The process of getting the Canadian CPA can be an overwhelming journey. With multiple pathways to consider and exams to navigate, it’s often difficult to know where exactly to start. Below information on how to become a CPA in Canada will help you plan your designation in more manageable steps.
Steps to becoming a Canadian CPA
To get the Canadian CPA designation, you must complete the “Four E’s”:
- Entrance requirements
- Education requirement
- Examination requirements
- Experience requirements
Step 1: Entrance requirements
There are different pathways to entering the CPA program, depending on your educational background.
#1 – If you have a Canadian degree in an area other than accounting
If you have obtained a Canadian degree in a subject other than accounting, you will be required to begin your CPA journey through the CPA preparatory courses (formerly CPA PREP). PREP will help you gain the necessary accounting technical knowledge. After you’ve complete the required credit hours in PREP, you can then enter the CPA Professional Education Program (PEP), discussed in Step 2. For differences between CPA PREP and PEP, check out our detailed article.
#2 – If you have a Canadian degree in accounting
If you have obtained a Canadian undergraduate degree in accounting, you will meet the necessary subject area coverage to enter directly into the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). PEP is designed to further develop technical depth in specific accounting areas.
#3 – If you have a Masters degree in accounting
If you have a Master of Management & Professional Accounting (MMPA) that is accredited by CPA Canada, it will allow you to enter directly into the last module of PEP, Capstone 2, and onto the Common Final Exam (CFE). Most MMPA programs are offered in 1 or 2 year terms, usually attended full-time. For more information about the Masters program, check out our Masers in Accounting (MAcc) to CPA article.
#4 – If you have international credentials
If you have international credentials, such as an international CA, you’ll be provided streamlined programs to help you obtain your education and examination requirements. Bridging pathways are offered to take you right to the last modules (Capstone 1 and 2) and unto the CFE. For more information on international accounting bodies, refer to International CPA Guide and our article on passing the CPA Canada CFE for international Indian accountants.
Step 2: Education requirements
The educational requirements begin at the CPA PEP program. PEP is designed around technical topics and focuses on depth of knowledge. There are 6 PEP modules and you’ll start with Core 1.
Image source: CPA Canada
The purpose of these modules are to build the foundation for and refine your technical understanding, introduce you to case writing responses, and to further develop your studying habits. Details about the PEP program are available in our article here.
Step 3: Examination requirements
To complete the CPA certification program, you will be assessed on your knowledge and skills in key competency areas. These competencies are summarized in the CPA Canada Competency Map.
- The 6 technical competencies you will be assessed are: financial reporting, management accounting, audit and assurance, finance, taxation, and strategy and governance.
- The 5 enabling competencies areas are: professional and ethical behavior, problem-solving and decision-making, communication, self-management, and teamwork and leadership.
In both the PREP and PEP pathways, you will participate in modules with weekly assignments in the structure of formatted objective questions and short cases. At the end of each module, you must successfully complete the module exam to be admitted to the next module.
After completing core and elective courses in PEP, you will enroll in Capstone 1, which includes presentations and an 8-week team-based assignment in the form of an integrated business case. This will help you prepare for Day 1 of the Common Final Exam (CFE). After Capstone 1, you will begin the Capstone 2 module, which is designed to refine your case writing responses to lead you directly into CFE.
Image source: CPA Canada
The Common Final Examination (CFE) is a three-day exam that evaluates your depth and breadth of all competency development. To pass the CFE, you must pass all three days. Day 1 will be marked separately, and Days 2 and 3 will be assessed as a separate entity. Check out Gevorg’s CFE breakdown (YouTube) to learn more.
As examination and module dates are set to certain times of the year, candidates should review CPA academic calendars in advance to plan their program completion.
Step 4: Experience requirements
Aside from educational requirements, to complete the CPA program you will need to capture your professional experience in the online practical experience reporting tool (PERT). This should be done simultaneously as you go through the stages of PEP onwards.
CPA Canada requires a minimum of 30 months (or 24 months in Quebec) of paid employment experience, with the allowance of up to 12-months from prior work experience. The purpose is to demonstrate your professional knowledge, and also how you uphold the CPA Way in your values and ethics towards various situations.
Your experience must be supervised, you must regularly record detailed reports, you must meet with your CPA mentor at least semi-annually, and your experience will be assessed by CPA Canada. For more information on specific requirements, check out Gevorg’s PERT video (YouTube) and CRC Resources for CPA practical experience requirements.
There are two paths for obtaining your work-related experience, they are: Pre-Approved Route (PPR) and the Experience Verification Route (EVR).
The major difference between the two is that PPR is for programs within an employer that have already been reviewed and approved by CPA to meet the requirements. Because of this, the reporting process is more streamlined with technical competency areas prepopulated. You will still need to fill-in the required enabling competencies. Your employer will also arrange for you to be matched with a CPA mentor to monitor your progress.
As part of the EVR stream, you will be required to self-assess your level of technical and enabling proficiencies, and to outline specifics on the employer and job duties. Candidates will need to seek out their own CPE mentor.
The purpose of your CPA mentor and supervisor is to ensure your experience is accurately reflected in your experience report and you are on the right path to embodying the qualities of a CPA. If you need help with PERT, Gevorg’s PERT coaching program provides sample reports and writing lessons.
The combination of post-secondary and PREP/PEP education, successfully passing the module exams/CFE, and meeting the professional work experience requirements will result in you completion your CPA certification and obtaining your CPA. While each individual may have their own journey, it is about finding the right CPA path for you!
If you need support along the way, get in touch with our professional CPA coaching team.