The way to a CPA — part 2

Some tips for internationally educated students who want to obtain their CPA designation in Canada.

When international students decide to travel to Canada to continue their studies at one of the country's many postsecondary accounting programs, there's no doubt they'll be met with a long list of to-dos to complete before classes start. Besides filling out study permits, updating passports, applying for international scholarships and just getting here, they'll also have to review English-language requirements.

With homegrown accounting students still learning about the new CPA Certification Program, it makes sense that those applying from afar might not yet know what they need to do. The good news? "The accounting profession remains accessible to internationally educated individuals interested in becoming designated professional accountants in Canada," says Simone Leonard, CPA, CGA, MBA, director of student services for the legacy CGA-BC provincial regulatory body. If you are an international candidate, or know someone who is, here's what you need to know. (NB: at press time, some admission standards for internationally educated students were still under review.)

1. Apply

You'll need to apply to the provincial body where you already reside (or where you hope to reside once you relocate to Canada).

2. File Your Transcripts

It's key to ensure all professional documents (such as curriculum vitae and education transcripts) are complete. All courses and credits received should be included, since the type of institution attended and the degree, diploma or certificate received are usually used to determine any exemptions granted.

Your transcripts will be assessed by the provincial body where you apply, so you should have the original copies of your records mailed from the postsecondary institution you attended.

3. Meet the Requirements

When you hear back from the provincial body you applied to, you'll find out whether you meet the requirements for entry to the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP).

If you are lacking in prerequisite knowledge, you might also consider taking the CPA Prerequisite Education Program (CPA PREP), an "intensive, accelerated bridging program for those who have an undergraduate degree in a discipline other than accounting, and lack some or all of the necessary prerequisite courses required for admission to the CPA PEP." Leonard suggests international students start in PREP. "Since the PEP relies heavily on the knowledge gained at the PREP level, international applicants will generally start their studies within PREP in order to pick up Canadian-specific prerequisite content, such as tax and law, as well as any other content deemed necessary for their ultimate success in PEP," Leonard says. Note that you'll only need to take the modules in which you lack previous knowledge.

After you've been admitted into the CPA PEP, you'll need to complete the necessary modules, pass the common final examination and complete all of the practical experience required to receive your CPA designation.

Words of Wisdom

"It often takes time [six months or so for some countries] to mail original transcripts earned outside of Canada. Internationally educated individuals need to factor this time into their plans in order to limit the delay in their expected start date"

Simone Leonard, CPA, CGA, MBA, Director Of Student Services, CGA-BC

Tip Sheet

Simone Leonard says it's recommended that internationally educated individuals have strong English-language reading, writing and listening skills to aid in their success in the CPA PREP and PEP.