Accounting Certifications: Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is an accounting certification for internal auditing recognized around the world. This certification is issued by the Institute of Internal Auditing. In this article, we will discuss all important aspects related to becoming a CIA: what a CIA is and is not; how to apply for and receive a CIA certification; how to prepare for and take the CIA exam; and finally, how to maintain your CIA license after you received it.

1. What is Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)?

A Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is a certification (license) granted to an individual who demonstrates the knowledge of internal auditing through education and training and who has gained some work experience in internal auditing.

Certified Internal Auditors are people who work in internal auditing on a regular basis.  There is some overlap between what CIAs do and what holders of other accounting certifications (for example, Certified Public Accountants or Certified Fraud Examiners) do; however, CIAs possess skills, knowledge, and experience specifically tailored to internal auditing.

According to the Institute of Internal Auditors (the IIA), “Internal auditing is an independent, objective assurance and consulting activity designed to add value and improve an organization’s operations. It helps an organization accomplish its objectives by bringing a systematic, disciplined approach to evaluate and improve the effectiveness of risk management, control, and governance processes.”

Internal auditing is different from external auditing.  While external auditors perform the examinations of financial and related records to ensure no material misstatements exist in financial statements, internal auditors engage in a wider range of examinations.  In addition to performing financial examinations, internal auditors also perform operational audits, risk assessments, IT audits or assessments, efficiency assessments, fraud examinations, and so on.

Even though internal auditors are usually on the company’s payroll, in order to more effectively perform their duties and provide the best value, internal auditors need to be objective.  This can be accomplished by establishing a direct communication line between the internal audit and the Board of Directors or the Audit (Finance) Committee of the Board.  In such organizations, internal auditors report to, or communicate directly with, the highest governing body which gives internal auditors more independence and objectivity.  In other organizations, internal auditors report to a member of senior management such as Chief Financial Officer.

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