The Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (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.

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) 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. 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 from a number of international locations. 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 or refer to the list of provinces to find out the post-secondary institutions that offer ACAF accredited programs/courses and their program delivery formats.

c. 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.  If you are taking the ACAF in English, it is strongly recommended that you have achieved a minimum Canadian Language Benchmark of Level 7 in reading, writing, comprehension and listening at the time of enrolment. For information on language proficiency requirements in Quebec, contact CPA Quebec.

d. 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.

e. What are the ACAF fees? What benefits are covered under the ACAF fees?

Students taking ACAF technical courses offered by the CPA profession pay separate course fees and annual student fees. These fees vary by province. Contact your provincial/regional CPA body for complete information on course and student fees. ACAF students taking courses through the profession will receive discounts on a number of products and services offered by the profession.

Fees vary for ACAF accredited programs/courses offered by post-secondary institutions. Contact a PSI offering accredited ACAF programs/courses to access information on program/course fees.

f. 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.

g. 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.

h. Can I complete the 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.

i. Do I have to complete the ACAF in order to get into the CPA program?

No, they are two separate education programs.

j. 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 course, you must successfully complete the following five entry courses, or equivalent courses, typically covered in an accounting diploma program. Individual PSIs may have additional admission requirements. The following five courses are prerequisites for specific technical and applied courses:

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

*At least one course in business law must be completed prior to entering or completing the program.

You can complete the entry courses either through CPA preparatory courses or accredited courses at PSIs.

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.

3. Program Details

a. What is the structure of the ACAF program?

The ACAF program is made up of 11 courses: six technical courses and five applied courses. Technical courses are offered by the CPA profession and post-secondary institutions (PSIs). Applied courses are offered exclusively by PSIs. 

The ACAF National Examination evaluates students’ understanding of the information taught in the Business Applications applied course and is administered through the CPA provincial/regional bodies. See the ACAF National Examination Policies for more details.

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

For accredited ACAF program/courses offered by post-secondary institutions, program length will vary depending on individual PSI curricula. Contact a PSI offering accredited ACAF programs/courses to access information on program/course length. If you are fulfilling the ACAF technical course requirement through the CPA profession, each course can be completed within six to eight weeks.

In addition to completing the ACAF technical/applied courses, you will need to successfully complete the ACAF National Examination to earn the ACAF. Refer to the Examination schedule for a list of available offerings per calendar year.

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

Contact your provincial/regional CPA body to find out the post-secondary institutions that offer accredited ACAF programs and courses. Each institution will have their own registration process. If you would like to take ACAF technical courses through the CPA profession, contact your provincial/regional CPA body and be prepared to provide a copy of your academic transcripts for evaluation.

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

For ACAF technical courses offered by the CPA profession, there is no limit to the number of courses you can take at once. However, there may be a practical limitationq as each course requires a number of dedicated hours of effort per week. 

For accredited ACAF programs/courses offered by post-secondary institutions, contact the PSI for their curriculum and enrolment criteria.

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 (or equivalent PSI courses) are prerequisites for all technical courses
  • Intermediate Financial Reporting 1 and 2 (or equivalent PSI courses) must be completed before taking Advanced Financial Reporting, and Audit and Assurance (or equivalent PSI courses)
Applied courses
  • All entry and technical courses must be completed before enrolling in any applied courses
  • Ethics and Workplace Skills (or an equivalent PSI course) must be successfully completed before or concurrently with any other applied courses

e. How are ACAF courses graded?

The CPA profession assesses ACAF technical courses through a combination of term work and a final examination. Please check with your provincial/regional body for further details. For accredited ACAF programs/courses offered by post-secondary institutions, grading processes will vary. Contact a PSI offering accredited ACAF programs/courses for assessment information.

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?

For ACAF technical courses offered by the CPA profession, you may 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.

For accredited ACAF programs/courses offered by post-secondary institutions, contact the PSI for its exemption criteria.

Students who completed the Business Applications applied course through the CPA profession before December 2017 are exempt from completing the ACAF National Examination requirement. See the ACAF transition giuidelines for more details.

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 institution that offers accredited ACAF programs/courses for a transcript evaluation to determine which courses qualify for exemption.

5. International Students

a. How do I sign up for the ACAF?

Individuals living outside of Canada should email internationalinquiries@cpacanada.ca for more information on the ACAF and to check program availability in your country of residence.

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 help 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.

Are you a member of the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)? If so, you will be granted advanced standing into the ACAF program.

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. Individuals living outside of Canada should email internationalinquiries@cpacanada.ca to learn more.