How to Start Off Your Career in Internal Auditing

by Fred Decker

Any well-run enterprise gives considerable attention to its own operations, looking for ways to refine and improve them. That's especially true of its accounting procedures, both for the company's internal benefit and to ensure it's in compliance with legal and regulatory obligations. Skilled accountants constantly review financial processes in search of opportunities to minimize the risk of inaccuracies or deliberate fraud. An auditor's training and certification can take several years.

Earn at least a four-year bachelor's degree in accounting or business. Some schools offer a focused bachelor's degree in internal auditing, which is useful but not necessary. If you're ambitious, a master's degree in accounting or auditing can sometimes result in faster advancement.

Find a job in the field. To be eligible for certification as an internal auditor, you'll need to work under experienced auditors for at least two years. Recruiting firm Robert Half Finance & Accounting reported in its 2013 salary survey that auditing skills are in high demand, so opportunities should be available.

Apply to the Institute of Internal Auditors - or IIA -- for certification, which is voluntary. To qualify for the Certified Internal Auditor, or CIA, examinations, you'll need to document your education; provide a character reference from a credentialed auditor or your immediate supervisor; document your work experience; agree to abide by the IIA's code of ethics; and agree not to disclose details of the examination process.

Take and pass the four-part Certified Internal Auditor examination. The first segment covers governance and controls, the second centers on the mechanics of performing an audit, the third is about IT and business analysis, and the fourth covers business management skills. Each section consists of 90 multiple-choice questions.

Maintain your certification through a program of continuing education.


  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that demand for accountants will grow 16 percent between 2010 and 2020, just slightly higher than the average for all occupations. Companies that are faced with increasing regulatory scrutiny will increase the need for auditors and compliance specialists.
  • The IIA's certifications are international and are unrelated to American credentials, such as the Certified Public Accountant. You don't need to be a CPA to become an internal auditor. However, a CPA is the most-requested credential in the Robert Half company's survey and can make a substantial contribution to any accounting career.

About the Author

Fred Decker is a trained chef and certified food-safety trainer. Decker wrote for the Saint John, New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal, and has been published in Canada's Hospitality and Foodservice magazine. He's held positions selling computers, insurance and mutual funds, and was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.

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