CIA vs CISA vs CISSP: 3 Respected Internal Audit Certifications


cia vs cisa vs cisspWe often wonder which certification is the best in enhancing our careers. In the internal audit, compliance and securities world, we have a few to choose from

Certified Internal Auditors (CIA)

This is the most recognized certification for internal auditors. The certification is granted by the IIA, a US-based institute with local chapters and members around the world.

While CIA is not as well-known as the CPA for most people, it is a strong brand within the internal audit industry. If one doesn’t have a CPA, having a CIA is a must if you want to move up the career ladder as an internal auditor aspiring to become a Chief Audit Executive (CAE) or other senior audit positions.

Certified Information System Analysts (CISA)

CISA is a certification for IT auditors. Compared to CIA, which is more for a generalist / management role, CISA is for specialist. The exam itself isn’t too hard — there is only one part of the exam — but the experience requirement is strict. A candidate needs to accumulate 5 years of relevant experience to get the certification. As you can imagine, this is not a qualification for entry-level auditors.

Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP)

CISSP is one for IT security. I would say it is the most “tech” out of the three certifications. The exam itself is also the most technical. Similar to the CISA exam, there is a 5-year working experience requirements.


In terms of how technical the qualification represents, I would put CIA as the “generalist” side of the spectrum and CISSP on the “technical” side, with CISA in between.

In practice, they are meant for different niche within the internal audit and IT security industry. When choosing which certification to go for, I wouldn’t pick based on the fact the one exam is easier or that one leads to a better salary. I would choose based on your passion.

If you have the passion, you will much more likely excel in your profession, leading to a much higher success (and salary premium) when compared to your peers.

What’s Next?

We have information on the CIA and CISA exam on this site. For CISSP, please check out the website of ICS2, the administrator of the CISSP exam:

About the Author Stephanie

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites.

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