​​Certification: Where to Begin?

Internal auditors should consider several factors when deciding which certification is right for them.

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​Earning a certification can enhance an internal auditor’s career by demonstrating his or her subject-matter expertise and commitment to the profession. In the process of studying for a certification, an auditor can develop and practice time management skills similar to those used on an audit, which provides a solid foundation that can increase workplace performance and efficiency. Additionally, immersing oneself in a certification study program will improve an auditor’s ability to learn and fosters curiosity.

While the benefits are clearly demonstrated, it can be overwhelming choosing which certification to pursue. Auditors should ask themselves several questions when making this important career investment.

What Should I Pursue?

The IIA offers certifications, designations, and qualifications that can provide value along different points of an internal auditor’s career path. The certifications and designations that demonstrate core competency include the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA), Internal Audit Practitioner (IAP) — which can be applied for after passing part one of the CIA exam — and the Qualification in Internal Audit Leadership (QIAL). The CIA is the only globally accepted certification for internal auditors and is the standard by which individuals demonstrate their professionalism. The QIAL  is for aspiring leaders and current audit executives looking to further establish credibility and successfully lead an audit team.

The certifications that demonstrate subject-matter expertise include the Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) and the Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA). The CRMA establishes credibility as an advisor on risk and the CCSA positions auditors to drive organizational change.

Changes to IIA Certifications

The IIA is respositioning its Certification in Control Self-Assessment (CCSA), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), and Certified Government Audit Professional (CGAP) programs.

  • The CCSA program will be integrated with the Certification in Risk Management Assurance (CRMA) through the next CRMA exam update.
  • The CFSA and CGAP exam will transition to an assessment-based certificate program.

The last day The IIA will accept new CCSA, CGAP, and CFSA certification applications is Dec. 31, 2018. These certifications will continue to remain valid, supported by IIA training, and require annual continuing professional education credit reporting. Those who currently hold CGAP, CFSA, and CCSA certifications and want to obtain the Certified Internal Auditor credential may register to take the challenge exam from April 1, 2019, through Dec. 15, 2020. For more information, visit www.theiia.org.

Industry-specific certifications include the Certified Government Auditing Professional (CGAP), Certified Financial Services Auditor (CFSA), Certified Process Safety Auditor (CPSA), and Certified Professional Environmental Auditor (CPEA). Each of these demonstrates subject-matter expertise on industry-specific risks. Changes to the CCSA, CFSA, and CGAP certifications are coming in 2019 (see “Changes to IIA Certifications,” right).

There also are certifications offered by other associations that would benefit auditors who assess an organization’s IT and business systems (ISACA’s Certified Information Systems Auditor) or who want to become experts in fraud detection, prevention, and deterrence (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ Certified Fraud Examiner). Auditors should research any certification requirements with the organizations that own them.

What Makes Sense for My Career?

Auditors should consider where they are professionally and what skills they need to grow. Professional growth can mean moving into management positions or increased contributions as an individual.

For example, an experienced auditor can demonstrate his or her breadth of knowledge and subject-matter expertise by obtaining an industry specialty certification such as the CFSA or CPSA. An audit manager who is a CIA with career aspirations of audit director or chief audit executive (CAE) could demonstrate commitment to the profession and leadership abilities by earning the QIAL, which has experience and education requirements. The IAP is a great starting point to demonstrate a commitment to the profession while working toward a longer term goal of the CIA.

It is important to know that some certifications have eligibility requirements, such as education, work experience, formal training, and character references. For example, CIA candidates with a four-year degree must obtain a minimum of 24 months of internal audit experience or its equivalent. A master’s degree can substitute for 12 of the required 24 months. Candidates without a four-year degree can substitute work experience according to the eligibility guidelines. Familiarity with the requirements can help guide professional development efforts through one’s audit career.

Auditors can start their work toward a certification before they meet all the entry requirements. In some instances, professionals can sit for the exam without having met the work experience requirement and earn the certification once they have accumulated the years needed. The entry requirements — and exit requirements for some certifications — ensure the consistency and integrity of IIA certified professionals.

What Makes Sense for My Team?

Another factor to consider is the skill of the audit team, overall. If there is a solid concentration of experience, it makes sense to add breadth with a new skill. Does the team have a subject-matter expert on risk management? If not, it might make sense to pursue the CRMA to demonstrate expertise on risk assurance and governance processes.

Auditors should talk to their CAE about their professional development plan to ensure that the department and personal training goals are in alignment.

What Makes Sense for My Life?

Studying for any certification is a time commitment, which can vary depending on the certification. After reviewing the certification requirements to determine the number of exams per certification, testing center locations, exam syllabus, and overall time investment, an auditor can make a better informed decision regarding what commitment is appropriate.

Auditors also should consider how to study. Does this certification have an online training module, study book, or in-person course? How will training fit into the auditor’s life? Reaching out to one’s professional network is also recommended. Colleagues at work or in a local IIA chapter may have valuable insight on time management, study requirements, and other considerations an individual may not think about. In addition, auditors should consider joining an exam-related social media group to connect with others preparing to sit for the test. There are LinkedIn groups and Facebook pages dedicated to preparing for the CIA exam.

Elevating the Profession

A professional certification can be a worthwhile investment in an internal auditor’s future. To realize the value, professionals should carefully assess what makes sense for their career, team, organization, and overall life situation. Ultimately, a decision to pursue certification elevates not only the status of the internal auditor and adds value to the organization, but advances the profession, as well.

Dana Lawrence
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About the Author



Dana LawrenceDana Lawrence<p>Dana Lawrence, CIA, CRMA, CFSA, CRVPM, is an operational risk consultant with Simple Finance in Portland, Ore.​</p>https://iaonline.theiia.org/authors/Pages/Dana-Lawrence.aspx


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