What Is CISA Certification

  • By Bryan Lee
  • Oct 10, 2023

Certified Information Systems Auditor

Most jobs require that applicants prove a baseline level of education or skills. They can do so through degrees, work experience, or certifications from an overseeing body. Certifications are especially valued in a field that grows and changes as quickly as IT.

Certificates display the owner’s aptitude in a subject and their continued willingness to learn since many certificates expire after a few years.

The CISA proves that a professional can monitor and maintain an organization’s information technology systems. Earning this certification requires an individual to meet the standards set by ISACA, an internationally recognized name in the world of IT governance.

What Does a Certified Information Systems Auditor Do?

Certified information systems auditors are responsible for understanding a group’s technology and any security weaknesses that can be exploited. To this end, a CISA oversees and tests every program an organization uses to ensure those program’s compliance with internal and external security standards.

If a vulnerability is found, a CISA submits recommendations and possible fixes to the appropriate management. Once improvements are implemented, the CISA will test the systems again to ensure their efficacy. 

It’s worth noting that the CISA isn’t solely responsible for outlining ways to shore up weak points. They are responsible for running an unbiased audit that determines if the organization’s information systems are adequately secure.

Apart from regular audits, a CISA has secondary tasks such as drafting contingency plans for technological failures such as data loss. An auditor will even develop custom programs for the organization’s information systems based on its needs.

Benefits of CISA Certification

The CISA certification holds considerable weight in the world of information security. Certificate holders have better odds of upward advancement and a decisive advantage over competitors when applying for jobs.

CISA Candidates Requirements

Becoming a CISA isn’t easy as it’s more of a mid to upper-level certification. Applicants must pass a fairly rigorous examination and have at least five years of IT experience. However, the amount of professional experience required can be mitigated up to a maximum of three years in any of the following ways: 

  • Every 60 university credit hours, substitute one year of work experience with a maximum of 120 credit hours.
  • Obtaining a master’s degree in information security or technology from an ISACA-approved institution replaces one year of professional experience.
  • University-level educators with two years of experience in IT-related fields may substitute that time for one year of professional experience.

Even after meeting these requirements and passing the exam, CISA certification holders must earn credits to keep their certification from expiring. ISACA requires everyone to earn “continuing professional education” (CPE) credits by attending conferences, webinars, volunteering events, and other training opportunities.

What You Need to Know About the CISA Exam

CISA exam

Depending on your socioeconomic standing, the CISA exam can be quite expensive. It costs $575 for ISACA members and $760 for everyone else. This cost is prohibitive for some people, but many workplaces sponsor this test fee to help advance their employee’s professional growth.

The CISA exam is notorious for its difficulty and fails nearly fifty percent of testers. The test’s high cost and pressure necessitate early preparations. Most passing applicants start studying a minimum of six months in advance.

The exam itself includes 150 multiple-choice questions and lasts four hours. Scores range from 200 to 800, with a minimum passing score of 450. This may sound like an easily achievable number, but remember that roughly half of all test takers fail to meet this score.

Candidates have two options, including in-person and remote examinations. Remote examinations require a government ID, webcam, computer, and a wired internet connection. A proctor monitors each candidate’s screen and camera feed for signs of cheating or foul play.

In-person examinations are in June, September, and December. Examinees are prohibited from bringing food and smart technology such as phones and watches. ISACA is an international body that offers exams globally and in multiple languages. You’ll find a section to choose your preferred language during registration.

What’s Covered on the CISA Exam?

The CISA exam tests applicants on five “job practice domains” they’re expected to use in their professional lives. These domains include:

Protection of Information Assets – 27 Percent

Protection of information assets covers the most significant part of the CISA exam. This section focuses on cybersecurity threats and response protocols that best protect an organization’s information. Applicants are tested on physical access, environmental controls, end-point security, data encryption,classification and security frameworks.

Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience – 23 Percent

This domain deals with how information systems affect an organization’s day-to-day. Depending on the business, it tests the applicant’s familiarity with different IT controls and how to best use them.

You’ll likely see questions about asset management, end-user computing, data governance, system resiliency, and disaster recovery plans.

Information Systems Auditing Process - 21 Percent

ISACA considers this domain as “domain 1.” Whether that means it’s the most critical skill is up for debate. This section of the exam covers how to run an audit service in a way that helps organizations better protect and control their information systems. The bulk of questions will cover business processes, audit types, ethics, data analytics, and project management.

Governance and Management of IT – 17 Percent

Can you identify vulnerabilities and find enterprise-specific solutions? That’s what this domain is testing. This part of the test heavily focuses on organizational structures and architecture. It’s all about how well the candidate understands various business models and their role in each one.

Information Systems Acquisition, Development, and Implementation – 12 Percent

This domain is the most compact and can be considered an offshoot of Information Systems Operations and Business Resilience (CISA Domain 4). It tests the candidate’s ability to design and implement custom programs based on their organization’s structure.

IDStrong Helps You Stay in the Know About Cybersecurity

The CISA certificate displays a high-level understanding of professional auditing and information system management. The certificate is gate-kept by years of professional experience, but it is also one of the most strenuous examinations in the IT field.

A CISA plays a vital role in any organization by analyzing its current systems for vulnerabilities. Their responsibilities protect the digital privacy of everyone involved by initiating risk mitigation, drafting security protocols, and keeping vital technologies as secure as possible.

An audit is an excellent way to get an overview of your organization’s processes. However, continuous audits can stall or harm your operations. If you want to learn more about other data protection options, such as identity monitoring, our blog has dozens of posts on how to accomplish just that!

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