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The CIA Designation: Achieving Mastery in Internal Auditing


According to Glassdoor, a global internal auditor can make an average of $127,739 annually in the United States. This figure includes an annual base salary of $92,609 and additional pay amounting to $35,130.


Indeed, international internal auditing is a lucrative career, considering that the U.S. median annual salary is only a little over half that amount at $72,985 (source: Glassdoor). If this is a career you wish to pursue, consider becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) and enrolling in a CIA course.


The Certified Internal Auditor Professional Designation

Certified Internal Auditor or CIA is a professional designation widely recognized and respected in internal auditing. The Internal Auditors Association administers the CIA, and it’s a designation anyone aspiring toward a career in internal audit is encouraged to obtain.


Being a CIA indicates that one has the competence, professionalism, and commitment required by the internal audit profession. After all, the CIA program is designed to assess and validate the knowledge, skills, and abilities required of internal auditors.


CIA Eligibility Requirements

To gain entry into the CIA program, you must meet any of the following minimum entry requirements:


  • A bachelor’s degree or higher
  • An active Internal Audit Practitioner (IAP) designation
  • Five years of internal audit (IA) or relevant experience, plus a high school diploma, an associate degree, a GCE, an A-Level, or some other equivalent educational credential
  • A student in your final year of college
  • A student enrolled in an Internal Audit Education Partner school


Note that if you’re a college student, you cannot get your CIA certification unless you obtain your bachelor’s degree first. Yes, you will be allowed to sit for your exams, but even if you pass, you cannot exit the program unless you complete your degree, too.


If you’re applying to the program by virtue of your extensive experience (five years or longer), you must prove that your experience is relevant to the CIA designation. IA experience is the best, but practical work experience in external audit, quality assurance, internal control, risk management, and other audit and assessment disciplines is acceptable.


Program Application Documentary Requirements

When applying to the CIA program, you will need to submit the following documentation:


  • Proof of identification
  • Character reference: Your work supervisor or a professional auditor must sign your character reference. A CIA, Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), or someone with a Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA), Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA) or Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership (QIAL) may be your character reference signatory.
  • Proof of your education credentials (e.g., official transcripts, a letter from your university, etc.)
  • Proof of your cumulative qualified work experienceif you’re applying to the program by virtue of your extensive IA or relevant experience.


CIA Exit Requirements

After you get accepted into the CIA program, you must pass three exams and satisfy the work experience requirements within three years to exit the program and become a Certified Internal Auditor.


Exam Exit

You need to pass a three-part examination to complete the CIA program. Passing the exams requires thorough preparation. Enroll in a CIA revision course to master the concepts and topics covered by the CIA exams.


1. CIA Exam Part One

Part One of the CIA exam will cover Essentials of Internal Auditing. It focuses on the foundational aspects of internal auditing as outlined in The IIA’s International Professional Practices Framework (IPPF). It will assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities of the fundamental principles and concepts of internal auditing.


The examination consists of 125 questions to be completed within two and a half hours (or 150 minutes). It covers six domains:


  • Foundation of Internal Auditing
  • Independence and Objectivity
  • Proficiency and Due Professional Care
  • Quality Assurance and Improvement Programs
  • Governance, Risk Management, and Control
  • Fraud Risk


2. CIA Exam Part Two

Part Two of the CIA examination is Practice of Internal Auditing. It focuses on the operational aspects of internal auditing. It consists of 100 questions to be completed within a time frame of two hours (or 120 minutes) and covers four domains:


  • Managing the Internal Audit Activity
  • Planning the Engagement
  • Performing the Engagement
  • Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress


Completing Part Two will demonstrate your knowledge and proficiency in the practical application of internal auditing. This part of the exam builds upon the foundational knowledge tested in Part One and prepares you for the comprehensive application of internal audit principles in real-world scenarios.


3. CIA Part Three

Part Three is another 100-item, two-hour (120-minute) examination. Dubbed Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing, it is designed to assess your knowledge, skills, and abilities related to the following core business concepts:


  • Business Acumen
  • Information Security
  • Information Technology
  • Financial Management


Business acumen makes up 35% of the exam, while the information security portion has expanded to include cybersecurity risks and emerging technologies. The exam also covers data analytics.


Part Three will assess your preparedness to address the broader business aspects of your role and provide comprehensive and strategic recommendations to enhance organizational performance and risk management.


Work Experience Exit Requirement

You must complete the work experience requirement for your entry classification before the program eligibility period ends. The specific work experience you must accumulate will vary depending on your eligibility classification.


This is the number of years of IA and relevant work experience you need, depending on your program entry eligibility:


  • None, if your entry eligibility is five years of IA or relevant experience
  • One year, if your entry eligibility is a master’s degree
  • Two years, if your entry eligibility is a bachelor’s degree
  • Five years, if your entry eligibility is an Internal Audit Practitioner designation


On the Pathway to Professional Internal Auditing Excellence

The CIA designation offered by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) represents a significant achievement. It is more than just a learning program to enhance your career — although it will do that, too, as it will help open doors to new career opportunities.


More importantly, becoming a CIA establishes your credibility and signifies your expertise, dedication, and adherence to the highest standards of internal auditing.


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