What is CISA Certification?

When the personal computer and World Wide Web was invented, developed, and unleashed upon the world at the tail end of the 20th century, the impact it had was unprecedented. This technological revolution fundamentally changed the way people communicate, shop, entertain themselves, and even think.

As a result of this paradigm shift, countless industries and professions have sprung up to meet the unique needs of this new world. Some of the most prominent and relevant among these are information technology, also known as IT, and information security, also known as InfoSec. These industries directly concern themselves with improving computing and networking abilities while also keeping them safe for the general public to use.

Since these new technologies and industries generate a significant amount of money, it makes sense that the world of accounting and financial management would adapt to this shift as well. This is where CISA certification comes in: a niche educational path that can lead to significant benefits for anyone interested in both IT and accounting.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What does CISA stand for?
A: CISA stands for Certified Information Systems Auditor.
Q: Is CISA an accounting or IT certification?
A: It’s a bit of both. However, the best way to look at it is as an accounting certification with a focus on IT.
Q: How do I become CISA certified?
A: You must have 3-5 of relevant professional experience and complete a certification exam.

CISA Certification

Much like with any other professional certification, there are a few hurdles for you to overcome if you wish to be CISA certified. They can be summed up as such:

  • Education/Experience: You must have at least five years of professional experience, within ten years of the time that you are seeking to attain certification, in careers that are relevant to information systems, information auditing, and/or InfoSec. Certain educational achievements that are also relevant to these fields can be submitted as experience, meaning that you can lower this requirement to three years.
  • Examination: After agreeing to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association’s (ISACA) Code of Professional Ethics and agreeing to adhere to their professional standards, you will have to take a four-hour certification exam. This test is made up of 150 multiple-choice questions and is graded on a scale of 200 to 800 points. A passing grade is any score above 450.

On one hand, these requirements are a bit more involved than some certification programs: specifically, those in project management or at the lower levels of accounting only require passing an exam without any professional experience. However, when compared to other InfoSec programs such as CISSP, these requirements are relatively lax.

Certification Exam

As is custom, the central requirement to becoming CISA certified is passing a lengthy exam. Surprisingly for a test relating to IT and information systems, this test is taken on paper and not on a computer. And since the profession this certification is geared toward exists in a small niche, the range of subject matter in which students must familiarize themselves is fairly small as well.

Here are some of the topics you will be tested on in the CISA exam that have to do with Information Systems (IS for short):

  • Acquisition
  • Auditing
  • Development
  • Governance
  • Implementation
  • Maintenance
  • Management
  • Protection

This is the most important thing to know about this certification: although it concerns traditional finance and accounting concepts such as auditing, management, and acquisitions, they are all based in the realm of Information Systems. And this means that even if you have considerable knowledge and experience as an auditor or acquisitions manager, that will not help you pass the CISA exam unless it directly relates to IS.

But here’s the good news:

There are many excellent educational resources to help you study everything required to CRUSH the CISA exam. Companies like Simplilearn and Surgent CISA Review have developed comprehensive preparation courses that can help you achieve a passing grade on the test, regardless of your starting skill level.

You can learn more about the best CISA prep courses by checking out our comparison chart.

Careers and CISA Salaries

Since the CISA certification concerns a field of expertise that is highly niche, the range of potential careers is a bit on the smaller side. This is especially apparent when compared to more general certifications: a CPA has more accounting related job opportunities, and a CISSP certified individual has more InfoSec job opportunities.

However, neither of these credentials provides their holders with Information Systems Auditing career opportunities. This is the niche that CISA certification holders fall into and these are some of the potential job titles they can hold:

  • Cyber Security Risk Analyst
  • Senior IT Auditor
  • Security and Compliance Analyst
  • Internal Audit Director
  • Information Systems Audit Manager
  • Information Security Analyst
  • Senior Business Systems Analyst

The downside to these career opportunities is that they are scarce enough to cause some competition among potential candidates; this means you may have to be willing to relocate in order to find a good job.

However, the good news is that these jobs pay extremely well, due mainly to their scarcity and the highly specific knowledge and experience requirements. According to research conducted by PayScale, the lowest end of the annual salary spectrum for CISA-related careers is above $60,000.

The higher end of the spectrum is $120,000.

Let that sink in for a moment. A certification that requires a bit of schooling and roughly three years of experience earned by completing a relatively short written exam can earn you the same amount as someone with an MBA!

Is CISA Certification Right For You?

Since this career path is extremely niche, it can be difficult to work your way up to the job of your dreams through this IT credential. The concepts it covers are difficult to understand without an intricate working knowledge of both finance and technology, and the competition for jobs can be fierce.


If you’re interested in making serious money with a relatively small amount of education and training, there really aren’t many better methods of doing so aside from becoming CISA certified.

Would you like to learn more?

Are you ready to take the next step?

If so, check out our comparison charts and reviews of the best CISA courses to help you pass the exam!

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James Edge

James Edge

James is on a mission to uncover the greatest study guides and prep courses to ensure you pass your exam on your first attempt. He has personally assessed hundreds of study materials and developed courses himself.

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