Office Hours: Insider Tips On The Benefits Of A CGA Designation

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On September 11, TalentEgg hosted Office Hours with three members of the Certified General Accountants of Ontario team. Jane Annett, Daniel Booth and Catherine Millar took questions from students and recent graduates about pursuing the CGA designation and career opportunities available for CGAs.

Office Hours is a real-time conversation hosted online, which gives TalentEgg members the opportunity to communicate directly with representatives from top employers.
Missed the event? Check out this transcript below:

TalentEgg Hayley: Welcome to Office Hours, TalentEgg-ers! My name is Hayley and I’ll be moderating today’s chat.

Our eggs-pert guests today are Jane Annett, CGA Ontario’s campus recruitment officer, and two of CGA Ontario’s Business Development Managers, Daniel Booth and Catherine Millar.

Over the next hour, you can send Jane, Daniel and Catherine your questions about the CGA designation, the steps to earning yours and how it can help you successfully hatch your accounting career. You can start submitting your questions now.

Jane, Daniel and Catherine, could you please tell us a bit about yourselves?

Daniel Booth: Hi my name is Daniel Booth and I am a business development manager with the Certified General Accountants of Ontario (CGA Ontario). I am responsible for building strong relationships between the Association and universities in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and driving awareness of the CGA designation. CGA Ontario represents 22,000 certified general accountants (CGAs) and 9,000 students in the CGA program of professional studies.

My previous role was general manager of the Mixed Company Theatre where I was a proponent of cutting costs and finding more innovative ways to better equip the Company for sustainability. For 10 years, I established and managed strong working relationships with educational and corporate organizations across Ontario, successfully securing various funding opportunities from the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils, Canadian Arts & Heritage Sustainability Program, Ontario Ministry of Health Promotion and Sport’s Healthy Communities Fund, and Canada Summer Jobs. Other prior roles included business development director for Innovative Research Group, touring and education director for Famous PEOPLE Players, and services commissioner for the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society at Queen’s University. I hold an honours bachelor’s degree specializing in theatre management from Queen’s University and I am currently a student in the CGA program of professional studies.

Jane Annett: Hello there! My name is Jane Annett and I am a campus recruitment officer at CGA Ontario. I work with universities in the GTA to recruit students into the CGA program and also provide information to the public about the association.

Catherine Millar: Good afternoon, my name is Catherine Millar and I am a business development manager with CGA Ontario. I work with college students across the GTA and I am looking forward to chatting with all of you.

TalentEgg Hayley: Thank you! Let’s hear from a student who submitted a question in advance:

Jeff, a Finance student at the University of Toronto, asks: “I’m a third-year Finance student. Am I eligible for a CGA designation even though I don’t have an Accounting background?”

Jane Annett: Hi Jeff, thank you for your question. As long as you have a degree, you are able to enrol in the CGA program. We do not require you to be an accounting specialist. We will do a transfer credit evaluation of your courses from U of T and we will exempt you from any courses you have taken that are repeated in our program. If there are any courses you did not take through your Finance program, for example an auditing course, you will either have to take it through CGA Ontario or through another institution. Either way, as a student in the program, you will be prepared in all aspects of accounting.

Just to clarify, you do not need a degree to enter the program. A degree is an exit requirement so you must obtain one at some point before getting your designation. You don’t need a degree in a specific specialty because we offer all of the necessary courses you have missed through your post-secondary education.

Jeff: Thank you Jane for the clarification!

Chunjia Ge: May I register for the CGA challenge exam before I graduate? This term is my last before graduation and I am taking Accounting Theory and Tax II (Corporate Tax). Is it possible to become a student in the CGA program now?

Daniel Booth: Great question, Chunjia Ge. Can you elaborate on your current schooling so we can make a more educated decision for you based on your unique pathway?

Chunjia Ge: I had an accounting certificate from the UK when I worked in Singapore. Is it going to speed up my application for the CGA designation?

Catherine Millar: Hi Chunjia. Yes, you can utilize the courses you took in your past studies as we accept international education. You can still enrol in the CGA program; just ensure that the courses you want to take with us do not require AT1 or TX2 as a prerequisite.

Barb L.: How valued is a CGA designation by employers?

Catherine Millar: Hi Barb. Thanks for your question. The CGA designation is highly valued by employers. An accounting designation is required for any higher level positions as there can be a “glass ceiling effect” in the world of accounting. If you look on any job sites, you will note that certain levels of the CGA program are listed as requirements for positions. It is a very well-respected designation!

Once your courses are completed, you will want to re-submit your transcripts for possible transfer credits.

Layne: Is there anything I can do now to get me ready for when I take the CGA exams? Are there resources I can use or study guides, that sort of thing?

Jane Annett: Hi Layne. To prepare you for exams, you have the option of receiving hard copies of the materials that are required for the courses. You will receive these materials as soon as you enrol so you can begin preparing right away. You will also gain access to the online learning environment shortly after enrolling in a course or a challenge exam, so you can view online materials, archived webinars and also notes.

TalentEgg Hayley: Let’s hear from another student who submitted a question in advance:

Frankie, an Accounting student at Brock University, asks: “Can you describe some of the different types of jobs available to those with a CGA designation?”

Daniel Booth: In order to get your CGA designation, you are required to have professional-level job experience in a finance and accounting role. However, the sky’s the limit on the job opportunities that are available to you as a CGA.

Juan__: Is there a common career trajectory for CGAs or are there a lot of paths people can take? If I get a CGA designation, will I have a lot of options? Thanks!

TalentEgg Hayley: Hi Juan, feel free to check out these four CGA success stories for a glimpse into some of the career paths you can take as a CGA: http://talentegg.ca/edu/certified-general-accountants-of-ontario/cga-success-stories-1/

Catherine Millar: Hi Juan, There are definitely a lot of paths that our students and members can take. As a CGA, you can work in any industry or sector. Depending on the courses you take at our advanced level, you can even have a distinct specialization. To see our specializations in different industries, feel free to check out this link: http://www.cga-ontario.org/Program_At_A_Glance.aspx

Daniel Booth: Another benefit of the CGA program in preparing you for the workforce is that it gives you the support you need to make it in the real world. Our regularly updated job board features a variety of entry-level accounting and financial management positions.

Catherine Millar: Another point to mention is that once you are a student in the CGA program, you will have access to our Employer Referral Service (ERS). This is an exclusive database of hundreds of accounting-related positions where employers are only looking to recruit CGA students and/or members. This is another great tool to help your job hunt and meet our employment requirement when you are a student in the CGA program of professional studies.

Kimberly: Hi, I recently graduated from a Biology program and am thinking of exploring more career options. Is it possible for me to get a CGA designation? And if so, how long would it roughly take to get a CGA designation (if I have no relevant transfer credits and I am planning on taking all the courses through CGA Ontario)? Thank you!

Jane Annett: Hi Kim. If you come into our program with no transfer credits, it will take about five years to earn your designation. The CGA program is part-time and delivered entirely online so that you can obtain work experience (which is a requirement to gain your designation) while doing your studies. Here is a link to the CGA program so you can view the courses that you will take as a student: http://www.cga-ontario.org/Program_At_A_Glance.aspx.

Jacob: I’m interested in the different specialty areas of a CGA designation. What are they and how would I go about specializing? Can I specialize in several different areas?

Jane Annett: We offer four sessions a year with each session running three months long. Every course you take will last three months followed by an exam at the end of each session. We usually recommend that you only do one course per session (which would equal four courses a year) because the work load is about 20 hours per week. You do have the option of taking on more than one course each session if you feel you can handle the work load.

Daniel Booth: Various jobs in all sectors include: Financial Analysis, Accountant, Tax Administrator, and Chief Financial Officer, to name a few. For individuals that are not in the program, I would recommend checking out the Do More website for various jobs open to the public.

Catherine Millar: Hi Jacob, here are the links to the various industry specializations – http://www.cga-ontario.org/Program_At_A_Glance.aspx (listed at the bottom of the page). It shows the courses you will want to take with us at our elective level in order to have that industry specialization.

David: I’m interested in running my own company and have heard about CGAs getting a leg up in starting their own business. What will I learn during the process of getting my CGA that will help me with this goal?

Jane Annett: Hi David. Gaining a CGA designation will be beneficial to you because it will provide you with the essential accounting and finance background that will assist you with budgeting, taxes, audit, management, ethics, etc. It also gives you credibility as you will have extra knowledge and skills. A bonus to the CGA program is that it is part-time so you can work full-time and take the program on the side.

Daniel Booth: To elaborate on Jane’s point, why choose between school and work when you don’t have to? Put your skills into practice right away and get all the benefits of a full-time salary while learning part-time. Even as a student you can bring in a salary of roughly $55,000 a year. What’s more, your learning supports your work and your work supports your learning. You’re sure to see the advantages right away, and not just in your bank account.

TalentEgg Hayley: Here’s another question that was submitted in advance:

Garret, an Accounting student at the University of Guelph, asks:
“What are the three main benefits of having a CGA for aspiring accountants like me?”

Daniel Booth: The three main benefits of having a CGA designation include:

1. Opportunity/advancement in your career
2. Flexibility in terms of industry and work-life balance
3. Financial reward as CGAs are in the top 5 per cent of income earners in Canada

TalentEgg Hayley: Thanks Daniel! I think this is a great time to take our poll.

What are you hoping to learn from Jane, Daniel and Catherine today?

  • What a CGA designation can do for my career (38%)
  • Eligibility requirements for a CGA designation (13%)
  • The value of a CGA designation to employers (25%)
  • Specific answers to my questions around the process of earning my CGA designation (25%)

Aislyn: Are certain CGA specialties more prized than others in the job market? What type of jobs does each specialty align with?

Catherine Millar: Hi Aislyn. Accountants are always desired. To give you an idea, the current unemployment rate in Ontario is 8 per cent. For accountants, it is only 1 to 2 per cent. Accounting is a very stable and in-demand field. In terms of CGA Ontario’s employment rate, 98 per cent of CGAs are working in the field upon completion of the CGA program.

I wouldn’t say that some CGAs are more in demand than others, it really depends on what the market is like at the time. If you want to see some job postings, feel free to check out our Do More website’s job board. The positions listed tend to be more entry level, as they are aimed at students, but it is a great way for you to get an idea of what is out there and what the requirements are: http://cga-domore.org/whoishiring

David: If I receive a CGA designation from Ontario, can I work in other provinces with the designation? Are there different provincial exams?

Daniel Booth: Great question David. Once you are a CGA, you can practice in any province thanks to Agreements on Internal Trade which exists in every province.

Ellis: Hey everyone, thanks a LOT for hosting this. My question is: How flexible is the CGA program? Is it possible to work full-time and earn your CGA as well? Do you have to earn it in a specific amount of time or can you take as long as you need?

TalentEgg Hayley: Hi Ellis! You might want to check out this video to see how the CGA program makes it easy to balance work and earning your CGA: http://talentegg.ca/incubator/2013/05/29/the-cga-program-makes-it-easy-to-balance-work-and-studying

Jane Annett: Hi Ellis. Thanks for your question. Yes, you are able to work full-time and gain the designation because our program is part-time. It is also an online program so you are able to do your work and complete your courses from the comfort of your own home, on your own time.

We do have time limits for the program which varies depending on how many transfer credits you receive from previous experience. Take a look at our transfer credit guide on our website to view these time limits: http://www.cga-ontario.org/TransferCredits.aspx.

If you don’t have any transfer credits, you will have 10 years to complete the designation. If you have 15 credits, the maximum amount you can receive, you will have three years to complete the program. This is because, with so many transfer credits, you will not have many courses left to complete.

Nikki: Are there any events I can go to to learn more about the CGA designation or talk with reps in person?

Catherine Millar: Hi Nikki. Yes, we do have a number of events where you can speak with a representative one-on-one. We host a number of public info sessions across the province, as well as one-on-one appointments out of our head office in Toronto. To attend a public info session, check out this link: http://cga-domore.org/articles/info-session-sign-up. You can book an in-person appointment by calling our contact centre at 1-800-668-1454. We also do a number of events at campuses across the province. Feel free to check out our social media sites for info on events going on at schools near you: facebook.com/cgadomore

TalentEgg Hayley: That’s all the time we have for questions today. Thanks for participating in Office Hours and a big thank you to Jane, Daniel and Catherine for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions!

Do you three have any final comments?

Jane Annett: Hi everyone, if you have more questions for us that you didn’t get to ask today, please feel free to send us something through our Twitter or Facebook pages and someone from CGA Ontario will get back to you.

Daniel Booth: We are in the process of organizing a quarterly event entitled Do More to Succeed. If you are interested in learning more about this CGA Ontario event, please email me at dbooth@cga-ontario.org. Thanks!

Catherine Millar: Thank you everyone for your questions. Have a wonderful evening! 🙂

TalentEgg Hayley: If you’re looking for more information about the CGA designation, visit CGA Ontario’s TalentEgg profile (http://talentegg.ca/edu/certified-general-accountants-of-ontario/). There’s a ton of information on accredited CGA Ontario programs, the six steps to earning your designation, CGA success stories and more. Be sure to follow CGA Ontario on Twitter (@CGA_DoMore) and like their Facebook page (facebook.com/cgadomore) for more insider info.

Thanks again for joining us today TalentEgg-ers! Keep your eyes on our Twitter feed (@TalentEgg) and Facebook Page (facebook.com/TalentEgg) for upcoming Office Hours events!

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