Digging through the details

Become an accounting detective by specializing in audit

If there’s one thing companies have learned the hard way during the most recent financial crisis, it’s that they need to know exactly how, when and where they are spending their money. Not only is it in their best interest, but it’s legally required by the government. That’s where the audit industry comes in. Audit firms are the ones companies call when they need an objective accountant to help make sure they’re doing everything right to stay compliant with a complex web of rules and regulations.

What you’ll do

As an auditor, you get to ask the tough questions that no one else can. It’s all part of making sure companies are being honest with themselves – and regulators – about their operations. It’s also how you smoke out any wrongdoing.

Expect to spend lots of time at clients’ offices going through their accounting records and meeting with accounting and business teams to make sure all the numbers add up. Of course, it’s not just numbers you’ll need to understand. You need to know how a company’s processes work, how its employees do their jobs, and a lot more about the inner workings of the business. Without that knowledge, the numbers don’t mean much.

Where you’ll work

The so-called “Big Four” firms dominate the auditing industry around the world: PwC, Deloitte, EY and KPMG. Each company has hundreds of offices around the world. And although mid-sized and regional firms may not have the brand name recognition, all together they do just as much business as the big names.

Is this for you?

At its core, auditing is about good ethics. The best auditors have a clear sense of right and wrong, have great critical thinking skills, and are willing to act when they see wrongdoing. And because auditors come in contact with every part of the business, interpersonal skills are a must.

You can also expect to do a lot of travel as an auditor, since you’re usually working at a client’s office—which could be anywhere from your hometown to London to Malaysia. The travel can be really fun or really taxing, depending on your personality.

The hours can be long during busy season when you’re working against a deadline, but the good news is, plenty of your coworkers will be there battling through it with you.

How to make it happen

Because of increased government regulation (like Sarbanes-Oxley), audit firms are in demand. That means they’re hiring lots of CPAs, from entry- to senior-level. Chances are you probably already know someone working in audit through your accounting background. Schedule some time with them to pick their brains, find out where you want to go, and get that resume circulating – while still working on your CPA license, of course.

To hear first-hand about the audit career and lifestyle, meet Audit Senior Jennifer de Leon.

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