CIA vs CPA has been a hot debate among auditors. What’s your take?
CPA vs CIA Comparison at a Glance
|Focus & Recognition|
|Focus||General audit and accounting||Internal audit|
|Need bachelor degree?|
|150 credit hours needed?|
|Min. accounting courses?|
|# exam days per year||4 testing windows||Throughout the year|
|Total exam hours||14||6.5|
|No. of parts/levels||4||3|
|Latest pass rates||48 – 51%||39% – 42%|
|Estimated expenses (US$)||$2,000-3,000||$1,000 – 2,000|
CIA vs CPA: Pro-CPA Camp
1. Overall Prestige and Recognition
Everyone should agree that CPA is the qualification to go for in accounting. Not only that the AICPA has the longest history and the highest number of members, the qualification is good for accountants in all disciplines.
2. Higher Barrier of Entry
The barrier of entry for CPA is also the highest. State boards requires a 4-year bachelor degree and 150 credit hours, together with relevant experience supervised and verified by certified public accountants. Because of this high standard, employers value the CPA as THE designation in the accounting industry.
3. CPA Qualification is More Versatile
Since the business community considers CPA the standard for general accounting, a certified public accountant can work in public accounting, management accounting, governmental accounting, taxation, financial advisory, compliance and other consultation work. CPAs are valued across industry and discipline. When new opportunities emerge, they are often able to take the first-mover advantage.
CIA vs CPA: Pro-CIA Camp
1. It is the Standard in the Internal Audit Industry
If you are an internal audit professional, it makes the most sense to get a qualification dedicated to the industry. Certified Internal Auditor is the only global designation in the field of internal auditing and compliance.
According to people in the industry, there is a push to require all CAE (Chielf Audit Executive) to have their CIA certification by the IIA.
2. Internal Audit and Compliance is a Great Niche
I won’t say everyone is thrilled to work as an internal auditor or compliance officer. However, the financial crises since the turn of the century have led to ever increasing demand for compliance professionals every year.
3. It Takes a Lot Less Effort
It’s cheaper, easier, and it might just give you the competitive boost you were looking for all along.
The CIA exam has three parts focusing mainly in internal audit. The CPA exam has four parts covering an incredibly wide range of topics, from financial accounting, management accounting, audit, taxation, business law to economics, strategic planning, and general business concepts. Total duration of CIA exam is 6.5 hours vs CPA exam’s 14 hours.
The education requirements are quite different. For CIA, all you need is a bachelor degree, and even this can be exempted by a certain number of working experience in internal audit. For CPA, you must have a 4-year bachelor degree, and in most cases, 5 years of higher education because of the 150 credit hour rule. There are also minimum accounting and business courses.
The verification of experience requirement is also very strict for the CPA exam; while for CIA exam, IIA certificate holders, and supervisors with or without the certifications can verify your experience.
How About CIA and CPA?
If you aspire to be a senior member in the internal audit department, you should aim for both qualifications. See what this reader says:
Get both, then you won’t be turned down for any IA job. I had to have my CIA to become auditor II and CPA to become supervisor. Now I am one of the few people in the office with both and nothing is holding me back from getting promoted further and getting supervisor and above jobs at other places.”
Should I Aim for Both If I Want to Switch Jobs?
This could be an even stronger reason for you to get both qualifications.
If you are a proven performer, your company could potentially overlook the fact that you do not have certifications when considering you for promotion.
However, if you plan on changing companies, having a certification on your resume will be helpful, especially in hitting some of the qualification requirements and getting that call for an interview.
If I Only Have Time to Get One, Which Qualification Should I Go For?
Many people do think it is not necessary to have both unless required by your employer. This is especially true is if you have your CPA first, then the CIA is not necessary. However if you have your CIA first, then you may still need a CPA if required by an employer. This is the experience of my friends and colleagues in the field, and it seems to be the general attitude when comparing CIA vs CPA.
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Now, What’s Your Decision?
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