External Auditor

External auditors inspect clients’ accounting records and express an opinion as to whether financial statements are presented fairly in accordance with the applicable accounting standards of the entity, such as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) or International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). They must assert whether financial statements are free of material misstatement, whether due to error or fraud. The resulting audited financial statements are then examined by a variety of external users, including investors, creditors and government bodies. In addition to performing audits, external auditors often provide various tax and consulting services. These can be individuals, small businesses, corporations, government bodies or not-for-profit organizations. External auditors may work for public accounting firms or be self-employed. 

Benefits of the CFE Credential 

According to Generally Accepted Auditing Standards (GAAS), the external auditor must brainstorm potential fraud risks during the planning process and then gather information necessary to identify the risk of material misstatement due to fraud. The CFE credential provides external auditors with the knowledge and skills needed to effectively identify these fraud risks and detect fraud when conducting an audit. Additionally, CFEs are well-equipped to perform data analysis techniques to detect fraud, evaluate accounting systems, determine the degree of organizational fraud risk and follow up on fraud indicators. Candidates who have earned their CFE credentials are regarded as leading experts in the field, making them more preferential to many employers. 

The ACFE’s Global Salary Study found that CFEs earn a 17% income premium over their peers without the credential, which demonstrates the value employers place on the credential. The study also provides valuable information and comparisons helpful to all anti-fraud professionals in benchmarking their compensation levels and career growth. The training, fraud resources and continuing education provided by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) will help in any stage of your career path. Refer to the Compensation section below for more information about the compensation ranges for external auditors. 

Job Responsibilities

External auditors are responsible for performing a variety of tasks for their clients, including: 

  • Plan and perform operational and financial audits to ensure that financial statements are fairly presented in accordance with GAAP. 
  • Perform tests of internal controls to ensure effectiveness. 
  • Perform substantive testing of account balances to determine reasonableness. 
  • Prepare and present to management reports on audit findings, which might include material misstatements of financial information or severe control deficiencies, and provide recommendations on improving these shortcomings in the future.


A bachelor’s or master’s degree in accounting, business, finance or a related field is required for any level of an external auditor. Most public accounting firms require a valid state-issued Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license or the educational qualifications necessary to obtain one upon hiring. Many firms encourage earning the Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential as well. Other valuable designations include the Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) or Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP). 

Knowledge, Skills and Abilities 

It is important to plan and conduct an honest self-assessment of your knowledge, skills and abilities. In particular, employers are looking for: 

Knowledge Skills  Abilities
Components of financial statements Working in teams Interpersonal
Double-entry accounting Computer Written communication
Journal entries Mathematical Verbal communication
Accrual-accounting   Professional Skepticism
 Legal compliance requirements   Assertive
Computer systems   Independence
Audit/accounting software   Objectivity
    Ability to problem solve
    Attention to detail


Income level varies depending on education, experience and certifications. Download the 2022 Compensation Guide for Anti-Fraud Professionals, which benchmarks salary and benefits across several categories for anti-fraud professionals around the world.