CIA Requirements: Every Step to Earning the CIA Certification

The Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification is very beneficial to auditors and accountants alike. The CIA benefits include higher income, more job opportunities, and additional trust and respect. Therefore, the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) enforces high standards for CIAs with the CIA requirements.

Altogether, the IIA has implemented 9 CIA certification requirements. And some are more challenging than others. But none of them are impossible. So, discover each of the 9 CIA requirements as you get on your way to earning the CIA.

The 9 Certified Internal Auditor Requirements

As mentioned, the IIA has established 9 requirements for the CIA certification. These requirements include:

  1. Eligibility Period
  2. Education
  3. Experience
  4. Character Reference
  5. Proof of Identification
  6. Exam
  7. Confidentiality
  8. Code of Ethics
  9. Continuing Professional Education (CPE)

Now, 9 requirements can make for a long list. But some of these requirements simply consist of completing and submitting a form.

So, don’t expect that each step of the CIA certification process will be particularly time-consuming.

Most Demanding CIA Requirements

However, certain requirements will be more difficult than others to check off your list. Consequently, you should expect to devote most of your effort to fulfilling your education, experience, and exam obligations.

These tasks will require the greatest amount of time and energy. And they will also represent the greatest expense.

Additionally, the CPE requirement will take more work than many of the other requirements. However, you won’t have to worry about CPE until you’ve received the actual CIA certification.

So, all in all, the CIA requirements aren’t particularly demanding, and they shouldn’t deter you from pursuing the program.

The Order of the CIA Requirements

To earn the CIA certification as efficiently as possible, candidates should try to follow the order of the list above as closely as possible. Following this order helps ensure that you’re meeting the IIA obligations without any undue headaches.

And coming into the CIA program with the education and/or experience requirement already met counts toward addressing the requirements in order.

However, you don’t have to fulfill the experience requirement before you take the exam. And what’s more, the IIA allows students in their senior year of college to take the exam as well. So, sticking to this requirements list isn’t always necessary.

IIA Membership: NOT Required for the CIA Certification

While advantageous, you don’t need to become an IIA member to earn your CIA certification. Yet, if you do decide to become a member, you’ll receive discounts on exam application fees, among other benefits.

Country-Specific CIA Requirements

Fortunately, auditors and accountants around the world have the opportunity to earn the CIA certification. However, some IIA chapters have their own unique CIA requirements.

Therefore, you should check for any location-specific requirements before you get too far in the certification process if you live in any of these countries:

  • Belgium
  • Brazil
  • China
  • Chinese Taiwan
  • Czech Republic
  • France
  • Indonesia
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Korea
  • Malaysia
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • South Africa
  • Switzerland
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • UK/Ireland

For more information about the CIA requirements in any of these countries, head to the local IIA website or contact a local representative.

CIA Requirements Eligibility Period

As mentioned, the IIA has outlined 9 Certified Internal Auditor requirements. And the first of those requirements is to finish the other requirements of the CIA program in 3 years.

The CIA eligibility period encompasses the education, character, work experience, and identification requirements specifically. And your eligibility period starts on the date you receive IIA application approval.

Furthermore, if you don’t earn your certification within those 3 years, you’ll have to start the program over, which will involve forfeiting all fees and re-taking any passed exam parts.

CIA Exam Requirement: Education

For the education requirement, the IIA requires CIA candidates to hold at least an associate’s degree or higher. However, the IIA does allow for equivalents to an associate’s degree, including:

  • Foundation Degree
  • Diploma of Higher Education
  • Higher National Diploma
  • 3 A-level certificates with a grade of C or higher

Your degree must come from an accredited university. The IIA uses the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) guidelines to define an accredited university.

Proof of Education

Furthermore, the IIA will need proof of your education. To provide this, you will upload one of the following documents to the IIA Certification Document Upload Portal (CDUP):

  • Copy of your degree, official transcripts, or A-level certificates
  • Letter from university confirming degree
  • Letter from evaluation services confirming degree level

The IIA education requirement does allow for some exceptions. For example, college students in their senior year can take the exam before graduation.

CIA Experience for Education

Also, candidates who don’t meet the minimum requirements may still be eligible to take the exam. In some cases, the IIA does approve candidates who have at least 7 years of verified experience in internal audit or an equivalent field.

CIA Certification Requirement: Experience

The CIA experience requirement varies based on a candidate’s education level. So, the more education you have, the fewer years of experience you need. The experience requirements per education level are as follows:

CIA Experience Requirement

Education Level Years of Work Experience Required
Master’s Degree (or equivalent) 12 months – internal auditing experience or its equivalent
Bachelor’s Degree (or equivalent) 24 months – internal auditing experience or its equivalent
Associate’s Degree, 3 A-Level Certificates, grade C or higher (or equivalent) 60 months – internal auditing experience or its equivalent

Not surprisingly, your experience has to be relevant to the CIA certification. Therefore, the IIA accepts work experience in audit/assessment fields such as external auditing, quality assurance, compliance, and internal control.

Proof of Experience

Much like the education requirement, the IIA requires proof of your professional experience. So, a current or former supervisor or a CIA, CCSA, CGAP, CFSA, or CRMA will need to verify your work history.

CIA candidates don’t have to meet the experience requirement before sitting for the exam. However, you must earn your experience within the program eligibility period. Failing to do so means failing to earn the CIA certification.

CIA Exemptions: Education and Experience Waivers

Now, some good news: If you already hold a certain certification or license, you may be able to bypass the CIA education and/or experience requirements. The Professional Certification Board (PCB) allows for the following CIA requirement exemptions:

CIA Program Exemptions

Certification/License Supporting Requirements Waived
Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) Qualified Members Education and Work Experience
U.S. Certified Public Accountant (CPA) Active License Holders Education

The PCB implemented these exemptions because the education and experience requirements for the ACCA and U.S. CPA programs meet and/or exceed the requirements for the CIA program.

To apply for a CIA exemption, you must simply fill out the appropriate fields on the CIA program application. And the CPA exemption is a benefit that makes it much easier for CPAs to gain the CIA, too.

Upon receipt, the IIA will put your application in a pending status until their certification administrators can verify your ACCA or CPA status.

CIA Exam Requirement: Character Reference

The IIA holds CIA candidates to the highest moral and professional standards. As such, you must agree to abide by these standards before you can earn your CIA certification.

To do so, you will complete and submit a character reference form that has been signed by a professor, supervisor, or a CIA, CGAP, CCSA, CFSA, or CRMA.

The character reference form is just a 1-page document. And it actually requires very little of you or the individual who signs it. However, the document holds plenty of weight.

So, take the time to read through the IIA Code of Ethics and ensure you can submit the form in good conscience.

CIA Exam Requirement: Proof of Identification

The IIA wants to know that you are who you say you are. Meaning you must provide proof of your identity.

The IIA will accept a current copy of your official passport or national identity. However, they will not take expired documents.

Once you have your identification, you can scan it and upload the image to the CDUP. As a side note, be sure your photo is clear. Otherwise, you may be asked to upload the image again.

CIA Certification Requirement: Exam

The IIA must approve your CIA program application before you can take the CIA exam. And application approval is dependent upon proof of your education and identification and your character reference.

Once you successfully submit those documents to the IIA, they will approve your application. Then, you’ll have the go-ahead to register for the CIA exam.

In summary, the CIA exam has 3 parts consisting of the following titles and topics:

CIA Exam Syllabus

1: Essentials of Internal Auditing 2: Practice of Internal Auditing 3: Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing
I. Foundations of Internal Auditing (15%) I. Managing the Internal Audit Activity (20%) I. Business Acumen (35%)
II. Independence and Objectivity (15%) II. Planning the Engagement (20%) II. Informational Security (25%)
III. Proficiency and Due Professional Care (18%) III. Performing the Engagement (40%) III. Information Technology (20%)
IV. Quality Assurance and Improvement Program (7%) IV. Communicating Engagement Results and Monitoring Progress (20%) IV. Financial Management (20%)
V. Governance, Risk Management, and Control (35%)
VI. Fraud Risks (10%)

Additionally, the CIA exam consists entirely of multiple-choice questions (MCQs).

Part 1 includes 125 MCQs, and you have 150 minutes to complete it. Part 2 and Part 3 both have 100 MCQs, and you have 120 minutes to finish each part. Consequently, time management for the CIA exam is critical!

Gleim CIA has one of the biggest and best test banks for the CIA exam. We even have an exclusive discount for all their CIA courses too.

CIA Exam Locations

The CIA exam itself is fully computerized. Fortunately, the IIA also offers plenty of flexibility for where and when you can take the CIA exam.

They work with Pearson VUE testing centers to offer convenient testing dates and times in locations around the world.

Plainly speaking, passing the CIA exam is one of the most challenging aspects of earning your CIA certification. However, you don’t have to go at it alone.

Luckily, you can use a CIA review course to help you prepare for and pass the exam. And, to save money on your exam prep, you can utilize CIA review course discounts.

CIA Challenge Exam

For exam candidates who have earned other designations and certifications (e.g., ACCA or CPA), it is possible for you to take the CIA Challenge Exam instead. While the Challenge Exam actually boasts a lower pass rate than the traditional 3-part exam, it may be a good choice for some CIA candidates. You can discover more about the CIA Challenge Exam and the Gleim CIA Challenge Exam Review Course if you’re interested in pursuing this option.

CIA Certification Requirement: Confidentiality

The IIA expects you to keep the contents of the CIA exam confidential. In fact, the exam is non-disclosed. Therefore, you can’t discuss or share the specific exam content with anyone (except the IIA Certification Department).

The IIA takes exam confidentiality seriously. As such, they consider any unauthorized disclosure of CIA exam material to be a violation of the Code of Ethics. So, if you’re found to have breached the code, you could be disqualified from the CIA program.

CIA Certification Requirement: Code of Ethics

Clearly, the Code of Ethics is important to the IIA. Therefore, you’ll have to continuously agree to abide by the code in order to maintain your CIA certification.

CIA Certification Requirement: Continuing Professional Education (CPE)

Finally, once you receive the CIA certification, you must meet the Continuing Professional Education (CPE) requirements to sustain your certified status.

The IIA put the CPE requirements in place to ensure CIAs stay current with their learning and skills and are up to date with industry changes.

However, the IIA shows some leniency with CPE for new CIAs. In the year you earn your certification, the IIA will award you 40 CPE hours. Then, they will grant you another 40 CPE hours the following year.

So, in total, you’ll receive 80 CPE hours before you’re responsible for taking on the requirements yourself.

Then, your CPE CIA requirements will depend on the reporting status of your certification. For example, if you are actively practicing internal audit or not. This chart explains the CIA CPE requirement specifics.

CIA CPE Requirements

Reporting Status Definition Use Certification? CPE Hours for CIA
Practicing Actively performing internal audits or related activities Yes 40
Non-practicing Not actively performing internal audits or related activities No 20

Regardless of your reporting status, the IIA requires you to spend 2 CPE hours every year on an ethics-related topic. Additionally, all CPE hours must stem from educational programs that meet the PCB guidelines.

Meeting the CIA Exam Requirement

Now that you’ve gone through the 9 CIA requirements in detail, you’re ready to take the next step toward earning the CIA certification. The process of becoming a Certified Internal Auditor is not overly complicated, especially if you have already met the education or experience requirements.

And you can get help for every step of the CIA application and exam registration process in my CIA e-course. This course is free and gives you all the information you need to get started with the CIA certification and pass the CIA exam on your first try!

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley), and I also passed all 4 sections of the CPA Exam on my first try. Additionally, I have led webinars, such as for the Institute of Management Accountants, authored featured articles on websites like Going Concern and AccountingWeb, and I'm also the CFO for the charity New Sight. Finally, I have created other accounting certification websites to help mentor non-CPA candidates. I have already mentored thousands of CPA, CMA, CIA, EA, and CFA candidates, and I can help you too!

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