An internal auditor works for a company, organization or government agency and audits the financial records to ensure they are accurate and complete. The main focus of the job is to check the records to ensure that the finances are managed properly and that there is no waste, such as in duplication of services. The job also focuses on ensuring that there is no corruption involved in mismanagement. Another aspect of this job is to regularly review the controls the business has in place to ensure that there are no security leaks and that they are effective. Checking to ensure that the business complies with governmental regulations and the business's own operating policies and procedures is another task associated with this position.
All internal auditors must have training as an accountant with an undergraduate degree. They start out working in this profession, usually with a public accounting firm or in a private company, and take on varied tasks that will give them experience in many different facets of the accounting industry. With additional courses beyond that required for a degree and the experience they gain in the work environment, they can then become eligible to write the CPA exam. In order to become an internal auditor, you must first become a certified public accountant.
The next step in specializing as an internal auditor is to become certified in the profession. Obtaining a the designation of Certified Internal Auditor assures employers that you have the skills and knowledge to do the work and that you are of high moral and professional character. This certification is also accepted all over the world. You can register for and take this exam while you are still enrolled in the final year of your undergraduate degree or if you are enrolled in an advanced degree program. However, you must have at least two years of auditing work experience, which is often difficult for accounting students. You must submit character references with your application and demonstrate knowledge of the code of ethics. When you pass the exam and receive certification, you must engage in continuing education in the field of auditing and accounting in order to renew the certificate.
There are three specialty areas within the certification as internal auditor that you can have in addition to the CIA certification. The CGAP (Certified Government Auditing Professional) is designed for those working as internal auditors in the area of public accounting. It includes such specialty areas as fund accounting grants, legislative oversight and confidentiality issues. Another specialty area is that of Certified Financial Services Auditor. The CFSA certification is designed for those working in the insurance or banking industries and you can choose to write the exam for either banking, insurance or securities. The third area in which you can specialize is as a control self-assessment specialist. In this role, you will work with risk management and investment auditing.
Once you have experience as an internal auditor you may want to set up your own practice and take on contract work as an external auditor. In this role, you will be a third party auditing the books of clients. You may have several clients at the same time and perform regular auditing services for them.