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Public sector internal audit career paths

A public good

At a challenging time for the public sector, internal audit functions are struggling to attract the talent they need to help them successfully deliver public accountability and high quality assurance to the board and audit committee.

The Chartered IIA has attempted to delve deeper into internal auditors’ motivations for choosing to work in the public sector, identifying their backgrounds and mapping out what their expectations were when they joined and if these were met. In addition, we identified the types of skills employers are looking for in an internal auditor as well as ascertaining knowledge gaps within their internal audit functions. With this research we aim to make internal audit a more visible profession and a first choice of career for students, graduates, and people considering a career move.

We ran a survey between August and September 2017 and held ten interviews with internal auditors working in the health, central government, and local government sectors who shared their career histories with us. The survey was sent to 1,952 public sector members and achieved 206 responses; a response rate of 10.6 per cent. In addition, we also collated private sector responses through interviews to benchmark and provide a comparative perspective.


Key points

  • future recruitment in the public sector will remain challenging as current budgetary constraints make attractive salaries, training and learning and development opportunities difficult to offer

  • the top three career barriers in the public sector that were identified were: “not enough opportunities in the internal audit function”; “lack of roles available in the organisation”; and a lack of “transparent career paths”. Public sector internal auditors feel that there are limited opportunities to grow professionally due to low turnover and limited funding

  • public sector internal auditors praise the variety of their work and generally enjoy working in the sector with some notable differences between central government, local government, and the NHS. The majority of the survey respondents and interviewees said they would prefer to stay in the public sector if they could

  • IT audit is the area most frequently mentioned as being a challenge for public sector auditors and where more learning and development in the form of guidance and support are sought.

Read the full report