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Auditors have insight into the company like hardly any other professional group. You are in close contact with employees, department heads, board members and supervisory boards.
Auditors are active in corporations, companies above a certain turnover and number of employees limit, banks, insurance companies and state-owned companies. These establishments are required by law to have their financial statements independently audited each year. Many smaller companies also voluntarily undergo this test.
At the end of an audit mandate, the auditor gives his or her opinion as to whether the annual and/or consolidated financial statements meet the statutory requirements. He therefore checks whether they convey a correct picture of the company’s net assets, financial position and results of operations. He also assesses whether the opportunities and risks of future corporate development are presented correctly.
The market-dominating auditing companies include the international “Big Four” in the industry: PwC, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Deloitte. Their areas of work are divided into Audit (the classic final examination), Advisory (consulting) and Tax (taxes).
The most important things in 5 seconds
- Education: University, a university of applied sciences or – as the statutory auditors provide for as an exception – many years of experience with an auditor
- Starting salary: €42,000
- Top salary: €90,000
- Opportunities for advancement: Manager, Partner, CFO, Head of Finance, Head of Group Consolidation
What does an auditor do?
- Audit management of annual financial statements and management reports as well as consolidated financial statements and group management reports
- Audits of annual and consolidated financial statements prepared according to internationally recognized accounting principles
- other statutory audits, such as special audits under the German Stock Corporation Act
- other business checks such as due diligence checks and embezzlement checks
- Appraiser/expert activity in all areas of economic management, e.g. company valuation
- Legal procurement and legal advice in matters related to the duties of an auditor
- Tax advice including the representation of taxpayers before the tax authorities and tax courts
- Management consulting in entrepreneurial and economic issues
- Acquisition of new mandates
The range of tasks of an auditor also depends on where he works: As a member of a small law firm, he takes on numerous different services for clients, from auditing assignments to consulting activities. In large auditing firms that also serve international corporations, the work is more specialized.
The focus of the work is not only the auditing activity: auditors may also act as tax consultants and represent their clients before the tax authorities and tax courts. With their extensive knowledge, auditors also advise companies on business matters, for example when it comes to corporate transactions and the financial situation of the merger or takeover candidate has to be assessed.
How do you become an auditor?
Public accountant is a liberal profession and at the same time a public office: the professional title of public accountant can only be used after successfully completing the professional examination and a public appointment.
The path to becoming a chartered accountant is relatively long and takes you through a university, a technical college or – as the chartered accountants’ regulations provide for as an exception – through many years of employment with a chartered accountant. Hardly any candidate who takes his exam as a chartered accountant is younger than 30 years.
A job for numbers people
The choice of subject is not crucial, but many companies prefer graduates with an economics degree. Four out of five auditors have studied business administration, another ten percent law or economics. When selecting personnel, attention is also paid to the typical specialization subjects of accounting, controlling, finance and taxes. However, there is also a demand for economists, actuaries and computer scientists.
Anyone who decides on one of the master’s courses, which are mentioned in § 8a of the auditing regulations, can reduce the hurdles on the way to becoming an auditor and increase the chances of success in the exam. Achievements from the course can be counted towards the exam, which saves time.
Irrespective of the degree, it takes another three to four years to be admitted to the chartered accountant exam. During these years, candidates work as exam assistants. Professional training supplements the practical knowledge and prepares for the professional exams. Around 85 percent also take the tax consultant exam during this time. Anyone who is already a tax consultant can take part of the auditor exam.
Difficult test, high failure rate
The exam to become a certified public accountant is one of the most difficult exams in the German education system. It consists of seven individual exams from the subjects of exams, business administration/economics, taxes and business law as well as an oral part of the exam.
The preparation is correspondingly complex. According to the Chamber of Public Accountants, the failure rate has been around 50 percent for years, despite thorough preparation of the examinees. Skill and diligence are not the only decisive factors, strong nerves also play a role.
A professional leave of absence of up to two years is recommended to prepare for the exam. During this time, special seminars can be attended throughout Germany, in which the material is taught and repeated. If you want to acquire the necessary knowledge through self-study, you can have tutorials sent to you. In any case, it is helpful to work on as many mock exams as possible and to prepare for the exam in working groups or revision courses.
Many auditing firms work with individual part-time models, annual working time accounts or flexible leave options that allow enough preparation time.
What does an auditor earn?
up to €90,000
As a rule, auditors earn exceptionally. The average starting salary at an auditing firm is €42,000. After successfully completing the tax consultant and later auditor exam, the salary can quickly increase to between € 65,000 and € 80,000 in the first three to five years of work .
Managers are paid an average of €90,000 and there is no cap for partners. The size of the salary is also significantly influenced by the size of the company. An international company from the “Big Four” pays significantly more than most medium-sized companies.
What do you expect from the auditor?
In addition to the exam, the auditor regulations also have requirements such as these:
- the conclusion of a pecuniary damage liability insurance
- the right to hold public office
- orderly financial circumstances
- health aptitude
- professional behavior such as independence, impartiality, impartiality, conscientiousness, personal responsibility and professional behavior
And these qualities are also in demand in auditing:
to learn Anyone who decides to take an audit must have a high degree of willingness to learn, both in practice and for theory and the professional exams.
- Ability to communicate
In order not to take up too much of the client’s time, concerns must be formulated precisely and clearly.
- Sales and customer orientation
Accountants must think in a customer-oriented manner and be able to represent their company with a well-groomed, confident and friendly demeanor. They listen carefully and take the wishes of their clients into account in their working methods, provided that this is compatible with the professional code. The higher you are on the career ladder, at the latest at partner level, the more acquisition talent and contact maintenance play a role in the sustainable development of client relationships.
- Ability to work in a team and leadership
The work as an auditor always takes place in a team. Exam incidents are discussed in the group and must be resolved constructively. As a manager and partner, you also have the ability to manage and select personnel.
- Analytical skills
Auditing is all about recognizing complex company processes and connections and at the same time drawing conclusions about the risk of the audit.
- Independence and diligence
Anyone who works at the expense of their client must be able to solve a task independently and with maximum care. Already in the final examination, all examination steps must be noted individually and all audit evidence obtained must be documented.
- Mobility, flexibility and resilience
Frequent trips and short-term changes in the deployment plan require a high degree of mobility and flexibility from the auditor. Given the weekly working hours of up to 65 hours during the exam season, resilience is required.
Highly qualified auditors are always in demand, regardless of economic developments. Because the activity takes place in an environment of permanent change, driven by numerous legal innovations as a result of regulations, e.g. B. the implementation of international accounting regulations.
Auditors who have successfully completed their exams can expect the following potential career steps: start as a tax consultant, further training as an auditor, promotion to manager, appointment as partner. While managers of a company may be responsible for entire audits, the partners of the law firm certify the audit result and are responsible for their client’s attestation.
Specializing in certain sectors such as banking or insurance also offers attractive career opportunities.
career in industry
As an auditor, you quickly come into contact with the management personalities of a company. In the free economy, people know about the well-founded training at the WP companies. The expert knowledge of auditors is in high demand, which is reflected not least in attempts by employees of auditing companies to poach them. The expertise can prove to be valuable, especially when leaving the WP industry, for example in internal auditing or accounting.
Anyone who is ambitious and shows leadership talent can make it to CFO or take up senior positions in corporations as head of finance or head of group consolidation.
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