CIA vs CPA
May 30, 2013 at 3:13 am #177860
I'm struggling and looking for advice. I have an MBA and work in industry running an internal audit department. I had 3 years in IA in a public accounting firm (one of top 6) before going to industry so I'm almost 10 years experience. (I am at director level.) I've been trying off and on for years to get CPA with little luck … lots of planning and purchasing books and other mats, scheduling and rescheduling tests but only have take BEC twice (in 2008/9) with no pass yet. I keep having to postpone or take breaks (last Sept I started trying to study again) due to work, two tough pregnancies and now issues with small children, etc. Life – in general!
My friends/colleagues keep asking me why I'm doing this and is it really necessary. I think they feel I've gotten to a good level, have a great career, etc. so why take the time away from family. I've just had it in my mind that this is what I need to get to next level and ensure that I have options as I move further along in my career. Also, I'm 40 so feel this is a good differentiator as I move into the years where age may become more of an issue with getting jobs but that for now it will give me more flexibility.
My question is – does anyone have a similar career/career path as I do and do you think the CPA is s good investment if I don't plan to go away from the IA/Compliance role? Should I reconsider the CIA? Since I'm not on controller or CFO path is this really a waste of my time – am I missing something?May 30, 2013 at 10:14 am #416000
I work in IA. As a requirement I had to get my CPA and will have to get my CIA (this fall). I think both are valuable certifications. However, I know a lot of people in IA that do not have their CPA and only have their CIA. It is my understanding that there will be a push to require all CAE's to have their CIA by the IIA. Do you want to be a CAE at somepoint or are you already there? (At my job the director level is right below the CAE level).
I am happy I have the exams finished for the CPA (license pending). I think it differentiates me from a lot of people in IA who only have the CIA. I also think having the CIA is a good one as well since that is the field we work in!
However, it really comes down to you. Can you make the time to study…and I mean really study. With either certification you will have to put some serious study time in and if you can not committ yourself to studying and sticking to a schedule you are likely to not see the results you want. I think both are good and achievable if you can dedicate yourself to studying.May 30, 2013 at 12:10 pm #416001
I think the CPA is more widely recognized than the CIA and if I had to choose between the two I'd go CPA.
At this point its not necessarily about what the CPA would do for your career, but a personal sense of accomplishment. I was over 40, working full time and in school when I did the CPA. However my kids weren't little, they were 10 and 17 when I did this.
if you do decide to go for it (and it can be done, but its hard!) there are tons of posts here of how to make your life a smidge easier while doing this with a family 🙂May 30, 2013 at 1:37 pm #416002
@grunona—It varies from person to person and the environment you work in.Since you are in the field of audit and compliance eventually you might end up in front of of either Business Unit Audit Committee or Board Audit Committee or just dealing with diffferent levels of authority even people that report to you within the organization, there will be an IDIOT who will judge your opinion or recomendations based on your experiance and qualifications. Once in a while I have to pull the list of my designations just to shut them up. To build your confidence you can start with the CIA if your are already in the path of CPA stick with it even if you have to take one part in testing period do it. Once you have it know one ever bothers to ask how many times you failed or how long it took you to study for a part. Its yours!!! The sense of achievement you will have is priceless. Once in blue moon I pull out all my certificates from desk drawer in my home study and hang them on the wall. Have glass of really good expensive red take 10min (sometimes 4 hrs if I have the whole bottle) and pat myself on the back. And I can't wait to add the CPA license to that wall. Then start my family.
Anything that's worth having is hard work (sweat, tears, and runny nose (a.k.a ugly cry))
Don't start this journey for someone else do it for yourself.
EliMay 30, 2013 at 3:27 pm #416003
AMAZING feedback. Thanks so very much to everyone that has responded. @eliabraham good point about needing an extra title/certification to back me up as I've had that happen many times (at manager level, though) and back then was able to use my MBA but I feel like at this level it's not ‘enough' even though it definitely was very important in my getting first few promotions in my career. @smp73 I am looking to become CAE one day – not at current job. I definitely feel that even if I want to make a lateral move to another company (or back to public) I would need at least the CIA but CPA always seems like the most prestigious/respected. Honestly, a lot of jobs that I am [otherwise] qualified for at this point are asking for CPA and not the CIA … hence…here I am.
Thanks, again.May 30, 2013 at 4:19 pm #416004
I have been having the same battle in my head. I work for a Big 4 now and I honestly do not see myself in public accounting long term. If auditing is your thing I think that the CIA would be good. I know some Directors and Partners on the consulting side doing internal audit do not have their CPA. Its all about how much you want to study and where you see your career going.May 30, 2013 at 7:55 pm #416005
Get both, then you won't be turned down for any IA job. I had to have my CIA to become auditor II and CPA to become supervisor. Now I am one of the few people in the Office with both and nothing is holding me back from getting promoted further and getting supervisor and above jobs at other places.May 30, 2013 at 8:18 pm #416006
If you don't have any certifications right now, I would recommend you at least one if you plan on furthering your career from director to CAE. Though I am not as far along my career path as you, I have a similar background–master’s degree, Big 4, now in industry as a manager with about 5.5 years of experience and running a small group within the IA department. I just got my CPA license last week and I really believe that having at least one certification will be beneficial to career advancement. Of course we have all heard the one-off stories of some hard working individual who barely graduated from high school but was so brilliant that after putting in 20 years at a company (starting from the mail room) they became the CEO of the company. But how often does that really happen? I'm not going to take chances which is why I decided to pursue a certification. This is also why I think you should pursue a certification and especially if you're not looking to make CAE at your current company. If you were, you'd already be a proven performer and your company could potentially overlook the fact that you don't have certifications when considering you for promotion. However, if you plan on changing companies, having a certification on your resume will be helpful–especially in hitting some of the qualification requirements and getting that call for an interview.
CPA or CIA? Well, the CAE at my current company has a CIA and no CPA. My CAE has been in IA since the beginning of their career. So if you're going to stay in IA and not ever going to consider accounting/finance roles, I would say CIA is enough. Which is good. I've taken a look at the CIA exam study materials and it is not that difficult of an exam compared to the CPA. Some of my staff, who have struggled with the CPA exams and gave up, have been passing the CIA with ease. I have mentored plenty of people telling them that it is not necessary to have both unless required by your employer. This is especially true is if you have your CPA first, then the CIA is not necessary. However if you have your CIA first, then you may still need a CPA if required by an employer. This is what I've experience and it seems to be the general attitude when comparing the CPA and CIA certs. That said, you are different since you are a director in an IA department already, which makes things easy. As for myself, I have contemplated on getting a CIA on top of my CPA but this is just to accumulate certifications, not because I think it is necessary. But I haven't really made any progress because I'm about 7 months pregnant right now and just have no motivation to study. LOL!
You've been on the CPA journey for some time now without good results. Are you in California? If you are in California, do consider that the state board is changing the education requirements for CPA candidate eligibility. So by next year, you might not be eligible anymore and will have to take more accounting courses at an accredited college for additional units to maintain your eligibility. That can be a deciding factor for you. With how far along you are in your career, do you really want to go back to school to take additional undergraduate level accounting courses? I'm going to guess NO. If the CPA is out for you… the CIA is not. And judging from your background, career path, career aspirations, and CPA track record…. definitely look into getting a CIA. It's cheaper, easier, and it might just give you the competitive boost you were looking for all along.
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