The ACAF: Frequently asked questions

Do you have questions about the CPA Canada Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (ACAF)? Browse our website and access our list of frequently asked questions to find out more.

Important change to ACAF program delivery

Effective January 1, 2018, the CPA profession will no longer deliver ACAF applied courses. The profession will continue to offer ACAF prerequisite requirements and technical courses through CPA preparatory courses, while all ACAF courses will be delivered through accredited programs and courses offered by post-secondary institutions (PSIs). Beginning September 2017, select PSIs will begin offering the entire ACAF program. Contact your provincial/regional CPA body for additional information.

1. General
2. Entrance requirements
3. Program details
4. Program exemptions
5. International students

1. General

a. What is the Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (ACAF)?

The ACAF is an education program developed by Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada) and offered by CPA regional/provincial bodies for those aspiring to careers in accounting and finance, but not as qualified CPAs. The program has been designed to meet the needs of employers in all sectors of the Canadian economy. You will learn to apply the technical accounting and software skills that employers value in this competitive job market.

b. What is the process to sign up for the ACAF?

Please contact your provincial/regional CPA body and be prepared to provide a copy of your academic transcripts for evaluation. The CPA body will confirm your eligibility for the ACAF program and provide the best advice for any missing courses. Alternatively, contact your provincial/regional CPA body to find out the post-secondary institutions that offer ACAF accredited programs and courses. Each institution will have their own registration process.

c. How will the ACAF be offered?

ACAF courses will be offered in-class and online; you can take the online courses from anywhere in Canada or around the world. Some course exams and the ACAF National Examination will take place in-person and are offered across Canada and internationally in designated locations within Bermuda, the Caribbean, the Americas and Asia-Pacific markets. Contact your provincial/regional CPA body to find out the post-secondary institutions that offer ACAF accredited programs and courses and their program delivery formats.

d. Should I have a minimum language proficiency to take the ACAF program?

The ACAF is an undergraduate level academic program, requiring proficiency in English. Success depends on your ability to understand and articulate ideas orally and in written form with clear descriptions and explanations. It is strongly recommended that you have achieved a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark of at least Level 7 in reading, writing, comprehension and listening at the time of enrolment. ACAF is not offered in French at this time.

e. What will I get when I finish the program?

You will receive a certificate from CPA Canada on successful completion of the program. (The certificate may be subject to additional fees and an application process.) Earning the ACAF proves to employers that you have the applied technical and soft skills that make you a valuable asset in the workplace.

f. What are the ACAF fees now? What benefits are covered under the ACAF fees?

ACAF fees are similar to fees for courses that qualify as preparatory courses for the CPA PEP. ACAF students receive the same benefits as students taking CPA preparatory courses for entry to CPA PEP: access to the national job board, discounts on products and services, etc. For complete information on program fees, visit your provincial or regional body’s website.

g. What is the difference between the CPA Canada ACAF and CPA preparatory courses?

The ACAF is an education program created for students looking for intermediate careers in accounting and finance. It builds on the knowledge generally gained through a two-year college program. You gain the applied technical and soft skills valued in today’s marketplace. Developed in consultation with employers from all sectors of the Canadian economy, the ACAF is the only nationally-recognized intermediate accounting and finance certificate in Canada.

CPA preparatory courses do not constitute a program and do not lead to a certificate or credential. They are a suite of courses offered by the CPA profession which you may take to meet the ACAF entry and technical course requirements or to meet the prerequisite course requirements for entry to CPA PEP. You may also take these courses from post-secondary institutions (PSIs). Effective January 1, 2018, ACAF applied courses will be available exclusively from post-secondary institutions, with the exception of Accounting Software Application. Until that time, the ACAF applied courses are only delivered through the CPA profession.

h. What is the difference between the CPA Canada ACAF and the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation?

The CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) and the CPA Canada Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (ACAF) are designed to help you achieve career success at different levels. CPA PEP is a graduate level program for candidates pursuing the CPA designation. The CPA is Canada’s pre-eminent, globally recognized professional business and accounting designation. The ACAF is a separate education program, designed for people seeking careers or currently working in intermediate level positions. The ACAF has its own admission and assessment standards.

i. Can I do ACAF and then become a CPA?

Yes. To become a designated CPA, you must be admitted as a member of a CPA provincial body. This requires:

  • completing the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP)
  • passing the Common Final Examination (CFE)
  • completing a minimum of 30 months of appropriately supervised and mentored practical experience (24 months in Quebec)

You must complete a degree and have accumulated 120 credit hours (or equivalent) of education to be admitted to the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). If you do complete the ACAF program and later decide to pursue the CPA designation, your ACAF courses will be recognized through a partnership with Athabasca University towards an undergraduate degree and specific knowledge requirements needed for admission to CPA PEP.

j. Do I have to do ACAF in order to get into the CPA program?

No, they are two separate education programs.

k. I haven’t decided whether I want to be a CPA or get the ACAF. Can I take CPA preparatory courses first and decide later?

You are required to make a declaration at the time of registration whether you wish to enter CPA PEP or ACAF, but you will have the option to switch paths at a later time.

2. Entrance Requirements

a. What are the entrance requirements for the ACAF?

Prior to enrolling in any technical courses, it is recommended students have successfully completed the following five entry courses:

  • Introductory Financial Accounting
  • Introductory Management Accounting
  • Intermediate Financial Reporting 1
  • Intermediate Financial Reporting 2
  • Business Law

These five courses are prerequisites for specific technical and applied courses.

For admission to the ACAF program offered through the CPA profession, you can meet the entry requirements through CPA preparatory courses if you have completed 30 credit hours of study at a recognized PSI or three years of relevant work experience. Entry requirements can also be met through courses at PSIs. Each post-secondary institution has different admission requirements. Contact your provincial/regional CPA body to find out the post-secondary institutions that offer ACAF accredited programs and courses and their admission requirements.

b. I have not completed a college diploma in accounting. Am I still eligible?

Yes. There is no specific requirement to hold a college diploma to begin the ACAF program. You can meet the entry requirements through CPA preparatory courses if you have completed 30 credit hours of study at a recognized PSI or three years of relevant work experience. Entry requirements can also be met through courses at PSIs.

c. What happens if I am missing some of the ACAF entry courses?

There are five entry courses:

  • Introductory Financial Accounting
  • Introductory Management Accounting
  • Intermediate Financial Reporting 1
  • Intermediate Financial Reporting 2
  • Business Law

These courses are all available through CPA preparatory courses, or through PSIs.

Note: With the change to program delivery effective January 1, 2018, the CPA profession will continue to offer preparatory courses as an optional pathway to fulfill ACAF prerequisite requirements.

3. Program Details

a. How long does it take to complete the ACAF?

The entire ACAF program can be completed in one year of full-time study, or part-time at your own pace. Those with exemptions may complete it faster.

Note: With the change to program delivery effective January 1, 2018, program length may vary based on individual PSI curricula.

b. How many courses are there in the ACAF program and how long is each course?

The ACAF program offered by the profession is made up of 11 courses: six technical courses and five applied courses. Each course has six to eight weeks of study, followed by a study week and a final examination with the exception of Accounting Software Application, which requires the completion of an entirely self-paced learning component and an online final exam. Technical course exemptions are available to those who demonstrate completion of substantially equivalent courses at a PSI. Applied courses are available exclusively through CPA Canada, with the exception of Accounting Software Application. Check your provincial/regional website for course schedules.

Accredited ACAF programs offered by post-secondary institutions may differ from the program structure offered by the CPA profession. Contact your provincial/regional CPA body to find out the post-secondary institutions that offer ACAF accredited programs and courses.

c. How much does it cost?

If you are enrolling in the program through the CPA profession, visit your provincial or regional body’s website for complete information on program fees. For program fees related to courses and programs offered by the post-secondary institutions, visit the appropriate institution for more information.

d. As an ACAF certificate student, can I take classes separately, or must I enrol in certain years/semesters? How many courses can I take concurrently?

There is no limit to the number of courses a student can take at once. However, there is a practical limitation as each course requires 10-12 hours of effort per week. 

Technical courses

  • while not required, it is strongly recommended that you complete all entry courses before taking any technical courses
  • Introductory Financial Accounting and Introductory Management Accounting are prerequisite for all technical courses
  • Intermediate Financial Reporting 1 and 2 must be completed before taking Advanced Financial Reporting, and Audit and Assurance
Applied courses
  • all entry and technical courses must be completed before enrolling in any applied courses
  • Ethics and Workplace Skills must be successfully completed before or concurrently with any other applied courses
  • students who completed all technical courses are encouraged to complete the Business Applications applied course before December 2017 to be exempt from the ACAF National Examination requirement

e. How are ACAF courses graded?

The CPA profession assesses most courses through a combination of term work and a final examination. Please check with your provincial/regional body for further details.

f. Can I use the CPA designation after my name when I complete the ACAF program?

No. The only way to become a designated CPA is to be admitted as a member of a designated CPA provincial body. This involves completing the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP), passing the Common Final Examination (CFE) and completing a minimum of 30 months (24 months in Quebec) of appropriately supervised and mentored practical experience.

4. Program Exemptions

a. Is it possible to get an exemption from any part of the program?

Yes. The CPA profession may allow you to be exempted from individual technical courses, of which there are six, if you have passed accredited academic equivalents with a minimum grade of 60 per cent. Students who qualify for exemptions from all technical courses could complete the program in as little as six months. There are no exemptions from the applied courses, with the exception of Accounting Software Application.

Students who complete the Business Applications applied course through the CPA profession before December 2017 will be exempt from completing the ACAF National Examination requirement. 

b. I am a university graduate interested in the ACAF. Will any of my university business/accounting courses qualify as prerequisites and/or exemptions?

Degree holders are eligible in most cases to enter the CPA PEP. However, if the ACAF is your preferred career option, please apply to your provincial or regional CPA body or a post-secondary institute that offers accredited ACAF programs or courses for a transcript evaluation to determine which courses qualify for exemption.

5. International Students

a. How do I sign up for the ACAF?

If you are working outside of Canada and wish to complete a Canadian accounting credential without becoming a fully qualified Canadian CPA, the ACAF may be the ideal choice. To start the registration process:

b. Can I take the ACAF program if I am an internationally-trained accountant?

Yes. As an internationally-trained accountant, you may find the ACAF provides a helpful intermediate step in establishing an accounting career in Canada by providing a Canadian credential that recognizes international education and experience. You may be exempted from individual technical courses, of which there are six, if you have passed academic equivalents and meet our minimum grade requirement. You can complete the ACAF program online before arriving in Canada; the course examinations, however, must be taken in person, and will be offered in certain locations within the Americas, the Caribbean and Asian-Pacific markets. Information on upcoming ACAF exam dates and locations will be made available shortly.

Please note, there is no requirement to move to Canada to complete (or upon completion of) the ACAF program. The ACAF program gives you the right balance of technical and applied skills to you succeed, no matter where you are based. Earn the job-ready skills employers around the world value within the intermediate level accounting and finance functions of their businesses.

c. My college diploma is from a country other than Canada. Do I need a World Education Services (WES) or some other third-party evaluation to ensure it meets eligibility criteria?

If you are resident in Canada, submit your credentials to your provincial CPA body, including a third-party assessment if you have one. We accept but do not require WES or other third-party assessments to determine ACAF eligibility, unless we are unable to independently verify the status of the educational institution you attended. In such cases, your provincial or regional body will inform you of the need for an independent assessment.

If you are resident of the Caribbean, please email internationalinquiries@cpacanada.ca for more information. Residents outside of Canada, Bermuda and the Caribbean can email acaf-intl@cpacanada.ca to learn more.