The way to a CPA – part 1

The new CPA Professional Program is rolling out in the western provinces and is set to launch in the rest of Canada later in 2014. If you are an undergraduate with your sights set on a career in accounting, here’s what you need to do.

It’s a big year for Kaitlin Simpson. Not only is the 25-year-old student at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in Edmonton scheduled to graduate with a bachelor of applied business administration (BBA) with a focus in accounting, but she — like her classmates — is poised to make some exciting choices about what’s next for her on the road to becoming a qualified, professional accountant.

The big news on university and college campuses across the country when accounting students started a new year of classes this past September was the launch of the CPA Professional Education Program. The program, which is designed to draw on the best legacy CA, CMA and CGA programs, is currently rolling out in the western provinces and is set to launch in the rest of Canada this year.

“A lot of thought has been put into the education experience of students by the legacy bodies,” says Steven Salterio, FCPA, FCA, director of the CPA-Queen’s School of Business Centre for Governance at the Queen’s University School of Business in Kingston, Ont. Input by educators ensures that current and future students can count on the same demanding type of schooling that has been in place until now.

Lisa Harvey, CPA, CA, a lecturer at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto, adds that the new program will “prepare candidates for the many different roles that professional accountants play in the business world. This program is nationally developed and provincially delivered, which means that the educational programs delivered across the country will be far more similar than they were in the past.”

If you’re about to don a cap and gown and you’re wondering what’s up next, here’s what you need to know. (Stay tuned if you’re an international student, or just starting your postsecondary studies in accounting — we’ll share what you should know in the coming months.)

1. Finish your degree

Whether you were leaning toward pursuing your CA, CMA or CGA, keep going — you’ll need your undergraduate degree to enrol in the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). 

2. Enrol

You won’t need to write an exam to get into the two-year, part-time intensive program. All you need is an undergraduate degree, and you must have specific subject-area coverage (as per the CPA Competency Map at Your regional CPA office can answer any questions you might have. 

3. Take your courses

“Although it’s a new program, students will recognize many of its elements,” says Harvey. Courses are designed to hone your skills and to focus on the “ability to apply professional knowledge, and professional values, ethics and attitudes in a professional context,” says CPA Canada. All CPAs must finish six modules — two mandatory, two electives and two capstone modules.

Post-secondary institutions can be accredited to deliver some or all of the CPA Professional Education Program through graduate programs equivalent to the CPA PEP.

4. Get experience

While you complete your courses, you can work toward completing the required 30 months of relevant practical experience (the minimum term has not yet been finalized in Quebec) to gain professional knowledge, skills, values, ethics and attitudes. 

5. Write the exam

After completing the modules, you’ll write the three-day comprehensive final exam. The first set will be offered in September 2015, then twice a year starting in May 2016.

Words of wisdom

“The CPA PEP is an exciting, dynamic and world-class program that will position you for success in your future careers in business and accounting”
- Tashia Batstone, Vice-President, Education Services, CPA Canada

Tip Sheet

For more information, check out the sites below. And make sure to go to your province’s site for important dates and news.