In this article, we will talk about the accounting profession and help you understand how to validate your education and experience to work as a Professional Accountant in Canada. It is important to mention that anyone who is not a permanent resident or Canadian citizen, must have a work permit to be able to work in the country legally.
Canada’s growing economy and constant participation in its globalization creates the perfect scenario for creating new jobs in the financial sector, making accountants a high demand profession in the country. Most job opportunities for accountants in Canada are located in the biggest cities like Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. A professional accountant has a starting salary of CAD$ 33 000/year and could reach a salary of CAD$ 87 500/year with years of experience.
In Canada, occupations can fall into two types: non-regulated and regulated. For non-regulated occupations, a license or certification is not required, like, for example, in most IT occupations. For regulated occupations, a license or certification is required to work, and in this case, the license or certification will be issued by the provincial or territorial regulatory authority responsible for the occupation. Most healthcare and engineering occupations are regulated, among many others.
Accounting is a regulated occupation in Canada and, to work as an accountant, professionals will need to get their education and experience assessed by the regulatory accounting body in the province or territory they intend to work. Professionals can only practice when they have completed their application process with the regulatory body and have become a Chartered Professional Accountant category (CPA).
CPA Canada is the national organization that oversees and supports all the provincial and territorial accounting bodies in Canada. Recently, CPA Canada unified all categories in the accounting profession (Chartered Accountant – CA, Certified Management Accountant – CMA and Certified General Accountant – CGM) into the Chartered Professional Accountant category. All the accounting bodies for those categories were also unified into the CPA regulatory body of each province and territory.
CPA Provincial And Territorial Accounting Bodies
● CPA Alberta
● CPA British Columbia
● CPA Manitoba
● CPA New Brunswick
● CPA Newfoundland and Labrador
● CPA Northwest Territories and Nunavut
● CPA Nova Scotia
● CPA Ontario
● CPA Prince Edward Island
● CPA Quebec
● CPA Saskatchewan
● CPA Yukon
In 2018, CPA Canada Canada created agreements with some international bodies where it can provide exemption to education and examination requirements. These agreements are known as MRA (Mutual Recognition Agreement), RMA (Reciprocal Membership Agreement) and MOU (Memorandums of Understanding). These agreements are available for professionals that are fully qualified in their home regulatory body in the following countries: United States, France, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Zimbabwe, India and Pakistan.
Professionals from countries that are not part of the agreements, but are members of bodies recognized by the International Federation of Accountants (IFA), will have to apply for the certification program with the regulatory accounting body in the province or territory they intend to work. The accounting body will assess their education and experience individually and determine which path the candidates will have to take.
Professionals that are members of bodies not recognized by the IFA, will have to complete some prerequisite courses, before applying for the certification program.
The CPA Certification Program CPA
The certification program is done through the provincial and territorial CPAs, and is composed of:
The complete the certification program is about 2.5 years, but professionals have the maximum of 7 years to complete the entire program. The cost of the certification program is about CAD$ 12 000.
When applying for the certification program, candidates are required to submit documents to prove their education and experience. That can also help with some exemption during the certification program. All documents must be in English or French, if applying in New Brunswick, French if applying in Quebec and in English if you are applying in any other province or territory.
The required documents are:
● A detailed resumeincluding employment and education history
● A letter of good standing sent directly from the home accounting organization, confirming the membership and the date when became a member
● A transcript sent directly from the home accounting organization indicating when a qualifying exam was completed for the accounting designation
● A academic education evaluation (ou academic education evaluation) sent directly from an evaluating organization. An academic evaluation is done to verify that a foreign degree, diploma, or certificate is valid and equivalent to a Canadian one. These are some of the organizations approved by the CPA for the evaluation: World Education Service (WES), International Credential Evaluation Service (ICES) and International Qualification Assessment Service (IQAS).
Professional Education Program (PEP)
The PEP consists of six modules where the candidates will enhance their knowledge about the accounting profession. Parts of this program are delivered as online and self-study format. Some of the subjects candidates will learn are: financial reporting, strategy and governance, management accounting, audit and assurance, finance and taxation.The last module will focus on the preparation for the Common Final ExaminationCandidates have a maximum of six years to complete this program.
Common Final Examination (CFE)
The CFE is a three-day examination in which candidates will be evaluated on their accounting knowledge acquired during the PEP. There are three papers to be written over the three days:
● On day 1: a five-hour paper consisting of a single comprehensive business simulation
● On days 2 and 3: one four-hour paper each day, that will consist of more than two multi-subject simulations
The CFE must be attended and written in person at a CPA testing centre in Canada. This exam is offered twice a year, in May and September.
Practical Experience Requirements (PER)
In addition to PEP and CFEto earn the CPA certification CPA, candidates must complete the requirements for practical experience. Generally, they will need a minimum of 30 months of supervised professional accounting experience. There are two routes through which candidates can obtain their practical experience requirements (could be either route, or a combination of both):
● CPA pre-approved programs (PPR): CPA candidates will gain experience in training positions pre-approved by the CPA.
● Experience verification (EVR) : candidates demonstrate relevant experience at an employer of their choice
In both routes, there are five common elements that the CPA will require:
● Gain of relevant experience as a professional accountant in a minimum of 30 months
● The experience is supervised
● The candidate must record detailed reports at regular intervals
● The candidate must meet and discuss the progress at least semi-annually with a CPA mentor
● The experience is assessed by the CPA
Although no official language assessment is required for the certification program, candidates are expected to have a high level of English or French language proficiency and understanding. It is strongly recommended that candidates have a Canadian Language Benchmark (CLB) of at least Level 8 in reading, writing, comprehension and listening at the time of enrolment, and at least Level 10 upon completion of the program.
The provincial and territorial CPAs offer online information sessions for candidates. This information can be found on each of their websites. There are some organizations that offer funding options for internationally trained accountants. These organizations provide microloans up to $15,000 for individuals seeking to have their foreign credentials recognized in Canada.
Note: Due to COVID-19 some changes were made in the assessment process. Access the websites for more updated information.
By Janayna Sercheli
If you wish to immigrate to Canada as an Accountant, contact Klaps Immigration Consulting for more information on immigration processes.