"The ideal starter position," is how Lene Coeman, Manager at staffing specialist Walters People, describes the job of Junior External Auditor. Not only within Big4, but also at numerous small and medium-sized audit firms you can get started in this role - often even with a better work-life balance.
Lene explains exactly what this role entails, what the advancement opportunities are and what salary you can expect as an External Auditor.
What are the main duties and responsibilities of a Junior External Auditor?
"A Junior External Auditor is employed by an audit firm and performs the independent audit of the accounts of various companies," Lene interjects. "The main task includes auditing the financial statements and financial reporting. They have to check in detail whether everything is legally correct. In addition, external auditors are also involved in various other projects such as acquisitions and mergers.
By default, a junior external auditor is assigned by a senior auditor or expert to do the preparatory work for a particular file. Then the junior external auditor and the expert go together to the client to conduct the actual audit. This can take several days to weeks - depending on the size of the file.
The main difference with an Internal Auditor lies in the fact that he does the audit of the accounts and processes of one company, namely the company in which he himself is employed."
What education and skills do you need for a career as a Junior External Auditor?
Most audit firms are looking for candidates with a Master's degree in economics, finance or accounting. Even with a bachelor's degree in Accountancy & Taxation, you can work as a Junior External Auditor at some audit firms. With several years of experience in accounting, you will have an advantage anyway. Since this is a highly specialized position, you will receive intensive training at the start to master the job - regardless of your background or prior knowledge.
Lene: "Strong communication skills are essential for a Junior External Auditor. You visit clients on the floor, you regularly consult with them, you formulate recommendations on work points, etc. Here it is important to communicate clearly and professionally. Given the nature of the job, it goes without saying that as a Junior External Auditor you are analytical, meticulous and have an eye for detail.
Furthermore, it is also important to be able to handle responsibility well and to be stress resistant. As a Junior External Auditor, you will often work on several files simultaneously, especially during the so-called "high season". This period, usually between January and April, marks the end of the fiscal year for many companies. For External Auditors, this means an increased workload, as this is when these organizations call on their services to audit financial statements and ensure compliance with accounting regulations. It is therefore a question of keeping a cool head and setting priorities.
In terms of language skills, Dutch or French is usually sufficient, combined with a basic level of English."
What is the current demand for Junior External Auditors?
"We notice that the number of vacancies for Junior External Auditors remains continuously high. There is demand for experienced professionals as well as juniors. Typically, we see recent graduates start at an audit firm in September or October as a group," Lene said. "They go through onboarding and training together and are prepared for their first 'high season' in the spring. This often involves the use of a godfather and godmother system, where an experienced colleague acts as a mentor to a junior auditor and takes them in tow."
If you are a student aspiring to a career in external audit, you would do well - in anticipation of the start-up wave in the fall - to pursue a relevant student job during the academic year or during the vacations. This can be in an audit office, but a student job within accounting is equally beneficial.
What are the advancement opportunities as a Junior External Auditor?
"As a Junior External Auditor, you can obviously advance within audit to a senior or expert role," says Lene. "However, you can go in numerous other directions in this position. The most popular side jump is to Financial Controller, where your expertise as an auditor comes in handy. Given that as an External Auditor you are involved with accounting on a daily basis - albeit not in an executive position - the step into accountancy is not uncommon either. If you would like to further develop your analytical skills, you could also consider a career switch to Financial Analyst or Business Analyst. In short, the role of External Auditor offers numerous opportunities and is therefore an ideal entry-level position."
What salary can you expect as a Junior External Auditor?
Lene: "As a starter, you can count on a gross monthly salary of around 2300 EUR. This is always accompanied by a company car - since you have to make customer visits - and a net expense allowance. With 3 to 6 years of experience, you can expect a salary of 2900-3900 EUR. As your number of years of experience as an External Auditor grows, you can see your monthly salary rise to around 5000 EUR. In addition, audit firms also offer many trainings and continuing education opportunities as standard, to always stay abreast of new regulations."