An external auditor helps companies stay within the realm of legality by checking financial documents and statements for errors, omissions and possible fraud. In the auditing world, women make up just over 60 percent of all employees, as of 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. All external auditors rely on certification to give them legitimacy in the field and an advantage over the competition.
Find a Provider
Most auditing certifications exist for internal auditors, but auditors concentrating on external auditing can find their own designations. Certifications for external auditors come from a variety of sources, including specialty industry associations like the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and the Institute of Management Accountants. External auditors can also choose from general certifications from providers like the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants.
Fulfill the Qualifications
Earning an external auditor certification starts with meeting each provider’s qualification requirements. Each provider sets its own standards, but eligibility requirements generally include a minimum education combined with professional experience. For example, the ACFE utilizes a point system, awarding candidates a certain number of points based on educational and professional experience. The IMA asks for a bachelor’s degree and 2 years of professional experience. Other qualification requirements include becoming a member of the sponsoring organization, being of good moral character and abiding by that group’s code of ethics.
Pass the Exam
Like most certifications, external auditor certification requires taking and passing an exam. The certification exams take place online or at third-party computer testing centers and consist of multiple-choice questions that test a candidate’s knowledge. Topics covered include general auditing principles like government and industry regulations, ethics, accounting and investing. Exams may also cover specific subject matter such as fraud prevention and deterrence, financial transactions and corporate finance. Providers do not make test-takers go it alone; many provide free or low-cost study guides, workbooks, prep courses, exam coaches, study forums and practice tests.
Apply for Recertification
Once she passes the test and earns the designation, the auditor’s work is not over. She must maintain that certification by renewing every few years. The ACFE, for example, requires a certification holder to renew her ACFE membership every year and earn at least 20 continuing education credits every 12 months to maintain certification. Of those 20 CE hours, at least 10 must be specific to fraud and two must pertain to ethics. Providers may offer their own CE courses or allow auditors to submit hours from third-party accredited providers. Other sources of CE credits include workshops, seminars, speaking engagements, publishing and teaching.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Auditors and Accountants
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: 2012 Household Data Annual Averages
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners: CFE Qualifications
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners: External Auditor Career Path
- Institute of Management Accountants: CMA Certification
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants: Certification
Lindsey Thompson began her writing career in 2001. Her work has been published in the Cincinnati Art Museum's "Member Magazine" and "The Ohio Journalist." You'll also find her work on websites like Airbnb, Chron.com, and USAToday.com. Thompson holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University.