You are methodical and detail oriented. You plot out everything from your education to going grocery shopping. People turn to you for solutions, and you know that you have what it takes to succeed in auditing. 

Now, it’s time to strategize your next career move. Becoming a Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) takes you to the next level in job opportunities, earnings potential and professional standing. Meeting the requirements of The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) might seem like a heavy lift, but you have the qualities to see it through and we’re here to tackle the requirements with you. The effort takes time and money, but once you review these steps, you will see a clear pathway ahead toward the prestigious CIA certification. 

How to become a CIA: Qualifications

Remember these Four E’s: education, ethics, examination and experience. These are the requirements you must satisfy in order to secure the CIA certification. You have four years to complete them all. You can complete the experience requirement at any time, but many candidates who don’t yet have the experience choose to pass the CIA Exam first. 

How to become a CIA: Education requirements

Under recent changes from The IIA, CIA candidates can bring a wide scope of educational backgrounds to the process. Previously, all candidates needed a bachelor’s degree, but now, you can enter the process with an associate’s degree or equivalent, or even no post-secondary schooling at all! The new requirements allow candidates to replace schooling with experience. Everything from a high school diploma or equivalent and up can qualify you for entry into the program.  

Chances are, you have achieved at least one level of education required, so this prerequisite is probably behind you. Keep in mind, though, that the less schooling you have, the more experience you will need. 

How to become a certified internal auditor: Ethics requirements

Like all credentials worth getting, the CIA requires that you adhere to a high moral and professional standard. CIA candidates must agree to abide by the principles outlined in The IIA’s Code of Ethics. Plus, an IIA-certified individual, your supervisor or your professor must sign the Character Reference Form to verify that you meet the ethics requirement. 

How to become a CIA: Exam requirements and format

This is where your focus and determination enter the picture. There is a demanding exam to pass. The CIA Exam contains three parts, hundreds of questions and hours of testing time. Prepare for these exam sections covering a broad spectrum of internal auditing topics:  

  • Part 1: Internal Audit Basics, with 125 multiple-choice questions (MCQs). Test time, 2.5 hours. 
  • Part 2: Internal Audit Practice, with 100 MCQs. Test time, 2 hours. 
  • Part 3: Internal Audit Knowledge Elements, with 100 MCQs. Test time, 2 hours.

Signing up for the exam and each section is a process in itself. Follow these steps: 

  • 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. After you receive IIA authorization, you will have 180 days to sit for that exam part. Just be sure to wait 48 hours from the time you receive your “Authorization to Test” email from the IIA before scheduling. 
  • Schedule your test with Pearson VUE, via website or phone. 

How to become a CIA: Experience requirements

Finally, you need experience, the kind that involves working in internal auditing or its equivalent. How many months of work experience do you need for CIA certification? Now we’re back to the education requirement, because your required experience depends on your level of education: 

  • Master’s degree or equivalent: 12 months 
  • Bachelor’s degree or equivalent: 24 months 
  • Associate’s degree or equivalent: 60 months 
  • High school diploma or equivalent: 60 months 

How to become a certified internal auditor: Other requirements

 A few other obligations will come your way. They don’t take much time or effort, but attention to detail pays off by streamlining the process.  

Proof of identification

Before you can receive approval for your CIA certification program application, you must submit official proof of identification, such as a state-issued driver’s license or passport. The IIA doesn’t accept expired documents, so your ID must be current. In the scanned image that you upload, your photo must be clearly visible. 


Zip your lip. Like many professional certification exams, the CIA Exam content is not to be discussed. You must agree to keep the exam contents confidential. When you arrive for your testing appointment, you must sign a non-disclosure agreement before you can take the exam. From then on, you may only discuss the contents of the exam with the IIA’s Certification Department. If you disclose exam information under any other circumstances, it’s a Code of Ethics breach that could lead to disqualification from the program. 

Eligibility period

The clock starts ticking when the IIA officially accepts you into the CIA program. At that point, you have four years to finish completing all of the requirements. If you don’t become certified in that four-year window, your program eligibility will expire. At that point, if you want to continue, you must reapply to the program and retake any exam parts you already passed. 

One way to avoid the consequences is by applying for an eligibility extension. You might qualify for the hardship extension, non-hardship program extension or exam eligibility extension. Each includes its own procedures and fees, which are explained in The IIA Certification Candidate Handbook. 

CPE/CE requirements

Once you achieve CIA status, you’ll want to maintain it in order to reap the career advantages while keeping your skills sharp and your knowledge up to date. To maintain certification, you need 40 hours of continuing professional education (CPE/CE) credits each year.  

Fortunately, the CIA designation comes with a head start. When you earn your certification, the IIA awards 40 CPE/CE hours in the first year, and another 40 CPE/CE hours the next year. That’s 80 hours under your belt, so you can take a break from studying and wait for your third year of certification to start earning those continuing education credits.  

Variations in CIA qualifications

Where in the world do you live? When you’re earning a CIA, it matters. In some countries, affiliates of the IIA administer the CIA Exam, and the certification processes, pricing and taxes may vary. For example, CIA candidates living in South Africa and the United Kingdom/Ireland must be members of their home-country branches of the IIA.  

If you live in one of these countries, refer to your local IIA website or contact your local representative for details on the pathway to CIA: 

  • Belgium 
  • Brazil 
  • China 
  • Chinese Taiwan 
  • Czech Republic 
  • Indonesia 
  • Japan 
  • Korea 
  • Malaysia 
  • South Africa 
  • Switzerland 
  • Thailand 
  • United Kingdom/Ireland 

CIA requirement exemptions

If you’re already a member of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), you might be exempt from the CIA education and experience requirements. That’s because 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 the CIA program requirements. 

You can apply for the exemptions using fields supplied on the CIA application. It might mean a longer wait for CIA program approval while administrators certify your active ACCA membership or CPA license, but you’ll reach CIA certification much faster! 

Surgent paves the way for CIA Exam success

With all the resources you’re about to put into getting your CIA certification, you want assurances that you will pass the CIA Exam. 

Meet Surgent CIA Review. Surgent students have a 96% pass rate on the CIA Exam – one of the best in the industry. Even better, Surgent CIA Review helps you pass the CIA Exam 73% faster than most other review courses, so you get a running start on your new career. 

Surgent’s key to success is customization. With these features, your studies zero in on the subjects you need to learn: 

  • A.S.A.P.® Technology: Adaptive learning designs a study course that adapts to your existing knowledge levels.  
  • ReadySCORE™: With ReadySCORE, you know what your score would be if you sat for the test that day. You aren’t taking the test too soon or wasting time on unnecessary delays.  
  • MyMCQ™: The more you learn, the more MyMCQ delivers practice multiple-choice questions that challenge your skills. 
  • Daily Surge: The best way to study is to “snack” at it, taking a few minutes or a quiet hour to explore a new topic. With personalized study suggestions from Daily Surge, you don’t waste those precious minutes searching for the most relevant materials.  
  • 100% pass guarantee: A 96% pass rate is pretty darn good, but just in case, Surgent’s 100% pass guarantee means you don’t lose your prep course investment if something goes wrong. Surgent only succeeds if you do.  

Experience all of these features with a free trial of Surgent CIA Review. Get started today, and you’re on the road to passing the CIA Exam and earning that prestigious credential.