Why you should consider a career in audit

We have many conversations with trainees and newly qualified accountants who feel their skills are being underutilised in their current role, could audit be the answer?

Embarking on an accountancy career having dreamt of something more than preparing the exact same set of accounts for 3 years in a row; with very limited client contact of course, because they are still not trusted by management!

For some, the choice to become an accountant and undertake such a prestigious qualification is a choice to dream big in the hopes of a high-flying career. Many trainees do not realise that the job role of an accountant varies so much between firms, and particularly by the area in which they choose to specialise.

If you are a confident, analytical, and business-savvy individual then a career in the audit could be just the right fit for you…Audit can sometimes gain a bad reputation in smaller regional firms simply because many of them are not designed to provide audit as a service. The audit thresholds were raised significantly in 2016 meaning that many small businesses no longer require a statutory audit at all.

In turn, this has meant that fewer trainees are gaining exposure to the audit process and are unable to gain valuable experience to help further their careers. Trainees in small accountancy practices usually cringe a little inside at the mere suggestion of being asked to help out with a client audit – no training, no support, no clue!

So why am I suggesting it?

There is currently unprecedented demand for audit talent within the UK at all levels, meaning the average salaries demanded by auditors in recent years have skyrocketed! But that’s a whole other conversation!

Not only this, but the personal development you will gain through client and market exposure is unmatched when it comes to big business. Many successful auditors have outstanding careers that can help open doors for them later on in life.

There has been no better time to consider specialising in audit, chasing your dreams and building that career you have worked so hard for and deserve.

What are your options?

Broadly speaking, the role of an audit trainee will vary on the size of the firm you work for:

  • Small firms servicing local businesses and individuals 

If your current firm provides audit services to its clients, there will usually be 1 or 2 experienced auditors within the firm depending on its size. As a trainee, you may be asked to assist with small parts of the audit process, for example at the client’s year-end stock take, or by confirming the existence of fixed assets within the client’s company. The audit manager will likely complete all other aspects of the audit process and your involvement as a trainee will be minimal.

Your usual daily tasks at work will include a variety of accounts preparation for micro-entities, personal tax returns, and bookkeeping assignments – audit season is usually only once a year and will only be relevant for a very small number of clients within your firm if at all.

  • Mid-Tier firms servicing larger businesses across a wider geographical area 

As the size of clients grows, the accountancy firm usually does too. Many firms of this size will service clients from a wider geographical area by having multiple regional offices. By separating their services by division (e.g. Audit | Tax | Business Services | etc.), each area will have a dedicated team of accountants who will provide specialist knowledge and support to their clients. As a trainee, you will become significantly more involved in the audit process, including both the planning and completion stages.

As you progress through the team, you will become responsible for delegating work to junior team members and will be a trusted point of contact for clients. It is also very common to see job roles that will include an element of support for another service line – e.g. Mixed Audit Senior role with 80% audit and 20% accounts.

  • Large Firms servicing large multinationals and global brands 

Firms within “the Big 4” and other notable names within the profession will provide audit services on a much larger scale. Their division listed structure allows for not only a specialism within accountancy but an even deeper dive into industry-specific sectors e.g. Retail, Energy, Media or Financial Services. As a trainee, you may specialise in one industry sector and will work closely with clients to perform detailed testing of their accounts.

Firms operating on this scale will most likely have a structured route for progression. As new trainees join the firm each year, your position within the team should develop and you will be asked to take on additional responsibility. There is usually no requirement to work across other functions of the firm, and the services you provide will be purely related to the audit.

Final thoughts

As you can see, the role of an audit trainee varies greatly across different types of firms,  therefore don’t let that one bad experience in the early stages of your career put you off!

There are many avenues to explore when it comes to audit and I am well placed to understand the key drivers and possible hurdles that you currently face in your role or what you are perhaps looking to achieve in your next job.

At Harvey John, we pride ourselves on helping people know their options and their worth. If you would like to have a conversation about a career in audit or if you want to find out the current audit jobs available in your area, I strongly urge you to get in touch with me today.

Meg Glencross is a Consultant here at Harvey John

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