Making the career move into auditing

Anne Seymour Durkin, Technical Training Manager at BM Trada

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Anne Seymour Durkin

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Anne is Technical Training Manager across the Built Environment, and joined BM Trada in 2012.

Are you eager for a career switch? If so, auditing is one career you need to consider. With salaries of £65,000+ available, pathways to chartership, and the opportunity to freelance and manage your diaries. Moreover, you will have a rewarding career, meeting people from all sectors. 

If you become an auditor, you will be investigating all facets of operations, gathering evidence to ensure the highest levels of quality and compliance are demonstrated and, crucially, maintained. Your decisions will determine whether certification can be granted or possibly withdrawn.

Here, Anne Seymour-Durkin, Technical Training Manager - Built Environment at Element Materials Technology and co-author of BM TRADA’S recently published ‘Getting Started with Auditing Management Systems’ book, talks through everything you need to know about making the career move into auditing.


What is an audit?

The British Standards Institute’s Guidelines for auditing management systems (ISO 19011:2018(E)) states an audit is a systematic, independent and documented approach for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which audit criteria are being fulfilled.

Carried out remotely or on-site, it is the inspection or examination of a process or management system. Its purpose is to ensure compliance with applicable and documented requirements. These requirements will be specific to an applicable standard, regulation, or company policy and procedures. The scope of an audit can apply to an entire organization or might be specific to a function, process area, or production/process step.


Types of audits you could be involved with, or specialise in 

First-party (internal) audits
These are also known as ‘Internal Audits’ and primarily focus on internal processes. In this scenario, you would be acting on behalf of the company itself (as opposed to a customer or certification body).

Second-party (external) audits
Often referred to as a second-party audit, external or supplier audit, a company undertakes it on a supplier to ensure it is meeting contractual requirements. They are becoming standard practice due to a greater awareness of ethical issues and social accountability.

Third-party (external) audits
These are conducted when an organization has decided to certify against a particular ISO Standard, such as ISO 9001.


The role of an auditor

Regardless of the type of audit, it’s critical for auditors to conduct well-managed audits, measuring conformity and delivering tangible business benefits to the auditee, including highlighting potential process or service improvements. This is achieved by:

  • Acting objectively, impartially, and professionally at all times
  • Remaining within the audit scope and scope of individually assigned tasks
  • Communicating and clarifying the audit requirements – explaining the audit requirements to the auditees and helping them to understand the requirements of the management system standard or other documents stipulating the audit criteria
  • Planning and carrying out assigned responsibilities effectively and efficiently
  • Using suitable audit language at the level of the auditee interaction
  • Collecting and analysing evidence necessary to assess the compliance of the management system to the audit criteria
  • Recording audit observations
  • Remaining alert to all situations where assessing compliance requires further investigation
  • Reporting results of the audit observations, orally and in writing 
  • Verifying the effectiveness of corrective actions taken
  • Co-operating with and supporting the team leader
  • Retaining and maintaining documentation pertinent to the audit
  • Maintaining confidentiality.


Careers that support a move to auditing  

If you want to become an auditor, those with a background in timber or forestry, consumable manufacturing such as food / cosmetics and toiletries, energy management sector, electrics, plumbing, logistics, IT, passive fire protection, the military, emergency services, quality management, project management, health and safety management, environmental management, facilities management, and technical management may already possess many of the skills required to be an auditor.

In addition, soft skills which benefit a move into auditing include:

  • Being personable
  • Being detail-orientated
  • Having an enquiring mind
  • Can put people at ease
  • Can suspend judgment
  • Possessing good communication skills
  • The ability to listen
  • The ability to inspire confidence.


Accreditation or certification auditing?

Auditing within the testing, inspection, and certification sector traditionally falls under ‘accreditation’ or ‘certification’ audits. 

Accreditation is via the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS), the body that audits and accredits certification and testing bodies. They have a pool of employed and self-employed auditors.

Certification is via UKAS-accredited testing, inspection, and certification companies, such as BM TRADA. These certified bodies generally have a variety of schemes, with auditors required to verify their clients’ products and services to ensure they meet set standards before awarding certification.


Benefits of auditing for a certified body

If opting for a certification auditing career, there are numerous benefits associated with auditing for a certification body, either as an employee or on a contract basis. These include:

  • Certified bodies have a client base, meaning less risk in creating your client base from scratch
  • The client base will likely cover various sectors, companies, and locations, giving you variety in your auditing role
  • Certified bodies should provide head office administration and technical support
  • The certified body should provide training (as required)
  • The flexibility of self-employed, employed, full-time, and part-time working patterns
  • The opportunity to manage your workload and diary.

However, alongside the benefits, there are other considerations you need to take into account before you become an auditor, including:

  • Having to work away from home
  • Long-distance travel if a client is some distance from your home location.


Auditing salary expectations

The Government’s National Careers website highlights that experienced auditors can command up to £65,000 per annum for a 37 to 39-hour week. Main recruitment sites such as Reed and Indeed indicate current salaries and role expectations. You can also view auditor vacancies with BM TRADA here


How to become an auditor

Firstly, considering everything discussed here, you need to decide whether the employed or self-employed route is best for you and then approach certification bodies accordingly.

You would then need to attend a recognized Lead Auditor Course: these are usually five days and will include a written examination. The CQI/IRCA 9001: 2015 Lead Auditor Course is the most common accredited course for potential lead auditors. Following the course, you would need to observe and participate in a minimum of ten days of auditing. This step allows you to put all your theory into practice.

The final step to become an auditor would be a ‘witness audit,’ where you’re ‘witnessed’ by an experienced lead auditor preparing, conducting, and reporting the entire audit cycle.


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