Internal auditing Featured

7:00pm EDT February 28, 2007

Internal auditing involves much more than accounting. The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) International defines internal auditing as “an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control and governance processes.”

“There is a common misconception that internal auditors are focused primarily on accounting,” says Mark Salamasick, CIA, CISA, director of the Internal Auditing Education Partnership (IAEP) at The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) School of Management. “In fact, internal auditors examine many processes and procedures throughout an organization. Understanding risk and controls is important for all employees and helps them become better managers for the enterprise.”

The IAEP at UT Dallas is one of the country’s premier institutions for internal auditing education. Smart Business spoke with Salamasick about the IAEP and its vision: to provide an internationally recognized internal audit program that provides well-trained internal audit candidates from cross disciplines.

What does an internal auditor do?

Internal auditors do much more than examine an organization’s accounting procedures. The profession is much broader than that. Internal auditors examine many processes and procedures, help solve problems, confirm the accuracy of information, help improve the company’s effectiveness, investigate fraud situations and more.

The internal audit group helps ensure that the organization is in compliance with rules and regulations, as well as abiding by best business practices. These valued employees help management understand risks and internal controls available to mitigate the risks, and they add value by providing objective opinions from an independent viewpoint.

What skills are required?

This field requires a high degree of communication and language skills. There is a great deal of focus on business processes and interviewing. The field is cross-disciplinary in nature, so diverse educational backgrounds are extremely valuable.

The typical candidate at most schools is an accounting major who takes internal audit coursework. Our program is different. Our students come from many backgrounds including IT, engineering, marketing and finance. Some of our students are in career transition, in their 50s — very valuable assets to corporations because of their previous work experience.

What makes internal auditing such an attractive career choice?

There are tremendous job opportunities, which are only going to increase worldwide. The demand for internal auditors is far greater than the current supply. All corporations listed on the NYSE are now required to have an internal audit group, so there is greater demand than ever. The salary is typically higher than other professional positions coming straight out of school in business, accounting and technology.

Many students who go into this field will find their careers moving quickly. They might start out in internal auditing and then move into a management position. Internal auditing is a good avenue for moving into other areas of an organization, because the internal auditor becomes knowledgeable about so many different aspects of the organization.

What challenges face this profession?

The biggest challenges have involved getting the word out about the profession and clearing up the misperception that it’s an accounting field in order to attract a more diverse base of students. Also, more universities are needed to meet the needs in providing internal auditors for the future. Professional organizations such as IIA are working diligently to promote the understanding and education of internal audit.

What differentiates your program?

We have more IT requirements and IT integration into the program. About 20 percent of our students specialize in IT. We are also closely tied to IIA International and have strong university and local IIA chapter support.

The IIA has developed criteria for internal audit education and has accepted 30 schools into its program. All UT Dallas students must take the Internal Audit course and four additional courses related to internal audit aspects, then sit for the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) exam or the Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) exam.

MARK SALAMASICK, CIA, CISA, is director of the Internal Auditing Education Partnership (IAEP) at The University of Texas at Dallas School of Management. Reach him at (972) 883-4729 or mark.salamasick@utdallas.edu.