CPA for hire

Three hiring professionals share their perspectives on what the new CPA designation will mean in the future.

As Canada's accounting bodies move toward unification, more than 185,000 professional accountants will eventually have three new letters after their names. The impact may be subtle for those who have well-established careers, but for recent graduates and other accountants who are about to dip their toes into the job pool we present three hiring professionals who share their views about what being a CPA will mean in the future.

What it's like now: "These are the early transition years," says Joanne Elek, partner at Ambit Search, a Toronto-area executive search firm that specializes in finance and accounting professionals. "I think some employers will be reticent and others more willing to accept the CPA. And some will simply say, 'Show me what it means.'" Because the CPA designation is so new and is not yet in use in all provinces, employers still rely on legacy designations to identify suitable candidates for particular roles, says Rowan O'Grady, president of Hays Canada.

What to consider: Focus on existing skill sets. "We're telling employers that a CPA is someone who's an absolutely qualified accountant and that they should focus on a candidate's experience to see if he or she is qualified for a job," says O'Grady. Unification will combine the professional development resources of all three designations, says Elek. Individuals will benefit from more opportunities for continuous learning. The CPA is also an internationally recognized brand, an important benefit for many members, says Calgary-based CMA Kevin Johnson, managing vice-president of Robert Half Enterprise Solutions.

What to watch out for: Transition and confusion often go hand in hand. While Canada's designated accountants are well-informed about the new CPA designation, "that's perhaps not as true of the HR people, and they're the ones who often screen candidates," says Johnson. Over the coming months, CPA Canada will reach out to HR professionals with a comprehensive communications strategy to help them understand Canada's new accounting landscape.

What it will be like in five years: The first crop of CPA grads will be out looking for jobs. They'll be well-rounded candidates whose education combines the strengths of all three legacy designations, says Elek.

What it will be like in 10 years: One designation will be much easier for the public and employers to understand, says Elek.

Advice for job hunters:

  1. Make sure you're familiar with unification so you can speak to it in a job interview.
  2. Document your designations and education to make it easier for employers to compare candidates.
  3. If you're applying internationally in a jurisdiction where a CPA is a recognized designation, know the differences between your CPA and its CPA.

For more information on the CPA, go to or contact your provincial body.