Certified internal auditor: Explore careers and the value of an online MAc

Auditing is a specialized subset of work within financial departments. Companies of all kinds need effective and trustworthy internal auditors to review their finances and ensure they are making intelligent, effective, and compliant use of their funds. Financial professionals who want to stand out as top candidates for these auditor positions may seek certification from the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA). Studying accounting at the graduate level is a helpful way to prepare to earn Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) credentials.

Both certification from the IIA and a Master of Accounting degree are signs for employers that an individual is an expert in the field of auditing and possesses up-to-date knowledge of industry conditions, relevant technology, and professional ethics. Hiring managers may recognize these credentials as markers of a top candidate who can lend expertise to an internal auditing team and potentially move into a leadership role in the years to come.

Becoming a certified internal auditor

Professionals who are serious about internal auditing careers can pursue CIA credentials, potentially opening the path to higher earnings and further advancement within the financial department. The IIA states that passing the required tests and attaining the professional and educational requirements demonstrates to departmental leaders that an individual is committed to auditing, willing to invest in his or her own development, and rich in expertise.

Auditors review corporate financial documents

Certified internal auditor requirements

Achieving internal auditor certification is a multi-step process. Applicants must have at least an associate degree or equivalent educational history to take the IIA’s examination.

The more education an individual has, the fewer years in professional internal auditing are required to sit for the test. For instance, professionals with an associate degree must have served in relevant roles for 60 months, while bachelor’s degree holders have to serve 24 months. Master’s graduates, such as individuals who have completed an online MAc program, require only 12 months of internal auditing experience. People with no suitable degree can take an alternate route to eligibility, but it requires seven years of professional service.

Certified public accountants have their own path to the CIA exam. The IIA explained that CPAs with active licenses can waive the education requirements, while qualified members of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants can skip education and work experience needs.

To enter the CIA program, applicants must have proven themselves to have strong morals, as they will be responsible for companies’ regulatory compliance and ethical use of funds. A character reference from an already-certified professional or a candidate’s current supervisor is therefore a required part of the application process.

The CIA exam consists of three parts. The first segment is on the IIA International Professional Practices Framework. The second is on performance standards and up-to-date practices required of all internal auditors. The third part of the test focuses on the business knowledge CIAs will use in their everyday practices. Once certified, CIAs have to keep up with professional education requirements to ensure their knowledge remains current.

Certified internal auditor salary and employment picture

CIA credentials are a potentially valuable addition to a resume because of the ongoing demand for auditing and financial oversight at multiple levels and in industries of all kinds. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the widely accepted standards for the internal auditing profession come from the IIA, which adds weight to the certifications it issues. The BLS, which counts accountants and auditors as one profession, predicts that positions in this field will increase 10% between 2016 and 2026. That’s higher than the 7% growth across all jobs.

PayScale reports that the average annual salary for people holding CIA credentials is $85,000. The amount an individual earns will inevitably be tied to how far that professional rises within an auditing department. Rank-and-file internal auditors make a mean of $59,416, while that number rises to $77,337 for senior internal auditors and $99,107 for those who attain the role of internal auditing manager. Becoming a director of internal audits for a large company can push a professional into six-figure salary range at $127,968.

Explaining some of the reasons for high demand and starting pay within the internal auditor profession, Robert Half notes that many organizations are currently in patterns of growth, taking on new lines of business and pursuing opportunities for expansion. In such cases, the companies will need qualified auditing departments to determine the relative risk of those new operational areas. Monitoring potential earnings and losses from new initiatives will likely keep internal auditors busy in the years ahead, as will coping with newly revised and expanded regulations.

Earning an online MAc

Once professionals understand the technical requirements of how to become an internal auditor, they should consider the educational path they will take to reach CIA certification. One of the primary ways to build needed experience and accumulate necessary knowledge is to study for a graduate degree, such as the online Master of Accounting from the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business. MAc programs administered 100% online allow financial professionals to keep up with full-time work while earning their degrees and preparing to sit for the CIA exam.

Through courses such as Advanced Auditing and Attestation, students learn about today’s auditing approaches. The laws and best practices affecting the internal auditing profession have evolved, which makes it especially helpful for professionals to learn from experts in the field as part of a MAc program. For those interested in this career path, the Internal Auditing elective is another of the essential courses within the MAc syllabus. The class covers theoretical and practical concerns, demonstrating the how and why of auditing companies’ financial risks.

While no one path to leads to a high-ranking position in a company’s auditing department, programs and processes can help professionals learn the most relevant concepts they will need to thrive. Earning a MAc and then taking the CIA exam is one potential journey an employee can take when motivated by a desire to commit to the auditing profession. Whether seeking advancement at a present employer or increased opportunities on the open market, such education and credentials could be important resume additions.


Recommended Reading:

Internal auditing vs. external auditing Master of accounting online vs. on-campus learning


The Institute of Internal Auditors North America – Why Become Certified? The Institute of Internal Auditors North America – Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) Eligibility Requirements

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – Accountants and Auditors – Job Outlook

Robert Half – A Look Ahead: Internal Audit Hiring and Salary Trends

PayScale – Salary for Certification: Certified Internal Auditor (CIA)