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  • Writer's pictureSally-Anne Pitt

Internal Audit Competencies and Career Development

Internal auditing is a knowledge-based activity. Having the right people, with the right competencies, is the first and most important step in having a quality internal audit function.

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) has developed an Internal Auditor Competency Framework that describes the skills required by a practitioner to perform optimally. The framework divides competencies into “Performance”, “Environment” and “Leadership and Communication” and describes competencies across three auditor stages (general, applied and expert).

The IIA’s framework is a useful tool for recognising the competencies required within an internal audit function as well as those required by individual auditors subject to their career development stage.


  1. Understand the expectations that management and the board have for internal audit, and the competencies required to deliver on these expectations.

  2. Use the IIA’s Framework to identify the competencies that can be realistically expected at different career stages.

  3. Develop a competency development plan that covers the entire internal audit function as well as individual auditors.

  4. Ensure that expectations and standards for performance are clear so that practitioners can assess their skills objectively, especially in the early years of their careers.

  5. Cast a wide net for varied backgrounds, academic majors, and technical training given the ability of non-traditional backgrounds to equally excel in internal audit competency areas.

  6. Determine which competencies to train and develop internally versus competencies to hire into the function.

  7. Be deliberate in the tailored coaching of each individual staff member, especially on difficult soft skills such as critical thinking and communication.

  8. Consider a mentoring program.

  9. Reward staff members who earn an internal audit certification.

  10. Support staff to obtain at least 40 hours of professional development each year.

CREATING A COMPETENCY PLAN The IIA’s Practice Guide, Creating an Internal Audit Competency Process for the Public Sector, contains practical examples of how to build a strategic competency plan that can be adapted to any organization type or industry.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR ADVANCING YOUR CAREER Internal auditors should be accountable for their own professional development and look for opportunities to continue to build competency.

  1. Continually review your own strengths and competency gaps – the areas you feel confident in and can support others and those that you require more support. The IIA’s Framework can be used for this assessment.

  2. Find a mentor to provide support, encouragement and candid feedback outside your normal reporting chain.

  3. Seek out challenging engagements and opportunities that stretch your knowledge and abilities.

  4. Obtain certifications from the IIA, including the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA).

  5. Get 40 or more hours of training per year.

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