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Independent auditors are expected to have a bachelor's degree in accounting and experience working in general accounting, typically at a public accounting firm. With those basic credentials, you can specialize in auditing and eventually become an independent auditor who can render a professional opinion and sign off on audit reports. Certain advanced credentials will make it easier to develop a professional profile, such as professional certification and an advanced degree.
An auditor is an accountant who has a specialty. The basic educational requirement to become an accountant is a bachelor's degree in accounting. Unlike certain other majors, your grade point average and grades in the classes within the accounting major will affect your hiring prospects with major public accounting firms. You must demonstrate a certain proficiency with numbers and financial topics through success in school before a company will hire you to keep track of its money.
Auditors for companies can be either internal or external. An internal auditor is an employee of the company and provides financial oversight and control on an ongoing basis. External auditors, conversely, are independent and work for an outside firm that provides consulting services to the company on a periodic basis. To become an independent auditor, it often makes the most sense when coming out of schools to look for an entry-level position with an accounting firm rather than with a corporate accounting department.
After you have some experience in general accounting, you can start positioning yourself to become an independent auditor. Public corporations are required by law to have an independent audit done once a year. You should have opportunities to work on audit teams at certain busy times, even while maintaining a general accounting workload. As you progress in the specialty, however, your employer likely will require you to obtain your professional certification before you will be allowed to sign audit reports that provide your own professional opinions.
Every country certifies its accountants according to its own established procedure. In the United States, for example, accountants are certified at the state level. You will need 150 hours of coursework in the U.S. before you will be eligible to take the certification exam. This number of hours is equivalent to obtaining bachelor's and master's degrees. If you plan to become an independent auditor, it makes the most sense to work toward an advanced degree, such as a Master of Business Administration (MBA), because you will need the hours to qualify for the certification exam in any case.
You must take a two-day standardized certification test after you have the requisite number of coursework hours. If you pass the standardized exam, you are allowed to represent yourself as a certified public accountant (CPA). With your educational degrees, the professional certification and practical audit experience, you will be well qualified to apply for a position as an independent auditor.