If you’re an accountant looking to improve your income and find a rewarding position, you might consider going for your Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) credential. To become a CPA, you should expect a fair amount of studying, but there’s really no better career-planning tool than the key certification in the industry. Once you earn the credential, you can expect to see a wide range of doors open for your career.
Why Pursue CPA Certification
The Certification Resource Centre (CRC) details how the CPA credential merges several earlier designations of Canadian accountants into just one highly respected class. If you hold a CPA credential, you can likely take on high-level work in virtually any industry. While only certain industries hire social workers, geologists, brain surgeons, or forklift drivers, just about every company, nonprofit, and government office in Canada needs a bookkeeper, payroll specialist, financial analyst, or related financial expert. Plus, it generally proves much easier for a senior financial analyst at an oil company to make a lateral move into boutique perfume sales than for a petroleum engineer to do the same. With this in mind, lots of demand for CPAs exists within the Canadian business community.
Earning Expectations With a CPA Title
In addition to opportunity, CPAs take home sizable paycheques. According to a 2017 CPA Canada Compensation Study, the median salary for Canadian CPAs is an impressive $107,000. Even for CPAs with less than three years of experience, the median is $71,000, and that grows significantly over time. CPAs with 25 or more years of experience report a median salary of $154,000. Plus, it’s easy for an experienced CPA to strike off as an independent business owner and exceed the pay levels of top-ranked CPAs.
Opportunities for Leadership
Speaking of being the boss, many big companies constantly recruit CPAs when they need to hire CFOs, COOs, and CEOs. Many successful CPAs get their start as junior analysts working for big companies, rise in a few years to become senior analysts, find themselves elevated to the board, and then receive an invitation to lead the whole company. Getting a CPA comes in near the bottom of that ladder, but it’s a prerequisite to the big career moves that follow.
Like Being an Artist, but Better
People who work in accountancy find it a rewarding, challenging field, and nobody knows this better than senior CPAs. Taking charge of a company’s (or government bureau’s) finances can seem like an invitation for creative, inspired individuals to mold the business in numerous ways. Analyzing past mistakes and correcting trajectory, planning for the future and monitoring progress toward goals, and even whimsically fantasizing about all the great things your company could do if it had the money can seem like a reward in and of itself.
As an example, think about the many CPAs who work at the Canadian Space Agency. Consider how much of Canada’s contributions to the International Space Station are possible because of the motivated go-getters in charge of the agency’s budget. Those CPAs literally launch their fellow citizens into space, and when they get bored with that, they can easily switch over to a brand-new job whereas rocket scientists cannot.
How To Get a CPA Certification
To become a CPA in Canada, you need to get an undergraduate degree. Then, you can apply to enroll in a CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). If your degree isn’t in accounting, you can go through the CPA preparatory course (CPA PREP) to prepare for the curriculum. While you attend college, you might consult with an advisor to ensure you take the right classes.
You don’t have to take a test to get into the professional program, but you need certain classes on your transcript. A degree in accounting works perfectly. Alternatively, you can take CPA prep courses, which typically include coursework in finance, taxation, ethics, and professionalism, among others. Once you complete the CPA Professional Program, you need to complete 30 months of practical experience, though that number differs in Quebec. CPA candidates in Quebec must complete 24 months of practical experience, as of 2018. Finally, you sit for a three-day exam, and if you pass, you become a CPA.
Maintaining Your CPA Title with Continuing Professional Development
To keep your CPA credentials active, you need to complete Continuing Professional Development (CPD) courses throughout your career. These courses cover such topics as updates to tax laws and changes to international accounting standards, and they often cover general business topics, including marketing, dealing with technology, and making ethical business decisions.
All the provinces in Canada require CPAs to meet the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) standards. Based on these standards, you must complete at least 20 hours of CPD every year and 120 hours every three years. This refers to the total of the current year plus the last two years. Say you complete 20 hours one year and 20 hours the year before. In that case, you only need to do 80 hours the following year. If you’re always on the go, you can fulfill your CPA CPD requirements online.
While getting your CPA certification can take more time than simply getting an accounting degree, the potential for growth and control over your career makes the extra time well worth it. Once you begin your career, you want to offer your clients the best possible service. As such, QuickBooks Online Accountant offers powerful tools for accounting professionals. Sign up for free.