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Is the CIA Certification Worth It? Internal Audit Benefits of the CIA Certificate

internal audit benefits

As you’re an accountant or auditor hoping to enhance your career, you may have considered earning an accounting certification. But you have several accounting certification options, so which one should you choose? If you plan to pursue the path of an internal auditor, then the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is the certification for you. How can you be certain that earning the CIA is the best way to expand your vocational horizons? Because of the many internal audit benefits the CIA offers. Learn the many reasons why the CIA certification is worth it today.

Why Become a Certified Internal Auditor? Internal Audit Benefits of the CIA Certificate

Is the Certified Internal Auditor designation worth it? I believe the internal audit benefits of the CIA make the answer to that question clear. But see for yourself by discovering these CIA certificate advantages.

1. Higher Income

The Certified Internal Auditor salary is one of the most appealing aspects of the CIA certification. As a CIA, you won’t have to settle simply for financial stability. Instead, you can enjoy financial success. The IIA reports that CIAs in the U.S. earn an average of $38,000 more annually than those without the certification. That means you can be making as much as 51% more than your non-certified peers.

So, how much do Certified Internal Auditors make? Sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, and Payscale present the range of the average CIA certification salary as $69,000-$84,000. This range rises well above that of a regular internal auditor, which Salary.com specifies as $52,352-$63,437.

And salary increases for CIAs are not limited to the U.S. Even the average CIA salary in India is about Rs 378,479 higher than the average internal auditor salary.

What’s more, the longer you maintain the CIA certificate, the more you make. When combined with years of experience, the CIA certificate qualifies you for such high positions as Chief Audit Executive or Internal Audit Director. And within these leadership roles, you can make anywhere from a quarter to half a million dollars annually, according to Robert Half.

Therefore, because the CIA upgrades you to such expansive earning power, the certification is worth everything you put into it (like CIA exam fee payments) and more.

2. More Job Opportunities

Furthermore, no matter where you’re at in your career, the CIA makes even more job opportunities available to you.

For instance, the CIA certificate allows entry-level internal auditors to hold respectable titles such as:

  • Auditing specialist
  • Compliance auditor
  • Financial analyst
  • Information systems auditor
  • Internal controls auditor
  • Lead internal auditor
  • Risk assessment specialist

And as soon as you’ve demonstrated your competence in one of these roles, you’ll be up for promotions to higher lead internal auditor and internal audit supervisor positions like:

  • Audit manager
  • Internal audit director
  • Risk manager
  • Senior internal auditor

After that, the sky’s the limit, because, with the CIA, you can set your sights on the highest levels of leadership within a company. Internal audit executive positions like these can all be optional for you:

  • Chief Audit Executive
  • Chief Financial Officer
  • Controller
  • Finance Director
  • Internal Audit Director
  • Vice President of Internal Audit

As you can see, the CIA can take you all the way to the top of the corporate ladder. Therefore, you never have to be bored or unsatisfied with your vocation once you secure the CIA certificate.

3. Greater Job Security

According to the Robert Half Salary Guide, internal auditors are a hot commodity in today’s finance and accounting hiring market. And a few years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projected a 10% increase in the hiring of internal auditors during the years 2016-2026.

Furthermore, the complexity of the global regulatory market is increasing. Consequently, the role of the internal auditor is shifting away from financial auditing toward risk-based audits. In light of these changes, the world is seeing that it needs internal auditors to protect and strengthen the value of an organization.

So, because organizations are motivated to improve their internal controls and transparency, the demand for internal auditing professionals is high. And, thankfully, CIAs are the best in the business. They supply assurance on risk management, corporate governance, internal control, and operations in all kinds of business conditions. For these reasons, companies want to recruit and retain CIAs. So, as soon as you earn the CIA, you earn the comfort of solid job security.

4. Increased Skills and Abilities

The IIA has high expectations for Certified Internal Auditors. It wants CIA candidates to demonstrate all the knowledge and skills necessary for fulfilling the current obligations of the position. So, the IIA has established several CIA requirements. And some of these Certified Internal Auditor qualifications are quite involved, like the experience and examination requirements.

Consequently, in the process of accumulating internal auditing experience and preparing to pass the CIA exam, you’ll deepen your understanding of internal auditing and develop your competence in internal auditing activities. As a result, you’ll be more confident as an internal auditor and more attractive to future employers.

When people see the letters “CIA” on your resume, they’ll know that you’re dedicated to the profession and willing to invest in your own growth. For these reasons, they’ll prize you above your peers.

As a CIA, you’ll meet the highest standards of internal auditing abilities in the industry. And in this way, you’ll become the best internal auditor you can be.

5. Heightened Respect and Admiration

Because everyone in the internal audit industry knows what it takes to become a CIA, they’ll view you much more positively once you’ve done it. Their regard for you will rise right away, as will their trust in your expertise.

What’s more, everyone believes that CIAs know how to improve the industry. So, you’ll receive more responsibility when you wield the CIA certificate. But, of course, you’ll also experience the privileges that come with the territory as well: privileges such as universal credibility and admiration.

Clearly, the CIA puts you in an elite group of internal auditors who enjoy a great deal of esteem from both coworkers and superiors. And, you’ll feel that esteem as soon as you step up from internal auditor to Certified Internal Auditor.

6. International Perks

The IIA is an internationally established and revered internal auditing organization. It has over 190,000 members across the globe, and it offers a variety of useful certifications and qualifications. However, the CIA certificate stands above them all.

The CIA is the only globally recognized internal audit certification, so earning it is the optimum way to communicate your internal auditing competencies. Moreover, the CIA is the single most important designation in the internal audit profession, and its value does not depreciate from country to country.

And while you don’t have to become a member of the IIA to become a CIA, IIA membership affords the following industry advantages:

  • Connections with a global network of peers as well as local chapters
  • Access to an industry-specific audit career center
  • Education on executive development
  • Volunteer leadership opportunities
  • News about the updated and universally accepted standards and guidance
  • Invitations to training, conferences, and events
  • Discounts on certification and qualification programs
  • Complimentary CPE reporting

Therefore, becoming a CIA and a member of the IIA allows you to effortlessly stay on top of your internal auditing game and indulge in more internal audit benefits.

Is the CIA Worth It? Additional Internal Audit Benefits of the CIA Certification

As if the internal audit benefits of increased earning potential, job opportunities, job security, skills, and respect aren’t enticing enough, the fact that the CIA journey isn’t too long or too hard provides even more impetus to become a CIA. I believe the process of earning the CIA is relatively easy for these reasons:

1. The CIA Eligibility Requirements Are Flexible

The requirements of some accounting certifications, such as the CPA and CFA, are very demanding and very strict. But the CIA certification requirements aren’t so rigid, as we can see from a simple comparison between the CPA and the CIA programs.

CPA Requirements

To meet the education and experience CPA license requirements, candidates must earn 150 credit hours of U.S.-approved education that includes accounting and business credits and amass 1-2 years of professional accounting experience. And CPA exemptions and exceptions to these requirements are very rare. While the details of the CPA requirements differ from one state board of accountancy (the organizations that award the CPA certificate) to the next, almost every CPA jurisdiction holds to these requirements in some form.

CIA Education Requirements

On the other hand, the CIA requirements present candidates with more options and exemptions. For example, the IIA still wants candidates to have higher education, but the level of this education can be lower. CIA candidates must have a minimum education of an associate’s degree. They can also have an equivalent such as a Foundation Degree, a Diploma of Higher Education, a Higher National Diploma, or 3 A-level certificates with a grade of C or higher. Additionally, the IIA allows seniors in college to take the CIA exam with proof of their educational status.

CIA Experience Requirements

What’s more, the amount of experience the IIA calls for varies according to your education. So, if you have a master’s degree, you only need 12 months of internal auditing experience or its equivalent. With a bachelor’s degree, you must have 24 months of professional experience. And finally, with an associate’s degree or equivalent, you’re on the hook for 60 months of experience. However, if you don’t meet the minimum education requirements, you can simply present 7 years of verified experience in internal auditing or its equivalent.

CIA Exemptions

So, as you can see, the CIA versions of these requirements are a bit more relaxed than the CPA versions. And, as mentioned, the IIA also offers exemptions to some of the requirements. Specifically, the Professional Certification Board (PCB) has approved CIA experience and education exemptions for qualified members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). The PCB also allows CIA education exemptions for U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) active license holders. You can request one of these exemptions by filling out the appropriate fields on your CIA application, and IIA certification administrators will verify that your membership/license is active.

In conclusion, with more ways to meet the CIA requirements than the CPA requirements, the path to the CIA certification is shorter and less involved for many candidates.

2. The CIA Exam Is Passable

Another distinction between the CPA and the CIA certification programs is the examination requirement.

CPA Exam

Candidates in the process of becoming a CPA must pass all 4 sections of the CPA Exam within 30 months.

CPA Exam Sections

The 4 separate sections of the CPA Exam are:

  1. Auditing and Attestation (AUD)
  2. Business Environments and Concepts (BEC)
  3. Financial Accounting and Reporting (FAR)
  4. Regulation (REG)

As the titles of these sections reveal, the scope of topics covered by the CPA Exam is quite wide. So, you’ll need to know a lot about many different areas of accounting in order to pass.

CPA Exam Questions

Moreover, each of these sections contains 5 individual units called testlets. And, within these testlets, the CPA Exam sections present 1 of 3 different kinds of questions: multiple-choice (MCQ), task-based simulations (TBSs), or written communications (WCs). The number of questions within each testlet ranges from 31-38 MCQs, 2-3 TBSs, and 3 WCs. AUD, FAR, and REG each have 2 MCQ testlets and 3 TBS testlets, while BEC has 2 MCQ testlets, 2 TBS testlets, and 1 WC testlet.

CPA Exam Timing

The total testing time for each exam section is 4 hours.

Additionally, your 30-month window begins once you pass your first CPA Exam section. (In the past, there was a CPA Exam 18-month rule. However, that rule recently changed from 18 months to 30 months.) At that point, you have 30 months to pass the remaining 3 sections. If you don’t, you will lose credit for the first exam section you passed, and the start date of your 30-month window will move back to the date of your earliest passed exam section. This pattern of events will continue until you’ve passed all 4 sections within the specified time frame.

CPA Exam Pass Rate

In light of all these imposing particulars, you probably won’t be surprised to learn that the average CPA Exam pass rate is about 50%.

On top of that, once you pass the CPA Exam, most state boards also expect you to pass an ethics exam.

CIA Exam

The CIA exam has similarities to the CPA Exam, but the differences are significant. And, I believe they make the CIA exam easier in some ways.

CIA Exam Parts

Though the CIA exam pass rates are actually a bit lower than the CPA Exam pass rates, other aspects of the CIA exam are less complicated and create a more simple testing process for candidates.

For starters, the CIA exam only has 3 parts, not 4:

  1. Essentials of Internal Auditing (Part 1)
  2. Practice of Internal Auditing (Part 2)
  3. Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing (Part 3)

So, as we can see from the titles of the exam parts, the CIA exam focuses solely on internal auditing. Therefore, the content is not as broad as that of the CPA Exam.

CIA Exam Questions

And, the only type of question the CIA exam parts include are MCQs. Specifically, Part 1 has 125 MCQs, while Parts 2 and 3 each have 100 MCQs. So, you don’t have to worry about mastering several different kinds of questions for one exam part or even the entire exam.

CIA Exam Timing

Furthermore, the total testing time for each part varies according to the question counts. You have 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) total to finish Part 1, and 120 minutes (2 hours) each to complete Part 1 and Part 2.

Instead of 30 months, you actually have 3 years to pass all 3 CIA exam sections. Though, you must meet the other CIA requirements in this time period as well. And instead of having your testing appointment opportunities limited by testing windows, you can take the CIA exam any time you want throughout the year.

For these reasons, I think the process of passing the CIA exam is less stressful than the process of passing the CPA Exam. So, the less complicated testing process is another one of the internal audit benefits of pursuing the CIA certificate.

How Easy Is It to Earn the CIA? Help for Securing the CIA Certificate

Now that you know all the internal audit benefits the CIA affords, you can take the steps to get the CIA. And the first step you should take is to sign up for my free CIA e-course. This course walks you through the entire CIA certification process and even tells you how to pass each part of the CIA exam on your first attempt. So, learn more or sign up here!

The next step is to purchase a CIA review course. With a CIA review course, you’ll have everything you need to pass the CIA exam. And, you can even get help creating your CIA exam study schedule. Finding the right review course for you is essential to your exam success, so use my comparisons of the top CIA courses to do so. Then, when you’re ready to purchase, find the CIA discount that will help you save money on your ideal review course!

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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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