Internal audit jobs make list of 'hot positions;' CIA certification in high demand

Salaries of internal audit and IT audit professionals are expected to increase by an average of 3.9 percent in 2017, according to the latest annual salary guide from staffing firm Robert Half.

The guide, which projects salary increases for several professional occupations next year based on data gathered by specialized recruiters throughout the firm's U.S. offices, indicates that pay for internal auditors will increase by more than the 3.6 percent average of all professional occupations and even more than those in other accounting and finance fields, which are forecast to rise at 3.7 percent.

While pay at accounting and finance jobs is still rising briskly, it has dropped off its blistering 2015 pace, when salaries in those professions increased by as much as 4.7 percent. Still, increases above 3 percent could be here to stay for a while, especially in highly regulated industries. "Risk and compliance concerns are driving hiring at many companies, particularly in highly regulated industries like banking, insurance, healthcare, and financial services," the report's authors wrote. "As organizations push to improve internal controls and transparency, they are also looking for internal auditors and information technology (IT) auditors."

The Hot List

Robert Half put internal audit and IT audit jobs on its list of "hot positions," along with such titles as compliance officer, commercial lender, financial analyst, and payroll manger. It also noted that CIA (certified internal auditor) and CISA (certified information systems manager) are among the certifications that are in high demand.

Those with staff internal audit positions and at midsize companies could experience the steepest increases in pay, according to the guide. Robert Half expects, for example, that the range of salaries for chief audit executives at midsize companies will increase by 3.6 percent next year to $150,500 to $214,000, while the pay range for internal auditors with one to four years of experience at midsize companies with grow by 4.2 percent to $63,750 to $84,250.

"With skilled professionals in high demand and short supply, more employers are willing to negotiate compensation with potential hires," said Paul McDonald, senior executive director at Robert Half. "To remain competitive, especially in the technology and finance fields, it's crucial to have a solid understanding of salary trends for specific roles in your area and move quickly when making offers. Top candidates are receiving multiple job offers and will lose interest when faced with a lengthy hiring process."

Shortage of Candidates

That shortage of potential candidates in internal audit has been a constant source of difficulty for companies with open internal audit positions. (See, "Help Wanted: Internal Audit Talent Gap Widening") "Companies are really struggling to find people with the skill set required for today's internal auditor," says Sandy Pundmann, U.S. internal audit practice lead at Deloitte.

In fact, according to a new Deloitte study the internal audit talent gap is worse than anyone expected. A paltry 13 percent of chief audit executives say they are satisfied with the skills their audit teams possess to meet the needs of the department. The rest say they are understaffed or that the personnel they have lack the proper expertise to get the job done.

IT and Regional Premiums

Pay for top internal audit positions continues to rise. Robert Half expects that chief audit executives at large companies with more than $500 million in revenue with earn between $190,500 and $289,500 in 2017, up 3.7 percent. Typically, IT auditors can earn more than their non-IT internal audit peers. An IT audit manager at a midsize company, for example, will earn between $121,500 and $171,500, compared to a non-IT internal auditor, who will earn between $109,750 and $156,500 next year.

The guide also notes regional differences for professional occupation pay. The cities with the highest pay premiums include New York (140.5 percent), San Francisco (140 percent), and Boston (133 percent), while those at the lower end of the spectrum include Duluth, Minn. (79.6 percent), Kalamazoo, Mich. (80 percent), and Macon, Ga. (82 percent).