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All About The CA, CMA And CGA Designations


Accounting is a satisfying career in which you apply accounting skills and business analysis to varying fields of work.

Accounting hopefuls who want to become a Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA) or Certified General Accountant (CGA) should read this brief overview to get an idea of what you’ll have to accomplish in order to earn one of these designations.

Chartered Accountant (CA)

How to obtain your CA

In Ontario (the requirements are different in every province, so contact your province’s institute for specifics), you must complete a four-year, 120 credit-hour university degree that is either in an Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO)-accredited program or covers 17 specific courses known as the “51 credit-hour requirement.” You can take the appropriate courses through a university. For more information on the educational requirements, click here.

Your next step is to work for three years in a CA training office, during which time you are paid for your work, gain experience and expand your network.

In Ontario, as soon as you have started working, you are eligible to take the first CA exam, which is a four-hour, multiple-choice Core-Knowledge Exam (CKE). Once you pass the CKE, you enrol in the Institute’s School of Accountancy, which is a three-week, full-time self-study beginning in June in preparation for the final examination, the Uniform Evaluation (UFE).

Once you’ve completed the three years of work and passed the UFE, you are recognized as a CA.

Note: In the spring of 2010, the ICAO announced the “Exemption from Employment Requirement.”  This temporary measure, put in place due to the economy, allows students who have completed their degree and ICAO-educational requirements to begin writing their professional exams without first being employed with a CA Training office.  Click here for more information on the exemption.

How long it takes

Three years, but a little more if have to take the additional courses.

Can it be done while working?

Yes, it is mandatory that you work while obtaining your CA. However, please refer to the note above regarding the current temporary employment exemption.

Career path

CAs work in every aspect, from major financial institutions to government offices to banks. Recognized internationally, the CA designation denotes financial expertise, strategic thinking, business insight and leadership. CAs know the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the organizations they work for and they also keep the bigger picture in mind.

Ontario CAs contribute greatly to international and domestic investor confidence in the soundness of the Ontario and Canadian economies. Only 37% of CAs work in public practice (i.e., accounting firms).  The majority of CAs (45%) work in many areas of industry (such as financial institutions, telecommunications, entertainment, not-for-profits and consumer products) while the remaining 18% of CAs work in areas such as government and education.

Certified Management Accountant (CMA)

How to obtain your CMA

After completing your university or applied degree (in any subject, not necessarily accounting), send your transcript to the CMA office and they will evaluate whether you’ve covered the 16 required topics. You may study the appropriate courses in university or, if you qualify, complete a seven-month Accelerated Program offered in-class or online by the CMA in your province. Find the CMA in your province through CMA Canada.

With the 16 required topics completed, you register to write the Entrance Examination (preparation program offered) that you must pass in order to enter the two-year Strategic Leadership Program (SLP). The test remains the same across the country.

The SLP program is a two-year, part-time study completed through interactive in-class sessions on weekends. After the first year, you must pass the Case Exam. The first year is more individual work, while the second year is mainly group work. At the end of the second year, you and your group present a report to a mock board of CMAs. When you pass, you earn your CMA.

During the SLP, you must complete 24 months of work experience in management accounting to fulfill the Practical Experience requirement.

How long it takes

Without the Accelerated Program, it should take a little more than two years. With the accelerated program, almost three years.

Can it be done while working?

Yes, you must complete 24 months of work experience in management accounting to fulfil the Practical Experience requirement of the CMA program.

Career path

CMAs combine their accounting skills with a management position, often acquiring leadership and decision-making roles within a company. CMAs are present across a wide variety of companies, whether they work in accounting, management, finance or other as a department manager, financial analyst, president of the company, or other.

Certified General Accountant (CGA)

How to obtain your CGA

The CGA designation has the broadest wings of the three, as it does not require a specific bachelor degree.

After applying to and being accepted by the CGA office in your area, you then take courses online. CGA Canada offers Professional Applications and Competence Evaluations (PACE) and the prerequisite courses you must take as part of the qualification program that, upon completing—along with two final courses and exams (PA1 and PA2)—results in your CGA designation.

Students must also complete 36 months of full-time work experience (and 24 of those months at a senior level).

How long does it take?

The courses, combined with the work experience, take at least three years, maybe a little more.

Can it be done while working?

The courses are taken while employed.

Career path

CGAs receive ample training in financial management and business analysis. They move on to fill a variety of positions in business, finance and accounting, including business analyst or controller.

Visit the Accounting Career Guide to learn more about careers in the accounting industry, and find student and entry level jobs from top accounting employers!

Written by

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).


  1. AK
    September 15, 2010 at 2:21 pm

    Good article Marisa, very clearly!
    FYI – CGA Ontario just released a new website for prospective post-secondary students.

    It answers any questions you may have about becoming a CGA and there’s $41,000 in prizes to be won.

  2. Damandeep
    August 25, 2011 at 4:36 pm

    this article impartes good knowledge.. thanks..

  3. garfield
    February 16, 2012 at 10:07 am

    hi Marisa, i would like to know if someone completes the bookkeeping course (or is a cretified bookkeeper) would ca,cga ,or cma accepts this qualification to continue as entry level to the programme. 2. are there any credits to be offered by these institutions. 3 . would it be wise to just persue the ca,cga or cma instead of the bookkeeping course, eventhough i’ll be knew to the Canadian financial system.

  4. Amanat
    March 8, 2013 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for the information. I have a bachelors and a masters in Business admin. Can you please suggest me a University in Canada which offers CA?

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