I Pass the CIA Exam!

IIA Certifications: CIA, CGAP, CFSA, CCSA, CRMA (Confused?)

Most accountants have heard of the CIA certification, but you may not know that the IIA offers specialty certifications, too.

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) Certification

The IIA’s CIA certificate is the general designation for internal auditors and is the most globally recognized. We primarily cover the Certified Internal Auditor exam on this site. To learn more about the CIA, start with Is the CIA Certification Worth It? Internal Audit Benefits of the CIA Certificate?

The CIA exam itself is a 3-part exam. You can check out how the CIA exam difficultly compares to other credential exams in this article.

Specialty IIA Certifications – A Brief History

In the past, the IIA offered several specialty certifications in the auditing field. They had single-part examinations, and some could be tackled after passing only one section of the CIA exam as a prerequisite. However, the IIA has made a lot of changes to these certifications in the last few years and made even more in mid-2021.

Although the IIA lists several specialty certifications on its website, some of those certifications (like the CGAP, CFSA, and CCSA) haven’t allowed new candidates into those programs since the end of 2018. Others, like the CRMA certification, saw some major changes in mid-2021.

So please, read the following information carefully if you’re thinking about pursuing one of these certificates to boost your career.

1. CGAP ®

CGAP stands for Certified Government Auditing Professional. It is a designation for auditors working in the public sector at the federal, state, or local levels, as well as in governmental agencies.

However, the IIA stopped allowing new candidates into the CGAP program in late 2018.

2. CFSA ®

CFSA stands for Certified Financial Services Auditor. It is for internal audit professionals working in banks, insurance companies, and financial services.

Although the CFSA is still listed as a specialty credential on the IIA website, the IIA hasn’t accepted new candidates since 2018.

3. CCSA ®

CCSA stands for Certification in Control Self-Assessment. It is the certification for control self-assessment practitioners. It demonstrates a candidate’s knowledge of important CSA fundamentals, processes, and related topics such as risk, controls, and business objectives.

Like the CGAP and CFSA, the CCSA program is closed to new candidates.

4. CRMA ®

The Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) is a globally recognized designation. It demonstrates that candidates can identify key risk management and governance processes in their organizations. Plus, CRMA certificate holders know how to present that information to audit committees and management.

However, the CRMA program changed in mid-2021. To read about the changes, click here.

5. Internal Audit Practitioner designation

The IIA has a path for professionals new to auditing, too. The Internal Audit Practitioner designation is for students, beginning auditors, and professionals who plan to pursue the CIA, too. It demonstrates that holders have a foundational knowledge of the International Standards for the Professional Practice of Internal Auditing. Once candidates have successfully met all requirements, they are eligible to enter the CIA program.


The IIA considers the QIAL, or Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership, as the top credential for internal audit executives. QIAL holders are perceived to have high abilities to lead quality internal audit activities. The IIA has established one pathway for new and aspiring leaders and another for experienced leaders and academic instructors.

Specialty IIA Certification Requirements

The entry requirements for education vary depending on the certificate. Plus, they have different levels of experience requirements.

And remember, although the requirements for the CGAP, CFSA, and CCSA are listed below, the IIA is currently not accepting candidates into those programs.

1. Educational Requirements: CGAP, CFSA, CCSA, and CRMA

  • At least an associate’s degree (or the equivalent)

Educational Requirements: Internal Audit Practitioner Designation

Since the Internal Audit Practitioner designation is intended for beginning auditors, it requires a fairly low level of education to enter the program.

  • No education requirements
  • Students are eligible to enter the program, too

Educational Requirements: QIAL

The IIA does not list any education requirements for the QIAL program. Instead, entry into the program is based on experience benchmarks. However, QIAL candidates have to submit proof of their education when applying for the program.

2. Experience Requirements: CGAP, CFSA, CCSA, and CRMA

All work experience must be verified by an IIA Global Certification holder or your supervisor. The certification holder can be a CIA, CGAP, CFSA, CCSA, or CRMA. Additionally, the supervisor can be your current or former manager.

  • CCSA: control-related business experience, such as CSA, auditing, quality assurance, risk management, or environmental auditing.
  • CFSA: auditing experience in a financial services environment.
  • CGAP: auditing experience in a government environment (federal, state/provincial, local, quasi-governmental areas, authority/crown corporation).
  • CRMA: auditing experience or work in a controls-related business environment such as risk management, quality assurance, or CSA.

More, the number of years of work required is based on your level of education:

  • Master’s degree: 12 months of relevant experience
  • Bachelor’s degree: 24 months of relevant experience
  • Associate’s degree: 60 months of relevant experience

Experience Requirements: Internal Audit Practitioner Designation

No work experience is required to enter this program. In fact, students can enter the program, too.

Experience Requirements: QIAL

QIAL candidates must demonstrate considerable work experience to join the program. In particular, candidates need one of the following combinations:

  • Aspiring leader: CIA certificate + 5 years in internal audits or related experience
  • New leader: CIA certificate + 10 years in general management, now working as an audit executive
    • OR without a CIA certificate, 15 years in general management, now working as an audit executive
  • Experienced leader: CIA certificate + 10 years in general management, including 3 years as an audit executive; 3 of the last 5 years must be in audit executive management
    • OR without a CIA certificate, the same as above, but with 15 years in general management
  • Experienced instructor: CIA certificate + 10 years as an instructor at a senior level in internal auditing or considerable postgraduate research in subjects related to internal auditing
    • OR without a CIA certificate, the same as above, but with 15 years of academic experience in internal audits

Do I Need a Specialty IIA Certification?

Depending on your time commitment and career aspiration, a specialty IIA certificate may or may not benefit you. For most people who are interested in general internal audits, the CIA certification is sufficient, in my opinion. However, if you don’t mind taking one extra exam to get additional recognition in your own niche area, it could be beneficial in the longer term to go after the CRMA, for example.

Also, if you cannot get qualified for the CIA program yet, you can start with the Internal Audit Practitioner designation. It could be a good way to get your career started on the right foot.

See How You Can Get Certified!

Our main focus on this website is the CIA certification. However, given the demand from readers, we have started to cover the CRMA certification as well. We hope to add information to the other IIA certifications in the near future.

More Questions?

If you are interested in the CIA certification, please sign up for my mini-course, which is completely free. You can learn more about this mini e-course here.

For Your Reference

Here are the links to the official IIA certifications:

  • CGAP (Certified Government Auditing Professional)
  • CFSA (Certified Financial Services Auditor)
  • CCSA (Certification in Control Self-Assessment)
  • CRMA (Certification in Risk Management Assurance)

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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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