How to Become a Certified Internal Auditor

How to Become a Certified Internal Auditor

Most large companies require internal auditors to be certified, and becoming a certified internal auditor (CIA) is a key step in career advancement. The primary certifying body is the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA), and a rigorous 3-part exam is the toughest aspect of certification. The test might seem daunting, but there are plenty of prep resources at your disposal, so don’t worry.

Part 1 of 4:
Meeting Eligibility Requirements

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Earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. If you haven’t already earned an undergraduate degree, enroll in a program at a 4-year college or university. The most popular degree programs for internal auditors are accounting and finance. Internal auditors rarely gain employment without a college degree, and work experience is required in order to become certified. [1] X Research source Beneficial courses include financial auditing, forensic accounting, business ethics, corporate management, and managerial finance.[2] X Research source Information technology is a growing specialization among internal auditors. If you’re interested in assessing a company’s IT infrastructure and network security, you’ll need additional coursework in computer science.[3] X Research source A 4-year degree is not required in order to gain IIA certification, but keep in mind it’s tough to get a job without one. The minimum education requirement is an associate's degree, but it must be accompanied by at least 5 years of professional experience.[4] X Research source
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Seize internship opportunities while you’re in school. Your professors and school’s career services office can help you find and secure internships. Interning with an accounting firm, government office, or corporate auditing department will offer invaluable professional experience and networking opportunities. [5] X Research source Generally, auditing interns are assigned duties that are similar to any full-time employee. Tasks might include reviewing quarterly financial statements, verifying compliance with state and federal regulations, preparing reports, and identifying ways to improve clients' business efficiency and accounting procedures. During your internship, keep a log of your daily tasks and accomplishments. Do your best to talk to junior and senior auditors, managers, and other members of the team. Ask about their career paths, what interests them most about the field, and if they can offer any advice on career planning. Having at least 1 internship under your belt is crucial to gaining employment after college. Many entry-level auditors and accountants land their first job at a firm where they interned.
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Pursue graduate studies for an advantage in the job market. While not required, consider obtaining a Master of Business Administration ( MBA), master of finance ( MFin), or master's degree in accounting. A graduate degree could give you an edge over competing job applicants, and it counts as a year of professional experience for the IIA CIA program. [6] X Research source Master’s degrees in accounting and finance usually take less time to complete than an MBA. An MBA is broader in scope, and could open the door to fields outside of financial auditing, such as executive leadership. The right choice also depends on your planned area of focus. An Master in Finance or accounting degree would be a good choice if you’ll specialize in financial auditing. For specializations in administrative areas, such as operational efficiency and regulatory compliance, and MBA would offer a strong foundation.
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Gain at least 1 to 2 years of professional experience. If you hold a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need at least 2 years of professional experience in order to become IIA-certified. You’ll need at least 1 year of experience if you hold a graduate degree related to accounting, business, or finance. [7] X Research source An entry-level auditor works with an accounting firm or internal auditing department under the supervision of senior auditors and an auditing manager. Search online for entry-level internal auditor, financial auditor, or night auditor postings. Keep in mind internships are a key step to landing your first job. Potential employers still need to see professional experience, even if you’re applying for an entry-level position. Check for openings at the firm you interned for; even if there are none, send your resume and cover letter. In the cover letter, express your gratitude for everything you learned, and ask that they keep your resume on file and consider you for any future openings. If you can't get a job as an entry-level auditor, expand your search to include accounting and bookkeeping positions. If you don't have much practical experience, working in a company's accounting department could be a stepping stone to becoming an auditor.
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Part 2 of 4:
Filling out the CIA Program Application

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Become an IIA member to save on exam fees. Join the IIA as a student or once you’ve landed your first entry-level auditing position. If you live in the United States, the annual fee for a professional membership is $255 (U.S); student members pay $40 per year. It’s a worthy investment, as certification costs are $855 for professional members, $655 for student members, and $1315 for non-members. [8] X Research source Become an IIA member at https://join.theiia.org. If you live outside of the U.S., membership dues vary by location. Find information about your nation’s chapter at https://global.theiia.org/pages/institutes.aspx. It’s wise to become a student member while you’re still in college. The annual membership fee is only $40, it looks good on your resume, and you’ll have access to career development resources, internship listings, and job postings.[9] X Research source
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Create a profile in the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS). The CCMS is an online portal through which you’ll submit your application, upload your required documents, and pay your fees. To start your profile, click on “First Time Users,” agree to the terms of use, then enter your name, email address, and contact information into the required fields. [10] X Research source Create your CCMS profile at https://global.theiia.org/certification/enrolled/Pages/Access-CCMS.aspx. Click on the “Access CCMS” link to load the portal, then find “First Time Users” at the right side of the screen.
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Complete your application form. On the CCMS main page, locate “Complete a Form,” then click on the CIA program link. Enter your name, IIA membership number (if applicable), date of birth, contact information, and other details into the required fields. [11] X Research source Fill out the digital form directly through the portal instead of filling out a printed paper copy.
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Pay your application fee. You’ll also need to submit your payment information on the application form. Acceptable payment forms include credit or debit, check, money order, or wire transfer. If you’re paying by credit or debit, enter your card number and expiration date on the application form. [12] X Research source If you’re paying by check or wire transfer, check the appropriate box on the application form. Mail your check or money order to the address listed on the application form, or use the information on the form to direct your transfer. There’s a $15 additional charge for wire transfer payments. For checks drawn from bank accounts outside the U.S., there’s an additional charge of $30. Submit the completed application form through the CCMS portal after you’ve entered your payment information.
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Fill out the experience verification form. Enter your name, job title, dates of employment, employer, and employer’s contact information. If you’ve held multiple auditing positions, you’ll need to submit a form for each job. [13] X Research source Find the experience verification form at https://na.theiia.org/certification/Public%20Documents/Experience_Verification_Form.pdf. You'll also see it in the CIA section of the CCMS.
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Ask your supervisor or professor to be a character reference. Your reference will need to fill out a 1-page form affirming that you meet the ethical standards required to be an internal auditor. Have your reference fill out a digital copy of the character reference form, then upload it onto the CCMS portal. [14] X Research source Download the character reference form at https://na.theiia.org/certification/Public%20Documents/Character_Reference_Form.pdf. The form only entails entering names and contact information and adding a signature. Your reference won't need to write an additional letter.
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Upload your required documents. After submitting your application form, find the document upload link on the CCMS. Submit digital copies of your degree or official college transcripts, the character reference form, 1 or more experience verification forms, and proof of identity. [15] X Research source Your proof of identity must be a scanned copy of your current (unexpired) passport or government-issued photo ID. You must upload your required forms within 90 days of submitting your CIA program application. If you don’t upload your documents in that time frame, your application will be voided, and you’ll forfeit your application fee.
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Part 3 of 4:
Taking the Certification Exam

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Register for the exam 48 hours after receiving your authorization email. After you’ve submitted your application and required documents, you’ll receive an email that contains an authorization code. You’ll be able to use the code to register for the exam 48 hours after the authorization email was sent. [16] X Research source Typically, it takes around 5 business days for applications to be processed. All IIA exams are managed by Pearson VUE. Register for and schedule the 3 exam sections at https://home.pearsonvue.com/iia. You’ll need to pay for each exam section when you register. Section 1 costs $280, and sections 2 and 3 cost $230 each.[17] X Research source
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Schedule the 3 parts within 180 days of each other. Schedule each exam section individually, and choose dates that are convenient for you. To ensure you have time to prepare, schedule the first section at least 2 to 3 months after you receive your authorization email. [18] X Research source After registering and scheduling an exam section, Pearson VUE will send you a confirmation email, which you should print and bring to the exam.[19] X Research source You must take the first section within 180 days of your application’s approval. You’ll then need to take the next exam section within 180 days of the previous section, and the third within 180 days of the second. Part 1 of the exam takes 2.5 hours, and the other 2 sections each take 2 hours. Because they’re so rigorous, taking the 3 sections on the same day is impractical.
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Access exam prep resources on the IIA website. Even if you’re an experienced auditor, you’ll still need to study for the IIA exam. With a 40% pass rate, it's a tough exam, but there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Take practice tests, check out the list of recommended reference books, and download IIA exam review courses. [20] X Research source The test is comprised of multiple choice questions on 15 topics, including foundations of internal auditing, risk management, fraud risks, performing field work, information security, and information technology. Check the exam syllabus for the complete lists of topics and the reference texts that correspond with each topic.[21] X Research source The first exam section covers topics 1 through 7, and the second and third sections each cover 4 topics. If you have 2 to 3 months to study for each section, you can focus on 1 topic per week, then spend at least 1 to 2 weeks taking timed practice tests for each section. Find the exam syllabus, practice exams, sample exam questions, tutorials, and other resources at https://global.theiia.org/certification/CIA-Certification/Pages/Exam-Preparation-Resources.aspx. You can also find IIA groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, where you can get in touch with people also studying for the exam.[22] X Research source
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Arrive to the testing center 30 minutes early. On testing day, bring your valid photo ID and printed copies of your IIA authorization email and the confirmation sent by Pearson VUE. Showing up 30 minutes early will ensure you have time for sign-in procedures. [23] X Research source The test is computer-based, so you don’t need a pencil or any other tools. You can’t bring any personal items into the testing room, so leave your phone, watch, bags, and wallet in your car. If you won't be driving to the exam, call your testing center and verify that they have lockers or another secure storage space.
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Retake an exam section within 90 to 180 days, if necessary. You’ll receive an unofficial score immediately after taking an exam section and an adjusted score within a few days. If you received less than 70%, you may retake an exam section without paying any additional fees. [24] X Research source You must retake the exam section within 90 to 180 days of the initial test date. You have 4 years to complete the CIA program, and you can retake exam sections without paying an additional fee during that time.
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Order your certificate after passing all 3 exam sections. After you’ve passed each section, you’ll receive an email informing you that you’ve successfully completed the CIA program. Congratulations! You can then head to the CCMS portal, and submit the certificate order form. [25] X Research source After logging in to CCMS portal, scroll down to the section labeled “Certificates,” then select “Certified Internal Auditor.” On the form, you'll need to enter your Certificate Serial Number, which was included in the email notifying you that passed the program. You can also find this number on the “Certification Progress” section on your CCMS main page. The certificate and standard shipping are free. Expedited shipping is available for a surcharge. Additional copies of your certificate cost $50.
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Part 4 of 4:
Continuing Your Education

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Complete at least 40 hours of continuing education per year. In order to maintain your certification, you’ll need to participate in IIA-approved professional development activities. Acceptable examples of continuing education include courses on topics related to your field, seminars and conferences, and publishing academic work. [26] X Research source Find continuing education opportunities at https://na.theiia.org/certification/certified/Pages/CPE-Opportunities.aspx.
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Report your annual continuing education hours by December 31. The reporting window opens in September; you’ll receive an email by then reminding you to submit your hours. To report your continuing education hours, log into your CCMS profile, then head to the “Complete a Form” link. [27] X Research source Find the reporting form for the current year, then enter your continuing educational activities and the hours you earned for each item.
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Pay your reporting fee or annual membership fee. If you live in the U.S. and are an IIA member, you don’t need to pay anything to continue your CIA status. Fees vary if you live outside the U.S. and are an IIA member, so check with your national chapter. [28] X Research source If you’re a member, you’ll need to pay your annual fee, which is $255 for professionals living in the U.S. If you’re not a member, you’ll need to pay a reporting fee of $120 to maintain your CIA status.
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Part 1 of 4:
Meeting Eligibility Requirements

Image titled Become a Certified Internal Auditor Step 1
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Earn a bachelor's degree in accounting or finance. If you haven’t already earned an undergraduate degree, enroll in a program at a 4-year college or university. The most popular degree programs for internal auditors are accounting and finance. Internal auditors rarely gain employment without a college degree, and work experience is required in order to become certified. [1] X Research source Beneficial courses include financial auditing, forensic accounting, business ethics, corporate management, and managerial finance.[2] X Research source Information technology is a growing specialization among internal auditors. If you’re interested in assessing a company’s IT infrastructure and network security, you’ll need additional coursework in computer science.[3] X Research source A 4-year degree is not required in order to gain IIA certification, but keep in mind it’s tough to get a job without one. The minimum education requirement is an associate's degree, but it must be accompanied by at least 5 years of professional experience.[4] X Research source
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Seize internship opportunities while you’re in school. Your professors and school’s career services office can help you find and secure internships. Interning with an accounting firm, government office, or corporate auditing department will offer invaluable professional experience and networking opportunities. [5] X Research source Generally, auditing interns are assigned duties that are similar to any full-time employee. Tasks might include reviewing quarterly financial statements, verifying compliance with state and federal regulations, preparing reports, and identifying ways to improve clients' business efficiency and accounting procedures. During your internship, keep a log of your daily tasks and accomplishments. Do your best to talk to junior and senior auditors, managers, and other members of the team. Ask about their career paths, what interests them most about the field, and if they can offer any advice on career planning. Having at least 1 internship under your belt is crucial to gaining employment after college. Many entry-level auditors and accountants land their first job at a firm where they interned.
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Pursue graduate studies for an advantage in the job market. While not required, consider obtaining a Master of Business Administration ( MBA), master of finance ( MFin), or master's degree in accounting. A graduate degree could give you an edge over competing job applicants, and it counts as a year of professional experience for the IIA CIA program. [6] X Research source Master’s degrees in accounting and finance usually take less time to complete than an MBA. An MBA is broader in scope, and could open the door to fields outside of financial auditing, such as executive leadership. The right choice also depends on your planned area of focus. An Master in Finance or accounting degree would be a good choice if you’ll specialize in financial auditing. For specializations in administrative areas, such as operational efficiency and regulatory compliance, and MBA would offer a strong foundation.
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Gain at least 1 to 2 years of professional experience. If you hold a bachelor’s degree, you’ll need at least 2 years of professional experience in order to become IIA-certified. You’ll need at least 1 year of experience if you hold a graduate degree related to accounting, business, or finance. [7] X Research source An entry-level auditor works with an accounting firm or internal auditing department under the supervision of senior auditors and an auditing manager. Search online for entry-level internal auditor, financial auditor, or night auditor postings. Keep in mind internships are a key step to landing your first job. Potential employers still need to see professional experience, even if you’re applying for an entry-level position. Check for openings at the firm you interned for; even if there are none, send your resume and cover letter. In the cover letter, express your gratitude for everything you learned, and ask that they keep your resume on file and consider you for any future openings. If you can't get a job as an entry-level auditor, expand your search to include accounting and bookkeeping positions. If you don't have much practical experience, working in a company's accounting department could be a stepping stone to becoming an auditor.
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Part 2 of 4:
Filling out the CIA Program Application

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Become an IIA member to save on exam fees. Join the IIA as a student or once you’ve landed your first entry-level auditing position. If you live in the United States, the annual fee for a professional membership is $255 (U.S); student members pay $40 per year. It’s a worthy investment, as certification costs are $855 for professional members, $655 for student members, and $1315 for non-members. [8] X Research source Become an IIA member at https://join.theiia.org. If you live outside of the U.S., membership dues vary by location. Find information about your nation’s chapter at https://global.theiia.org/pages/institutes.aspx. It’s wise to become a student member while you’re still in college. The annual membership fee is only $40, it looks good on your resume, and you’ll have access to career development resources, internship listings, and job postings.[9] X Research source
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Create a profile in the Certification Candidate Management System (CCMS). The CCMS is an online portal through which you’ll submit your application, upload your required documents, and pay your fees. To start your profile, click on “First Time Users,” agree to the terms of use, then enter your name, email address, and contact information into the required fields. [10] X Research source Create your CCMS profile at https://global.theiia.org/certification/enrolled/Pages/Access-CCMS.aspx. Click on the “Access CCMS” link to load the portal, then find “First Time Users” at the right side of the screen.
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Complete your application form. On the CCMS main page, locate “Complete a Form,” then click on the CIA program link. Enter your name, IIA membership number (if applicable), date of birth, contact information, and other details into the required fields. [11] X Research source Fill out the digital form directly through the portal instead of filling out a printed paper copy.
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Pay your application fee. You’ll also need to submit your payment information on the application form. Acceptable payment forms include credit or debit, check, money order, or wire transfer. If you’re paying by credit or debit, enter your card number and expiration date on the application form. [12] X Research source If you’re paying by check or wire transfer, check the appropriate box on the application form. Mail your check or money order to the address listed on the application form, or use the information on the form to direct your transfer. There’s a $15 additional charge for wire transfer payments. For checks drawn from bank accounts outside the U.S., there’s an additional charge of $30. Submit the completed application form through the CCMS portal after you’ve entered your payment information.
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Fill out the experience verification form. Enter your name, job title, dates of employment, employer, and employer’s contact information. If you’ve held multiple auditing positions, you’ll need to submit a form for each job. [13] X Research source Find the experience verification form at https://na.theiia.org/certification/Public%20Documents/Experience_Verification_Form.pdf. You'll also see it in the CIA section of the CCMS.
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Ask your supervisor or professor to be a character reference. Your reference will need to fill out a 1-page form affirming that you meet the ethical standards required to be an internal auditor. Have your reference fill out a digital copy of the character reference form, then upload it onto the CCMS portal. [14] X Research source Download the character reference form at https://na.theiia.org/certification/Public%20Documents/Character_Reference_Form.pdf. The form only entails entering names and contact information and adding a signature. Your reference won't need to write an additional letter.
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7
Upload your required documents. After submitting your application form, find the document upload link on the CCMS. Submit digital copies of your degree or official college transcripts, the character reference form, 1 or more experience verification forms, and proof of identity. [15] X Research source Your proof of identity must be a scanned copy of your current (unexpired) passport or government-issued photo ID. You must upload your required forms within 90 days of submitting your CIA program application. If you don’t upload your documents in that time frame, your application will be voided, and you’ll forfeit your application fee.
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Part 3 of 4:
Taking the Certification Exam

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Register for the exam 48 hours after receiving your authorization email. After you’ve submitted your application and required documents, you’ll receive an email that contains an authorization code. You’ll be able to use the code to register for the exam 48 hours after the authorization email was sent. [16] X Research source Typically, it takes around 5 business days for applications to be processed. All IIA exams are managed by Pearson VUE. Register for and schedule the 3 exam sections at https://home.pearsonvue.com/iia. You’ll need to pay for each exam section when you register. Section 1 costs $280, and sections 2 and 3 cost $230 each.[17] X Research source
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Schedule the 3 parts within 180 days of each other. Schedule each exam section individually, and choose dates that are convenient for you. To ensure you have time to prepare, schedule the first section at least 2 to 3 months after you receive your authorization email. [18] X Research source After registering and scheduling an exam section, Pearson VUE will send you a confirmation email, which you should print and bring to the exam.[19] X Research source You must take the first section within 180 days of your application’s approval. You’ll then need to take the next exam section within 180 days of the previous section, and the third within 180 days of the second. Part 1 of the exam takes 2.5 hours, and the other 2 sections each take 2 hours. Because they’re so rigorous, taking the 3 sections on the same day is impractical.
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3
Access exam prep resources on the IIA website. Even if you’re an experienced auditor, you’ll still need to study for the IIA exam. With a 40% pass rate, it's a tough exam, but there are plenty of resources at your disposal. Take practice tests, check out the list of recommended reference books, and download IIA exam review courses. [20] X Research source The test is comprised of multiple choice questions on 15 topics, including foundations of internal auditing, risk management, fraud risks, performing field work, information security, and information technology. Check the exam syllabus for the complete lists of topics and the reference texts that correspond with each topic.[21] X Research source The first exam section covers topics 1 through 7, and the second and third sections each cover 4 topics. If you have 2 to 3 months to study for each section, you can focus on 1 topic per week, then spend at least 1 to 2 weeks taking timed practice tests for each section. Find the exam syllabus, practice exams, sample exam questions, tutorials, and other resources at https://global.theiia.org/certification/CIA-Certification/Pages/Exam-Preparation-Resources.aspx. You can also find IIA groups on Facebook and LinkedIn, where you can get in touch with people also studying for the exam.[22] X Research source
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Arrive to the testing center 30 minutes early. On testing day, bring your valid photo ID and printed copies of your IIA authorization email and the confirmation sent by Pearson VUE. Showing up 30 minutes early will ensure you have time for sign-in procedures. [23] X Research source The test is computer-based, so you don’t need a pencil or any other tools. You can’t bring any personal items into the testing room, so leave your phone, watch, bags, and wallet in your car. If you won't be driving to the exam, call your testing center and verify that they have lockers or another secure storage space.
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5
Retake an exam section within 90 to 180 days, if necessary. You’ll receive an unofficial score immediately after taking an exam section and an adjusted score within a few days. If you received less than 70%, you may retake an exam section without paying any additional fees. [24] X Research source You must retake the exam section within 90 to 180 days of the initial test date. You have 4 years to complete the CIA program, and you can retake exam sections without paying an additional fee during that time.
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6
Order your certificate after passing all 3 exam sections. After you’ve passed each section, you’ll receive an email informing you that you’ve successfully completed the CIA program. Congratulations! You can then head to the CCMS portal, and submit the certificate order form. [25] X Research source After logging in to CCMS portal, scroll down to the section labeled “Certificates,” then select “Certified Internal Auditor.” On the form, you'll need to enter your Certificate Serial Number, which was included in the email notifying you that passed the program. You can also find this number on the “Certification Progress” section on your CCMS main page. The certificate and standard shipping are free. Expedited shipping is available for a surcharge. Additional copies of your certificate cost $50.
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Part 4 of 4:
Continuing Your Education

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Complete at least 40 hours of continuing education per year. In order to maintain your certification, you’ll need to participate in IIA-approved professional development activities. Acceptable examples of continuing education include courses on topics related to your field, seminars and conferences, and publishing academic work. [26] X Research source Find continuing education opportunities at https://na.theiia.org/certification/certified/Pages/CPE-Opportunities.aspx.
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2
Report your annual continuing education hours by December 31. The reporting window opens in September; you’ll receive an email by then reminding you to submit your hours. To report your continuing education hours, log into your CCMS profile, then head to the “Complete a Form” link. [27] X Research source Find the reporting form for the current year, then enter your continuing educational activities and the hours you earned for each item.
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3
Pay your reporting fee or annual membership fee. If you live in the U.S. and are an IIA member, you don’t need to pay anything to continue your CIA status. Fees vary if you live outside the U.S. and are an IIA member, so check with your national chapter. [28] X Research source If you’re a member, you’ll need to pay your annual fee, which is $255 for professionals living in the U.S. If you’re not a member, you’ll need to pay a reporting fee of $120 to maintain your CIA status.
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