Examine the roles and competencies of the CPA

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CPA Research Project

What is the CPA designation?

The CPA designation was formed when Canada’s three accounting organizations, the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CA), the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA), and the Society of Management Accountants of Canada (CMA) merged into one accounting body. In accordance with the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act, the new designation was created by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA) and the CMA of Canada on January 1, 2013 (1). The CPA certification maintains the knowledge, skills and capabilities of the accountants while also providing a benefit to the public by working with a common set of standards (2). CPA Canada has been established with the intention to create an “internationally recognized accounting designation and business credential that best protects and serves the public interest (1).”

Roles and Competencies of the CPA

Roles (3)

The roles of a CPA are broader in scope and require more education and experience. Professional accountants are mainly responsible for maintaining the entire accounting system in a business or organization. It is a high-level position with several key responsibilities. These roles are:

  • Working with management to help make intelligent business decisions
  • Developing an accounting strategy to ensure the accuracy of data inputted into the accounting system
  • Ensuring that all accounting standards are met
  • Analyzing and interpreting the data produced by the accounting system
  • Preparing reports and statements based on the data output of the system
  • Supervising the work of employees to ensure accuracy and efficiency.

CPA Competencies (4)

After completing the certification process, there are certain competencies that the new CPA should be able to demonstrate. The following competencies are the behaviours and skills expected by employers when CPA’s complete certification. These expected competencies fall under two categories: technical and enabling. The Technical competencies are skills that are expected of CPA’s while the Enabling competencies are associated more with behavioural components such as leadership and ethical attitudes.

Technical Competencies

  • Financial Reporting: involves specific tasks associated with financial reporting. These tasks include reporting routine and non-routine transactions and reporting frameworks. Candidates must also show that they have a good understanding in financial reporting.
  • Strategy and Governance: candidates should be able to be able to translate corporate governance strategies into certain business objectives.
  • Management Accounting: involves being able to define the needs in management information needs and developing strategies to fulfill those needs.
  • Audit and Assurance: involves improving the effectiveness and accuracy of information through specific auditing methods.
  • Finance: involves certain components of finance such as analysis, budgeting, and transactions.
  • Taxation: includes a variety of taxation aspects such as reporting and implementation strategies.

Enabling Competencies

  • Professional and Ethical Behaviour: CPA’s must draw on their ability to perform with professional behavior such as honesty and independence. They must also perform while coping with issues such as conflicts of interest.
  • Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: CPA’s be able to show strong problem-solving and analytical skills and creative thinking on the job.
  • Communication (written and oral): CPA’s must have effective communication by attentive listening, persuasive speaking, and clear writing.
  • Self-Management: CPA’s must show that they can build off of criticism to further improve their work and behaviour.
  • Teamwork and Management: CPA’s must have the ability to work and co-operate as a team effectively. They should develop skills in planning and collaboration.

CPA Student vs. Candidate (5)

The major difference between a CPA student and a CPA candidate is that the candidate is enrolled in or completed the CPA Professional Education Program while the CPA student is working towards it. CPA candidate’s are registered within a province and are, enrolled in or yet to complete, CPA PEP. On the other hand, CPA students are also registered with a province but are currently studying to gain the necessary prerequisites to be admitted into CPA PEP. CPA students work towards the prerequisites in CPA PREP or in approved courses and programs.

Status of Implementation

Currently, the only province to fully complete the CPA merger is Quebec. As of February 2014, Manitoba, Ontario, and Saskatchewan reached agreements for unification as the three accounting bodies have signed Memorandums of Understanding in support of the CPA designation (6)(7)(10). Alberta agreed to the CPA designation in April 2013 (9) and was followed by British Columbia, whose accounting organizations also signed an agreement in May 2013 to pursue a merger (8). Other provinces have support from some of the accounting organizations but have not settled upon an official agreement.

To fully establish the CPA designation in Canada, the agreement of each province is needed. Recently, several votes have taken place throughout the provinces and territories of Canada to gather information about the amount of support the CPA unification has from CA’s, CGA’s, and CMA’s. However, some of the data figures collected are not fully accurate as not every accountant participated in the vote.

  • Yukon: 93.8% of CGA’s, 94% of CA’s, and 92.9% of CMA’s support unification
  • New Brunswick: 72% of CA’s, 75% of CMA’s, and 70% of CGA’s are in favour of merger.
  • Nova Scotia: 64.7% of CA’s and 93% of CMA’s are in favour of a merger
  • Prince Edward Island: 72% of CA’s, 98% of CMA’s, and 98% of CGA’s support unification.
  • Newfoundland and Labrador: 68% of CA’s, 86.5% of CMA’s, and 92% of CGA’s support unification (10).

Critical Dates

  • January 1, 2013: CPA Canada was formed under the Canada-Not-For-Profit Corporations Act (1).
  • Summer 2013: CPA PREP was launched nationwide (exception of Quebec)(5).
  • Fall 2013/2014: Advertising Campaign begun to raise awareness about the CPA designation in order to gain support and acceptance from the public (2) CPA PEP program launched in Western Canada and nationally in 2014 (5).
  • Fall 2014: CPA Professional Experience Requirements to come to affect (5).
  • Fall 2015: CPA Common Final Examination will be offered for the first time(5).

Educational Requirements


The CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) is where candidates study and train to become a CPA. It is a two-year program run on a part-time basis that focuses on enhancing CPA candidates’ professional abilities. While in the program, candidates develop the competencies expected of CPA’s. CPA PEP requires certain prerequisites required for admission. If candidates do not satisfy the requirements, they have the option to enter the CPA Prerequisite Education Program (CPA PREP). CPA PREP is a bridging program that is for candidates who lack some of the requirements needed for admission to the CPA PEP. It is also on a part-time basis and is delivered provincially.

Prerequisites for Admission (5)

In order to enter the CPA Professional Education Program, an undergraduate degree is required. The CPA PEP has plans to have partnerships with colleges and universities to give candidates without a degree the chance to obtain one. They will also be earning the required prerequisites while studying for their undergraduate degree. In addition to the degree, candidates must complete specific subject area coverage. Those who did not complete this as part of their degree will be able to enter the CPA PREP to complete their requirements. CPA PREP requires no examination for admission.

Completion Requirements (5)

Once candidates have fulfilled the necessary requirements, they enter CPA PEP. The program consists of a series of modules: two common core modules, two elective modules, capstone integrative module, and a capstone examination preparation module. The common core modules are mandatory and focus on technical abilities such as financial reporting and management accounting. The elective modules give candidates an oppourtinity to choose two from four electives: assurance, performance management, tax and finance. The integrative module’s main focus is on developing the enabling competencies in candidates while the final module prepares candidates for the common final examination. Each module ends in an examination and candidates must pass each examination to proceed to the next module.

In addition to the completion of CPA PEP, candidates must also complete a minimum 30 months of paid employment to demonstrate skills they have learned and to gain practical experience. This requirement is fairly new in the program and more details on it will be announced in 2014. (See sub heading Work Experience for more information)

Work Experience (5)

To be officially certified as a CPA, a minimum of 30 months practical experience is required. This is a paid employment where candidates must show what they have learned in the CPA PEP. Candidates must show that they have acquired the fundamental skills required to work as a CPA. This period of experience is supervised and mentored to ensure that candidates demonstrate the required CPA competencies. Currently, there are two training models that are offered but are subject to change later in 2014. The Approved Path Model provides includes approved training positions offered by offices/organizations. This path is appropriate for employers who want to regularly train CPA candidates. The Experience Verification model allows candidates to me mentored while completing practical experience reports to demonstrate their skills in an area that has not yet been approved. Both models are equal in difficulty and are designed to give candidates room for improvement and to benefit from supervision and mentorship.

CPA Public Qualification (5)

The CPA program is flexible as it allows candidates to pursue their own areas of interest. Candidates who decide to pursue careers in public accounting must follow a specific route that is available through the CPA program. All CPA candidates must complete two of four elective modules but public accounting candidates must complete assurance and taxation modules. The public accounting route also differs on the final examination. Regular candidates must show depth in two competency areas, one of which being financial reporting or management accounting. On the other hand, public accounting candidates do not have a choice as to which competency they want to feature in. They must show strength in financial reporting and assurance. The public accounting path also has different guidelines for practical experience which will be released in 2014.

CPA Implementation in Ontario

The merger proposal for Ontario was issued in May 2013 and the results of the June 2013 poll showed that 65% of CA’s and 94% of CMA’s were in favour of the merger (10). The CGA’s of Ontario have plans in place to transfer to CPA Canada in fall 2014. All three accounting organizations in Ontario have also reached an agreement in support of the unification. On February 3, 2014, a letter was issued which stated that the three organizations have signed a Memorandum of Understanding in support of the merger (11). Ontario CMA’s will become members of CPA Ontario later this spring. CGA’s will also become CPA members later this year following the Second Unification Agreement which will be signed by this summer (11).

Status of Ontario-based Individuals currently completing CMA, CGA, and CA (5)

Currently there are many individuals who are enrolled in CA, CGA, or CMA programs. For these people, they will join the CPA program and become CPA’s if they do not complete their current programs by September 2015. Legacy examinations will also not be available after the CPA Common Final Examination commences in September 2015. Should candidates fail at CA, CMA, and or CGA examinations, the failed attempts will not count against their number of attempts on the CPA Final Examination. Work experience and education credentials will be carried over and therefore will be counted towards the CPA designation. Individuals who begin in a legacy program but finish in the CPA program will have to take additional courses in order to successfully become a CPA. These courses will be provided by the CPA program.

Different Pathways in the CPA Program (5)

The primary reason the CPA program was developed was to produce “Canada’s pre-eminent professional accountant (5).” However, not all individuals interested in an accounting profession have what it takes, mentally or financially, to become an official CPA. It is for this reason a separate program is currently in development for people who would like to be in the accounting profession, but not as a fully qualified CPA. This separate program is in the works and will have its own admission requirements and will also be shorter in length. The program will award a certificate to graduates and will also provide a bridge for graduates to become a CPA. This program will be launched in fall 2014 and will be available to candidates.

Works Cited

  1. "About CPA Canada."CPA Canada Landing Page. Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.cica.ca/about-cica-and-the-profession/about-cpa-canada/index.aspx>.
  1. "CHARTERED PROFESSIONAL ACCOUNTANT."Chartered Professional Accountant. CPA Canada, n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.cpapro.ca/chartered-professional-accountant/>.
  1. Syme, George, Tim Ireland, and Colin Dodds.Accounting 1. 7th ed. Toronto: Pearson Canada, 2013. Print.
  1. The Chartered Professional Accountant Competency Map. Publication. N.p.: Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication, 2012. PDF.
  1. CPA Certification Program. N.p.: CPA Canada, Dec. 2013. PDF.
  1. "The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba."The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba, 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.icam.mb.ca/merger.html>.
  1. CGA Ontario, CMA Ontario & CPA Ontario Sign MOU. Toronto: Certified General Accountants of Ontario, 3 Feb. 2014. PDF.
  1. "News."ICABC: Working Together for a Stronger Future. Institute of Chartered Accountants of BC, 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.ica.bc.ca/kb.php3?catid=1178>.
  1. "Uniting the Canadian Accounting Profession."Merger Update. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan, 2010. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.icas.sk.ca/merger-update>.
  1. "Your Home for CA-CMA-CGA Unification Information."Your Home for CACMACGA Unification Information. CPA Canada, 2013. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://unification.cpacanada.ca/>.
  2. "CPA Ontario E-letter."CPA Ontario E-letter. Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, 2014. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://www.cpaontario.ca/eLetter/COM/COM20140203.htm>.