How to Become an ISO Auditor

ISO TrainingFor a long time one of our most popular articles covers the topic of how to become an ISO auditor.  Given the release of the new ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015 standards, it is perhaps time to update and extend it.

There are some upsides to becoming a professional ISO auditor working for the certification bodies.  The pay can be quite lucrative although on the downside it is often quite hard work, often involves travel, and if you contract yourself then it might not come with benefits.

Conversely, many auditors use it to supplement their retirement, do it part time, take advantage of the travel, and enjoy the social interaction and the position of authority and respect.

Begin as an internal auditor

If you want to be a professional auditor then becoming an internal auditor for your organization is a great way to start.  You will get exposure to the management system, maybe even get to audit all of it, be trained and of course given time to complete all the needed audit activities.  While many organizations cut corners with their internal audit team, if nothing else it will give you some variety from your regular duties, interaction with lots of new people throughout the organization and even the opportunity to challenge the leaders of the organization.  Internal auditing should be fun even if you don’t want to progress to professional status.

Becoming an internal auditor is about volunteering and asking for the opportunity.  Obviously displaying a propensity to do it well helps but “don’t ask – don’t get.”

Internal auditors need training to ensure they have the right skills and there are many different options.  You can be paired up with another auditor to observe, be observed, and then take over auditing activities.  This training is a good start and it helps you decide if you really want to do this but formal training is important if you intend to take auditing to a professional level.  Internal auditor training is typically two or  three days in duration.  These courses provide background on the standard and introduce skills needed for planning audits, reviewing documents, generating audit questions and checklists, interview techniques and writing findings and reports.  Lead auditor courses are typically five days and you should ensure it is professionally recognized by an organization like the International Register of Certificated Auditors (IRCA).  That will give you formal recognition – which is worth it after a five day class and a two hour exam.  The lead auditor class is more intensive and also covers activities related to leading audit teams.  The lead auditor class will give you much more knowledge and capability which is why we recommend this approach.

Expand to Vendor/Supplier Auditor

Another opportunity to extend your skills is to volunteer to help with vendor or supplier auditing.  This is a step up and the organization is relying on you to get assessments of vendors right.  Also, there are often other issues to review such as financial security, safety, etc.  And these visits are frequently used in conjunction with purchasing negotiations.  Don’t worry, if this is the case in your situation you should be able to count on the support of other departments, personnel or help from your management system team.  Just the experience of auditing and presenting findings outside the comfort of your own organization will help you strengthen your skills, be careful and precise, and focus on important over trivial findings.

By now you will have developed an understanding of ISO and how it helps the organization optimize its quality, and how to audit it.  If you want to take the next step then that is professional auditing.

Auditors are in demand and especially those with specific skills and experience such as those that audit more than ISO 9001, such as ISO 14001, and those with industry experience such as aerospace (AS9100) and medical devices (ISO 13485).  These auditors tend to command higher compensation and better jobs.

Consider auditing for a Certification Body

There are no mandatory constraints on who the certification bodies hire, so they do not require their employees or contractors to be professionally recognized auditors. However, most certification bodies do recognize the formal lead auditor class as an important qualification.  It may not guarantee you a job but it is likely to open the door to get an interview.  Passing the exam on the ISO lead auditor class is the first step and it is often enough to get the attention of the certification bodies.  However the auditor registration organizations, like Exemplar Global (EG) and IRCA, require other “qualifications” before they formally give you their recognized auditor credentials.  Generally, they require 4-6 years work experience, educational qualifications (high school, a degree or more) and some formally noted audit experience (5 or more audits of complete management systems covering at least 20 audit days).  You collect this evidence over a period after your training class and submit it for review.  There are different classes of credential: provisional auditor, internal auditor, lead auditor, etc.  Even if you are uncertain of gaining the full status you might consider applying for provisional auditor status so that you lock in your auditor qualification, can still claim an official status and because it will help you reach that full professional status.  There is more information about hiring qualifications on the IRCA.org and Exemplarglobal.org websites.

Not only is auditing fun.  Not only is it an unofficial development path it can lead to professional status, recognition and an ability for independent work.

Cavendish Scott has been training and developing professional and internal auditors for over 30 years.  Our formal IRCA 40-hour ISO lead auditor training class is taught by experienced instructors using activity-based learning, including group work, role-playing, and a real audit at a local company. Get started on your new career today.