What does CISA stand for in business?

CISA is an acronym that stands for Certified Information Systems Auditor in the business world. It is a certification awarded by ISACA (previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association) to qualified candidates who pass the CISA exam and meet certain work experience requirements.

What is a CISA?

A Certified Information Systems Auditor (CISA) is a credential for professionals who audit and assess an organization’s information technology systems and infrastructure. CISA certification is globally recognized as a standard of achievement in the profession of IS auditing.

To earn CISA certification, candidates must pass a comprehensive exam that covers areas like auditing, governance, systems acquisition, development and implementation, information systems operations, maintenance and service management, and protection of information assets. They must also adhere to ISACA’s Code of Professional Ethics and submit verified evidence of at least 5 years of relevant work experience in IS auditing, control or security within the last 10 years.

The CISA credential is awarded by ISACA, a nonprofit professional association focused on IT governance, control, assurance and security. ISACA has over 150,000 members worldwide, including more than 135,000 CISA holders.

Why is CISA important for businesses?

Having CISA-certified professionals on staff is crucial for businesses for several reasons:

  • CISA holders possess deep knowledge of how to audit information systems, assess risks, test controls and identify gaps or noncompliance issues.
  • Their auditing skills help ensure IT systems and infrastructure are secured, compliant and supporting business objectives as intended.
  • Their expertise in IT governance, systems acquisition and development enables them to evaluate technology investments and projects.
  • CISA credentials demonstrate an auditor’s competence, knowledge and experience in assessing and optimizing information systems.
  • Many regulations and compliance standards like SOX mandate or strongly encourage hiring certified IS auditors.
  • CISA certification enhances the credibility of internal auditors and audit departments.

In short, employing CISAs benefits organizations by enhancing IT governance, risk management, regulatory compliance and security through skilled evaluation of information systems and controls.

What are the key job roles for CISAs?

CISAs often serve in these key roles within an organization:

  • IT auditor – Responsible for objectively evaluating IT infrastructure, policies, systems and processes to identify risks, test controls, and ensure compliance.
  • IT compliance officer – Oversees adherence to regulatory, legal, compliance and governance requirements related to IT and data.
  • IT risk officer – Identifies and assesses risks associated with technologies, systems and processes that may impact business objectives.
  • IT governance manager – Develops and oversees the implementation of IT policies, standards and frameworks for alignment with business goals.
  • Information systems analyst – Evaluates IT systems and infrastructure to recommend enhancements in processes, architecture, security and controls.

While auditing is a core focus, CISAs may provide a range of value-added services leveraging their expertise, including:

  • Consulting on major IT projects and initiatives
  • Training staff on policies, compliance and controls
  • Advising on risk and regulatory issues
  • Promoting IT governance best practices

What are the key skills and knowledge areas of CISAs?

To pass the CISA exam and perform their duties effectively, certified auditors possess skills and experience in numerous areas:

  • IT operations – Understanding of IT infrastructure, system architectures, IT service delivery and support.
  • Information security – Expertise in managing access controls, network security, encryption, incident response plans and other security measures.
  • Regulatory compliance – In-depth knowledge of relevant laws, regulations and compliance standards like PCI DSS, HIPAA, SOX, GDPR and more.
  • Risk management – Ability to identify and analyze operational, reputational and strategic risks related to IT systems and recommend mitigation strategies.
  • Audit principles – Advanced experience planning, performing and managing audits following standards like ISACA and IIA standards.
  • Testing controls – Skills in selecting and implementing tests to evaluate operating effectiveness of IT controls and governance.

On top of technical expertise, CISAs exhibit strengths in communication, analytical thinking, business acumen and professional ethics.

What is the process of earning CISA certification?

To become a certified CISA, candidates must meet the following requirements:

  1. Submit a CISA Certification Application and pay the exam registration fee
  2. Agree to adhere to the ISACA Code of Professional Ethics
  3. Pass the CISA exam with a minimum score of 450 out of 800
  4. Submit verified evidence of at least 5 years of relevant work experience in IS auditing, control or security within the last 10 years
  5. Complete and submit the CISA Certification Application to ISACA
  6. Commit to meet ISACA’s continuing professional education (CPE) requirements of 120 hours every 3 years

The CISA exam covers 5 domains through 150 multiple choice questions that must be answered within 4 hours:

  • Domain 1 – Information Systems Auditing Process (weight 24%)
  • Domain 2 – Governance and Management of IT (weight 16%)
  • Domain 3 – Information Systems Acquisition, Development and Implementation (weight 18%)
  • Domain 4 – Information Systems Operations and Business Resiliency (weight 24%)
  • Domain 5 – Protection of Information Assets (weight 18%)

Candidates can schedule to take the CISA exam at designated testing centers worldwide. The exam is conducted in different languages including English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish and others.

Who issues the CISA certification?

CISA certification is issued by ISACA, a nonprofit professional association focused on IT governance, control, assurance and security. Some key facts about ISACA include:

  • Founded in 1969, previously known as the Information Systems Audit and Control Association
  • Headquartered in Rolling Meadows, Illinois, with over 150 chapters worldwide
  • Offers education, certifications, advocacy and community for professionals involved in information systems and assurance
  • Developed the CISA certification program in 1978, with first CISA exam held in 1981
  • Has over 150,000 members across 188 countries, including over 135,000 CISA certificants

ISACA manages the CISA program, develops and administers the exam, grants the certification credential and enforces continuing education requirements in order to maintain the certification.

How does CISA compare to related certifications?

Within the field of information systems audit and control, the CISA certification stands out as the only globally recognized credential specifically for IS auditors. However, various certifications demonstrate overlapping skills and knowledge:

Certification Issuing Organization Focus Area
Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP) (ISC)2 Information security
Certified in Risk and Information Systems Control (CRISC) ISACA IT risk management
Certified Information Security Manager (CISM) ISACA Information security management
Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) Internal auditing
Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Fraud examination

While CISA overlaps with these credentials, its specialized focus on auditing information systems makes it distinct. CISAs often complement their skills by also obtaining related certifications.

What are the benefits of becoming CISA certified?

There are many advantages professionals can gain by attaining CISA certification:

  • Prestige – CISA is globally recognized as a premier credential for IS auditors, affirming expertise.
  • Career advancement – CISAs qualify for senior auditor, manager and C-level roles in IT and audit departments.
  • Higher salaries – CISAs earn $20,000 more on average than non-certified auditors according to ISACA.
  • In-demand skills – Certification verifies mastery of essential, sought-after auditing skills.
  • Industry recognition – Many regulations and compliance standards encourage or require certified IS auditors.
  • Professional ethics – Attests commitment to integrity, objectivity, confidentiality and competence.
  • Continuing education – Mandatory CPE ensures knowledge stays current and relevant.
  • Career mobility – CISA offers opportunities across industries and geographic borders.

Overall, the CISA certification enables auditors to maximize their career potential, open up new opportunities, demonstrate expertise, and gain trust from employers and clients.

What is the exam cost for CISA certification?

Here are the exam fees for the CISA certification:

  • ISACA Member Price: $575 USD
  • Non-ISACA Member Price: $760 USD

The membership fee for ISACA is $210 USD annually. ISACA members enjoy discounted pricing on exams and events.

The CISA exam fee allows candidates to take the exam once during a 1-year eligibility period. There are no prerequisites to take the exam besides submitting an application and fee.

ISACA offers resources to help candidates prepare for the CISA exam, including:

  • CISA Review Manual
  • CISA Review Questions, Answers and Explanations Manual
  • CISA Review Course
  • Online CISA Practice Exams

While not required, it is highly recommended that candidates utilize these study materials to give themselves the best chance of passing and earning CISA certification.

How do I maintain my CISA certification?

To retain active CISA certification status, certified professionals must:

  • Adhere to ISACA’s Code of Professional Ethics and other certification requirements
  • Pay an annual CISA maintenance fee of $45 for ISACA members or $85 for non-members
  • Complete 20 hours of Continuing Professional Education (CPE) annually, with a minimum of 120 CPE hours every 3-year period
  • Report CPE hours to ISACA each year and submit license renewal information

CPE helps CISAs maintain and enhance their skills. CPE hours can be earned through activities like training courses, webinars, conferences, seminars, exceeding work duties, authoring books and articles, and volunteer work. ISACA reviews submitted CPE to ensure it is valid and relevant.

Letting CISA certification lapse will result in being designated as “Not Current” on the certification registry. Professionals can reinstate their CISA status up to 3 years after expiration through CPE and fee payment.


CISA certification provides official validation of expertise in information systems auditing, assurance and control. For businesses, employing CISAs is crucial for strengthening IT governance, compliance, risk management and security through audit activities. By passing a rigorous exam, meeting experience requirements and committing to ethics and continuing education, professionals can add the globally recognized and valued CISA credential to their qualifications.