A Day In the Life of a Big 4 Auditor

Before I get into my breakdown of a day in the life of an auditor, let me explain what an auditor is first of all. Overall, an auditor will assess whether a companies accounts are truly representative of what they are depicting. Or to use a terminology used within my role, “Do they represent a true and fair view of the company?”.

We will look through the company accounts, line by line, and perform testing on each area of the accounts. More stringent testing is performed on areas which have been deemed to have a significant level of risk. For example, with a Property Investment Company, we may put extra effort into confirming the valuations being portrayed in the accounts for the property investment assets.

Once an audit is complete, the Audit Partner will sign the Auditor’s Report, which will go into the Financial Statements of the entity. Essentially this depicts our viewpoint of the financials to the shareholders (or stakeholders reading the statements).

Key Points:

  • Making sure the financial statements are in accordance with the relevant accounting standards
  • Giving our viewpoint on the accuracy of the financial statements
  • Completely independent of the client

Frequently Asked Auditor Questions

I am a senior in a Big 4 firm, in the Audit and Assurance department.

What does this mean? Well, basically I am a fully qualified Chartered Accountant. There will be differing job titles depending on location and firm, but a senior is one level below Assistant Manager at my location/firm. I have worked in my office for three years, completed all of my exams, and fully qualified.

Let’s get some of what I would deem to be ‘frequently asked questions’ out of the way first:

“How much are you paid?”

I earn roughly $50,000 per year (roughly exchanged – I’m in the UK), before tax. This isn’t a lot of money, but it allows me to live more than comfortably. I should also note that I live in a very low tax location, so I take home around $3,200 per month after tax. My rent is about $1,200 (which I share 50/50 with my girlfriend).

Overall, if you want to get rich quick or be on 6 figures before you’re 30. Try a different career.

There’s a general misconception that accountants are incredibly well paid. This may be the case later on in their careers, especially when we’re statistically the most likely to end up in CFO/CEO positions. However, I’d say the first 10 years of an accountant’s career are “above average” at best, and a real slog.

“How difficult were the exams?”

Absolute hell.

Everyone finds them different to be honest. In my class of 15 or so at the beginning of my career, only 5 finished the exams. This wasn’t always due to the exams. Some just moved to other offices, and some just didn’t like the job.

It is worth noting that I did an exam route which is deemed to be on the harder end of the spectrum when it comes to accountancy exams. At the time, I probably felt some sort of superiority towards doing that route. But, in reality, an accountant is an accountant. It may slightly benefit you in getting jobs, but I’ve found that few employers really know the differences between the different accounting qualifications. ACCA seems to be the most widely recognised in my job market anyway.

I found the pressure from studying to be incredibly intense. Knowing that I could be fired, or not be promoted if I didn’t pass was a horrible feeling. I almost had a mental breakdown in my final technical exams because I just found the pressure was mounting. However, everyone reacts to these differently.

“Do you enjoy your job?”

Difficult question to answer. Some days I don’t mind it. But for the most part I find Audit incredibly repetitive and monotonous.

This job was always going to be a starting point to get to an end goal. I originally didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do in the finance world, and therefore I joined an audit firm so that I could get a widespread experience within different areas.

I’ve now realised I have a strong interest in the investment world.

The Day in the Life of an Auditor

I usually get to work at about 7.30-8am. The work day doesn’t technically start until 9am, but I like to get an hour in where the office is relatively quiet and calm.

Every day is pretty different depending on the time of year. If it is anywhere in the January to May period, it is likely to be pretty hectic, and I’ll normally work 50 hours per week on average. Outside that busy period, it is a standard 37 hour week.

8am to 9am

Normally I spend this time responding to emails which have come through after I left the office the day before or over the weekend. As this hour is technically before the workday, I take it pretty chilled and will normally listen to a podcast and read the news in between emails.

9am to 11am

During the majority of the year, this will consist of general audit work. I will usually have a to-do list beside me which I fill in first thing in the morning. Then I will work my way down the list throughout the day. Normally, I will try and order the list in priority order, and start off with the most important things.

11am to 12.30pm

Often this area will be filled with meetings. If not, then I just continue working my way through that list of tasks to complete.

12.30pm to 1.30pm

Lunch time! I often just grab something quickly and eat in the office. When I first joined, I would go to lunch with all the guys who joined with me. However, they’ve all since left, and I’m often too busy to take a full hour for lunch.

My ‘lunch hour’ is pretty chilled work wise. I’ll generally do something pretty easy or respond to emails while I eat my lunch. I guess I do take my lunch hour, but I still try and be productive.

1.30pm to 4pm

Back to the grind! I’ll try and get as far down the list of tasks as possible. This is usually not as productive as my morning. The afternoon lull kicks in. This is why I try and get the more complex and important tasks completed in the morning.

This period may involve a meeting, or going to see the client, depending on the time of the year.

4pm to 5.30pm

Winding down. Usually I’m getting to the small tasks by this point, depending on my day. Quite often lots of little things will come up throughout the day, which might have pushed other tasks down the list. This is the hour and a half that I focus on these.

Then, it is time to go home. I am normally out of the door at 5.30pm on the dot outside our busy season, and go straight to the gym 5 days of the week.

End of the Day!

So, that’s my general day in the life of an auditor. It is a bit difficult to break down too much, as my day can differ pretty significantly depending on the type of client I am working on.

I mostly work on banks and investment funds, however, each and every client is different. Some are more challenging than others, and some are pretty chilled.

If you have any questions about what it is like working in audit or being an accountant, then I am more than happy to answer them in the comment section below, or send me an email.

Overall, I think it takes a special kind of person to LOVE audit. However, it is a means to an end, and there are significant benefits to getting some experience in audit to benefit your further career. However, I wouldn’t expect it to be an overall enjoyable job, but something which is a solid foundation for your first 3 or 4 years in your career.

If you want to find out more about becoming a Chartered Accountant, then check out my blog post about it, here.

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