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The Profession

‘Demand for CPAs is as high as ever,’ expert says

Even though the pandemic continues, 2021 will be the year for accountants to demonstrate their exceptional versatility

Businesswomen wearing protective face masks for protection against virus while working in office.CPAs are seen as experts in change, crisis management and organizational transformation—precisely—the skills organizations are looking for (Getty Images/Luis Alvarez)

The economic downturn in 2020 left many Canadians, including CPAs, without employment and discouraged many others from changing jobs. However, the environment seems highly favourable for CPAs in 2021, according to Evelyne Blain, CPA, CMA, business development director at CPA Québec. 

“In a recovery with everything in rapid flux, CPAs are seen as trusted advisers now more than ever,” she says. “The keen interest in their advisory role prompted a sharp increase in the number of job postings, particularly for CFOs, management controllers and corporate controllers.” 

And the numbers, Blain adds, speak for themselves. “In 2020, excluding the March-April lockdown and the typically quieter summer months, twice as many of these positions were available in eight months as in the entire previous year,” she says.


Blain is responsible for managing employer relations and encouraging the next generation of CPAs in Quebec. As a result, this dual role gives her greater insight into the labour market.

“At the beginning of the crisis, employers were looking for professionals with experience in short-term cash management who could help them pay suppliers and employees, analyze office-space costs or obtain subsidies,” she says. 

With the initial phase of the emergency behind them, they began looking for individuals to help them prepare for what lay ahead, with a focus on strategic planning and analysis. “CPAs are seen as experts in change and crisis management and organizational transformation, and these are precisely the skills organizations are currently seeking,” adds Blain.

All skillsets related to digitization are also in demand, she says, including “having strong knowledge of system implementation, information processing, and data integration and analysis. The latter skill is one of the most sought after.”

According to a recent BDC survey, the five priorities for entrepreneurs are: putting finances in order, taking advantage of technology, focusing on telework, selling online and reviving growth. “All of them are directly related to the expertise of CPAs,” says Blain.

After several months spent surveying the job market, Emanuela Robillard-Dios, a CPA auditor, has learned a thing or two about the current demand for CPAs. 

“Even though I was searching outside the major urban centres, the pandemic did not affect my search,” she says. “There were fewer positions in the Lanaudière region [located about 100 km. from Montreal], but it only took me three weeks to find a job and the conditions offered are very good, even if they don’t match what’s available in large urban centres.” 

The upside? “Not having to commute anymore, like I had to do for about three hours a day for three years,” she adds.


Although the pandemic has affected some sectors more than others, “demand for CPAs is as high as ever,” says Blain, adding this explains why there has been a surge in salaries and better job conditions. “Demand is also high for interns. Last fall, some organizations went as far as to recruit students who had completed only a single university semester.”

“Since last summer, some employers have been offering better conditions, particularly in terms of work-life balance or remote working,” she says, “especially since we’re seeing more and more companies outside major centres agreeing to recruit a non-local workforce. Large urban centres still attract many head offices, but we’re noticing a growing trend towards decentralization.”

Robillard-Dios is seeing the same trend. She also considered the possibility of remote working. “I could have looked elsewhere in Quebec, but I wasn’t ready to apply for a purely remote-work position because a lot of things are unstable and who knows what will happen in a year or two? Will these firms live up to their commitment in a few months or years?”

In addition, remote-working arrangements remain a challenge in some regions where internet service is inadequate. And Robillard-Dios was asked related questions in her interviews: Had she ever worked remotely before? What would she do if something went wrong and she couldn’t work at the office?

“It can be trickier to join a new team remotely and put your skills into practice,” admits Blain, “but CPAs are known for their leadership and ability to engage others, so it doesn’t seem to be an obstacle to changing organizations. Some even use the issue of remote work as an opportunity to demonstrate their leadership and the breadth of their skillset.”


An easy place to start is social media (such as LinkedIn) and other job posting aggregators (such as Indeed), but they have their limitations. 

Robillard-Dios experienced this first-hand when a recruiter who approached her on LinkedIn had underestimated the value the CPA designation brings and the salary it commands. “On many job-search sites,” she explains, “there’s greater demand for accounting technicians than for CPAs, which is very different, both in terms of challenges and compensation.”

As a result, she advises CPAs to start with their provincial professional regulatory body or order, which guarantees that job posters will receive applications from CPAs only.

“The companies that have the hardest time finding candidates—and that we have to coach—are often those that have not sufficiently emphasized their organizational culture and are not adept at selling themselves,” explains Blain. “The others often don’t have time to sift through piles of resumes because, if they wait too long, that sought-after candidate will receive another job offer. This explains why they often hire intermediaries, such as headhunters, to help them with their selection process.”

From the candidate’s perspective, there seems to be less pressure. “You shouldn’t rush into anything, because there are really a lot of job openings,” advises Robillard-Dios. “You can take your time, create alerts, set criteria (such as salary, location, area of expertise, et cetera). And I’m sure there will be even more opportunities in the months ahead.”


Discover what key role CPAs can play as their organizations transition to the digital economy by reading CPA Canada’s Mastering Data Series, including the article Canada’s economy and society are becoming more digital, and using these tech resources. Prep your organization for the next industrial revolution with these digital transformation tips and learn why coding might soon be synonymous with accounting

Also, delve into insights emerging from CPA Canada’s strategic initiative, Foresight: Reimagining the Profession, and learn what the future holds for accounting.