Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) Certification

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Updated September 26, 2022

Are you looking for a way to enhance your career? Explore this guide to learn how to become a certified internal auditor.

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Certified internal auditor (CIA) certification indicates a dedication to internal auditing and demonstrates credibility in the field. CIAs can earn higher wages and pursue more advanced job opportunities than non-certified accountants. Just 41% of test-takers passed the exam in 2020, proving the CIA's selective outcomes.

Internal auditors ensure that a company's operations and finances comply with the law. While many accountants may take on typical CIA responsibilities, certification demonstrates mastery of auditing concepts and principles.

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) grants the CIA credential. Founded in 1941, the global organization has over 200,000 members in internal auditing and risk management. The IIA advocates for internal audit professionals and supports their professional development. The organization also researches industry topics.

Explore CIA requirements, along with exam content and preparation in this guide.

Why Get CIA Certification?

Enhanced Credibility
Stringent CIA certification requirements can boost a certified internal auditor's credibility and esteem. These professionals find employment in various industries, including finance, manufacturing, and healthcare. Employers in these industries may seek applicants who have proven their knowledge and skills through the CIA credential.
Advancement Opportunities
Some employers prefer CIA certification-holders. These professionals demonstrate a strong commitment to their profession and may secure mid-level or advanced positions with industry-leading companies. Examples include senior auditors and auditor executives.
Increased Salary Potential
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes a 2020 median salary of $73,560 for accountants and auditors. However, holding a credential like CIA certification can open the door to higher wages. According to the IIA's 2017 Internal Audit Compensation Study, CIA certification-holders can increase their salaries by 51%.

What Are the Certified Internal Auditor Requirements?

The IIA offers a few pathways for CIA candidates. Students can combine their work and educational experience to apply. Still, each candidate must meet professional standards and gain experience before taking the CIA exam.

To register for the CIA exam, an applicant must first register with the IIA, present a valid ID and documents, and fill out an application. Candidates receive licensure after passing the exam and meeting all exit requirements. The CIA license is recognized globally.

The following sections detail the educational, professional, and exam requirements for CIA candidates.

Educational Requirements

Students without degrees can still pursue the CIA program. However, they need relevant professional experience. For example, a learner enrolled in their last year of college or an Internal Audit Education Partnership (IAEP) program may qualify.

The IIA reduces its requirements for bachelor's or master's degree-holders. Graduates may receive their credentials after passing the exam and gaining 1-2 years of experience. The CIA program does not require a degree in a specific subject.

Professional Requirements

The CIA program accepts degree and non-degree candidates without experience for entry. However, a candidate without a bachelor's or master's degree needs at least five years of internal audit experience to begin.

All candidates must have professional experience before exiting the program and receiving CIA certification. Master's degree-holders need one year, while bachelor's graduates require two years. Internal audit practitioners must have five years of relevant experience for certification.

What Does the Certified Internal Auditor Exam Cover?

A CIA candidate must pass an exam to become a certified internal auditor. The exam consists of three sections, totaling 6.5 hours and 325 multiple-choice questions.

  • Part one emphasizes the essentials of internal auditing. This section tests basic skill proficiency and understanding of internal auditing concepts, including governance, risk management, and control. Test-takers are also assessed on industry standards and principles, consulting, and quality assurance. The IIA allows up to 150 minutes for part one — the most time allotted for any section.
  • Part two covers the practice of internal auditing. Managing, planning, and communicating the results of audits comprise 60% of this section's content. The other 40% tests proficiency in performing internal audits.
  • Part three includes business-focused questions relevant to auditing. Topics include business acumen, financial management, information security, and information technology. Parts two and three allow up to 120 minutes each to complete.

Candidates do not have to complete the exam parts in order. They can also choose to complete all three sections in one day. After registering for an exam section, each student has 180 days to complete it.

Online testing requires candidates to show identification and prepare their computers for proctoring. Alternatively, students can register to sit for the exam at a nearby Pearson Professional Center.

CIA Exam Structure

Section Format Time
Essentials of Internal Auditing Multiple choice 150 minutes
Practice of Internal Auditing Multiple choice 120 minutes
Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing Multiple choice 120 minutes
Source: IIA

Scoring the Exam

A passing CIA exam grade demonstrates a candidate's in-depth knowledge of internal auditing. An IIA Test Development Team of certified auditors writes the CIA examination questions. The IIA's Professional Certifications Board determines the passing grade based on CIA syllabus standards.

Test-takers receive a separate score for each part of the CIA exam rather than an overall grade. Candidates should answer each question with their best logical guess rather than leave any blank, as incorrect answers do not deduct points. Instead, the exam counts only correct answers toward a raw score.

The completed part's raw score turns into a scaled grade between 250-750. Candidates must receive at least a 600 scaled score for each section to pass. If they score lower than 600 on any part, they must wait a minimum of 60 days before reattempting that section. The IIA does not limit how many times you can retake a CIA exam section.

The multiple-choice exam is graded electronically, allowing for immediate unofficial results. Test-takers can view their official results within 1-2 days after completing the exam by logging into their IIA accounts.

How Do You Register for the Certified Internal Auditor Exam?

Test-takers register for the CIA exam through the IIA's Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS). The CCMS allows candidates to upload documents and schedule exams easily.

Education and identification information must accompany each registration. If a candidate has relevant experience, they can also enter that into CCMS. The IIA only requires experience information before program entry for non-degree and internal audit practitioner applicants.

Once approved in the system, candidates can schedule each exam section online. Pearson VUE testing centers administer tests several times each year. Proctored exams are also available online.

The IIA allows test-takers to retake an exam after scoring a non-passing grade. However, these students must wait at least 60 days to retake an exam part.

Paying for the Exam

CIA exam fees vary depending on a candidate's status as a student or member. Students pay the lowest application and exam fees, while non-IIA members pay the highest.

Application fees fall between $65-$230. Parts two and three cost $180-$345 each. Test-takers pay the highest fees for part one, from $230-$395. Rescheduling and cancellation fees may also apply. Students should verify their student status within CCMS to qualify for pricing discounts.

How Can You Prepare for the CIA Exam?

Setting aside plenty of time to prepare for the CIA exam can help build confidence. CIA exam prep companies Gleim Exam Prep and Hock International suggest studying for 250-270 hours total. Consider the following tips as you prepare for the certified auditor exam.

Top Tips

Become Familiar With the Test Format
The CIA exam follows a strict format. Becoming familiar with each section can help you relax while taking the test and better budget your time.
Practice Exam Questions
Answering practice exam questions can help you remember important facts and improve your test-taking skills.
Set a Study Schedule
Find the ideal time, place, and conditions that help you learn best and develop a schedule. A regular study schedule keeps you on track and avoids cramming.
Research Difficult Topics
Put extra effort into researching concepts that you find especially difficult. Identify your weak areas and allot more time to those sections.
Use IIA Resources
Visit a local chapter or join an online IIA forum. Many IIA members have taken the CIA exam and can offer practical tips for taking the test.

Practice Exams and Study Resources

This learn-at-your-pace program fits flexibly into busy schedules. Test-takers receive access to digital books and study materials, including flashcards and quizzes. An online syllabus breaks down the certified internal auditor exam to help students learn and digest information. Course-takers can use the content for up to two years after ordering.

Learners who prefer guidance from instructors can opt for this course. The curriculum provides structured support that follows a syllabus for each part of the exam. Students choose between an in-person or online experience to fit their learning needs. Class discussions further develop a deep understanding of concepts.

This independent course includes instructional videos, study materials, and an exam planner to prepare CIA test candidates. Enrollees complete full-length mock exams after each section. Performance metrics notify learners of concepts they've mastered or need to review. Wiley course materials are available across multiple devices for convenient access.

What Is Needed to Maintain Auditor Certification?

CIA certification-holders must complete continuing professional education (CPE) annually to maintain their internal auditor credentials. Each newly certified candidate receives 40 CPE hours for the year they earned the certification, along with another 40 in the following year. The IIA determines the amount of CPE hours needed for each candidate based on their status as practicing, inactive, or retired.

Additionally, certification-holders must complete at least two hours of ethics training annually. The course content must meet the IIA's Professional Certification Board standards.

The IIA imposes a reinstatement fee for any certified auditor who fails to report their CPE requirements after 12 months.

Should You Get Multiple Certifications?

Internal auditors can hold several professional certifications to increase industry knowledge and advance their careers.

A certified public accountant (CPA) credential builds accounting, tax preparation, and auditing skills. When combined with a CIA, this certification can demonstrate a candidate's auditing and general accounting skills.

The IIA also offers the following certifications:

  • Internal Audit Practitioner: This designation prepares entry-level internal auditors for entering the CIA program and the workforce.
  • Certification in Risk Management Assurance: The CRMA program advances risk management and quality assurance skillsets.
  • Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership: CIA-certified professionals interested in leadership positions may also pursue QIAL certification. This designation teaches industry-specific management techniques.

Frequently Asked Questions About Certified Internal Auditors

What does a CIA auditor do?

A CIA auditor conducts an organization's internal audits. These professionals track organizations' legal compliance and risk. CIAs may also help organizations form systems to prevent risk and fraud.

Is CIA certification harder than CPA certification?

The CIA exam's 2020 pass rate was 41%. Comparatively, the 2021 CPA exam pass rate reached 54%. Both exams cover challenging concepts, requiring in-depth knowledge and preparation for successful outcomes.

Are certified auditors in demand?

The BLS projects an employment growth rate of 7% for accountants and auditors from 2020-2030. A CIA designation can help auditors perform more competitively in their field.

What are the parts of the certified internal auditor exam?

The CIA auditor exam consists of three parts. Part one covers the essentials of internal auditing. Part two tests candidates on internal audit practice. Part three emphasizes business-focused concepts, like financial management and information security, comprise part three.

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