Internal Audit vs External Audit – how do they really differ?

Internal Audit vs External Audit – how do they really differ?

If you work in external audit but are considering a move to internal, this article is for you.

It’s fair to say that internal audit is the rather misunderstood half of the profession. The shape of the industry is changing. Internal auditors are being given more responsibility and their work has a significant impact on a business’ performance.

The pinnacle of working in external audit is a career in the Big 4. The variety and exposure to different companies certainly has its appeal, but in reality, a career in consulting means moving from project to project and not having the opportunity to stay around long enough to see the impact.

Here is a summary of the key differences between careers in internal audit and external audit.

Scope and Focus

Internal auditors are employees of the firm they audit. They primarily focus on evaluating and improving internal controls, risk management processes and governance frameworks. Their role encompasses reviewing operational efficiencies, compliance with policies and regulations and safeguarding assets.

On the other hand, external auditors are independent professionals, contracted by an organisation to objectively review financial statements, with a specific mandate to review financial records and transactions. Their focus is primarily on financial reporting risks and material misstatements and their impartiality ensures credibility and reliability in financial reporting.

Independence and Objectivity

While internal auditors work within the organisation, they are expected to maintain independence and objectivity in their assessments, to provide unbiased evaluations and recommendations to management.  However, being internal does mean a greater level of exposure to the business and more impact and authority when dealing with stakeholders, as well as involvement with different internal teams, such as compliance and fraud and other internal control departments.

Added value

Beyond identifying weaknesses, internal auditors play a consultative role by offering recommendations to enhance processes, mitigate risks and optimise organisational performance. Their insights contribute to the overall effectiveness and efficiency of the business, offering auditors the opportunity to really see the impact of their contribution.


External audits are typically conducted annually, although interim reviews or special audits may be performed under certain circumstances.

Internal auditors engage in ongoing monitoring activities, continuously assessing risks and controls throughout the organisation. This proactive approach enables timely identification of issues and opportunities for improvement.

The advantages of internal vs external audit

From a career perspective, both internal audit and external audit offer up some really interesting opportunities. Which direction you choose to take really depends on your own strengths and preferences.

The benefits of internal audit include having a reporting line within the organisation, being closer to stakeholders, developmental opportunities beyond audit, representation and impact on the business.  An internal auditor plays a pivotal role in helping the company to protect its value and achieve its business objectives. There are also company culture benefits to being a permanent part of the team.

External auditors are adept project managers. They move across different businesses, with one final objective in mind. For some, this is a preferred way of working. However, for those who like to be part of an ongoing endeavour in a team environment, internal audit is a more appealing career choice.


If you are considering a move to internal audit, we hope this article has provided some insights.  If you would like to explore the current job opportunities we have in internal audit, please do get in touch for a chat!