Day in the Life of a Security Auditor


Updated January 17, 2023

Are you wondering if a career as a security auditor is right for you? This guide covers a day in the life of a security auditor, including common duties and work environments. is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Are you ready to discover your college program?

Credit: Dragos Condrea / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Security auditors perform specialized cyber and information security work at the crossroads of business operations and information technology. Their main duties relate to regular security evaluations of their employers' computer and information networks.

According to a 2021 (ISC)2 workforce study, organizations around the world continue to struggle with significant cybersecurity skills deficits. Respondents identified multiple critical ways that skills and staffing shortages affected their operations:

  • 32% said their systems were misconfigured
  • 30% said they did not have enough time to conduct appropriate risk assessments
  • 28% reported oversights in their security procedures or processes

Security auditors operate in these areas, and the ongoing global skills shortage may yield strong career opportunities. This resource explores a typical day in the life of a security auditor to help you determine if the role matches your skills and interests.

What Is a Security Auditor?

Security auditors evaluate computer and information networks by analyzing their hardware, software, user practices, system configuration, and performance environments. Through careful analysis, security auditors identify ways to improve internal controls and reduce risks. They also ensure compliance with regulatory guidelines.

In carrying out their job duties, security auditors focus on electronic and computer-based assets. However, they may also consider physical data, depending on the nature and needs of their employers or clients.

Some organizations also employ cyber and information security professionals known as security analysts. The security auditor and security analyst positions overlap — in some cases, the job titles are functionally interchangeable.

Auditors may focus more on compliance with regulations, while analysts actively monitor and test systems to protect information and assets.

What Is the Job Description of a Security Auditor?

Some security auditors work as contractors with specialized firms that evaluate clients' computer and information networks. Others hold permanent positions with employers that need ongoing security efforts.

Their exact duties depend on the needs of their clients or employers. However, their responsibilities generally include:

  • Assessing the organization's data security controls, processes, and systems
  • Testing each element of the organization's information security controls
  • Analyzing the organization's user access standards and policies
  • Auditing for regulations and compliance

If the employer has recently experienced a security breach, the auditor may also lead or participate in the investigation.

Entry-level security auditors usually perform supporting duties. As they gain experience, auditors carry out more complex and technical tasks. Lead security auditors hold supervisory roles and are generally responsible for designing situation-specific auditing processes.

The job description of a security auditor demands a strong working knowledge of information security and data management best practices. Security auditors must also commit to career-long professional development.

The following subsections describe primary and less common job duties in detail.

Main Duties of Security Auditors

Defining Auditing Processes: Senior and lead security auditors design processes specific to the unique needs of each client or task. These designs explain the systems, elements, and controls to be analyzed and the scope of each analysis. Auditors also identify the steps in which the analysis must be carried out.

Performing Audits: Security auditors execute auditing process plans in systematic detail. Entry-level and junior auditors typically carry out supporting tasks that require less technical knowledge. Intermediate, senior, and lead auditors generally focus on the audit's most technically challenging and critical tasks.

Conducting Compliance Evaluations: In some industries, businesses must adhere to data protection laws. These regulations typically apply to industries that deal with large volumes of sensitive data, like healthcare and financial services. Security auditors perform complete checks to ensure their client or employer remains compliant with regulatory standards.

Reviewing Internal Security Controls: Information system and computer network audits almost always include detailed reviewers of internal security controls. These controls define data access and methods. Auditors test the strength of these controls to minimize the likelihood of unauthorized access.

Writing Reports: Security auditors present their findings in written reports after conducting audits. These reports generally include recommendations for improving internal practices or closing compliance gaps. Auditors must explain complex and technical concepts in plain language.

Nonstandard Duties for Security Auditors

Contributing to Continuity Planning: Continuity plans describe how businesses will respond to crises like cyberattacks and other information security breaches. Management-level decision-makers often invite cybersecurity and infosec professionals, including security auditors, to contribute to these plans.

Investigating Cyberattacks and Security Breaches: Security auditors may participate in frontline efforts to remediate cyberattacks, hacks, and other breaches. They commonly participate in or lead follow-up investigations to determine the attacker's point of entry and other security weaknesses.

Updating Their Knowledge Base: Since the nature of data-related risks always changes, security auditors must regularly research emerging and evolving security threats, along with best practices for addressing them.

Identifying Possible Security Threats: Auditors work to understand malicious actors' motives. They envision potential security scenarios, assess their likelihood, and evaluate the level of risk they pose.

Making Recommendations to Non-Technical Personnel: Security auditors sometimes identify risks arising from use patterns or access controls of non-technical team members. In such cases, they communicate with non-technical team members to explain the changes and best practices for new guidelines.

A Typical Day for a Security Auditor

At the outset of an auditing cycle, a security auditor's day-to-day engagement often begins with stakeholders. These interactions inform the auditor's current priorities and address security concerns.

These stakeholders can come from within the organization, including cybersecurity team members and non-technical management personnel. External stakeholders may include shareholders, government agencies, customers, and suppliers.

Security auditors or auditing teams then perform risk assessments and create auditing plans. For routine situations, auditors may conduct quick reviews of established plans, make necessary adjustments, then carry out associated tasks.

Other situations may require auditors to create customized plans or processes. For instance, the auditor or auditing team will devise a tailored assessment in response to any recent breaches.

After or during the security audit, these professionals also review the organization's compliance with regulatory guidelines, if they apply. Auditing cycles conclude with written reports detailing their findings, recommendations, and assessments of risks facing the organization.

Between cycles or during downtime, security auditors can focus on professional development and updating and upgrading their knowledge.

Many of these tasks and processes can take multiple days (or weeks) to complete. Thus, the details of a day in the life of a security auditor largely depend on their phase in the auditing cycle.

Where Security Auditors Work

Like many other cybersecurity professionals, security auditors typically work full-time. Some auditors provide services to clients on a contract basis. Others hold permanent in-house positions.

Schedules may exceed the 40-hour-per-week standard. Some roles require security auditors to take on duties associated with frontline responses to potential security breaches. In these cases, auditors may need to work outside typical hours.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) includes security auditors in its general category for information security analysts. According to BLS data, the five largest employers of information security analysts in 2021 were:

  • Computer systems design and related services (27% of U.S. infosec analysts)
  • Finance and insurance (15%)
  • Information (14%)
  • Enterprise management (8%)
  • Administrative and support services (5%)

The BLS also reports on information security analysts from the perspective of employment concentration. In 2021, the top five industries in terms of infosec employment concentration were:

  • Information services (2.79% of industry employment)
  • Central banking (2.69%)
  • Computer systems design and related services (1.88%)
  • Data processing and hosting (1.24%)
  • Scientific research and development services (0.78%)

Geographically, the BLS identified these states as the top five in 2021 for the number of infosec analyst jobs their economies host:

  • Virginia (16,930 jobs)
  • Texas (13,530 jobs)
  • Florida (9,360 jobs)
  • New York (7,500 jobs)
  • Maryland (7,330 jobs)

Virginia and Maryland are both adjacent to Washington, D.C. Many federal agencies with advanced information and cybersecurity needs are located near Washington, D.C.

Should You Become a Security Auditor?

From a job opportunity perspective, a career as a security auditor offers excellent prospects. According to the Cyberseek Heat Map, more than 714,000 U.S. jobs in the field were unfilled as of October 2022. Companies across industries continue to struggle with a talent shortage. Professionals with proven cybersecurity skills can enter a job market defined by strong demand.

Successful security analysts combine strong technical abilities with close attention to detail, advanced analysis skills, and a commitment to learning. If you match this profile, you may find a security auditing career enjoyable and rewarding.

Yet, security auditors and other infosec professionals must balance these advantages against the profession's downsides. In 2021, businesses suffered a record number of cyberattacks. Insiders expect these numbers to keep climbing as economies and businesses continue integrating digital technologies.

Security auditors and other cybersecurity and infosec professionals can experience burnout, which can affect morale, lead to high turnover rates, and force team members to juggle multiple roles. Infosec professionals earn strong salaries, but they also work hard to earn those rewards.

How to Prepare for a Career as a Security Auditor

Security auditors can follow multiple paths to pursue the profession, including college degrees in computer science or cybersecurity. Some schools also offer degrees and concentrations in information security. Combining these focuses with technical training can build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills.

Employers often place more emphasis on hard skills and technical knowledge than academic credentials when filling technical vacancies. However, a bachelor's degree or higher may be an asset for roles with advancement potential. For jobs focused on a limited set of core technical tasks, an associate degree or bootcamp training may suffice.

Cybersecurity certifications also offer a route to career advancement, regardless of your degree status. Common security auditor certifications include (ISC)²'s CISSP certification and ISACA's CISA certification.

Learn More About Security Auditors

This resource provides an in-depth exploration of a security auditor's role and typical duties. Infosec professionals come from varied backgrounds and follow many developmental paths. Examine the various educational and practical training options available to aspiring security auditors. Security auditors and other infosec professionals have a bright employment outlook. This data-rich resource delves deep into the numbers. Industry-standard certifications help security auditors establish and advance their careers. Explore your options and learn how to earn these valuable credentials.

Professional Spotlight: Swathi West

What's a typical day like for you?

I have to start with setting my daily priorities; we tend to work with at least a couple of organizations at any given time, so knowing what needs to be done each day before I start is crucial. From there, much of my time is spent testing controls using specific criteria or peer reviewing the controls other auditors have tested.

I also frequently have calls to kick off new engagements with clients or to debrief after an audit and start planning for the next one. I also carve out time to meet with outside organizations or prospective clients to address any questions they have regarding healthcare compliance.

What other teams do you work with on a regular basis?

I work in attestation, but I communicate regularly with nearly every other team in our organization. I work with our advisory team to understand the risks and challenges their organizations face, and I collaborate with the business development team when they need help or guidance surrounding healthcare compliance frameworks.

I also work frequently with our marketing and learning and development teams on events, blog posts, and other initiatives to help educate our clients and other organizations on best practices surrounding healthcare compliance.

Is there a lot of collaboration in your role? Or is it mostly independent work?

In our organization, an attest team consists of an engagement manager, a lead, and an associate — and there is a lot of collaboration among them. We also collaborate often with the quality team for reviews and work with the operations team for report polishing.

We work remotely with set deadlines, so it is up to the individual to complete the work assigned to them promptly, but if they have any questions, there is always someone to ask.

Do you work in an office or from home (or a hybrid)?

At BARR, our entire team works 100% remotely, but that decision wasn't made due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our workplace was remote-first from the day we were founded, giving us more flexibility over where and how we complete our work. I usually try to work from a cafe or library on Fridays, when we don't have meetings, for a change in scenery.

What is your favorite, as well as the most challenging, part of each day?

Being both an auditor and a trustworthy partner for clients is both my favorite part of the job and a challenge in some aspects. Auditors should be independent of the client company so that any relationship between them will not influence the audit.

We have to give an unbiased and honest professional opinion, and after working with a client for several months, being frank about expectations is not always easy. Still, it is part of the job, and I love knowing that I'm helping to improve security not just for the organization but also for the people whose data they protect.

Any other insights about your day to day as a security auditor that may help people considering this career path?

If you like setting your own timelines and goals while working in a team and with the support of a team to finish projects, security auditing is a great career path to consider that not only gives you the flexibility to grow and learn within your role but also to thrive both in and out of work.

Especially today, many professionals want to work in roles that allow them a healthy balance between their work and personal lives. Life happens, and we work with such notable organizations and people that they usually understand if we have to move a meeting or update a timeline.

At the end of the day, my favorite part of my job is taking a SOC 2 report or HITRUST certification to the finish line with a final email delivering the report to the client. It's an excellent feeling to know all the hard work paid off.

For whom do you think this career is a good fit? Why?

Security auditing is a great fit for anyone. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, "Employment of information security analysts is projected to grow 35 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations."

The BLS expects nearly 20,000 new jobs to open up for security analysts each year for the next decade, and security auditing is just one piece of the industry. The cybersecurity field is so versatile that you can become an analyst or engineer, you can work for a red team or a blue team — there are so many job opportunities.

If you have an interest in data security and privacy and are willing to learn, this job is a great fit. And if you are ever in doubt or have more questions, feel free to contact me on LinkedIn or reach out to someone else working in this field to get their advice and learn more about their experiences.

Swathi West is the healthcare compliance manager at BARR Advisory, a cloud-based security and compliance solutions provider serving companies with high-value information in cloud environments like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

In her role leading BARR's Healthcare and HITRUST practice, Swathi focuses on strengthening client relationships and developing new business opportunities — especially with organizations in the healthcare space. Swathi also plans and executes HITRUST assessments, SOC audits, client risk assessments, HIPAA certification projects, and GRC advisory engagements.

Swathi has more than half a decade of experience in cybersecurity auditing and is a frequent speaker at industry events including the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society annual conference.

FAQ About the Day to Day of Security Auditors

What does a security auditor do on a daily basis?

A typical day in the life of a security auditor depends on their status in the auditing cycle. Typical cycles cover consultations with stakeholders, designing and carrying out audits, conducting compliance assessments, reporting findings, and making recommendations.

Does a security auditor need to know how to code?

Some security auditors focus on organizational compliance with regulatory guidelines. These tasks may require less technical coding ability. However, a strong knowledge of coding and computer languages is generally considered an asset for any infosec professional.

Is the day to day of a security auditor stressful?

Under normal circumstances, security auditors are less involved in frontline responses to stressful events such as security breaches and cyberattacks. Instead, they usually participate in post-event investigations. However, an ongoing cybersecurity skills gap has led to increasing levels of role overlap. Many professionals report this as contributing to rising levels of stress and burnout.

Is being a security auditor fun?

Security auditors operate at the intersection of business operations, risk assessment, and information technology. From this perspective, they hold a unique infosec role. Individuals with genuine interests in these areas often find the profession rewarding and enjoyable.

Recommended Reading

Take the next step toward your future.

Discover programs you’re interested in and take charge of your education.