Masters in Accounting: An Alternative (And Quicker) Pathway to Canadian CPA [Part 2]

In Part 1 of my PEP vs MAcc blog series, I discussed Masters in Accounting (MAcc) and how it can benefit CPA Canada candidates. 

Here in Part 2, I will compare obtaining the CPA Canada designation through MAcc vs PEP, define the key criteria, discuss pros/cons of each, and provide recommendations on which pathway best suits for each type of candidate.


First, let’s look at the two pathways.

  • CPA PEP: This is the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) which is usually taken after a candidate completes an undergraduate degree in accounting or PREP courses. PEP is completed almost entirely remotely (online), with one in-person weekend workshop per module (Saturday and Sunday). This program is designed for both full-time and part-time working candidates.
  • MAcc: Discussed in-depth in Part 1 of my series,  MAcc is a type of program that is accredited by CPA Canada; it’s designed to deliver part or all of the PEP program, usually full-time. For the sake of this comparison, we will look at a MAcc program that delivers the entire CPA PEP program (not part of it).

Both pathways lead CPA candidates into the Common Final Examination (CFE), so let’s look at the timelines to see how quickly you can reach the CFE.


As an example, let’s say you want to write the CFE in September 2023. Here’s what the timelines look like:

  • CPA PEP: In order to write the September 2023 CFE, you need to enroll in Core 1 in Spring 2022 (April 30 to June 24, 2022). This will allow you to finish Capstone 2 in Summer of 2023 (mid July to early Sept 2023), before writing the CFE in September 2023.
  • MAcc: Let’s look at Brock University’s MAcc located in St. Catherine’s, Ontario. Brock University MAcc begins in January 2023 and will finish around mid July 2023 (continuous 7-8 month stretch), leaving the student the remainder of time to study for the September 2023 CFE

This means the MAcc pathway is faster (8 months vs 16-17 months).


Costs can get very detailed, so I’ll keep it simple; all prices are in CAD.

  • CPA PEP: Cost is approx. $10,000 and it is often reimbursed by companies where being a CPA is considered an asset.
  • MAcc: Cost of the program itself is approx. $10,000. Textbooks are approx. $1,000-$1,500. Reimbursements for this may vary company to company (provided candidate is working). There is also a cost of living, as the candidate will likely be attending the program full time, so may need to relocate if not currently residing on campus. Cost of living includes rent, food, fuel for travel etc. These additional relocation costs are an important distinction of the two pathways.

The cost for writing the CFE is approx. $1,500 and it’s applicable to both pathways so it is disregarded.

Overall, MAcc costs more than PEP ($13K+ vs $10K ).


This is different from timeline discussed above because this is the total time commitment for each pathway.

  • CPA PEP: Provided the candidate is working, they will need to spend an additional 15-20 hours on top of a normal working week (37-40 hours) = 55-60 hours per week.
  • MAcc: Each term consists of 5 classes. Lectures are approx. 15-20 hours per week, which requires an additional 35-40 hours of studying each week, due to the intensive nature of the program, and requirement to maintain a 70% average = 50-60 hours per week.

This means both take approximately the same amount of time commitment.

Here’s a summary:

Timeline Pro: Can be done while working, which will allow the candidate to earn salary while studying. Will also allow the candidate to contribute to their 30-month experience requirement.

Con: Length is approx. 16-17 months.

Pro: Significantly shorter timeframe to reach CFE (8 months), compared to CPA PEP (16-17 months).

Pro: Allows you to focus 100% on studies, and not worry about work.

Con: Does not allow you to work full-time (with a full course load). However, part-time may be possible. This will halt your ability to contribute towards the 30-month work experience criteria.

Cost Pro: PEP is cheaper than MAcc, due to cost savings on relocation. If you can save on relocation costs for MAcc, then costs are comparable between the two programs.

Con: Despite program costs being similar, there is far better support provided in MAcc compared with CPA PEP. MAcc is offline and good resources are available on-demand (ie, live professors).

Pro: Program costs can be reimbursed as was the case for me (I work at Canada Revenue Agency).

Con: Can be substantially more expensive than CPA PEP (relocation costs).

Hours Similar. Similar.

Extra benefits

Before concluding, here are some additional benefits of the MAcc route:

  • MAcc can earn you a Masters in Accounting which will add to your resume and may assist in future teaching opportunities (especially at the institute you received the Masters from)
  • Good networking opportunities with professors and other students (more face-to-face interaction compared with PEP)
  • Capstone 1 is done in-person
  • Some MAcc have good co-op/internship placements built into the program if opted for
  • If you’ve been unsuccessful at CPA PEP and were de-registered from the program, you can switch to MAcc and skip the PEP modules you’re struggling with.


If you’re someone working full-time, CPA PEP is the better choice. From cost savings and ability to earn a salary, it’s makes the most sense. However, if costs and ability to take time off are not obstacles for you, then I recommend going for MAcc, given the extra benefits and better support.

If you’re a non-working candidates who is still in school, MAcc is the better option, as they can save time. You can also start straight after your undergrad, retaining much of your technical knowledge. MAcc is also a good option for you if who can’t manage both work and studies simultaneously.

Choosing your CPA pathway is an important decision. Consider all the pros/cons, including costs and time commitment, before making your final choice. Your decision is further impacted by the type of MAcc program you choose, as some cover only parts of CPA PEP. Make sure to explore all your options and don’t limit yourself to just CPA PEP!

Author: Abhimanu Goyal, Successful CFE writer and MAcc