How can I become an auditor?
I was asked this question by an environmental engineer who lives and works in a developing country outside of North America and the EU. Here is my response with changes where necessary to preserve anonymity.
Thank you for your query.
I don’t want to over-complicate this and I am not sure how much you already know about auditing. I think it will be safest to proceed as if you do not know much even though, as an environmental engineer, you probably already know quite a lot.
There are 3 types of audit event.
Type 1 (or first party) audits are internal audits conducted by an organisation to assess its own compliance with regulations and conformity to standards.
Type 3 (or third party) audits are audits conducted at an organisation by a qualified, external auditor sent by an accredited ‘Certified Body’ of auditors at the request of the organisation. The purpose of a third party audit is to certify (or not) that an organisation has in place a management system that conforms effectively to one or more standards such as ISO 14001 (environmental) or ISO 9001 (quality). The certified body will issue a certificate of conformity upon a successful audit. Such certification audits are usually conducted every three years with a ‘surveillance audit’ annually in the intervening years. Third party auditors must undergo training, typically 4 or 5 days, and then observe a certain number of audit days (usually without remuneration) before being qualified to conduct third party audits themselves.
Type 2 (or second party) audits are audits conducted by a customer (actual or potential) upon a supplier (actual or potential) to determine whether the supplier meets prerequisite requirements that the customer judges to be reliable predictors of future satisfaction. Such customers typically have their own process for approving suppliers prior to placing large or important orders. Some customers waive or reduce the scope of second party audits if the supplier has certification to a standard such as ISO 9001.
People who are 3rd party auditors have almost always begun their auditing career as an internal (1st party) auditor in an organisation that has a particular certification such as ISO 9001 or ISO 14001. There they would have been trained in the standards to which their organisation has been certified, and trained to do internal auditing as a lead auditor. However, internal auditors do not have to be employees of the company they are auditing – they could be contractors. In your case, your company could send you on a training course for ISO 14001 (2 or 3 days) followed by lead auditor training (2 days). They could then offer to do internal audits as a service to its clients. It’s worth thinking about. If I were you I would want to observe or assist on the team on one or two audits prior to conducting an audit as a lead auditor. Additionally, you could conduct an internal audit at your employer with a view to providing a gap analysis.
I Googled “ISO 14001 training in <your country>” and see there are a few companies that offer lead auditor training, which is what you would want to do.
You may find it helpful to look at my videos, “What is a Quality Management System?” and “What is ISO 9001?”