Our guide to auditing
Hotcourses Editor

Our guide to auditing

First published date November 20 2013 Amended date September 02 2014

Bit of a Sudoku whizz? Interested in business? Answer ‘yes’ and chances are you might enjoy an auditing course. We’ve all heard of auditors like KPMG and Deloitte before, but what do they actually do? Put simply, they go into organisations and carry out ‘audits’, whereby they check that a business’s finances are exactly as they should be and that nobody’s being dishonest or making accounting mistakes. Without auditing there’d be no way of knowing if a business was run properly or was worth what it claimed. So if you love reading about firms getting caught fiddling the books, or find it fascinating when two businesses merge – then you you’ll love doing an auditing course.

There are other types of auditing too, such as environmental auditing and safety auditing. These auditors work on the same principle, except that it’s the organisation’s impact on the environment or its health and safety policies that are checked instead. Whether it’s money, the environment or health and safety – all auditing has the same objective: to help people run their organisations better. 


External auditing vs. internal auditing

So far we’ve talked mostly about external auditing – when an external auditor goes into a business to investigate its finances – but what about internal auditing? Internal auditors work for an organisation permanently (hence why they’re ‘internal’) and check the firm is being run as well it can be across all departments – so not just the accounts department. You can study external and internal auditing together on the same course or just study one and not the other.


The ‘Big Four’…

Almost every time you read of a high-street chain going bust, or two major companies merging, it’s almost always KPMG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young or PwC who act as the auditor in the operation. And because of this dominance over the market, they’ve become known as the ‘Big Four’.


and the other 96

It’s not all about the Big Four – there are plenty of other companies that provide auditing services too! Because whenever a company – no matter its size – is taken over, merged, dissolved, or goes public (floats on a stock exchange) an external auditor must carry out a special audit called ‘due diligence’. This is the legal investigation of a firm that is carried out whenever a business enters into a new contract. And it’s not just businesses either, organisations like councils and police authorities are all audited too – otherwise how could we ever know for sure if they were spending our money as promised?


What to expect from a course

There’s a fantastic variety of auditing courses out there – including four-year degrees, professional career courses and online courses you can do from the comfort of your own home. Exactly what you study will depend on whether you choose internal auditing, external auditing or a specialist auditing course.

Most courses will cover the following areas:

·         The role of the internal audit and its function

·         How to work effectively with stakeholders (that’s anybody involved with the organisation that’s being audited)

·         How to present information

·         How to avoid any conflicts of interest


Getting into the industry

There are different types of auditors and different ways of beginning an auditing career. If you want to become an external auditor you’ll likely need further professional accounting qualifications and you’ll work towards becoming chartered. The following organisations provide professional training – do your research to find out which one works best for you:

·         Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)

·         Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)

·         Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)

·         Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)

·         Association of International Accountants (AIA)


5 signs you’d make a great auditor

There are certain qualities that all good auditors have in common. Recognise any?


·         You’re honest and discreet – your profession is based on this! You’ll be going in to a business and going through the finances with a fine-toothed comb. It’s vital that you’re trustworthy and able to keep the company’s information to yourself.

·         You’re business minded. All auditors need an excellent understanding of business affairs so they can interpret the accounts correctly.


·         You’re a great communicator. You’ll have to relay lots of complex information and present your findings. Being able to express your ideas clearly and explain matters in a way that’s comprehensible to all is a must-have skill.

·         Your attention to detail is excellent. Auditors are paid to be accurate – there is absolutely no room for error! Having excellent attention to detail will help you spot accounting errors and set a business back on the right path.

·         You’re a mean troubleshooter. Sometimes the sums just don’t add up and it’s not obvious why. When this happens, you won’t scratch your head, say “eh?” and give up, but you’ll approach the problem methodically and enthusiastically – and get it resolved!


By Rebecca Hobson

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