What is audit?

The most common type of audit, a financial audit, is an official retrospective inspection of an organisation’s financial accounts, usually by an independent body such as an accountancy firm.  Auditors are responsible for reviewing these financial records to ensure they are accurate and compliant. Think it's right for you? Take our quiz!

What’s the difference between internal and external audit?

Internal auditors are company employees that assess the company’s own internal controls and systems, to ensure processes are effective and compliant, to effectively manage the organisations exposure to risk and to identify where cost savings can be made. Large organisations, especially those in highly regulated industries, including finance and the public sector hire auditors to help with their compliance and accountability. 

External auditors assess their client’s financial statements and operational systems according to the agreed scope of the audit from an independent standpoint. They work with multiple organisations, usually on a project basis. The training provided by the Big Four firms is second to none, however working for a smaller firm could give you more exposure to different elements of the job (it's less siloed) and many opportunities for learning on the job.

What skills and characteristics do auditors need to excel in the job?

  • A strong ethical framework and ability to not shy away from reporting on issues
  • Solid communication and interpersonal skills to build a rapport with a variety of internal and external stakeholders. You’ll require information from a number of different parties and will sometimes have to deal with resistance to those requests. Your people skills can be important here, as is your ability to hold your ground and persevere to get the information you need
  • A natural team player. The scope of an audit can be large, so to ensure it can be carried out efficiently and accurately, it’s often a team exercise.  When getting close to the deadline, you may need to support on other areas of an audit as resource limitations dictate

What are the pros and cons of a career in audit?


  • Working closely in teams on audits mean you build relationships that last over the course of your career
  • Variety of scene – auditors often work on site for companies, which can mean travelling to other countries around the world. If you love travel, there could be lots of opportunities to work away from home.
  • Gain fascinating insight into how businesses operate
  • Meet more senior professionals than you usually would so early in your career – this job has plenty of networking opportunities if you can seize on them
  • Build a solid foundational knowledge of how businesses, financial markets and different industries operate in the real world – highly transferrable skills


  • You’ll sometimes be working to tight deadlines, which could mean stress, some longer hours to meet them
  • The reality of travel and commuting to different locations for your audits can be less glamorous than it may seem
  • You could be working at different offices for different aspects of the audit so won’t always be going to the familiar setting of your usual office and colleagues every day – you’ll need bring your social skills with you
  • The work requires a keen eye for detail and persistence, particularly when you’re dealing with more technical issues such as deciphering how a complicated transaction should be accounted for and disclosed. This means it’s not for everyone

What if it’s not for me, is my audit experience transferable to other careers?

Absolutely. You’ll come away from your first few years in audit with a good understanding of not only the accounting, risk and operations of a business but also of financial markets and banking more generally, and the variety of businesses and industries you have worked across. With more direct access to senior business stakeholders than most get at this early stage in their career, if you can build relationships as you go, you will also form a network of professionals you can draw upon over the course of your career.

If you’re an NQ accountant looking to change career direction, take our quiz to find out which  specialism may be best suited to you... take our quiz!