their levels of continuing professional development (CPD). IIA can help with this and can provide access to a CPD planner and competency framework, which can help you to decide what skills you need to develop and work on.
It's possible to stay in internal audit, progressing from junior auditor to senior audit management.
You may join an accountancy practice to begin with, where you can gain a relevant qualification before putting your newly acquired skills to good use in industry. However, it's also possible to enter businesses and organisations immediately and build your skills while on the job.
Promotion can be gained in a number of ways. You may work your way up internally in the business or you may need to move employers, in particular going to bigger organisations. Being flexible and able to relocate will help your development prospects.
You might find that more opportunities are available if you've specialised in a certain area of auditing, or have professional qualifications, such as being a chartered internal auditor or chartered accountant.
Internal auditing provides a good understanding of an organisation and how it works and also builds some key transferable skills. This means it may be possible for you to move into other areas of the business such as IT, finance, sales or marketing, as you'll already have the knowledge of how those areas are run.
It may be possible to become an internal audit consultant and be self-employed, once you've built up a strong network and client base, which often takes many years.