The Different Canadian Accounting Designations

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Accounting is a complex subject, requiring years of study to learn, rigorous on the job training to practice, and decades to master. Canada has had certification programs for accountants for decades. Certification programs are useful because they allow clients to ensure the professionals they work with are being held to a high-standard; without designations, it would be impossible to know if doctors, dentists, lawyers, insurance brokers, accountants and others had the expertise and education necessary to perform their duties.

For many years, accounting was split into three designations: Chartered Accountant (CA), Certified General Accountant (CGA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA). To get any of the degrees, an undergraduate degree was required, with different focuses on how related the degree had to be to accounting.

For CGAs, the degree could be in an unrelated field, but years of experience at an accounting firm, the successful completion of courses and written exams were required, in addition to management experience, before the designation could be granted. This branch was particularly attractive to immigrants who might not meet the education requirements for the other designations.

CAs had quite a different path; they had to complete an undergraduate degree in accounting, then complete three years of training at an accounting firm. There was also an extremely intense three-day exam that had to be complete before the designation could be granted. These accountants typically focused on obtaining jobs at large, multinational accounting firms.

CMAs don’t need an undergraduate in accounting, but they certainly needed one in an accounting adjacent field, like business. There was additionally an entrance exam, and related work experience was required. These accountants would usually go into the management business, targeting high level elements of accounting like company growth.

Nowadays, you won’t hear too much about any of these kinds of accountants. That’s because all of them have been merged into one designation, the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA). This merger was conducted for a number of reasons. First, the requirements to gain an accounting designation are similar in all tracks; a university degree is required, as well as experience in the field. Second, the lines between the various designations became blurred; CAs would work in management, CGAs would work at accounting firms; it really didn’t make sense to have different designations for everyone. Today, you will sometimes see accountants with a designation like (CPA, CGA), indicating that the person followed the CGA track and is now a CPA because of the merger.

The CPA designation acts as a type of one-stop shop; when your accountant is a CPA, you know they’ve passed through rigorous testing and requirements to obtain their designation. Compass Accounting is a CPA designated tax accountant in Winnipeg who is ready to help you with whatever you need, from finding tax breaks you didn’t know about to finding areas where you can make your business grow. When you have a CPA, you know you’re in good hands; trust your accounting process to the professionals!