Consulting vs Auditing: A Comparison on Five Aspects

This article compares consulting with auditing services on five key aspects: Nature of work, Background, Salary, Work-life balance, and Career development.

Auditing recruits candidates with strong financial/accounting/auditing backgrounds. Most of the work, learning, and opportunities are confined to the financial industry.

Compared to auditing, a consulting career is more open to various backgrounds, has higher salaries and perks and a greater range of high-level exit opportunities. 

Consulting vs Auditing: Nature of work

The scope of work in consulting is much broader than auditing. Consulting covers the strategy, implementation, management, and operation of the clients, while auditing focuses on the audit and financial risks of the clients.

Consultants solve specific problems in short-term projects

The main jobs of consultants are to solve strictly defined, granular problems and offer strategic advice for specific issues. 

Consultants are not involved in the overall operations of their clients. They usually work on a short-term basis, which may last 2-3 months per project. 

Auditors detect and control the clients’ audit and financial risks

Meanwhile, the main jobs of auditors are to detect and control an organization's audit and financial risks. This career is number-oriented: auditors review an organization's financial records and ensure that money, assets, and other entities operate properly and legally.

This means an auditor must be heavily involved in the client's operations. An auditor may work on short-term projects or long-term contracts, depending on their relationship with the clients.


Consulting vs Auditing – Background

Consulting is more open to people of various backgrounds, while auditing requires candidates with an accounting/auditing background.

Consultants are hired for their diverse background

The consulting industry, which used to emphasize business backgrounds in the past, is now welcoming to people of various backgrounds and experiences. 

Many junior consultants come from undergraduate or newly graduated backgrounds in non-business courses. Many consultants tend to study for more generalist MBAs to advance to senior positions.

Auditors are hired for their accounting/auditing knowledge

Meanwhile, to become an auditor, you must have a bachelor’s degree in accounting/auditing to get into the recruiting process. This means you have to decide very early on about your future auditing career. 

In the United States, many auditing firms require a candidate to be a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) before qualifying for a senior position. A candidate must complete 150 college semester units or equivalent in accounting/auditing to be eligible for the CPA exam. A candidate must also complete an additional year of study at the undergraduate/graduate level before receiving the CPA certification. 


Consulting vs Auditing – Salary

Consultants usually earn more annually than auditors. 

For example, in the United States, the Big Four firms pay their consultants nearly twice as much as auditors. A junior auditor at Big Four has an average salary of $65,000/year. Meanwhile, Big Four’s junior-level consultants have an average salary of $120,000/year. 

MBB consulting firms (McKinsey, BCG and Bain) – the highest-paying consulting firms - offer even better salaries and perks for consultants than the Big Four.


Big Four Auditors

Big Four Consultants

MBB Consultants

















Average salary of Big Four’s auditors, Big Four’s consultants, and MBB consultants. 
United States, 2023. Source: Glassdoor.


Consulting vs Auditing – Work-life balance

Both consulting and auditing have heavy workloads…

While the workloads of consulting and auditing depend largely on the client, the project, and your position, auditors, in general, can enjoy a more balanced lifestyle than consultants.

As a consultant, you can expect to work an average of 60-80 hours a week. However, in consulting firms, you should have protected weekends. Consultants rarely work on weekends, just during unavoidably demanding phases of projects. Your project managers and directors have many incentives to avoid it as much as possible. 

… But auditing has it “easier”

Meanwhile, the working hours of an average auditor are 50-60 hours a week, aside from the peak season between December and April, when an auditor can expect a 60+ hours workweek. During the peak season, auditors usually have to review a large amount of paperwork with strict deadlines.

Consultants travel more frequently than auditors

In consulting, travel frequency depends on the requirements of the project. If the client sites were close to the office, then of course, a consultant wouldn’t have to travel much. Even so, a consultant might still have to take short business trips to client sites in different cities. 

For consultants that have to travel to client sites in another country, they might fly there on Monday and return to the office on Friday. At McKinsey, this is called “in-office Friday”. This means a consultant would spend the whole weekdays at the client sites, which also means that consultant has to travel 3-4 times per month.

In contrast, auditors spend most of their time at the assigned offices swimming in the sea of data. Thus, the traveling depends on the clients' location, either in your home country or overseas.


Consulting vs Auditing – Career development

Consultants have wider exit opportunities than auditors

Consultants often have a slight edge over auditors in exit chances thanks to the highly diverse skill set, networks, and prestige gained through working across many different sectors, functions, and industries. 

This diverse exposure equips them with the transferable, comprehensive skills that allow them to excel in multiple professions. Industry prestige and a strong network of C-level executives and alumni also widen the options for consultants after they leave the field. 

As an ex-consultant, you can join the clients, taking high positions. You can join those hot unicorn start-ups, venture capital, or start your own business. Income level depends on your will, capability, and luck, but you have many good chances to build a high-income profile. 

Ex-auditors tend to stick in the financial field

On the other hand, since auditing is more technical and financial-focused, the skillset is less varied but highly specialized in accounting/auditing. 

Auditors often have fewer chances to work with top executives at large companies than consultants. Hence, they benefit less from the network to facilitate their exit choices. 

Many ex-auditors continue to work in financial-related roles: they can be a financial analyst, take on a management position, or become an independent accountant/auditor. 

Consultants and auditors have many good learning opportunities

As mentioned, although both fields are potential grounds for employees to develop skills, consultants still practice a wider range of skills than auditors – who usually acquire more specialized abilities.

#1. Communication skill (people skill)

Due to the nature of their work, both consultants and auditors have dozens of client-meeting and collaboration with other departments. Hence, people skills are essential to maximize productivity as well as communicate effectively with others.

  • For consultants: Communication is a weapon. You need to convince clients to work with you, navigate the conversation between different stakeholders in the right direction, communicate with people both directly and virtually, etc.  

  • For auditors: Mainly, auditors have to work with other departments such as finance, accounting, and administration to proceed with their workflow. Hence, communication skill becomes a must-have quality for auditors.

#2. Analytics skills

Both consultants and auditors have to excel at analytics – but the analytics consultants do are more widely applicable elsewhere.

For consultants, to solve a challenging business problem, analytics skill is a must. The hypothesis-driven approach of consultants is a tried-and-true, highly efficient and effective method of problem-solving that makes them successful in many fields after exiting.

On the other hand, numerical aptitude is the core of auditing, and such an ability requires a strong analytical mind with meticulousness to be able to detect and control risks.

#3. Management skills

Consultants have it better than auditors in terms of management learning.

Consultants have to be managers from day 1: the client, the supervisors, and abundant support teams (functional expert, industry expert, research & intelligence staff, visual specialist, writers, translator, etc.). With such highly varied resources, you must master the skill of management to leverage the efficiency of your work.

Meanwhile, entry-level auditors typically work on their own and climb up the ladder to take charge of more challenging projects involving more people.

#4. Business acumen

Both auditors and consultants work in several industries during their jobs, with the daily work of evaluating the information and facts to produce actionable insights. This allows them to develop strong industry and business senses.

However, consultants usually need more business tuition to deal with big business problems and offer large corporations the strategy to tackle such problems. Many consulting firms also offer the implementation of the suggested strategies for their clients, which means business acumen becomes even more important for a consultant to be successful.

Meanwhile, although auditors need business knowledge to understand the specific firms, auditors often face an audit or more technical problems. 

Consultants have better network chances than auditors

Both fields allow you to work with exceptional people within the firms – but consultants do have better networking opportunities than auditors.

First, consultants have the chance to work closely with C-level clients from large companies, so the chances of widening the network with outstanding individuals are high. Second, consultants typically have strong support from the alumni group, those who have thrived in their post-consulting paths.

Such large and diverse networks usually are not available for auditors. In general, auditors mainly interact with middle managers, and auditing work does not require you to interact with many types of people in different situations as in consulting.

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