How to Audit (Part 6): Auditors Versus Doctors

Two years and 12 exams completed means that many trainee auditors are looking to life after audit. There is an undertone of disillusionment from the auditors. But I have also heard the same feelings from junior doctors and other professions. Is anyone happy in their work?

So this blog post looks at medicine as an alternative career path for the auditor. The two professions will each be judged on 13 scientific criteria. Then a winner shall be declared.

1.) Pay

They say money does not make you happy, but you’d be very unhappy doing either of these jobs for minimum wage. To dispel a myth – medicine is not any more lucrative than auditing. The average starting salary of £27k (£22k plus 20% supplement) for junior doctors is comparable to audit. The chart of salary against years of experience is also similar:

Accountant’s Salary:

Median Salary by Years Experience – Certification: Chartered Accountant: ACA (Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales) (United Kingdom)Median Salary by Years Experience

Compare your salary: Get a free Salary Report


Doctor’s Salary:

Median Salary by Years Experience – Job: Physician / Doctor, General Practice (United Kingdom)Median Salary by Years Experience

Compare your salary: Get a free Salary Report

However, doctors will have spent two or three extra years in university before they can start their career. They will have extra student debt, but more crucially, they will be behind on the career pay ladder. There is also a much lower ceiling on maximum pay. While a good consultant can earn a six figure salary and a celebrity plastic surgeon may earn up to £1m, the best partners at a Big 4 accountancy firm could earn in excess of £1m. There is fat cat money available if the auditor makes it to the boardroom of a large company.

There is one caveat in that accountants can only earn the big money if they obtain the Chartered Accountancy qualification. Then they will inherit the riches of the Earth – or £79,100 to be more exact (this is the average ACA salary).

Doctors 0 – 1 Auditors

2.) Working Conditions

This is the standard public versus private sector debate. We pit the fat, ugly and lethargic NHS against the lean, competitive, fierce and beautiful audit stallions.

Doctors face the difficulty of working with diverse professional groups. They have authority over nurses but need their co-operation to keep the wards running smoothly. They have to work with pharmacists, without whom drugs cannot be obtained. There are even differences between doctors – medics and surgeons do not get along.

The doctor’s incentive to save lives has to compete with the bed manager’s priority of saving money. The hated bed manager was probably an accountant in a previous life. There are not many jobs where there is such divergence between management and staff. Friction is constant.

Auditors are very monocultural. All partners started off doing the endless hours of photocopying and invoice checking. Respect and knowledge of competence is, therefore, instant. Auditors tend work with other auditors. Even when they don’t, they will work with like-minded finance professionals. This fosters a greater sense of teamwork and there is less inherent friction.

Doctors 0 – 1 Auditors

3.) Information Technology

It is the joy of thousand-line Excel spreadsheets against the notoriously bad NHS IT. It is over-priced, doesn’t work and is based on MS-DOS. Medicine is constantly progressing, but that is at odds with a culture of tradition and status quo. Doctors don’t even use email that much. On the other hand, auditors cannot function without their laptops.

Doctors 1 – 0 Auditors (because huge Excel spreadsheets are bad for the eyes)

the auditors trophy
The Auditor’s Trophy by kaienong

4.) Travel

Auditors face commutes to inconvenient client sites and hotel stays. But do enjoy occasional foreign travel (to Slough). Doctors live close to their place of work but face the risk of superbug infections.

Doctors 1 – 0 Auditors (because I believe in NHS hygiene)

5.) Airplane Situations

Every time they board a plane, doctors have the chance to be a hero or get sued horribly. It is usually the latter because there is little a doctor can do without his charts, drugs, stethoscopes and bed manager by his side to hold his hand.

There is a reason that auditors will never be asked to identify themselves on a plane – no-one ever needs an emergency stock count that badly.

Doctors 1 – 0 Auditors

6.) GMC verses the ICAEW

Accountants and medics are ruled by their respective professional institutions. For the qualified accountant you get a monthly magazine from the ICAEW for £300. For a new doctor, £400 gets you the right to be severely punished by the GMC. The value of membership is not an unread and unloved magazine, it is the right to call yourself a chartered accountant and the resulting salary increase.

Doctors 0 – 1 Auditors (because it is cheaper)

7.) Boredom

Work is varied for both the doctor and the auditor. Junior doctors will see different patients and work in different fields. Auditors will work at different clients throughout the year. They will return to the same clients year-on-year, but they will audit more complex areas and have more managerial responsibility.

The work can also be boring. Doctors could be on the same ward for months and years. There are only so many variations on a sore throat. Auditors do have to face the dirty work of checking endless near-identical invoices.

Doctors ½ – ½ Auditors (it’s only fair)

auditors versus doctors
Fight! Pictures by ernstl and andresrueda

8.) Exams

Doctors study for longer. They face even more exams when they want to progress in their career (from junior doctor to registrar, and from registrar to consultant).

Auditors need to pass 15 exams to become qualified. It doesn’t feel like university has finished and they also have to work full time. Doctors can have as many attempts as they want, but auditors will get fired for failure.

However, the pain only lasts for three years and there are no further exams after qualification. Text books and exam entry fees also get paid for and (ample) study leave is provided.

Doctors 0 – 1 Auditors (because it is cheaper)

9.) Consequences of Failure

No-one has ever died from a bad audit, but the partner can be sent to jail. The corollary for medicine is more fatal. But who wants to focus on failure? Success in medicine means better quality and length of life. Audits are mandatory, so success means the (mere) fulfilment of the law.

Doctors 1 – 0 Auditors

10.) Flexibility

Doctors will always be doctors and escape from that career path is quite impossible. A Chartered Accountancy qualification opens up many different career paths in finance and business. Working abroad is also more feasible. Although, you will always need to carry a calculator.

Doctors 0 – 1 Auditors

11.) The Hours

In practice, the medicine and accounting professions do not recognise the European Working Time Directive 48-hour weekly work limit. Both work long hours without overtime pay.

However the auditors lot is much better, neither night shifts nor weekend working are mandatory. Auditor’s also have greater flexibility with their time. If you need to take time off work, as long as there is internet, you can catch up later. It takes a brave doctor to leave a sick patient and they can’t be carried home.

Doctors 0 – 1 Auditors

12.) Job Security

There will always be work for doctors and accountants in any civilised society. But you feel that people will choose health over accurate bookkeeping. This is despite my argument that accounting was more important than medicine during my interview.

Doctors 1 – 0 Auditors

13.) TV Shows

The TV industry will have run out of good ideas when they make a show about auditors. Medicine is spoiled for choice: House, Grey’s Anatomy and Scrubs (and I can go on). I believe that a show about recurring manual controls failure without a compensating control can be made but it will never happen.

Doctors 1 – 0 Auditors


The Final Score

Doctors 6 ½ – 6 ½ Auditors

A draw! The blog post is somewhat irrelevant, because the decision to be a doctor needed to be made over 8 years ago. The grass is never greener on the other side because it is actually a sheer-faced cliff. But I will return to work on Monday and hear moans about the job – and I will be one of them. Shouldn’t we learn to be happy where we are or should we still chase the dream of retirement by 26?

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