Career as an Auditor

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Paul Reid is on a three-year training contract with the National Audit Office (NAO), working as an assistant auditor. He wants to become a fully qualified accountant, so he is also studying towards his Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) examinations.

How would you outline your career as an auditor?

Auditing is about looking at a client's accounting process from the outside. We identify risks at each stage and make sure the client's money and their stock balance each other. Our aim is to add value to a client's business, saving them money and reducing their risk. Overall, the National Audit Office (NAO) makes sure the client organisation we are assessing has proper control over the business.

How do you achieve this?

Rather than examining every single transaction, we take a small sample, usually something of high value, and check each stage of its progress through the books. Every year we examine different aspects of the business. An audit report will outline what a client has done well, what previous recommendations have delivered improvements, and what we recommend for the future.

What clients do you work for?

All of the NAO clients are public bodies or government departments. I currently work within our treasury team on accounts like National Savings and Investments (NS and I).

We spend lots of time at the client's offices, collecting data and talking to staff.We write the reports and undertake any future planning back at our base, although some clients prefer sensitive data to remain on their premises.

How long does an audit last for?

This depends on the size of the client's business and the complexity of their operation. The Statistics Commission, for example, is small, so an audit can usually be finished in two or three weeks. With NS&I, I spend nearly 12 weeks a year auditing. At the end of every financial year there's a race to get the accounts signed off.We are never allowed to take time off in May or June as these are the busiest periods.

What are the working hours?

We work mainly from 9.00am to 5.00pm. However, when we're based at a client's offices, I may need to put in extra hours to see an audit through.

Do you have to pass the ACCA exams to remain at the NAO?

Yes, you must pass eventually, but it depends on how much you fail by at the first attempt. If it's close, you may be allowed to take the examinations again.

Why did you choose a career as an auditor?

My dad was a qualified accountant, so I had a good idea of what opportunities are available. Once I've passed my exams I can choose to specialise in an area such as tax, or work in preparing accounts.

What challenges you most in this job?

The main challenge is getting clients to understand that there's a limited time to complete an audit, and fitting it around their current business.

What personal qualities are important as an auditor?

Good people skills are vital for establishing a rapport with clients. Due to the confidential nature of the figures we see, client trust and integrity is a must. It's also important to be organised and plan ahead.

Paul's route to his career as an auditor

  • Degree in Business Studies.
  • NAO training contract.
  • Registered for ACCA examinations.

Paul's auditor tips

  • Make sure you study hard – you've got to pass the examinations to keep your job.
  • Try to aim for an area of accounting that personally interests you.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

Auditor related jobs

  • Accounting technician
  • Industry and commerce accountant
  • Private practice accountant
  • Public sector accountant

Salary as a career as an auditor

  • Trainee auditors start on between £18,000 and £23,000.
  • Once qualified, salaries range from £30,000 to £43,000, depending on the employer, levels of responsibility and the location.
  • Highly experienced auditors and industry specialists can earn in excess of £80,000.

Career as an auditor

  • Auditors need a professional accounting qualification. Qualifications usually take between three and five years and can be studied full time, part time or by distance learning.
  • Non graduates have a route to registration with one of the recognised chartered accountancy bodies. This involves training first as an accounting technician and passing the Association of Accounting Technicians (AAT) NVQ/SVQ Levels 2 to 4, and the Certified Accounting Technician Award through the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA).
  • Entrants need to fulfil 450 working days in a recognised accountancy job before officially qualifying as a chartered accountant.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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