The Sarbanes-Oxley Act is named after Senator Paul Sarbanes and Representative Michael G. Oxley, who were jointly responsible for its creation. The Act has greatly renewed trust in national securities markets. It accomplished this by requiring the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to enforce new corporate-accounting procedures and internal controls.
Since the SEC is so integral to many of the Act's regulations, the SEC has generated many more auditing and compliance jobs. Furthermore, it established the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which consists of auditors who supervise accounting firms in their financial bookkeeping. Though many people express satisfaction with the Act's prosecution of dishonest accounting, there are detractors who claim the Act over-regulates corporate activities and hinders the U.S. market's efficiency alongside foreign markets.
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act mandated new requirements for compliance officer jobs. The chief among them is for officers to maintain no conflict of interests toward corporations that hire them. This required disinterest stands as a contrast to past auditors who signed profitable contracts with their employers in exchange for misrepresenting their corporation's financial status. The Act also required a timeline for corporations to report their accounting to SEC authorities, with prosecution resulting in their failure to do so. As a result, the Act compelled many corporations to create new auditing, consulting, internal control, and other finance compliance jobs.
The majority of Sarbanes-Oxley jobs in compliance are in the Information Technology (IT) field. That is because the Act mandates internal controls in accounting procedures, which are mainly software-based. Therefore, corporations hire IT professionals who go by the names of systems specialists, systems administrators, UNIX administrators, network administrators and other IT managers who are completely familiar with Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. These staff members oversee regular Sarbanes-Oxley audits over an entire corporation's IT infrastructure. They may also design new databases and computer operations that make these audits more efficient and full -proof.
IT jobs are among the most profitable jobs in the market, and systems administrators are no exception. Those who have obtained bachelor's degrees in IT majors and extensive practical training often garner competitive entry-level jobs. Their starting salary is about $40,000 per year, with added experience quickly doubling or tripling that salary.
Many corporations also hire Sarbanes-Oxley compliance auditors and analysts as protection against the steep penalties of neglecting the Act. These auditors may be internal auditors who work as full-time employees of the company, or external auditors who are detached from the company. Internal auditors work more on risk-management principles and consult with department heads about accounting procedures. Though they are on company payroll, they are not hired by company management, but by the corporation's audit committee, per Sarbanes-Oxley conflict-of-interest prevention. On the other hand, external auditors simply appraise accounting statements for faults, and usually make no recommendations on corporate performance.
Internal auditors examine corporate documentation and detect any possible Sarbanes-Oxley infringements. They have previous accounting or finance experience and are aware of Generally Accepted Accounting Policies (GAAP). Many corporations further require that these internal auditors have Certified Public Accountant (CPA) designations or even master's degrees in accounting or finance. Naturally, these auditors are familiar with each section of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Though they are normally not IT professionals, they are well practiced with computers, especially Microsoft Office and accounting software.
In their daily work, these auditors often visit various departments and facilities of corporations to check their compliance operations. They may draft procedural paperwork, such as manuals and business plans. They may also train department heads in auditing-evaluation procedures, most of which are computer-based. In project management, they may lead new software testing or database reorganization. It is further likely they communicate with vendors and stakeholders about financial transfers. It is their responsibility, to stay abreast of compliance developments, and trends, that may affect their corporation. Finally, they communicate with any SEC officials who perform regular audits on the corporation. If a compliance auditor has done his or her job well, the SEC official will find no irregularities in the accounting system.
There is also a wealth of auditing jobs in the PCAOB. The PCAOB hires many IT professionals who perform the same work as their corporate counterparts. However, these professionals' jobs are to supervise their corporate counterparts in their auditing activities.
Compliance auditors' are typically well paid for their efforts to implement Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. Entry-level auditor jobs pay roughly $30,000 per year, and quickly double as auditors gain more experience. Entry-level jobs may pay nearly twice that much if the applicant has a master's degree in accounting or finance. Well-seasoned auditors can potentially earn $95,000 per year, though few exceed $100,000.
All Sarbanes-Oxley-related jobs will expand in the next decade as corporations rely on their professional knowledge to fulfill compliance requirements. Naturally, these jobs may rise or fall depending on the stock market's condition, though they will remain relatively steady in comparison to other jobs.