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CISA Vs. CPA

Certified information security auditors (CISAs) and certified public accountants (CPAs) both deal with an organization's health and security; however, their areas of expertise differ. This article will cover the job descriptions and outlook for each career.

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Comparing CISAs to CPAs

A career as a CISA or CPA may appeal to individuals with strong analytical skills and attention to detail. Both careers involve analysis an organization's operations but in different capacities. A CISA examines an organization's overall operations relating to information technology and security, while a CPA only focuses on the financial operations. Key similarities and differences between these careers are highlighted below.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary Job Growth (2014-2024)*
CISA Bachelor's degree $63,001 (2017; Information Systems Auditor)** 28% (Information Security Analysts)
CPA Bachelor's degree $68,150 (2016; Accountants & Auditors)* 10% (Accountants & Auditors)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,**PayScale.com

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Responsibilities of CISAs vs. CPAs

CISAs and CPAs both perform apply analytical skills to various tasks pertaining to an organization's financial health and information security. A CISA analyzes an organization's information technology, networks, and overall business systems and performs duties like analyzing the effectiveness of internal controls. In contrast, a CPA analyzes an organization's financial systems and performs duties like tax preparation, and tries to find ways to save the company money or increase profit.

CISA

A CISA is an individual, usually information technology auditors and audit managers, who obtains certification from ISACA. The certification demonstrates an individual's skill and experience in analyzing an organization's weaknesses and implementing internal controls. Individuals must have five years of relevant work experience, receive a minimum score of 450 on the examination, and complete twenty hours of training per year. Job responsibilities of a CISA include conducting reviews and analyzing items like operating procedures and disaster recovery methods, and creating and maintaining electronic audit software. CISAs will need a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related business field. They may work for a variety of organizations, including educational institutions and healthcare organizations.

Job responsibilities of a CISA include:

  • Analyzing an organization's effectiveness in protecting assets and complying with external regulations and internal policies
  • Completing reports on audit results
  • Collaborating with management on computerized information systems and business operations
  • Providing training to junior personnel on audit methods and creating effective methods for analyzing electronic information systems

CPA

CPAs specialize in analyzing organizations' or individuals' financial documents and creating reports based on their analyses. A primary job duty is ensuring there are no anomalies in clients' records and that they are in compliance with applicable regulations and tax codes. Other job duties may include creating and monitoring budgets, bookkeeping, and providing recommendations on ways to minimize operating costs. CPAs can work for a public accounting firm or operate their own business. A bachelor's degree in accounting is needed for this career, with some states requiring individuals to complete thirty hours of undergraduate credits beyond a bachelor's degree. CPAs will also need relevant work experience, successfully pass the Uniform CPA Examination, and obtain state licensure.

Job responsibilities of a CPA include:

  • Assisting management with issues like employee compensation and benefits
  • Participating in an organization's overall strategic management and fraud prevention efforts
  • Overseeing an organization's accounts payable and receivable
  • Completing federal, state, and local tax returns and submitting the proper forms

Related Careers

If you would like to become a CISA, consider a career in information assurance, as both careers involve looking at an organization's information technology operations. Individuals interested in a career as a CPA may be interested in a job as a financial analyst, since both careers specialize in an organization's financial health.

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