Internal Auditors: What They Do and What They Earn

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If you’re attracted to business operations, finance and accounting, risk management, and data analytics, internal auditing could be an ideal career for you. While most internal auditors focus on financial reporting, organizations hire them for help in other areas as well, from information security to operational management. Read on to learn about basic duties and responsibilities, career paths, skills, and qualifications, as well as the average internal auditor salary.

What do internal auditors do?

Internal auditors are employed by all kinds of organizations, from government agencies and law firms to nonprofits. Their job is to make sure that internal controls function efficiently and comply with government regulations. They review financial documents to see which areas of the business’ operations could save money, while also looking out for issues that could get the company into legal trouble with regulatory agencies. Their evaluations are compiled into reports, which are then presented to stakeholders or an auditing committee.

According to the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, all public companies must comply with third-party audits. This is to ensure that they don’t abuse laws, either intentionally or mistakenly. Organizations rely on internal auditors to identify problems with internal controls so they aren’t discovered later by an external auditor, as this can lead to legal consequences such as fines.

The career path for internal auditors

Most internal auditors start at the junior level and work their way up. Keep in mind, it may help your career progress faster by acquiring a master’s degree. At the entry level, your job will involve analyzing company records, writing up reports, and having your evaluations reviewed by superiors.

Eventually, you can advance to the position of senior internal auditor. This role is more managerial, which means you won’t have to spend as much time reading through stacks of financial statements. Rather, you’ll supervise a team of auditors, leading them in projects from the planning to reporting stages. You might also take ownership of highly complex auditing assignments that junior-level employees are not yet experienced enough to handle.

How much do internal auditors make?

There are many factors that can affect internal auditor salaries, such as education, experience, location, and employer. According to PayScale, they earn an average salary of $58,429 a year.

PayScale also reported that the median starting salary for internal auditors is $51,830 a year. For those with five to nine years of experience in the field, the median jumps up to $64,971 annually.

Moving up the corporate ladder, the average senior internal auditor salary is $77,949 a year. Again, the worker’s employer and education both play roles here as well. For example, Ernst & Young pays its senior internal auditors around $80,000 annually, while salaries for the same position at companies like the PNC Financial Services Group are closer to $65,000 a year.

According to, the average internal auditor salary ranges from $57,076 to $60,180 for those who hold master’s degrees.

How to become an internal auditor

Starting a career as an internal auditor can demand varying levels of education and different certifications. Most firms won’t consider candidates for internal auditing jobs without at least a bachelor’s degree in business, finance, accounting, or another related field. While a master’s degree is not required to start working as an internal auditor, it can certainly help with promotion opportunities to senior-level positions later in your career.

Internal auditors can be required to hold one or more certifications by their employer. However, with some firms, these certifications are just a preference, and a candidate’s relevant work experience can be enough for them to get hired. While there are many auditing certifications that can help start your career and move it forward, these two are considered the most important:

  • The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) designation: Most firms require their auditors to have their CIA before advancing to the senior level. To be eligible, candidates must have a bachelor’s degree and two years of experience working in auditing. Candidates with their master’s degree, on the other hand, only need one year of relevant work experience. Once you meet the eligibility requirements and pass the certification examination, the Institute of Internal Auditors awards you with a CIA.
  • The Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designation: To qualify for a CPA, you need to complete 150 semester hours of an academic program in business, accounting, or another related field (Candidates who completed undergrad with an unapproved major will often enroll in a master’s program to fulfill this requirement). Then, you need to pass the Uniform CPA Examination.

Northeastern University’s Online Master of Science in Finance program

With a long list of courses that cover topics from value creation to financial risk management, Northeastern’s Master of Science in Finance program (MSF) will give you the expertise necessary to pursue a long and successful career as an internal auditor.

Completing this program will prepare you for passing future certification exams, as well as make you a more qualified candidate for senior-level roles, so you can aim to gradually increase your internal auditor salary. Moreover, you can earn your MSF in as few as 16 months from the convenience of your own home.

You can learn more about Northeastern University’s Online MSF program by speaking with an enrollment advisor.


Recommended Reading

What a Career as a Tax Auditor Could Look Like

What It Takes to Become a CPA

Northeastern Online Master of Science in Finance



Average Internal Auditor Salaries – PayScale

What Does an Internal Auditor Do? – Efficient Learning

Internal Auditor: Career Path and Qualifications – Investopedia