From practice to industry: navigating the transition from external to internal audit

6 mins

After a few enriching years in external audit, you might be contemplating your next career m...

After a few enriching years in external audit, you might be contemplating your next career move. In the world of auditing, it’s not uncommon for professionals with two to five years’ experience to contemplate making the switch from external audit (practice) to internal audit (industry).

While external auditing offers a range of advantages – exposure to different clients, travel, certifications, etc. – an obvious next move can be a transition into internal audit. And it’s a great path to take. It often brings a fresh perspective, exciting new challenges, deeper focus areas, and rewarding career progression.

But a move like this can also involve adjustments, from the way you work to potential salary changes and a whole host of other factors. In this blog, we’ll guide you through what to expect from a move from external to internal auditing and how to effectively navigate it.

Understanding the differences

So, what are the main differences to consider if you want to make a move? We’ve laid them out below.

(1) Culture and relationships

In external audit, you work with a variety of clients, managing multiple - often more - transactional relationships, typically on a short-term basis. This will provide variety but can also mean a higher workload during busy seasons.

On the other hand, internal audit allows you to form deeper, long-term relationships with stakeholders within a single organisation. You’ll assess the effectiveness of the organisation’s risk management, control, and governance processes and importantly, you will add real value to the function and see the rewards of your hard work. And over time, you’ll build trust and become an integral part of the team.


(2) Depth of work

External audit often involves more generalist audits, or more higher-level, technical audits. In contrast, internal audit allows for a more in-depth examination over a longer period. And the main difference here is you might delve into more complex, technology audits across IT Infrastructure, Cybersecurity, Cloud or Data, for example. On the business audit side, this could involve more complex financial audits across Model Risk, Market Risk or Credit Risk, or operational audits such as detailed supply chain, health & safety, inventory, or acquisitions/divestments of entities audits.


(3) Salary and benefits

One of the main benefits of transitioning to internal audit is that it typically results in a base salary uplift, bigger bonuses, larger pension contributions, and stronger benefits. You might enjoy more holiday allowance, and additional benefits like a car allowance, life and private health insurance, and a better work-life balance. Plus, if you’re not keen on lots of travelling, you can join an organisation that requires little to no travel. However, if you do love travel, pick a more international organisation with multiple sites. It’s your choice!

Not sure on how to benchmark yourself when transitioning from practice? Ask one of our Corporate Governance experts.


(4) Career progression

While the path to partnership-level in an accounting firm can be narrow, internal audit in industry can offer auditors broader opportunities for career progression. After gaining experience within an internal audit function, you’ll have the opportunity to progress up the internal audit hierarchy to roles like Audit Manager and Director of Audit, or even a Chief Audit Executive. Alternatively, there’s even the chance you may move into the wider business, and transition into areas such as Finance, Technology, Risk & Internal Controls or more operational functions within the organisation. The possibilities are vast.


Making the transition: what to expect

We asked one of our candidates, a Senior IT Auditor who made the shift from the Big 4 to an internal audit role in a global bank, what their transition was like. Here’s what she told us:

"Transitioning from external to internal audit was a big change. In my external role, I had a more basic understanding of a broad range of clients. But moving to internal audit has allowed me to dive deeper into specific areas of one organisation. I've been able to specialise in areas like cybersecurity audit, which have been incredibly rewarding. And I feel I’ve settled into a company and culture where I can really add long-term value. It was definitely a good choice for me and my career."


How to navigate the transition (the when, who, what, where)

Making any career move can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. So, once you’ve decided to take the leap from external to internal auditing, how can you make it as simple as possible? Here are a few of our considerations and tips.

Timing (when)

Timing is everything! Many professionals choose to transition after gaining a few years of experience in external auditing. This timing allows you to confidently bring valuable skills and expertise to your new role, and the opportunity to have pursued relevant certifications or training.

There’s no right or wrong in terms of how many years you spend in practice. The key here is to review your long-term career aspirations. If you want to make that move to industry eventually, and the right opportunity comes along, make the move. Unless, of course, you aspire to become a partner in practice.


Networking (who)

Connecting with headhunters in the internal audit field can provide invaluable advice and potential job opportunities. At Apollo Solutions, we have a vast network of both audit professionals and those who hire them across Financial Services, Commerce & Industry globally. Not only can we connect you with professionals to elevate your career, we’ll use our deep sector knowledge to support you in your move.


Understanding your goals (what)

Before making the switch, consider how the role of an internal auditor aligns with your career goals. Which area of auditing are you passionate about? Do you want to gain general experience, or would you prefer to focus on more niche topics, for instance, investment banking audit within a global bank, or supply chain and SAP Audits within a manufacturing firm? It’s important to take time to think about what you really want to achieve both professionally and personally.


Choosing the right organisation and location (where)

Consider the industry you work in (or aspire to work in), the city or country you want to live in (have a look at our EU relocation guide for auditors), and size of the business you'd like to join. Larger companies may offer more structured career progression and specialisation opportunities, while smaller companies may provide broader exposure and varied responsibilities. Either are great routes, but it’s a personal choice that only you can decide on.

Transitioning from external to internal audit can open up new avenues for professional growth and satisfaction. Want advice on your next career move? Apollo Solutions’ dedicated Audit consultants are deeply embedded into the industry and are ready to help you take your career to the next level. Contact us today for a chat about your plans. Alternatively, you can upload your CV or browse our latest vacancies.

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