DEFINITION of 'Certified Internal Auditor - CIA'

Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) is a certification offered to accountants who conduct internal audits. The Certified Internal Auditor designation is conferred by the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) and is the only such credential that is accepted worldwide.

CIAs usually work in the audit department of government agencies, financial institutions or corporations. They review financial records to look for deficiencies in internal controls.

Certified public accountants, or CPAs, are also trained in auditing and can perform many of the same functions as the CIA; however, the professional with a CIA designation will have a more micro-focused skill set. One important difference is that the CPA credential is often recognized only within the United States, whereas the CIA is an internationally recognized designation. While CPAs can be employed directly by a company in an auditor role, it is far more common for them to come into a company from the outside (external) to perform auditing functions. CIAs are thus more likely to be employed directly by a company. Although it is not very common, an accountant can pursue and hold both the CPA and CIA designations.

BREAKING DOWN 'Certified Internal Auditor - CIA'

Accountants seeking the CIA certification are required to get a bachelor’s degree and have no less than two years of work experience in a field related to internal auditing, such as internal control, compliance and quality assurance. Candidates for the designation usually study 100 to 150 hours for the credentialing exams, and provide a letter supporting the candidate's character. If you become a CIA, you will also have to meet continuing education (CE) requirements of 40 hours per year to maintain certification.

CIAs have a wide range of career options. A CIA can move into an executive position, such as vice president, chief audit executive or director. A CIA can specialize as an internal auditor, an audit manager and a compliance auditor, or in investigation auditing and information technology auditing. CPAs tend to earn slightly higher salaries than CIAs, but it will depend on the individual CIA’s job title and role. Recently, the median salary for a CPA was $62,123 and $59,677 for an internal auditor in the U.S.

Internal auditors are typically subject to a code of ethics. An example of internal auditors not adhering to that code is the Lehman Brothers scandal in 2008. Executives received high salaries despite the financial challenges the company experienced. In addition, inadequate internal controls allowed the accounting system to be manipulated by the reporting of fabricated numbers in the balance sheets. The actions were illegal, unethical, biased and unprofessional and violated the CIA code of ethics.

History

Fraud detection and control assessment are the basic components of internal auditing. Auditing techniques and control methods from England migrated to the United States during the Industrial Revolution. In the 20th century, auditors' reporting practices and testing methods were standardized.

The IIA launched in 1941 and solidified the internal audit practice as a profession. In 1950, Congress required that each executive agency include internal audits in the agency's system of internal controls. Internal auditing emerged as a separate accounting function in the middle of the 20th century.

In 1977, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act completely overhauled the internal auditing industry. The act prevented companies from hiding funds and conducting bribery. The act required companies to keep adequate systems of internal control and keep complete and correct financial records.

Outlook

The hiring of auditors was projected to grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024. Due to changes in legislation regarding financial reporting, corporate taxes, and mergers and acquisitions, an increase in the demand for auditors and a need for increased accountability to protect organizations and their stakeholders is certain. The role of auditors continues to change, which is going to drive job growth in the industry. In addition, succession planning, retirement and employee turnover will produce new job openings in the industry.

Companies and government agencies will continue to hire internal auditors to strengthen internal controls. Because accounting scandals and financial improprieties are still a real problem that investors and analysts must be made aware of, CIAs' role as auditors will remain important for the foreseeable future.

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