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Professionalism and its consequences: A study of internal auditors

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The emergence of internal auditors as a specialized subfield of the broader occupation of auditing has occurred gradually, but is usually traced back no further than the end of the Second World War (Courtemanche 1986). Internal auditors now serve an important role in the modern corporation. Their work focuses on the extent to which other functions in the organization are operating within the control parameters established by law and corporate policy. In addition to evaluating compliance, internal auditors pass judgment upon the efficiency and economic viability of productive elements of the company.

Perhaps more than any other concept, professionalism has captured the attention of the internal auditing community. The practitioner literature is replete with the advocacy of internal auditing as a profession and the monitoring of progress toward that goal (e.g., Rodriquez 1991). Within the community, a large number of issues have been met with encouragement for more professional behavior by internal auditors (e.g., Stock et al. 1988).

Neither practitioners nor academics have precisely defined what acting in a professional manner entails for internal auditors. Furthermore, the value of individual professionalism has been assumed by practitioners and practitioner organizations, but not adequately demonstrated. On the other hand, professionalism has come under increasing scrutiny by certain governmental agencies and academic circles. In internal auditing, is professionalism a self-serving aggrandizement for its members, or does it provide a structure to produce important benefits to both the practitioners and the constituents of internal auditing? This study proposes to clarify this rather troublesome, albeit critical, characteristic of individuals for a group that has been greatly neglected by accounting and auditing research.

The primary goal of this study is to better understand professionalism of internal auditors and its relationship to valued individual and organizational work outcomes. For the internal auditing community, their employers, and their...