Internal auditors work within businesses and organisations to monitor and evaluate how well risks are being managed, the business is being governed and internal processes are working.

They also provide a consulting service, advising management on how to improve systems and processes.

The scope and nature of audits can vary significantly but the main priority of the work is to make sure 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.

Their work helps senior management to provide evidence to stakeholders that they are managing the business effectively.

Responsibilities

The work of internal auditors is varied and the 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 to cover 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 whether any issues need addressing;
  • managing a variety of stakeholders and their expectations through regular communications.

Salary

  • 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.
  • Working as an experienced manager or at director level can see salaries of over £70,000.

The average salary increase for internal auditors changing jobs in 2015 was 15%.

Income data from Barclay Simpson. Figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Working hours tend to be normal office hours. Those working in large practices typically work some irregular overtime.

What to expect

  • Internal audit work is usually office based.
  • Opportunities for part-time work, flexible working and career breaks are available, but tend to vary by employer.
  • A large number of 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.

Qualifications

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:

  • accountancy;
  • economics;
  • finance;
  • IT.

If you do not have a degree, HND or foundation degree it is still possible to enter the profession, particularly if you have some related pre-entry work experience. You will then gain recognition and will be able to progress as you develop on-the-job knowledge and responsibilities.

It is not necessary to have a postgraduate qualification but it can be useful. Relevant subjects include an MBA or other Masters-level qualification in related subjects such as economics or business studies.

Skills

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.

Work experience

In order to increase your chances of getting a job in internal audit, it is advisable to get work experience. Summer internships and work placements are available with accountancy and consultancy firms. Student membership with the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is also helpful as it provides access to trade press, updates in the sector and networking opportunities.

Employers

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, EY, Pricewaterhouse Coopers 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.

The Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) is made up of about 8,000 members from the UK and Ireland and is part of the Global IIA, which operates across 190 countries. This shows the wide scope of internal auditing and indicates that opportunities for employment are worldwide.

Look for job vacancies at:

You may want to consider sending speculative applications to raise interest from prospective employers. Recruitment agencies also handle vacancies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Training varies by employer but is typically carried out on the job. It is also possible to take professional qualifications with the Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), which are available at various levels:

  • IIA Certificate in Internal Audit and Business Risk - suitable if you are new to internal audit, as it provides you with the essentials of audit, governance, risk and assurance. It 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. You will have to pass three multiple-choice exams and must be an IIA member.
  • 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 do a presentation and interview.

Information on the requirements for each qualification is available at Chartered Institute of Internal Auditors: Qualifications.

The Chartered IIA also runs many courses, conferences and events that are good for networking and developing knowledge and skills. Events cover many relevant topics including audit of taxation, preventing organisation failures, assurance mapping and audit report writing.

It is important to carry out continuing professional development (CPD) and members of the IIA have to commit to maintaining their levels of CPD. The 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. For more information see the IIA.

Career prospects

It is 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 and then move into industry so you can put your newly acquired skills to good use. However, it is 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. Career development prospects are helped if you are flexible and are able to relocate.

You might find that more opportunities are available if you have 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 will 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 have built up a strong network and client base, which often takes many years.