Benefits and potential problems in becoming an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor
If you are looking for a new job opportunity, becoming an ISO 9001 Lead Auditor (LA) will certainly help you. However, there are a few issues to consider before you apply for a QMS Lead Auditor course.
Which course provider to choose?
First of all, you must find a course that is accepted worldwide, because your personal certificate (in case of successful completion) depends on this.
Courses are normally organized by accredited (approved) bodies like certification bodies (SGS, Lloyd, BV, DNV, etc.) or approved training organizations (Nigel Bayer, Excel partnership, etc.) and run by approved lecturers (tutors). However, there are many “approved” and “accredited” organizations, but some of these approvals are only valid in the country where that body is located, or regionally accepted, or accepted in various countries based on multilateral agreements and so on. It is probably a good idea not to invest your money and time into courses that give certificates accepted only “somewhere,” but not everywhere.
As of now, the only globally accepted certificate for Lead Auditors comes from courses that are run by IRCA (International Register of Certificated Auditors)-approved organizations. So, first of all, you must find an organization that runs ISO 9001 LA courses under IRCA accreditation. Note that official ISO 9001 LA courses cannot be organized by person, but only through the above-mentioned organizations or organizations which have a partnership with approved organizations.
The prices of the courses differ greatly from country to country and depend on local market trends. Note also that during the approval process (in getting practical experience as mentioned below) you are usually not paid by the certification body.
What does the Lead Auditor course looks like?
The ISO 9001 LA courses take five days (usually morning to evening + homework). Courses are usually run in English, but also may be found in local languages, so you must check in which languages courses are run. If a course is delivered in a language other than your mother tongue, you should be able to speak and write in an efficient manner.
Courses comprise theoretical issues, discussions between delegates and between tutor and groups, personal workshops, continual assessment from tutor on each delegate and written exam. When you successfully pass the written exam you will be awarded the ISO 9001 certificate which, besides other information, displays your name and has an IRCA logo.
Gaining the Lead Auditor status
Even with the certificate it is hard to find a job as a certification Lead Auditor, whether permanent, temporary, or as a freelancer, because first you need to have practical experience in auditing methodologies and techniques. This may be obtained through certification bodies. Usually, it takes about 20 MD (man days) as an observer on audits in order to gain the status of auditor (in this stage, if you have positive recommendations from the auditor who observes you, you get a record from the certification body that states that you have the status of auditor). However, in this stage you are not allowed to organize and manage audits; you only may be an audit team member. When you finish an additional 15 MD in the role of LA under supervision, where you organize and lead other auditors and audits, observed by some member of the audit team who is already an approved LA, then you became the Lead Auditor. During this time you must maintain an audit log that proves your audits (an example of an audit log may be downloaded from the IRCA website – www.IRCA.org). When you finish this stage, if you also are recommended by the auditor who supervised your work in this stage, you will receive a record from the certification body that states that you are now an LA.
The exact number of MD depends on the certification bodies, but usually follows ISO guidelines for needed number of MD.
Now, having your IRCA certificate for ISO 9001, record(s) from the certification body that confirms your status of auditor and Lead Auditor, and your personal logs from audits, you are a complete and competent ISO 9001 Lead Auditor.
At this moment you may seek a job opportunity in order to become a full-time employed auditor or to work as a subcontractor, from time to time, with some of the certification bodies. Why would you do something like this? Because that gives you an opportunity to earn money per day(s), to make important new contacts (almost 40% of each audit is realized with organizations’ top management), to see new approaches and technologies in a variety of industry segments, etc. Certification is still a growing business, especially in specific ISO and other standards – all of them are based on ISO 9001.
To conclude, bear in mind that this kind of personal certification provides you with new knowledge, builds up your personal competence and provides the possibility to have a new job opportunity or to get you extra money when working as a subcontractor. Who says that investing in yourself doesn’t pay?
Click here to download a free List of questions to ask ISO 9001 Certification Body.