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CIA exam requirements:
How to become a Certified Internal Auditor

Discover the requirements to take the CIA exam today, and how to maintain your certificate once you pass!

CIA exam requirements:
How to become a Certified Internal Auditor

Discover the requirements to take the CIA exam today, and how to maintain your certificate once you pass!

To earn the certified internal auditor certification, you have to satisfy the Four E’s: Education, Ethics, Examination, and Experience. All four requirements must be completed within a three-year eligibility period in the proper order.

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) requires candidates to satisfy the education and ethics requirements prior to completing the examination requirement. (This rule does not apply to students, who are eligible to sit for the CIA exam in their senior year.) You may complete the experience requirement at any time, but many candidates choose to pass the CIA exam first.

Education

The first qualification for becoming a CIA is fulfilling the education requirement. The IIA recently changed this requirement to better account for the wide range of educational backgrounds among potential CIA candidates. Previously, all candidates needed a bachelor’s degree. But now The IIA has made certification possible for candidates with an associate’s degree (or equivalent) and candidates with no post-secondary education at all!

For Candidates with Post-secondary Education

In North AmericaOutside North America
Bachelor’s degree (or higher)Three- or four-year post-secondary degree (or higher)
Associate’s degreeA-Level certificate or equivalent

For Candidates without Post-secondary Education

Candidates who possess seven years of verified experience in internal auditing (or equivalent) may become eligible subject to approval.

NOTE: If your name has changed since you earned your degree, you must also include your legal name change document.

Common associate’s degree equivalents recognized by The IIA include:

  • Foundation Degree
  • Diploma of Higher Education
  • Higher National Diploma

To prove that you possess an acceptable degree, you must supply The IIA with one of the following documents:

  • Copy of your degree or official transcripts
  • Letter from a university confirming degree
  • Letter from evaluation services confirming degree level

NOTE: If you are enrolled as a full-time student (at least 12 semester hours or equivalent) in your final year, you may enter the CIA program and sit for the CIA exam parts before completing your education requirement. However, you must complete the education requirement before you can be certified.

Ethics

The IIA holds CIA candidates to high moral and professional standards outlined in its Code of Ethics. To become a CIA, you must agree to abide by this Code of Ethics. You must also have an IIA-certified individual, your supervisor, or your professor sign the Character Reference Form to verify that you meet the ethics requirement.

Examination

Passing the CIA examination is one of the certification’s most demanding requirements. The CIA exam contains three parts, hundreds of questions, and hours of testing time, all of which are detailed in the table below.

CIA Exam Format

Exam PartTitleNumber of QuestionsTesting Time
Part 1Essentials of Internal Auditing125 multiple-choice2.5 hours
Part 2Practice of Internal Auditing100 multiple-choice2 hours
Part 3Business Knowledge for Internal Auditing100 multiple-choice2 hours
Total325 questions6.5 hours

To take the CIA exam, you must:

  • Create a profile in The IIA’s Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS)
  • Use the CCMS to apply to the CIA Certification Program.
  • Register online for the part of the exam that you want to take.
  • Schedule your test with Pearson VUE, which you can do via their website or by phone.

Experience

The final major requirement you must satisfy to become a CIA is the experience requirement, which involves working in internal auditing or its equivalent for a certain number of months. The amount of work experience you need depends on the level of education you’ve achieved. The IIA is specific about the type of work that qualifies. The Experience Verification Form from The IIA stipulates “audit/assessment disciplines, including external auditing, quality assurance, compliance, and internal control.”

NOTE: While you can apply for, sit, and pass the CIA exam before fulfilling the experience requirement, you will not be certified as a CIA until you meet this requirement. Additionally, you must complete this requirement within your 3-year program eligibility period.

CIA Experience Requirement
Educational LevelWork Experience Required
Master’s degree or equivalent12 months
Bachelor’s degree or equivalent24 months
Associate’s degree, A-Level certificate, or equivalent60 months

Additional CIA exam requirements

There are a few other obligations you must fulfill to earn the CIA. However, these requirements don’t call for as much time or effort on your part.

Identification card with photo and passport for identification CIA exam requirement

Proof of identification

Before you can receive approval for your CIA certification program application, you must submit proof of identification in the form of your official passport or national identification card. The IIA only accepts current documents, so none of these can be expired. This documentation must be scanned and uploaded through the Document Upload Portal in such a way that the picture is clearly legible.

Signed Non-Disclosure Agreement for confidentiality CIA exam requirement

Confidentiality

Like many professional certification exams, the CIA exam is non-disclosed. Therefore, entrance into the CIA program depends in part on your agreeing to keep the contents of the exam confidential. You are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement at your testing appointment before you will be allowed to take the exam. You will only ever be allowed to discuss the exam content with The IIA’s Certification Department. Disclosing exam information under any other circumstances is a Code of Ethics breach that could result in program disqualification.

Three year calendar to finish CIA program

Eligibility period

Once The IIA officially accepts you into the CIA program, you have three years to finish the program by completing every eligibility requirement discussed above. If you do not become certified in your 3-year window, your program eligibility will expire, you will have to reapply to the program, and you must retake any exam parts you passed in your previous eligibility period.

Eligibility Extensions

You can avoid these consequences by applying for an eligibility extension. There are three different types of extensions: hardship extension, non-hardship program extension, and exam eligibility extension.

  • The hardship extension can apply both to the 180-day exam eligibility window and your 3-year program eligibility window. You should submit an incident through the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS) detailing the extenuating circumstances and providing supporting documentation.
  • Nonhardship program extensions are specifically for the program eligibility window. You must complete a Program Extension form through CCMS and pay the applicable fee of $275 USD. This will extend your program eligibility window by 12 months.
  • The exam eligibility extension extends your 180-day Authorization to Test by another 60 days. You must complete the Exam Registration Extension form through CCMS and pay a fee of $100 USD.

Each of these extensions includes its own procedures and fees, which you can learn more about in the IIA Certification Candidate Handbook.

Continuing professional education

To maintain your CIA status, you must earn 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) with at least two hours of ethics each year. This requirement ensures that your knowledge and skills stay current with the needs and demands of the internal audit field.

You won’t need to address the CPE requirement right away. The IIA awards 40 CPE hours to candidates the year they earn the certification and 40 CPE hours the following year. With 80 CPE hours accounted for, you can wait until your third year of certification to start earning your CPE.

Variations in CIA administration

In some countries, The IIA affiliates administer the CIA exam, and the certification processes, pricing, and taxes may vary. For example, CIA candidates residing in South Africa and the United Kingdom/Ireland must be members of The IIA branches within their respective countries.

According to the CIA Candidate Handbook, if you live in one of the countries listed below, you’ll need to refer to your local IIA Institute website or contact your local representative to discover the specifics of your CIA journey.

Global CIA exam requirements

CIA exam requirement exemptions

If you’re already a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), we’ve got great news! You may be exempt from the CIA education and experience requirements.

The Professional Certification Board (PCB) has determined that the experience requirements for ACCA members and the education requirement for U.S. CPAs meet and/or exceed these requirements for the CIA program. Therefore, the PCB has approved work experience and education exemptions for qualified ACCA members and education exemptions for U.S. CPAs.

To be considered for these exemptions, you must simply complete the appropriate fields on the CIA application. The status of your CIA application will be pending while certification administrators confirm that your membership or license is active. But even if you have to wait a little longer for CIA program approval, you won’t have to wait as long for CIA certification thanks to these exemptions!