Training Outstanding Auditors

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Having struggled through college with mediocre grades, it took me decades to realize that my grades didn’t matter much! I learned almost everything I know after college, on the job. Before you click your back arrow, let me correct myself a little. Grades do matter. Good grades demonstrate a student’s diligence, commitment and achievement, and they are necessary to get a good job. They are, however, only the beginning.

Unfortunately much of our college learning was lost after we took our exams. Most of us had little practical experience in accounting or auditing and we didn’t have many instructors that had any either. Our lack of experience made retention more difficult. When I started my first day on the job in public accounting, a partner told me to use the records he dumped on my desk to perform a “proof of cash.” I sat there for hours, afraid to ask what a proof of cash was! He should have explained but I should have known!

Two years ago I accepted an adjunct professor position at a technical college to teach management accounting. Since the prerequisites were two basic-level accounting courses, I assumed the students knew and understood basic principles of accounting. When they couldn’t define terms like depreciation, accrual-basis, conservatism, and others, I quickly realized my assumption was faulty! These were good students at a good school, most of which had earned and A or B in basic accounting classes! Because of huge volumes of required reading, piles of homework and frequent exams, learning was mostly short-term. Their grades mattered, but not really.

While this scenario is not descriptive of all secondary education, it is similar to many colleges and universities. Practitioners are realizing that most accounting and auditing training for staff personnel has to occur on the job. Since staff persons with as little as six months experience are functioning as in-charge accountant on some small audits, they must be adequately trained and supervised. In my next blog, I’ll discuss some CPA firms’ approaches to training staff personnel. What is your firm doing?


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