What does an auditor do? (Duty and average salary explained)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 10 October 2022
Published 30 November 2021
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Non-profit organisations and corporate businesses alike rely on auditors to ensure that their financial records are accurate. From analysing accounting data to offering financial guidance to senior staff members, the role of an auditor varies widely. If you're considering a career as an auditor, there are several key factors to consider. In this article, we've put together a comprehensive guide to answer the question, 'what does an auditor do?'
What does an auditor do?
Auditors evaluate the validity of a company's financial records. An auditor's daily responsibilities include preparing and examining written reports and financial documentation. They also explain their findings to their clients and organisation managers via meetings and presentations. Although they are similar, an auditor is a separate job from an accountant.
What is the difference between an accountant and an auditor?
Accountants and auditors are both responsible for a company's accounting processes, but there are several distinct differences between them. Accountants usually work within the company or organisation as an employee to complete daily accounting work. The goals of an accountant are to give their client or employer a clear financial picture of their trading year and to identify any weaknesses or areas of opportunity within the business. An accountant also calculates the company's tax liability and ensures that the company adheres to internal policies and external legislation.
An auditor reviews an accountant's work on a variable basis and usually works for a third party to carry out these tasks. Auditors can add confidence and value to accountants by testing them for uncertainty and financial risk. They're also responsible for ensuring the financial statements provided by accountants are accurate and may search for errors and inaccuracies.
Related: 14 of the best-paid jobs in finance
What is an auditor's average salary?
The average salary of an auditor is £31,933. This can vary depending on whether you work for a company or organisation on an internal or external basis and your experience level and location. There are several steps you can take to increase your salary as an auditor. One way is to move to a larger city like London, where businesses are constantly aiming to entice employees with competitive salaries to meet the higher cost of living.
You can also invest time in gathering more knowledge in your specific field, which can lead to a promotion or additional bonuses. Working on your communication, problem-solving and teamwork skills shows your employer that you're investing time in expanding your knowledge. Once you have a few years of experience as an auditor and want to combine this with management skills, you could consider advancing to a leadership role. This may involve managing a team of external auditors in a financial agency or managing a company's internal finance department.
Many auditors specialise in a specific field, such as risk management or assurance services. Others specialise in different industries, such as higher education or healthcare. Knowing the options for this career before you decide to pursue it may help you decide if it's right for you. There are four main types of auditors, which are:
1. Forensic auditors
Forensic auditors not only have knowledge and experience in finance and accounting, but they're also familiar with investigative techniques and law. Their role is to determine if the financial activities of selected private businesses, government agencies or individuals are complying with taxation laws and government regulations. Governments often hire forensic auditors to ensure that revenues are being spent and received under the law. They may also appear as expert witnesses during criminal trials.
2. Public auditors
Public auditors perform a wide range of consulting, tax, auditing and accounting tasks for individuals, governments and corporations. They evaluate the validity of financial documents that their client prepares and discloses according to the law, such as balance sheet statements for corporations to distribute to potential investors and tax forms. Some public auditors specialise in tax matters, offering advice to corporations about the tax advantages of particular business decisions and preparing income tax returns for certain employees. Other public auditors specialise in forensic accounting practices and investigating financial crimes, such as contract disputes, bankruptcies, embezzlement and securities fraud.
3. Internal auditors
Internal auditors work within certain businesses and organisations to ensure proper management of their funds. Their role also includes identifying ways that the organisation or business can improve their methods of identifying and eliminating fraud and waste. Internal auditors offer an unbiased opinion independent from the operations they evaluate and report to the organisation's senior members. This is usually the board of trustees, board of directors, audit committee or the accounting officer. Unlike external auditors, internal auditors look beyond financial statements and risks to consider wider issues within an organisation, such as its environmental impact, growth, reputation and employee satisfaction.
4. External auditors
External auditors are third party auditors that operate independently and usually work contractually for the company they're auditing. Public companies, government agencies and investors often hire external auditors to produce independent and unbiased reports that outline how a business or organisation is performing while offering recommendations for improvement.
They often work across a wide range of audit projects for clients of varying sizes in different sectors, or they work in specialist roles, such as for private clients, financial services or the public sector. Alternatively, external auditors often work on a certain type of audit, such as non-financial assurance, fraud or risk services, while occasionally offering broader advisory and accounting services for smaller clients.
To become a successful auditor in any industry, there are several skills that are essential. If you don't possess these skills already, take time to focus on developing each of them. Many of these are interpersonal characteristics, so you can practise them before you apply for a job as an auditor. The skills that any auditor requires to be successful include:
Critical thinking skills are key to pursuing a career in auditing. Critical thinking requires you to take a step back from your personal biases and judgements to consider several perspectives, question the validity of each and come to a reasonable conclusion. This is a skill commonly sought-after by hiring managers for internal audit roles, but they usually learn it on the job from coaching from other internal auditors and via individual feedback, so experience in the field is essential. Despite the implementation of technology in the financial industry increasing at a rapid pace, automation and artificial intelligence can't replace critical thinking.
Most employers value interpersonal and communication skills, and the finance industry is no exception. Auditors who can communicate clearly stand out from their competitors, as they require exceptional presentation skills, teamwork improvement techniques and verbal and non-verbal communication skills. A successful auditor can convey their suggestions, ideas and concerns during negotiations with executives and audit clients, along with interviews, presentations and meetings. Being able to communicate effectively in the workplace also requires emotional intelligence and the ability to keep composed with a level head to reach your end goal.
Taking a proactive approach as an auditor requires you to handle your work with a healthy amount of scepticism. This attitude includes being able to assess the sufficiency and appropriateness of audit evidence with a questioning mind. It requires auditors to be alert to situations that may highlight possible misstatements because of fraud, neglect or error. Auditors review financial documents with detailed vigilance and a discerning eye, regardless of the circumstances of the report. This scepticism also requires strength of character to avoid any potential shortcuts and ensure they reexamine any element of the audit that seems inaccurate.
The most successful auditors constantly have an eye on how they can help their client's business or organisation grow. Internal auditors focus on refining their own auditing abilities and learning and leveraging the advantages of emerging technologies and techniques to help their business meet its objectives. Gaining a full understanding of the inner workings of a business and remaining inquisitive about your changing field is essential when applying to be an auditor. It shows your passion for the industry and your ability to adapt to change. While experts advise healthy scepticism, balancing this with open-mindedness ensures auditors make informed decisions.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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