Wondering what a career as a staff auditor could be like? Here’s what you need to know about what your roles and responsibilities will be in this occupation and what the job outlook is for this career. Read on to find out how you can prepare yourself for the workplace with an online bachelor’s degree in accounting from UAB and the right combination of skills and experiences.
What Does a Staff Auditor Do?
A staff auditor can either be part of an organization’s internal auditing department or employed by a third-party company that conducts audits on behalf of other businesses. In either case, they will participate in conducting internal audits to ensure that the company keeps accurate financial records and maintains compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
Investopedia defines a financial audit as “an objective examination and evaluation of the financial statements of an organization to make sure that the financial records are a fair and accurate representation of the transactions they claim to represent.”
In conjunction with audit managers and other senior-level professionals, staff auditors work to ensure that internal controls and processes are optimized to yield the most accurate outcomes. It is also their responsibility to help identify any financial mismanagement or signs of malfeasance that could put the company in jeopardy. A staff auditor may be involved in evaluating different operational activities to analyze risk, and performing cost analyses to determine whether financial resources are being maximized.
Staff auditors play an important role in keeping an organization’s actions and reputation in good standing. As explained by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), the mission of internal auditing is “to enhance and protect organizational value by providing risk-based and objective assurance, advice, and insight.” Similarly, as the Center for Audit Quality (CAQ) adds, “Auditors build trust and confidence in information through the assurance services they provide.”
What Is a Typical Day Like in the Life of a Staff Auditor?
According to Investopedia and Vault, an auditor’s workday usually starts by planning out which projects they will work on. In some cases, a staff auditor will need to closely track the amount of time they spend on a given project for reporting purposes.
From there, a staff auditor will get to work on those projects. This might involve preparing a financial audit report or looking over client or departmental records to ensure that the figures add up. A staff auditor may be asked to help a more senior auditor complete certain tasks, and it’s not uncommon to be called into a meeting when a new or urgent item arises. Specific staff auditor responsibilities can include:
- Generating and finalizing reports related to audit results
- Assessing internal controls, accounting practices, and recordkeeping
- Examining and optimizing a company’s asset utilization
- Confirming the accuracy of a wide variety of financial records, from receipts to payrolls to tax returns
- Discussing compliance and regulatory concerns with management
- Using current data to make predictions that can inform business decisions
- Utilizing computer programs to run reports, data analysis, and statistical models
- Supporting the needs of auditing managers and collaborating on projects with peers
The job can involve long hours, with 71% of auditors working more than 40 hours per week, according to a survey by the Occupational Information Network (O*NET). During tax season, from January to April, the workload can be especially heavy.
However, the ability to work on a variety of tasks and projects that have a major impact on the organization or its clients can make the staff auditor role a rewarding experience. Plus, success at this level can also lead to new opportunities such as becoming an audit manager.
What’s the Difference Between an Auditor vs. an Accountant?
Auditors and accountants both work with an organization’s financial records with the aim of keeping them as true and compliant as possible. However, there are key differences between these two important roles. In the broadest sense, an accountant is responsible for preparing financial statements, whereas an auditor’s job is to go back and review those statements for accuracy.
While an accountant may perform bookkeeping tasks in real time, an auditor will analyze the books of accounts to ensure the figures are correct. If an accountant prepares the tax return documents, it will be up to an internal auditor to later assess whether those tax returns were prepared in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations. If they weren’t, the auditor will pinpoint what went wrong and how it can be resolved.
Accountants will need to earn the certified public accountant (CPA) designation to work for internal accounting departments or third-party firms. Since both public accounting and auditing draw from a similar talent pool, some professionals will transition from one career to another as they gain experience and narrow in on their desired specialization. In general, though, auditing can be a more engaging occupation for someone with an analytical, investigative mindset.
How Much Does a Staff Auditor Make?
In general, accounting and auditing professionals of all experience levels can earn a median salary of $71,550, according to May 2019 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
More specifically, as of November 2020, job sites such as Glassdoor and ZipRecruiter place the average staff auditor salary between about $57,200 and $57,700. The highest earners in this role can see pay above $80,000, whereas lower earners can make less than $40,000. It all depends on factors like the auditor’s location, employer, and level of experience.
What Are the Skills Required for an Auditor?
The auditor role calls for a mix of technical competencies and soft skills. As with other finance-related occupations, auditors deal with numbers on a daily basis. This makes quantitative reasoning and math skills highly valuable. While auditors may run figures through sophisticated tools and software programs, they should still have a grasp on the ins and outs of statistical analysis and calculus, according to the BLS.
Along with this, technology skills are also essential in the modern business world. Experience with software programs designed for accounting, compliance, enterprise resource planning, database management, and financial analysis is highly sought after by employers.
Organizational skills and a detail-oriented approach are critical, given the large amounts of data auditors often work with. Similarly, an auditor must possess critical thinking skills and sharp analytical abilities so they can accurately evaluate financial data and complex business records when conducting an audit.
Communication is another key skill for auditors to possess. O*NET reports that 76% of auditors consider the ability to work with a group or team to be very important, and 81% participate in face-to-face discussions every day. Email is an important channel of communication as well. They typically work with peer staff auditors, senior auditors, and managers, as well as other finance professionals such as accountants and analysts. They may also interface with clients if their company conducts internal audits on behalf of other businesses.
How Do You Become a Staff Auditor?
You will need to attain a certain level of education and experience to gain employment as a staff auditor. First and foremost, you will need to earn an undergraduate degree to qualify for the typical staff auditor job. A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field, such as business administration or finance, is usually listed as the minimum educational qualification for open positions at this level.
A master’s degree can increase your job search prospects and earning potential, but it is not essential for getting your foot in the door in a staff auditor role. According to O*NET, 48% of auditors hold a bachelor’s degree and 43% have a master’s degree.
During or after your undergraduate studies, you can complete an internship in an internal auditing department or accounting firm to gain some real-world experience. From there, you will be able to seek out an assistant or junior-level auditor position. As a newly hired auditor, you will benefit from extensive training and supervision from a more seasoned employee. Once you gain enough knowledge and a few years of entry-level experience, you’ll likely have the opportunity to advance to a staff auditor position.
As CAQ experts explained in an interview with job site WayUp, a CPA license is not required to practice as an auditor. However, many experienced professionals will earn this credential to help accelerate their career. If you eventually wish to become a certified public accountant, in some cases you may need to complete coursework beyond your bachelor’s degree to earn this designation.
There are also auditing-specific professional certifications available to professionals who wish to demonstrate advanced competencies and a serious commitment to the field. These include the certified internal auditor (CIA) credential from the IIA, as well as the certified information system auditor (CISA) designation from the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA).
Paired with the required education and sufficient auditing experience, a professional certification can show prospective employers you are credible, competent, and committed as an expert in your field. As a result, this can lead to increased earnings and more advanced roles. The IIA reports that auditors with a CIA certification earn $38,000 more per year, on average, than their non-certified peers.
What Is the Job Outlook for Auditors?
According to O*NET, auditor is a “bright outlook” occupation. This means professionals can expect to see rapid growth across the field and a large number of job openings over the next several years.
Although the BLS groups accountants and auditors together, its data still suggests that there will be plenty of opportunities for qualified auditors now and in the near future. On average, there are roughly 125,700 accounting and auditing job openings per year in the U.S. By 2029, the agency forecasts an additional 61,700 jobs will be created, bringing the total number of employment opportunities in these fields up to nearly 1.5 million.
Start Your Journey with an Online Accounting Degree from UAB
Earning a bachelor’s degree is an important first milestone for someone eager to pursue a career in internal auditing. Enrolling in the online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program at UAB’s Collat School of Business is a great place to start.
This 100% online program allows you to study from any location and at your own pace, with 24/7 technical support on hand if you ever need it. In as few as four years, you can gain the foundational knowledge and advanced skills required for the challenging work of a staff auditor.
Courses in the Accounting Core range from the three-part Financial Accounting sequence to Accounting Information Systems and a course exclusively about Internal Auditing. Upper-Level Core courses dive into subjects like Information Systems, Fundamentals of Financial Management, International Accounting, and Business Communication. Finally, students complete a three-credit Accounting Capstone as a culminating experience.
To learn more about UAB’s online Bachelor of Science in Accounting program and how it can help you transition into a staff auditor role, visit the program page or contact an enrollment advisor today.