Are you an accounting professional or student thinking of internal auditing as a career? In the face of national and global regulatory changes, internal auditing as a profession is rapidly expanding in scope and in influence — and it offers Certified Internal Auditor® (CIA®) professionals a range of promising career paths.

Growing Demand for Auditors

Internal auditors are in high demand at public and private companies, nonprofit organizations and government agencies at all levels. That’s because internal auditors are responsible for contributing to a range of key business functions, including:

  • Corporate governance
  • Risk management
  • Internal control
  • Fraud detection and prevention
  • Operations

To carry out these tasks, CIA professionals normally operate as independent agents within an organization to remain objective in their evaluations. For example, in a publicly traded company, internal auditors may report to the audit committee of the company’s board of directors, staying independent from company management. Many internal auditors have broad mandates to look into virtually every aspect of an organization, from evaluating the operational efficiency and the reliability of financial reporting to confirming information security controls and regulatory compliance.

Internal Auditor Career Paths

While internal auditors are in high demand by organizations in virtually every industry and category, the career path for a CIA professional is relatively linear, due to the specialization of the role. Some internal auditors can and do cross-over to broader management or accounting roles, of course, but in general, the career path is one of seniority and experience.

Entry-level Internal Auditors

Early in your internal auditing career, you’ll need the basic accounting skills to review an organization’s processes, operations, and goals, as well as the ability to clearly report your findings. You will almost certainly be a contributing member of an auditing team with a lead auditor or audit manager at the helm. At this stage of your career, being able to summarize and communicate your findings–in writing or via presentation–can really set you apart. In addition, gathering the experience to pursue CIA certification should be a clear goal at this stage in your career.

Experience Level: 1 – 3 years

Common Job Titles: Auditor, Auditing Specialist, Risk Assessment Specialist, Financial Analyst, Internal Controls Auditor, Information Systems Auditor

Salary Range: $31,000 to $66,000 

Lead or Sr. Internal Auditors

After five years working in internal auditing, you’ll be expected to demonstrate a firm understanding of industry best practices and audit participation. One way to demonstrate this knowledge is to acquire CIA certification, which requires a minimum of two years of documented experience. At this stage of your career, you will often be asked to monitor internal controls, mitigate risks posed to the organization and provide feedback about audit plans to management. Essentially, as a team lead, you’ll need to gather information from you fellow auditors and package it for company leaders to make informed decisions.

Experience Level: 5+ years

Common Job Titles: Senior Internal Auditor, Lead Internal Auditor

Salary Range: $64,000 to $81,000

Audit Supervisors or Managers

As you near a decade of internal auditing experience, you’ll be required to take on more oversight and management of an auditing team. This is generally a good time to seek promotion or broader opportunities if you have proven capabilities leading teams. In general, at this point in your career, you’ll assist in the planning, testing and executing of internal audit activities. As the internal auditing “industry” is still in the early stages of rapid growth, for many CIA professionals, this will likely be their career ceiling–at least in terms of an auditor-focused job role and title.

Experience Level: 10+ years

Common Job Titles: Audit Supervisor, Audit Manager, Risk Manager, Project Manager, Internal Audit Director

Salary Range: $81,000 to $110,000

Internal Audit Executives

High performing CIA professionals may move up to the executive ranks to lead audit organizations for an organization as a whole. For many, this often requires changing organizations or years and years of earning the trust of an organization. You’ll be asked to participate in management and execution of audit plans, and lead and direct the audit teams, which may be numerous and across multiple locations. In general, these positions report to the CEO of an organization.

Experience Level: 15+ years

Common Job Titles: Finance Director/VP, Chief Financial Officer, Controller 

Salary Range: $76,000 to $130,000


Interested in learning more about a career in accounting? Access our Ultimate Guide to a Career in Accounting


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