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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

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Jonathan’s Answer

Hello Yew,

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!

Jon
Thank you comment icon Hi Jon, thanks for answering my question! Communication is key indeed. Yew Kin
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Daniel P.’s Answer

Hi that's a great question. My experience was that my professors in college (excellent as they were) did not really grasp what the role entails in the real world. To be successful as a external (verifying the financial statements are free of material misstatements) or internal auditor (helping to test and recommend process changes to the internal control structures of your company) it helps to be a people person who has an abundance of intellectual curiosity and like to learn how things work. I know it sounds like a boring career, but it can be far from it. Auditors are one of the only groups to see how the entire company works and they can ask for anything they need to see to make their decision on how things are working. Also, you may get to do fraud investigations and work on lots of projects other than auditing. Its a great job, and very well respected. So bottom line - in school you just scratch the surface of the role. I'd highly recommend auditing as a career, or a great jumping off point for other senior roles (CFO, CEO, CIO, Chief Technology Officer) in an organization. Also I've been able to travel the world (Europe, Asia) and my company paid for all my travel!
Thank you comment icon Hi Daniel, that's really an interesting insight into how dynamic and exciting such a career can be! :) Yew Kin
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Emily’s Answer

Great question! I recently graduated from graduate school and just started with PwC in October 2019 and there are a lot of differences between school and working. To start, school teaches you the more technical aspect of auditing and my school in particular didn't do the best job at applying that to what we will be doing in the real-world. My auditing class taught me principles and definitions I needed to know for my exams in the class and prepared me for the CPA exam, but it did not necessarily prepare me for my career. Another thing I wish my school had done was teach us about some of the different applications we would be using on the job. For example, I use the application Alteryx a lot in my jobs and would have appreciated that being introduced to me during school rather than having to learn on the job now. Overall, school can only teach you so much - with this career on the job experiences is truly how I have learned so much so far and will get you the knowledge you need for the rest of your career. Hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon Hi Emily, thank you so much for your insights! :) Yew Kin
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Mark’s Answer

Hi Yew! Great question. External audit is unique when compared to your classes taken - in many accounting programs you might only take one or two auditing classes while the majority of the classes provide you with a broad understanding of accounting. This sounds a bit like your experience, and I experienced the same during my internship as well. For me, an auditing class is helpful at an audit planning and strategy level, however as an intern you most likely didn't get the opportunity to view the audit from these levels depending on the timing of your internship in relation to the entire audit's life cycle. In addition, audits can certainly be overwhelming when you first jump in with many moving pieces. Everything you're learning in school on audit should be a part of the audit you interned on, just in my experience it's hard to see everything you learned in a few short months during an internship. As others have said, it is certainly a very good place to start your career and provides you many opportunities to learn about businesses as a whole, so don't let the internship discourage you from pursuing a career in external audit if that's what you're interested in! Hope this helps!
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Christina’s Answer

Hi Yew, hope all is well with you! This is a great question, as I feel as though my auditing class in college did not give an accurate representation of what a career in auditing is like. In class, they focus more so on the conceptual areas of auditing. For example, assertions were taught heavily during my college course. I believe that my college course lacked practical examples. There are many different areas of testing depending on the industry in which you service. That being said, having a solid understanding of the concepts will help you excel if you choose a career in accounting. I am sorry to hear that you did not get to enjoy a complete audit internship. My advice would be to stay connected with the professionals that you were able to meet during your internship. Perhaps, you could ask if it would be okay if you set up time to discuss what a true career in auditing is like with them to get a true sense of the work that you would be doing if you were to pursue a career in accounting. Best of luck!
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Jessica’s Answer

I'd say the biggest difference I experienced between school and work was that in school, audit projects were practically perfect. The client gave you exactly what you needed and you just had to do the work. In public accounting, that's very much not the case. Often, client's provide information that is not complete, or create more questions. Additionally, there's a lot more research required, especially for more complicated transactions. School very much teaches you how to do things right when you are given all the tools. Work experience uses that base knowledge but requires much more critical thinking and interaction with clients. Hope that helps!
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Beth’s Answer

As others have mentioned in their responses, the classroom is good place to obtain a foundational knowledge about what auditing is and important information about the standards that apply to the work performed. However, I did not find that my classroom experience was representative of what benefits a career in auditing would actually have, or what my day to day life would be like as an auditor. I'd love to highlight some of the experiences that I've had as someone who joined a big 4 audit practice right out of college and has continued to grow professionally within that practice over the last 10 years.

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.
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Amr’s Answer

As stated by many of the people that have answered, I believe that the main difference (at least for me) was the concept of collaboration and communication with the client specially because I never viewed auditing as providing services to a client whilst maintain professional skepticism.

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Camellia’s Answer

My school wasn't very good at teaching me how to audit. I found that in school we focused a lot on how to account for certain things, the concepts of which proved to be important when studying for the FAR section of the CPA exam. However, in school we weren't really taught how to look at the big picture. I feel like at work to be successful it is more about understanding the risks that you are trying to address, and designing tests that will maximize your ability to gain comfort. I also wish that in school we learned more about internal controls and system applications and how they may affect the audit. In my current job, I find myself reading a lot and researching to get to the right answer which I didn't really imagine in school. Hope this helps!
Thank you comment icon Hi Camellia, thank you for your insights! :) Yew Kin
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Mahmoud’s Answer

Hello!
I see where you're coming from, I'd say in college you learn the basics and the foundations of auditing.
After graduating I joined PwC, through the engagements you learn how to connect the pieces of auditing and accounting you learned at college.
Then -Depending on the clients- you learn industry specific knowledge that broadens your skills. Additionally, you evolve your financial and analytical skills during the engagements because these are all needed during the engagements.
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Mohamed’s Answer

Hi Yew,

I have been working in auditing for several years, what you have learned in the school will be the foundation and basics for your career,
I advise you to join one of the big 4 audit firm, assurance services divided into sectors such (Industrial companies, Financial Institutions, Service Companies), you will gain experience in such activities not learned in the classroom, you will go in depth in Accounting Standards and Auditing Standards, you will use advanced tools for performing the work, you will have ability to communicate and work with the clients and this is extremely important and cannot be learned in the classroom.

Wishing you the best in your career.
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Sarah’s Answer

When you're in school, you learn very high-level accounting concepts but never truly have the platform to apply them. The underlying concepts are important; but, I noticed that I learned much more about accounting, in general, in the actual field. In school, the answers to the accounting problems are much more cut-and-dry than the typical accounting problems I face in the field.
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Andrew’s Answer

One difference between my experience as an accounting major in college and my experience in public accounting is the importance of learning digital skills. Most college accounting programs will focus on high-level concepts, so spending free time to become familiar with coding programs, Excel Macros and other digital tools such as Alteryx is something that can differentiate yourself from others as you begin your career.
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Josephine’s Answer

Hi Yew Kin L.,

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.
Thank you comment icon Hi Josephine, thank you for answering my question! 🙌 Yew Kin
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Dustin’s Answer

The biggest difference to me was that what you learn in school is typically at a much higher level than the work you will do starting as an associate at a public accounting firm. While the accounting knowledge itself in terms of debits and credits is important the audit specific knowledge that you gain in school does not immediately translate to day to day work. The positive is that when you do begin a job in public accounting you receive coaching and a ton of on the job training that helps you quickly adapt and allows you to successfully do your job. At the end of the day you will use some of what you learn but most of your day to day will come from on the job training.
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Simeon’s Answer

An auditing career will involve learning the unique quirks and situations at client companies. Each one that you go to will be a new situation with its own challenges. Tasks that are a breeze at one company will be incredibly large obstacles at a different company. You'll have to be constantly learning and adapting as well as working with your team to problem solve and delegate ever-shifting workloads.
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