What Does Accounting Unification Mean For Students And Recent Grads?

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the wealth of credentials one can pursue in the world of accounting, the idea of a single accounting designation may be welcome news.

In 2011, the Certified General Accountants of Canada (CGA Canada), Certified Management Accountants of Canada (CMA Canada) and Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) proposed a framework to unify Canadian accounting credentials, creating a new accounting designation.

Canada’s three legacy accounting bodies and their provincial chapters are currently discussing the creation of a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation. There is still a lot of work to do as various provincial and national bodies enter and withdraw from talks, but you can expect some kind of unification in the coming years.

Why do they want to unify?

As the global accounting community becomes more close-knit, competition from international accounting bodies risks crowding the Canadian accounting community.

The Canadian accounting bodies believe that unification will help their members (more than 160,000 Canadians – you’ll be in good company if you get an accounting designation!) develop a global profile by providing a national accounting standard. A common certification would bring together the strengths of each organization while giving the Canadian accounting community a unified voice, reducing the number of governing bodies from 40 to 14.

Basically, it will simplify things and help ensure that accounting professionals across the country are all on the same page. It’s also important that, instead of having to explain the difference between the CA, CMA and CGA designations, they will be recognized as they embark on global careers in other countries.

The proposed unification is the end result of extensive consultation with employers, accounting professionals and bodies, governmental agencies and both the academic and business communities. Many employers are already referring to the new CPA designation in their job descriptions and campus recruitment material now that Quebec has officially unified!

What is a CPA?

The proposed framework would orient the CPA as a marker of expertise in every area of accounting. The CPA designation would indicate competence in the following fields:

  • Business leadership
  • Financial and strategic management
  • Auditing
  • Assurance

The CPA designation would be conferred by a new certification program which, for new grads, would take about two years to complete on a part-time basis while you work. For a more in-depth explanation of the certification program, check out this diagram.

What would unification mean for me?

If unification takes place, new grads who have already obtained their CA, CMA or CGA designation will be granted the CPA designation from their appropriately mandated CPA body, and will also be required to indicate both their CPA designation and existing legacy designation for a period of 10 years.

For example, a Chartered Accountant would sign his or her name Firstname Lastname, CPA, CA.

After 10 years, accountants with the old designations will have the option of using the CPA designation only.

As the formal certification program develops, CPA holders will have the option of pursuing specialties in specific types of accounting, including:

  • Tax
  • Forensic accounting
  • Strategic management
  • Public sector accounting
This means that while all accountants who have gone through the certification process will technically be CPAs, you can still focus your career on the area of accounting that interests you most!

What’s next?

Quebec is currently the only province to have officially unified under the CPA designation, though several other provinces have affirmed commitments to adopt it as well.

The CPA accreditation program could be instituted as early as September 2013, with the first CPA final examination being offered in the fall of 2015. That means you could be among the very first CPAs in Canada! That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done and discussions to be had, so make sure you keep up on the most current information as you complete your degree and start your accounting career.

What do you think about unification?

Do you think it’s a good move for Canada’s accountants, or would you rather stick with the current designations? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or send us a tweet:

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, including PwC, KPMG, Grant Thornton, BDO and more

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About the author

Elias Da Silva-Powell is a Content, Marketing and Community Specialist at TalentEgg, as well as a two-time graduate of Queen's University. An avid bow-titan, he has been trying to bring whimsical neck wear back into the mainstream since 2008. He's around on Twitter: @EDSPowell and you can check out his profile on LinkedIn, and even G+.