Many companies and organisations are required by law to have their financial reports checked by an external auditor. The external auditor needs to be a qualified accountant meaning that they have qualified and become a member of a professional body such as ACCA.
The external auditor reviews the financial statements, making sure they are a ‘true and fair’ view of an organisation’s past financial performance and current financial position. This information is then used by the shareholders or board of directors to review.
External auditors audit both commercial and non-profit organisations such as charities, universities and government departments. This is to make sure money is being spent appropriately.
Audit firms may offer a range of services in addition to external audit. This includes checking that organisations are meeting legal and voluntary obligations in such areas as corporate and social responsibility, IT and general business risks and health and safety. It will then be the role of the organisation’s management to review compliance and ensure that the organisation is adhering to rules, codes of practice, business ethics, internal guidelines and principles.
Entry and progression
Audit is a key aspect of the work of accounting practices. Many practices will provide audit experience within their audit teams allowing you to gain relevant work experience whilst completing your studies.
There is often a clear progression route from junior roles such as audit executive, through to audit seniors or audit semi-seniors up towards the position of external auditor.
ACCA develops the skills and knowledge required by the complete finance professional, including those focused on audit.
For those in or aspiring to enter roles in audit, P7 Advanced Audit and Assurance along with P5 Advanced Performance Management would be the most relevant options exams to take.
It is not just about exams. Getting the right experience helps trainees gain the competencies needed to enter and move up through their career in audit and finance. Areas such as preparing financial statements for external purposes (PO 10); interpreting financial transactions and financial statements (PO 11); preparing for and collecting evidence for audit (PO17) and evaluating and reporting on audit (PO18) would all provide great experience and relate to the performance objectives (PO) which need to be signed off as part of the Practical Experience Requirement (PER).
Once you are qualified you may progress all the way to partner status. To be a partner or director of a firm which undertakes public practice work you will need to obtain an ACCA Practising Certificate and you may need to complete further requirements according to the jurisdiction you are working within.
Career progression in this role can be supported by developing and demonstrating professional behaviours. Take a look at the behavioural competencies in the Competency Framework to reflect on the type of behaviours which are useful for external auditors.