Becoming a Certified Internal Auditor

In many organizations, internal audits are far more critical than mere procedural necessity. Auditors not only verify the accuracy of financial records but also ensure legal compliance, detect fraud, and mitigate risk, making them key players in a company’s efforts to safeguard assets and determine strategic direction. As the significance and scope of audits grow, accounting professionals may find it in their best interest to demonstrate their commitment and expertise through certification.

What is a Certified Internal Auditor?

Certified Internal Auditor, or CIA (which bears no connection to the Central Intelligence Agency), is the primary professional designation bestowed by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and the only internal audit certification recognized globally and across industries. CIAs perform internal audits consistent with an organization’s objectives, including assessing financial records, management effectiveness, and legal compliance.

As companies adapt to ever-changing legislation regarding financial reporting, corporate taxes, and mergers and acquisitions, a CIA’s competence in risk prevention is increasing in demand. As a result, career options for CIAs are expanding beyond accounting into additional fields such as law, health care, government, and engineering. Regardless of industry or specialty, certification illustrates that an auditor possesses the understanding, skills, and professionalism needed to provide an objective, high-caliber evaluation of an organization’s business from both a financial and operational perspective.

How to Become a CIA

The IIA confers the Certified Internal Auditor designation following the successful completion of a three-part exam. Before registering for the exam, candidates must meet specific requirements.


A candidate must graduate with a 4-year post-secondary degree or higher. The degree can be in any subject but must be from an accredited, IIA-approved university. The higher the candidate’s level of education, the less work experience will be needed to register for the CIA exam. Alternatively, a sufficient amount of professional experience in internal auditing or a comparable field may substitute for lack of education.

Work Experience

Anyone wishing to register for the CIA exam must have a minimum of experience in internal audits or a related discipline such as external auditing, compliance, or quality assurance. Candidates holding a master’s degree must demonstrate 12 months of relevant experience, while candidates with less education will need 24 months or more work experience.

Character Reference

Candidates must also obtain a character reference before registering for the CIA exam. The reference can be written by the candidate’s supervisor, a CIA, or another auditor. It must exhibit that the candidate possesses the high level of integrity and aptitude needed to uphold this certification.

Once these preliminary requirements have been met, a candidate must register for and pass the CIA exam to become a Certified Internal Auditor. The exam consists of three parts that must be completed within a 3-year period. The multiple-choice exam questions cover various topics, including governance, risk management, audit performance, information security, financial management, and communication regarding audit results. After passing all three portions of the exam and obtaining the CIA designation, CIAs must complete ongoing educational development annually. 

Becoming a Certified Independent Auditor demands time, effort, and dedication, but your enhanced knowledge and credibility will distinguish you among your peers, leading to new responsibilities, increased earning potential, and advancement opportunities. The Robert Joseph Group commends your interest in considering this next step in your career. We provide opportunities for up-and-coming talent to find placements that will set them up for success. Contact us today.