Become an Internal Auditor – Careers & Outlook

If you’ve ever wondered how business leaders know if their company is working as it should be, the answer is simple: they hire internal auditors. Internal auditors have a big responsibility for a company’s success. They’re trained professionals employed to provide accurate evaluations of financial and operational business procedures.

What Is an Internal Auditor?


An internal auditor maintains and cultivates a catalog of the company’s policies and procedures. In addition to testing the operation and modifying existing financial designs accordingly, internal auditors also perform inquiries and evaluations to identify and resolve any risks.

Internal auditors ensure the company complies with national, state, and local regulations and laws, ensuring that the company follows the appropriate methods of action as closely as possible. Their primary role is to find and correct any problems to prevent complications in the event of an external audit by government authorities.

Steps to Become an Internal Auditor:


As with any job, there are certain courses of action one must take in order to gain access to a fulfilling career. Here are a few key steps to follow to become an internal auditor.

  • Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

  • Step 2: Training Programs

  • Step 3: Fulfill the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) Exam Work Experience Requirements

  • Step 4: Pass the CPA Exam

  • Step 5: Earn Additional Certifications

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Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

An internal auditor requires some educational specifics. Most employers looking for a knowledgeable internal auditor require a bachelor’s degree, especially one focused on finance, accounting, or some other related field. Obtaining a bachelor's degree with a focus on courses like math, auditing, and accounting also works. You may want to consider joining organizations that help you to build an appealing resume.

Other employers look for candidates with a master’s degree in the same fields, or other relevant fields like taxation, financial accounting, auditing, business law, and business communication.

Universities that offer graduate or undergraduate degree programs focused on internal auditing are another choice to consider. 

Though internal auditors don’t need a master’s degree, some states will require professionals to earn college credits beyond a bachelor’s degree to become eligible for the certified public accountant (CPA) certification. Obtaining a graduate degree in a similar field helps internal auditors become more competitive candidates for senior positions and promotions throughout their careers.

Step 2: Training Programs

Employers require newly hired internal auditors to complete a training period. During this period, the company places the new hire with a knowledgeable and experienced employee to supervise and give guidance. The length of the training period depends on the position and the company, but it can last anywhere from a few months to over a year.

Internships may also offer internal auditing training programs after they complete their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. An internship allows students to gain practical, hands-on experience in their desired field.

While attending college, students may complete multiple internships. Post-graduate programs sometimes include internships as part of their graduation requirements.

Step 3: Fulfill the CIA (Certified Internal Auditor) Exam Work Experience Requirements

Some employers demand internal auditor candidates complete a work experience requirement before taking the CIA exam. The highest level of education determines the work experience requirement.

In addition to internal audit experience, practical knowledge in some type of audit or assessment discipline like internal control, quality assurance, compliance, external auditing may qualify for this experience requirement.

It’s wise to contact the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) for confirmation of work experience. That way, you can ensure that work experience falls under the categories recognized by the IIA.

Step 4: Pass the CPA Exam

A CPA, or certified public accountant, is a financial advisor who assists businesses, individuals, and other organizations plan and achieve their financial goals.

The CPA Exam assesses the skills and knowledge of entry-level CPAs. Some employers request internal auditor candidates to complete and hold a CPA. If you’re interested in a role that requires this certification, it’s good to register for a test date and start studying for the CPA examination asap.

Below are some study tips to help you pass the CPA exam on your first try.

  • Utilize the Correct Study Tools
    The AICPA offers basic study materials for the CPA Exam freely available to your access. They also have CPA Exam sample tests for free and a video that shows you how to use the CPA Exam platform.
  • Pace Your Studying

    When studying for large, challenging exams like the CPA, it’s wise to study in short periods with breaks in between rather than cramming all of your studying into one prolonged period of time.

    Sitting down and studying all at once will serve no purpose. Our brains can only retain so much information in one sitting before we start to lose focus. Studying 10 hours per week for 10 weeks is a good place to start.

  • Use Online Practice Tests

    Online review courses can be a major help, but we recommend doing so wisely. The best online review courses offer practice CPA exams. This helps recreate a realistic CPA exam testing environment as you study.

    It’s also important to take sample questions very seriously as you go through the review course. Even though it's just a practice exam, it’s best to treat it like it's the real deal.

Step 5: Earn Additional Certifications

If you’re looking to specialize in a certain type of internal auditing, you should look into earning additional certifications. This will offer job candidates an advantage in the job market. Completing certifications also shows your employer you’re determined and dedicated.

There are several assorted certifications accessible for internal auditors depending on which specific kind of internal auditing you’re looking into:

  • Certified Internal Auditor:
    The IIA offers the CIA certification for professionals with an associate degree or higher from an accredited program. Candidates must complete and pass an exam and meet the minimum work-experience requirements.
  • Certified Public Accountant:

    The majority of employers require a CPA for internal auditor candidates, which the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants offers (AICPA). This certification requires passing a national exam, plus meeting other state requirements.

    Nearly all of states in the U.S. ask CPA candidates to complete 150 hours’ worth of college coursework, but some states permit a few years of public accounting experience to pass as a substitute for coursework.

  • Certified Government Auditing Professional:
    If you’re looking to work as an internal auditor for a government organization, the IAA offers the CGAP certification. Professionals must also have an associate degree from an accredited institution. Once a candidate passes the exam, they qualify for CGAP upon meeting the demands for work experience.

What Does an Internal Auditor Do?


Internal auditors essentially observe and examine the innermost operations of their company. They gather and analyze data to spot unproductive systems, inefficient processes, or failures to abide by set laws and regulations. In the case they come across harmful activities or behaviors, they report their findings to the company’s authority and offer recommendations on how the company can fix the problem.

From IT controls to financial reporting, auditors examine nearly every operation. Because of this broad requirement, auditors must have advanced knowledge in areas of business, accounting, risk, and compliance.

This ensures the organization's fluidity and gives those in charge the confidence of knowing that certified employees are there to ensure the business performs efficiently and within the law.

Internal auditors typically work full-time in an office environment. During tax season or the end of the budget year, auditors may need to work over 40 hours a week. Internal auditors also tend to work by themselves, but occasionally they partner up with other accountants or auditors.

Some common characteristics of an internal auditor’s work schedule include:

  • Preparing reports regarding findings and sometimes presenting those facts
  • Occasionally lifting heavy file boxes
  • Sitting for long periods at a desk while working on a computer
  • Communicating with colleagues via email, in person, or over the phone

Internal Auditor Skills to Acquire


To become an internal auditor, there are skills that even those with a degree must also have.

  • Organization:
    Since internal auditors work with a wide array of financial documents and files, the job requires strong organizational skills. Maintaining documentation and keeping it organized is essential to efficiency in the role of an internal auditor.
  • Mathematical skills:
    Knowledge of accounting is generally a requirement to be an internal auditor. Having basic to intermediate math skills and knowledge of accounting procedures is also essential. Internal auditors must analyze and interpret statistics, which also involves mathematical skills.
  • Analytical skills:

    It’s also important to have acute analytical skills to identify issues and recommend successful solutions. Internal auditors identify issues in documentation and transactions, among other things.

    Carefully reviewing documents and analyzing company procedures are crucial. Being an internal auditor demands careful examination and problem-solving skills.

  • Communication:
    Since they work intimately with employees in other departments in the company, internal auditors also must practice effective communication skills. They not only need to be able to listen to managers and customers, but they also need to discuss the results and processes of their work in an understandable way.
  • Attention to detail:
    Internal auditors must have a keen eye and pay close attention to detail. Closely examining documents to ensure the company abides by all the requirements is also crucial to the role of an internal auditor.

Alternative Paths


Obtaining a job as an internal auditor includes certain requirements which may depend on the level of job you are applying for. There are, however, alternative paths you can take to enter the job.

Firstly, getting into a CIA review course and completing that certification is good to look into.

As with any professional exam, in-depth preparation and studying is key to your success. That’s why we recommend getting a CIA review course to ensure confidence on testing day.

Since there are multiple different review courses, it's important to find one that fits your specific learning style, needs, budget, and study schedule. Using the wrong course could potentially cause you to fail the exam.

After completing the work experience and educational requirements, the IIA allows access to register for the CIA exam upon completing the work experience and educational requirements. Usually, candidates for the CIA exam should meet certain educational requirements in order to even take the CIA exam. A candidate has to graduate with a three or four-year post-secondary degree or have an Associate's degree prior to meeting the educational requirements of IIA.

However, there’s no requirement that your degree needs to be in a specific field. Your specific degree may be in the fields of applied science, business, healthcare, or any other field. Also, another path of eligibility goes to candidates who don’t possess minimum education requirements. Verifiable seven years of internal audit experience or its equivalent may serve as a substitute to the minimum education requirements.

Internal Auditor Career & Salary


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The average internal auditor’s salary averages around $59,300, but it may depend on the level of education, skills, experience, and specific job responsibilities they have. Geographic location also has a part to play. 

Common salaries for internal auditors in the U.S. range from $26,000 to $185,000 per year.

  • Salary of an entry-level internal auditor (less than 1 year of experience): an average of around $54,000 based on over 200 salaries (includes bonuses and overtime pay).
  • Salary of an early career internal auditor with one to four years of experience: an average of around $58,500 based on over 1,400 salaries. An internal auditor in the middle of their career with 5-9 years of experience earns closer to $66,200 based on 451 salaries.
  • Salary of an experienced internal auditor with 10 to 19 years of experience: an average of around $68,300 based on over 250 salaries. In their late career (20 years and longer), employees earn an average total compensation of $67,300.

The employment of auditors and accountants is projected to grow 4% from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The health of the economy and the employment growth of auditors and accountants is closely tied, meaning that as the economy grows, so do the number of workers necessary to handle financial records.

Jobs


  • Entry-level internal auditors generally have a bachelor's degree in finance, business, or accounting but occasionally some organizations make exceptions for highly qualified candidates. Auditors new to the business usually complete basic research and analysis and compile their findings in reports.
  • Senior internal auditors typically hold a bachelor’s degree and have three to five years of work experience. Senior-level internal auditors complete the majority of the same tasks as entry-level auditors but offer their experience to solve more advanced solutions.
  • Internal audit managers have up to eight years of experience, and generally have or are pursuing a master’s degree. Audit managers tend to supervise other auditors and their work, with a specific focus on testing, planning, and problem-solving. Internal audit managers keep an eye on progress to make sure the organization is running as it should.
  • Chief audit executives typically have a master’s degree with an additional eight years, or more, of experience, more specifically as a manager. A chief audit executive is the highest rank of internal auditing. They oversee the whole department of internal auditors, working intimately with other employees of the management team.

Find Internal Auditor Jobs Near You


Advancing from Here


Internal auditors often boost their credentials by gaining additional certifications. The most common certifications are Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), or Certified Public Accountant (CPA). Obtaining advanced or higher degrees and certifications often results in higher pay, so expanding your education is usually worth it.

If you have advanced mathematical skills, great attention to detail, or possess strong analytical skills, pursuing an internal auditor career may be the job for you.

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