How is an auditing career different from what students will learn about in school?
I am an Accountancy & Finance student graduating this May. I was in a short internship in external auditing and it was an experience totally different from what I envisioned while still schooling. Unfortunately my time there was shortened because of Covid 19.
Hope to hear more from your experiences!
#auditing #internship #accountancy
Great question! I have been working in auditing for several years and agree that the on the job experience varies in many ways from what you learn in the classroom. Ultimately the auditing concepts and financial accounting skills you learn in school are very important, but there are other areas that you can only really appreciate through actual experience. One notable area that differs from what you learn in school is the client communication aspect of auditing. While we are independent from our client we are also in the business of client service so we must do our job in a way that offers the best possible service out clients.
The ability to communicate and work with our clients is extremely important and cannot be learned in the classroom. Sometimes these communications include asking difficult questions.
Wish you the best and keep asking great questions!
First, something you may not imagine in the classroom, is how much being an auditor means working as a part of a team, with exceptional coaching and development opportunities. For me the most fulfilling part of my job, especially as I became more tenured with my firm, has been coaching younger staff on the work they are performing, and also helping mentor staff on their career and ultimately help them get to where they want to go. This seems to be very ingrained in the culture of audit teams, and the opportunities to coach team members starts at a very young age with most firms.
Another aspect that is very rewarding is the continued variety that allows for continual learning and growth. You can really get a wide range of experiences and opportunities even if your schedule results in you working on one big client most of time. I've worked primarily on a large global public engagement, and even without a lot of client variety, I've continued to have opportunities to learn and touch new things. Early on this was through assignments to different areas of the audit, and as I've progressed further in my career, through more involvement with unique transactions and accounting matters that arise. I really enjoy how well rounded my experiences have been as an auditor, and especially as compared to some of my peers who joined corporate accounting right out of school. Overall, I enjoy the variety in auditing, and that I can count on the fact that I won't get bored doing the same thing day in and day out.
The last experience I'll highlight from my audit career, has been the opportunity to work with an expanded network of individuals, including members of our global firms in various countries (e.g. UK, Australia, Mexico, Nigeria, India, etc). I enjoy getting to know more about other cultures and find the experience of working with a global team to be very meaningful to my personal and professional growth. As an added bonus, I've had the opportunity to do some international travel to some of these locations.
Based on my experience working in public accounting firms and private organization, here's what I think:
- documentation and reporting are different in terms of style / preferences.
- soft skills including communication skills and working with other stakeholders are key assets to having a career as auditors
- different types of tools and applications. As you continue in your career, the tools will be different, we need to stay abreast with the latest techniques and tools
- some of the most current leading practices are often provided by experts in the field, what we learned in school may not be sufficient, we need to continue looking at other training / resources. School isn't the only place to learn auditing
- topics in school tend to be broader, you obtain more details through actual learning on the job and eventually be an expert in your own field ;)
- applying audit techniques may vary depending on the industry and company you work for - certain industry (e.g., banking) requires more stringent auditing procedures compared to a less regulated industry
I hope this helps.
Something a Big Four recruiter said when I was in college has stuck with me and I believe may answer this question. "10% of what you do in your job you learn in college, 20% of what you do in your job you learn in training, and 70% of what you do in your job you learn on the job."
This is not to devalue the importance of college, just that the specifics of what your day in and day out will look like, is not what you are taught in school. Your accounting and general business classes will give you an overall understanding of business and accounting principals that are the foundation that you career will be built on.
One thing I believe public accounting does very well is teach it's employees. The firms will provide everyone with the ability to utilize their knowledge and when they have shown they have that ability, they are given a new task allowing for you to learn more. College prepares you well for this as you are learning new things with the various classes you take.
I often wondered the same thing when I was in college. Given that I didn't have anyone in my family or friends in the industry, I really didn't know what to expect. I graduated college about a year ago and began working full time in October- so hopefully my fresh perspective is insightful for you!
Throughout my time in college, the Accounting Department often tried to implement new projects or coursework that would better prepare you for what you might experience on the job. However, these were always more overwhelming than they were effective in my opinion. Looking back, I honestly don't think that college coursework can mimic the profession. The reason being is that the field is more broad than we think. Many study accounting and then pursue careers in private accounting while others go into public accounting. Within public accounting, you can choose audit, tax, or advisory- all very different career paths. Even within one particular career path such as audit, you can have a very different professional experience than another auditor at the same or different firm because the nature of your work often depends on the client that you are assigned to. For example, I work on a large public client while I have colleagues that work on smaller private clients. Our experiences, strengths, and competencies are very different.
What I've learned is that the most important thing you can learn in college is discipline. Do your best, learn to ask questions, seek opportunities for growth, and build your network! These are all transferable soft skills that will be very valuable as you transition to your career. Of course, you want to have some technical skill as well so that you have a foundation to develop your business acumen. However, the most important thing isn't what you already know, but what you are eager to know!
Best of luck to you!
Similar to you I have also graduated with a Finance and Accounting double major. I was solely a finance major and thought that accounting was challenging. As I took on more course work, I realised that the Accounting major was complimentary to the Finance degree and that it offered a broad variety of knowledge. The accounting major offered a variety of knowledge by giving me a glimpse of what type of career you can create with that major whether it be in Audit, Tax, Advisory or corporate accounting through extensive coursework. The accounting coursework in college requires discipline, attention to detail and curiosity - these skills are transferable to any job and especially to a job in the accounting industry. In my personal experience, the scholastic work taught me the "language of accounting" and the discipline of working for extensive hours that are needed to get a project done. I would say that school work is just a fundamental building block to your experience and knowledge of Accounting & Finance, while the work related experience is the skyscraper that you build on that building block. Therefore, I wouldn't try to look for the differences that exist between the school work and the real world work but I would try to focus on leveraging the tools that you learned in school to succeed in the real world. Be the same everyday learner filled with curiosity at work - as you were/are in school.
Wishing you the best in your career marathon!