Education and Training Requirements

High School

Take a strong math and business course load in high school. Auditors must be proficient in arithmetic and basic algebra. Working knowledge of computers and their applications is equally important. Course work in English and communications is also helpful. Be sure to take as many business and accounting classes as possible. Learning a foreign language is also beneficial for future work with clients from other countries.

Postsecondary Training

Postsecondary training in auditing is offered at private business schools, junior colleges, universities, and correspondence schools. A bachelor’s degree with a major in accounting, or a related field such as economics, finance, or business administration, is highly recommended by professional associations for those entering the field and is required by all states before taking the licensing exam. Most accounting firms prefer to hire auditors with a master’s degree in accounting, taxation, or business, or those who have earned a master’s degree in business administration with a concentration in accounting. Auditors also earn master’s degrees in taxation and other specialized fields.

The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredits postsecondary accounting and business programs. Visit for a list of accredited programs. Another source for education resources can be found at

The Institute of Internal Auditors has created a formal endorsement program for colleges and universities that offer an internal auditing curriculum within a degree program (undergraduate or postgraduate). Visit for a list of colleges and universities that offer an internal auditing curriculum. 

Other Education or Training

All auditors must continue their study of auditing and related areas in their spare time, to keep up with new industry developments and financial rules and regulations. They take formal courses offered by universities and professional associations to specialize in certain areas of auditing, broaden or update their professional skills, and improve their chances for advancement and promotion. Organizations that offer continuing education programs, including webinars, self-study programs, and seminars, include the AICPA, the Institute of Internal Auditors, and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, among many others. Contact these organizations for more information.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

Many auditors are certified as public accountants. Certified public accountants (CPAs) must pass a qualifying examination and hold a certificate issued by the state in which they wish to practice. The Uniform CPA Examination, which is administered by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), is used by all states. Nearly all states require at least two years of public accounting experience or the equivalent before a CPA certificate can be earned.

In most states, a college degree is required for admission to the CPA examinations; a few states allow candidates to substitute years of public accounting experience for the college degree requirement. Currently, nearly all states and the District of Columbia require CPA candidates to have 150 hours of education, which represents an additional 30 hours beyond the standard bachelor’s degree requirement. (Check with the AICPA or your state accounting association for information on requirements in your state.) These criteria can be met by combining an undergraduate accounting program with graduate study or by participating in an integrated five-year professional accounting program. You can obtain information from your state board of accountancy or check out the AICPA Web site to read about new regulations and review last year’s exam.

The AICPA offers other credentialing programs (involving a test and additional requirements) for members with valid CPA certificates. These designations include accredited in business valuation, certified in financial forensics, certified information technology professional, and personal financial specialist. These credentials indicate that a CPA has developed skills in nontraditional areas in which accountants are starting to play larger roles.

To become a certified internal auditor, a college graduate with two years of experience in internal auditing must pass an examination given by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). The IIA also offers the following specialty certifications: certified financial services auditor, certified government auditing professional, certification in risk management assurance, and certification in control self-assessment. Visit the IIA Web site for more information.

Additional certifications are provided by associations such as Bank Administration Institute (certified bank auditor, for example) and ISACA (certified information systems auditor, certified in risk and information systems control, etc.). Contact these organizations for more information about certification requirements.

Auditors who prepare tax returns must be licensed. Licensing requirements for tax preparers vary by state, and you should be sure to find out what requirements there are in the state where you wish to practice.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers an examination for tax preparers. Those who complete the test successfully are called enrolled agents and are entitled to legally represent any taxpayer in any type of audit before the IRS or any state tax board. (Those with five years’ experience working for the IRS as auditors or in higher positions can become enrolled agents without taking the exam.) There are no education or experience requirements for taking the examination, but the questions are roughly equivalent to those asked in a college course. The IRS does not oversee seasonal tax preparers, but local IRS offices may monitor some commercial tax offices.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Completion of at least one internship in college is highly recommended to prepare for entry-level auditing positions. Specialized positions may require up to 10 years of additional auditing experience. 

Auditors must have strong mathematical, analytical, and problem-solving skills. You need to be able to think logically and to interpret facts and figures accurately. Strong listening as well as effective oral and written communication skills are essential in working with both clients and management. Auditors also need to be well versed in the use of accounting and analytical software and databases. 

Other important skills are attentiveness to detail, patience, and industriousness. Business acumen and the ability to generate clientele are crucial to service-oriented businesses, as are honesty, dedication, and a respect for the work of others.