I spent three years as an auditor with a big accounting firm straight out of university. I hated it so much!
But now 15 years later I have some perspective and I can see that working as an auditor definitely has some benefits!
In this post, I’ll discuss the following pros and cons:
- You learn lots
- They give you lots of responsibility
- You get great exposure
- There is a great peer group
- It really adds to your CV
- They pay can be good
- You get to move around
- The work is really boring
- Clients will see you as a pain
- It’s not seen as a cool job
- Managers and partners can be really anal
- You work long hours
- Sometimes it’s hard to see the point of your work
- The people
- Tough exams
- Entry requirements
This post is part of my ‘Finance Career Content Series’ which contains the following posts:
- How to Get into Finance with a Non-finance Degree
- How to become a Finance Director
- How to become a Financial Controller
- How to become a Management Consultant
- Internal Audit Career Path
- Pros and Cons of Working in Finance
- Pros and Cons of being an Auditor
- Pros and Cons of Working in an Investment Bank
- Most Important Soft Skills in Business
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #1: You Learn Lots
As an auditor, you are sent into different companies to ask them how they operate, what processes they have in place and who does what.
The companies can vary from small family-run businesses to massive multinationals.
Not many young people get the opportunity to do this.
It’s a very steep learning curve but you learn a huge amount not only about companies but the people who work in them and the different types of jobs they have.
You can also be put in the middle of sensitive situations i.e. a company is going out of business, you have found evidence of poor practices, so you learn lots of valuable people skills too.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #2: You Are Given Lots of Responsibility
As an auditor, you are tasked with understanding how a company process works and whether there are any risks of it going wrong.
You may have only a few hours to get your head around a process and then have to ask the person who does that process everyday questions.
Sometimes the people you are interacting with on the client-side can be quite senior people.
I remember I had to document the processes of quite a big aircraft leasing company with one of the senior directors and I was 23 at the time. He was also a very difficult character.
Many people that age won’t be given that kind of responsibility.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #3: You Get Great Exposure
Not only do you get great exposure to senior client contacts, but you also get great exposure to senior people in your firm too.
Partners and Senior Managers in these auditing firms are successful people, and you get to work quite closely with them, sometimes directly reporting into them.
You get access to these people that I’m not sure a young entry-level employee would get in a multinational company.
Being able to see so many different career paths of senior people both inside and outside your accounting firm is quite helpful when it comes to planning your career.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #4: You Get A Great Peer Group
Depending on the size of your accounting firm, you will have varying sizes of graduate intakes / people who joined at the same time as you.
In my firm, there were approx 300 graduates taken on at the same time. Some of the benefits of this were:
- Support with any work issues you are having
- Insight into the different types of jobs they are doing
- You will make friends for life
- Great social life as there is always something going on
- You can compare and contrast your career path with theirs and use that to plan your career
- The graduates in the intake years above you are great real-life examples of what you can do with your career. You can learn from their successes and try to avoid making their mistakes
The smaller firms will also have graduate intakes that will provide similar benefits.
It’s amazing to see the incredibly different and diverse career paths that some of those 300 graduates have taken. There were only nine graduates taken on in my small department, and the difference in our career paths couldn’t be more different!
I’ve worked in some big multinationals, and some of the younger new joiners simply don’t have anywhere near the same peer network/support
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #5: You Get A Well Respected Name On Your CV
I didn’t realise it at the time but having a well-respected accounting firm on your CV really does go a long way.
Often hiring managers who have previously worked in accounting firms will only hire from similar firms.
If it’s down to the final two candidates, and there is not much to separate you and the other person, you may get the job because you have worked with a well-respected firm and they haven’t.
Sometimes, managers will only want ACA or CIMA qualified people for the role. It doesn’t mean you will be any better at the job, but it these qualifications and having these prestigious firm’s names on your CV definitely open doors for you.
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Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #6: The Pay Can Be Good
Starting off as a trainee auditor in a practice you won’t get paid that well compared to some of your other non-audit friends.
However, once you become manager and above it starts to get quite lucrative.
However, you will generally earn less in audit than your colleagues in consulting jobs in the same firms.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Pro #7: You Get To Move Around
While the actual work might be boring you are never on the same job for too long.
For example you might be on a job at a client site where they are very rude, you are cooped up in a tiny room with no windows in the basement.
However, after three weeks you are usually onto your next job and can look forward to that.
If you don’t like your job working for a company, then you can be stuck with it for a lot longer than three weeks!!
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #1: The Work Is Really Boring
The work is incredibly boring.
You will spend most of all your days working in excel and inspecting various company documents to make sure they are all in order.
You might spend 10 hours a day for several days doing the same thing.
You might be working on your own or with a team who in a small room who is also doing incredibly boring mundane work.
There are not many laughs 🙁
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #2: Clients Will See You As a Pain
From a client’s point of view:
- You are coming into their company to poke your nose into what they do
- Ask lots of stupid questions that they were asked by some other auditor last year
- You are creating more work for them on top of their current workload
- The auditor never has much clue as to what is really going on in their part of the company, it’s just a ‘tick box’ exercise
Due to the above, some clients will avoid you, not give you what you need, or be just plain rude to you.
One of the best things about leaving audit and working for a regular company was that everyone is so helpful. There is no us vs them mentality that you get working at client sites.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #3: It’s Not Seen As a ‘Cool’ Job
If you tell anyone you meet outside of work that you are an auditor, the conversation will quickly go down hill.
Friends of mine who work in audit used to make up some other job instead of admitting they were an auditor.
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Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #4: Managers and Partners Can Be Really Anal
Your work will be constantly reviewed by seniors, managers, and partners. All of them with their own opinions as to how the work should be done.
Often you can find yourself re-formatting things, changing the wording, or using different colour font just because the person reviewing wants it that way.
You can also be asked to go back to the client and ask them more questions just to satisfy someone more senior, even if it adds no value whatsoever to anyone!
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #5: You Work Long Hours
The more hours an accounting firm can charge the client the more money they will make.
The rate that the client gets billed for one hour of a junior member of audit staff will be approx a few hundred pounds an hour, whereas you only get paid a small fraction of that.
This means you can end up working really long hours for several weeks or months in a row, and no-one cares as senior management is able to make a lot of money out of you.
It also breeds inefficiency, there is never any appetite to do the annual audit in a better or less time-consuming way.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #5: Sometimes It’s Hard To See The Point Of Your Work
As an auditor sometimes you will do things that it’s hard to see the point of.
Several times in my audit career I asked the question, why are we doing this? What value does it bring? The answer always was; because it was done last year.
It might have provided no value whatsoever and just added onto the client’s workload but because it was done last year, we had to do it again.
It’s just the nature of the industry.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #5: Some Auditors Think They Are God’s Gift To Finance
Some of the people in these audit firms think they have made it and that they know everything about how companies operate.
It’s only when you leave audit and start working in a company that you realise how little you actually know.
So many times I’ve seen my former peers stay with their audit firm until they make manager or senior manager. Then they leave and they take a job as a lowly financial accountant with one of their clients.
When you work in companies, it’s a running joke how little the auditors really know about the dodgy areas of the company and how useless they are.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #6: The Exams Are Tough
The exams to become a qualified accountant are not easy. I failed some and lots of friends did too.
You have to spend large chunks of your training contract studying and the questions can be ambiguous and catch you out.
The bigger firms are generous with their study leave but some firms don’t give you as much time.
Also, you will have go to lectures after work and on weekends so it can be quite a culture shock coming from college/university
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #7: Entry Requirements
These accounting firms can be tricky to get into.
Often, you will have to have done an internship or know somebody who worked there.
You will also have to get very good grades and show off extracurricular exploits as there will be a lot of applying to these firms.
There will be assessment days and multiple interviews, some of these firms are just as hard to get into as investment banks.
Pros And Cons of Being An Auditor – Con #8: It’s Stressful
You will have to deal with the below to name a few:
- difficult clients
- demanding audit managers and partners
- coaching audit team members
- producing high quality work
- finding weaknesses in the client’s processes so you have something to present to them in the final audit report
- company politics
- lack of training and development opportunities
- heavy workloads
There will also be time pressure and various deadlines and review meetings to hit.
To conclude, even though I hated my three years in audit, it definitely opened lots of doors to me later on in my career that might not have been open otherwise.
Having ‘ACA‘ and a big audit firm on your CV will be a big help to your early career!
However, I think if I had the time back, I’d have tried a different career path! 🙂