CPA practical experience requirements: Overview for students/candidates

Learn more about the two practical experience routes, the CPA mentorship program, how to report your progress and details about the development of the required competencies.

Practical experience requirements are a critical component of the CPA certification program, providing an essential supplement to your professional education and the Common Final Examination.

Practical experience routes

There are two routes through which future CPAs can obtain their practical experience requirements:

  • CPA pre-approved programs: in which future CPAs gain relevant experience in training positions pre-approved by the profession
  • Experience verification: in which future CPAs demonstrate relevant experience at an employer of their choice

Read the factsheet for more information on the two routes. 

Future CPAs can gain experience through either route, or a combination of both. The profession may accept up to one year of experience earned prior to registering with the profession.

Experience verification: Does my job qualify?

Determine if your current job, or a prospective one, meets the necessary competency requirements to start the qualifying period of practical experience. Complete our Self-Assessment.

Mentorship for CPA students/candidates

The period of practical experience cannot begin until the future CPA has a CPA mentor. Future CPAs meet with their mentors at least semi-annually to review their progress against set required competencies.

The process by which mentors are matched with future CPAs differs depending on their chosen route:

  • CPA pre-approved program: Future CPAs are matched with a CPA mentor by the organization offering the program.
  • Experience verification: Future CPAs seek out their own CPA mentor to find a successful fit. The profession will help match CPA students/candidates with CPA mentors if they are unsuccessful in finding a mentor.

More information and resources on how to find a CPA mentor are available through your respective provincial/regional body.

Supervision

Your supervisor is responsible for either assigning you the required experience in a pre-approved program, or within the experience verification route, verifying that your experience is factually accurate in your experience report. Your supervisor does not need to be a designated accountant.

Competencies

CPA Practical Experience Requirements: The CPA Practical Experience Competencies provides full details about the technical and enabling competencies future CPAs must develop through their term of qualifying practical experience. Watch “The CPA Practical Experience Competency Requirements,” to see a video presentation of the competencies.

Technical competencies fall into these six areas:

  • financial reporting
  • management accounting
  • audit and assurance
  • strategy and governance
  • finance
  • taxation

Enabling competencies fall into these five areas:

  • professional and ethical behaviour
  • problem-solving and decision-making
  • communication
  • self-management
  • teamwork and leadership

Reporting and assessments

CPA Practical Experience Requirements: Reporting and Assessments provides specific details about how reporting works for both routes you can take to obtain your practical experience requirements.

During your practical experience term, you will need to perform three key tasks:

  • Register your employment via the prescribed form with your respective provincial/regional body when you start employment. Contact your provincial/regional body for more details.
  • Record details of your gained practical experience in CPA Canada’s online practical experience reporting tool (PERT).
  • Self-assess your level of proficiency at least semi-annually via PERT. At certain milestones, your provincial/regional body will assess your experience for the purposes of approval.

Key dates to remember

  • CPA students/candidates who start employment and register with a provincial or regional legacy body before Sept. 1, 2014, will be able to complete their practical experience requirements under that legacy system.
  • The deadline to satisfy the practical experience requirements of a legacy program is Sept. 1, 2018. CPA students/candidates who have not satisfied the requirements of the legacy program at that date must switch to the CPA requirements.