A Guide on How to Become a Certified Internal Auditor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published November 24, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Maintaining workplace efficiency is critical for a firm or department to continue to grow. Internal auditors help ensure that a department operates as effectively while adhering to legal and regulatory requirements. Understanding the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification and how it can help you establish that you're a qualified professional who understands business needs might help you improve your auditing career. In this article, we discuss how to become a certified internal auditor and provide the necessary requirements for eligibility.

How to become a certified internal auditor

These steps cover how to become a certified internal auditor and the procedures to follow to help guarantee you can pass the CIA exam:

1. Find and acquire a CIA review course

A CIA review course can offer you a vital overview of the exam subject. It can enable you to use what you've studied, and it has an integrated exam support system. The review course provides convenient access to study resources in a single location. These resources include reading materials, practice exams, audio and video lessons, and flashcards. As a result, the course can also assist you in developing an adequate study strategy and mastering the exam topics.

Related: How to Become a CFA: A Step-by-Step Guide

2. Submit an application for the CIA program

Typically, to apply for the certification program, you go to the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) website and set up an account in the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS). Then you may begin filling out your CIA application. You may submit your character reference, proof of identification, and any other necessary documents. Here you can also pay the application fee. The IIA then sends you a confirmation email upon acceptance of your application and payment. This email typically comes within 24 to 48 hours.

3. Enroll for the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) exam

Once the IIA approves your application and registers you for the CIA course, you can book an appointment for the CIA exam testing. The registration process for the exam is generally straightforward. You can log in to the IIA CCMS, enroll for the relevant exam parts, complete the registration form, and then pay the certification exam costs.

4. Make an appointment for your examination

There are two parts to registering for the CIA exam. To begin, you can enroll for the exam via the IIA CCMS. The IIA then sends you an email with the subject "Authorization to test." Next, you can complete the registration procedure via Pearson VUE by following the directions in the email.

To access the Pearson VUE portal, you can click on the provided link. Then you may select the date and place of examination that are most convenient for you. Pearson VUE testing locations are typically open five to six days a week. After getting the initial email from the IIA, there's a compulsory waiting period of 48 hours before you can register with Pearson VUE. Once that 48 hours pass, you have 180 days to arrange and take your exam.

5. Take and pass the CIA examination

The CIA exam contains three parts that cover a variety of internal auditing subjects within specific content areas. The parts are essentials, practice, and business knowledge for internal auditing. The exam measures your knowledge of internal auditing concepts at two levels of interpretation. The IIA incorporates the levels into the CIA exam to ensure that candidates have extensive knowledge of critical concepts. According to the exam syllabus, the cognitive levels are:

  • Basic level: Candidates recollect applicable information from memory and demonstrate foundational knowledge of principles and practices.

  • Proficient level: Candidates employ principles and practices to assess and draw conclusions depending on relevant factors.

Related: How to Become a Chartered Accountant: Definition and Steps

6. Attain the required level of experience

The IIA doesn't require a set amount of experience before you take the CIA exam. You can fulfill the CIA program requirements within three years of taking the exam. The IIA requires a minimum of 12 months of relevant experience, which increases depending on your level of education:

  • Master's degree or a similar qualification: 12 months of experience in internal auditing or a comparable role.

  • Bachelor's degree or equivalent: 24 months experience in internal auditing or its equivalent.

  • Associate degree: 60 months of experience in internal auditing or a comparable role.

7. Acquire the CIA certification and initiate the CPE process.

The IIA encourages CIAs to continue their education and development within the sector. Once you have obtained your CIA certification, it requires you to adhere to the IIA's continuing professional education (CPE) standards. The IIA provides 40 hours of continuing education throughout the year in which you acquire the CIA. The following year, you receive an additional 40 hours, for 80 hours over two years. Typically, to get CPE credits, you wait two years after receiving your CIA certification.

Generally, the IIA approves CPE hours earned through training programs that adhere to the Professional Certification Board (PCB) requirements. It may also be necessary for all CIAs, practicing or otherwise, to devote 2 hours of CPE hours every year to an ethics subject. CPE requirements vary according to whether a CIA is a practicing or non-practicing auditor, or if they provide related services. Here are the hours required:

  • Practicing internal auditors: actively carrying out internal audit functions or related duties requires 40 hours.

  • Non-practicing internal auditors: not actively performing internal audit functions or related duties requires 20 hours.

Eligibility requirements for becoming a CIA

Earning your CIA certification requires meeting the global requirements prescribed by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). These requirements include:


To be eligible for the CIA, you require at least an associate's degree or its equivalent. The IIA recognizes common associate's degree equivalents. Equivalent qualifications include a foundation degree, a Diploma of Better Education, a Higher National Diploma, or for those who studied abroad, three A-level certificates with a grade of C minimum.

There's also no condition that your degree is in a particular subject of study. For instance, your degree can be in medicine, commerce, or applied science. The IIA can accept student applications. If you're a full-time undergraduate in your final year, you may apply for the CIA. You may be able to supplement education for the experience if you don't satisfy the IIA CIA education criteria. The IIA can accept seven years of confirmed experience in internal auditing or a similar field in place of a degree.

Related: How to Become a Bookkeeper With Examples of Important Technical, Hard, and Soft Skills

Work experience

The CIA certification represents a specific degree of proficiency. The IIA expects candidates to have relevant experience. Candidates may require experience in areas such as quality assurance, internal control, and compliance. The number of years of experience you require depends on your education level, with higher degrees requiring less work experience. You also require a supervisor to ascertain your work experience and sign your form. Individuals with the following certifications may also perform that function:

  • Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

  • Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA)

  • Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP)

  • Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA)

  • Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA)

Character reference

Businesses typically entrust CIAs with very sensitive and confidential data. The IIA holds CIAs to the highest professional and ethical standards. All CIA candidates submit a character reference attesting to their commitment to the IIA's code of ethical and professional conduct.

Eligibility period

Candidates for the CIA certification have three years to satisfy all certification criteria. The time begins counting after the IIA approves your program. If you're unable to complete all CIA requirements within the three-year time frame, it may mean forfeiture of all exam credits and costs. If you choose to continue with the certification, it may be necessary to start from the beginning of the process.

Experience and education waivers

The IIA may permit flexibility in terms of experience and education criteria. For instance, being a qualified member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or an active holder of the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) qualification can exempt you from those criteria. If you meet the requirements for either of these exclusions, you can indicate it on your application for the CIA program. Your application status may pend until the IIA certification administrators confirm that your membership or licence is active and valid.

Read more: Average Annual Salary for CPA


Because the CIA exam contains confidential information, it goes against IIA guidelines to share any details related to it. Once you have passed the exam, there's a requirement to not disclose its contents to anyone other than the IIA's Certification Department. Maintaining confidentiality is essential, demonstrates your trustworthiness, and makes you eligible to complete your certification.

Please note Indeed is not affiliated with any of the companies mentioned in this article.

Explore more articles