An internal auditor is a trained professional employed by companies and organizations to provide independent and objective evaluations of risk and contribute to the risk management process. Risk is defined by The IIA Glossary as “[t]he possibility of an event occurring that will have an impact on the achievement of objectives. Risk is measured in terms of impact and likelihood.”
To achieve this goal, internal auditors will typically perform a wide range of tasks, including examining financial statements, expense reports, inventory, financial data, budgeting, and accounting practices. Once an internal auditor has examined their areas of focus, they will then report to management with any suggestions or advice for improving the organization’s financial health.
Internal auditors provide great value to companies, and many organizations employ internal auditors even if they are not legally obligated to do so. The presence of Certified Internal Auditors further increases the value of a company, as they follow the standards and best practices put forth from The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA).
According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a Certified Internal Auditor is $85,000. On average, non-certified internal auditors make $57,700.
Salary data from the Department of Labor shows that the average accountant’s salary in the U.S. in 2018 was $70,500—and if you hold the CIA certification, you are likely to make 10-15% more than an uncertified internal auditor. Our report discusses factors that will affect your earnings as a Certified Internal Auditor.
While many factors go into determining the salary of auditors, the single biggest step you can take to maximize your salary is becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA). Based on Robert Half’s 2021 Salary Guide, on average, this one step will boost your annual salary by at least $13,500 and up to $24,500.
Earning your CIA will provide a greater salary boost than moving to a bigger city, changing to a larger organization, or even gaining years of experience.
To put this into perspective, the average senior internal auditor makes $90,500. If they were promoted to internal audit manager, their average salary would increase to $116,750. This is the same salary bump that becoming a Certified Internal Auditor can give you. The difference is that becoming a CIA is completely in your hands.
If you are applying to your first auditing job, your experience is reflected in the quality of your school, your grades, the relative prestige of the internships you’ve completed, and any relevant extracurricular activities.
According to payscale.com, the average salary for an entry-level CIA is about $60,000, but the entry-level CIA salary range spans from $45,000 to $87,000 depending on where you live and work.
Once you get that first job, experience starts to include actual time working in the industry, your accomplishments, and so forth.
New auditors tend to go through the same stages early in their careers:
We get a more complete picture of who earns what level of salary when we combine the information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics with other sources, most notably Robert Half 2021 Salary Guide.
Robert Half, a leading staffing and employment services company, provides starting compensation ranges for specific accounting and finance positions by percentiles, which we’ve summarized below.
|25th Percentile||50th Percentile||75th Percentile||95th Percentile|
|Internal Auditor (< 1 year experience)|
|Internal Auditor (1-3 years experience)|
|Internal Audit Manager|
|Internal Audit Director|
*Average salary as reported by the 2021 Robert Half Salary Guide.
The following categories from the Robert Half salary guide are helpful in framing salary expectations based on a candidate’s experience and skill level:
This range includes candidates who have a less-than-average amount of experience, require skill development, and who may be working in an industry with low competition for talent or in a smaller, less complex organization or department.
This range includes candidates who have an average amount of experience, have the necessary skills to meet the job requirements, and whose role may be of average complexity or in an industry where competition for talent is moderate.
This range includes candidates who have a higher-than-average amount of experience, have a strong skill set compared to most of their peers, and who may occupy a fairly complex role or work in a competitive field or location.
This range includes candidates who have more experience than almost all of their peers, have among the highest level of expertise and/or certification(s), and whose role may be highly complex or exist within a highly competitive realm.
As with almost all professions, the complexity of an auditor’s role, as well as their experience level, is going to have a great influence on expected salary. Generally, the amount of experience you have is the single most important factor when determining your salary as an auditor.
Consider, however, the most highly specialized auditor probably isn’t going to be earning in the 95th percentile if they are working in a smaller, less complex organization. At the same time, there exist some larger, more complex organizations that pay their entry-level auditors more than smaller organizations pay experienced internal auditors.
The CIA is one of the top certifications that can give you a nudge toward the upper 95th percentile. According to The IIA, certified internal auditors can earn up to $38,000 more than non-certified individuals in the same position. In fact, for many senior positions, the CIA is among the minimum requirements.
Large organizations are willing and able to pay a premium to attract top talent. The more employees and assets an organization has, the more complex various audit functions become, and auditors’ salaries reflect that. Generally speaking, the larger the company, the higher the pay for a given role, and the better defined your career path will be.
It’s difficult to give a dollar value to other forms of compensation, but it’s still important to mention here. Compensation and company culture vary wildly from employer to employer, but similarly sized organizations tend to have a few things in common:
Larger organizations tend to offer some benefits (e.g., gyms, cafeterias, and daycare) that smaller organizations can’t reasonably fit into their budgets.
Smaller organizations are usually more flexible and offer greater access to management, so individuals have a greater say in the perks and fringe benefits available.
It’s really a personal choice when you decide what size company you want to work for, but you need to account for benefits that can affect your quality of life.
For example, daycare can be a considerable expense for young working families, and an on-site daycare could save thousands of dollars and dozens of hours in commuting each year. At the same time, some people dislike the bureaucracy that comes with larger organizations, and they’re happier at the end of the day if they have more leeway to pursue their own ideas.
According to the 2021 Robert Half Salary Guide, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, hiring trends in accounting and finance continue to favor the job candidate. The guide reported that “…companies are recognizing that attracting and keeping capable accountants, analysts and auditors is critical in helping them regain their footing.” Companies are offering more flexible options, such as remote working, to maintain productivity. CPAs, risk analysts, and internal auditors, who can help companies improve their cash flow and navigate the financial instability ahead, are in high demand. This is a great time to go into accounting, and the CIA will help you land an even bigger starting salary at more competitive organizations.
In general, the bigger the city, the higher the median salary for a CIA. There’s more competition, more opportunity, more capital in cities, and a rising tide lifts all ships. That said, the cost of living is higher in metropolitan areas, some more so than others, so location isn’t everything. If you dislike the cold and aren’t comfortable in a big city, you don’t have to live in New York or Chicago.
Auditors are generally well-compensated, so it is advisable to first find a place you want to live or an organization you want to work for and then allow the adjustments in the table below to inform your salary expectations.
Regardless of the location, Certified Internal Auditors earn on average $25,000 more annually than their non-certified peers.
|Average Internal Auditor Salary|
The benefits of becoming a CIA clearly indicate that getting your credential is one of the best career decisions you can make as an auditor. It far outweighs the cost of the CIA exam. Your salary package will vary depending on the position you work in, your location, and your experience level. By choosing wisely for yourself, you can enjoy a satisfying and prosperous career as a CIA.