Exact Pathway for semi qualified CAs, Indian CS or B.Com Grads seeking Canadian CPA Designation
- Hi, I am Bhavneet Toor, a CS from India and a CPA from Canada.
- While doing my CS articles at a CA Firm in India, I was surrounded by Chartered Accountants and that’s when my desire to pursue CA grew even stronger!
- In 2015, I relocated to Canada and within 7 months, landed a public practice job which later helped me become a Big 4 Accountant.
- In this article, I share how I decided on my exact journey of pursuing CPA Canada as a Company Secretary from India.
- Have queries about CPA Canada? Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org/ email@example.com.
Moving to Canada on a study visa & desire to be a CPA
In 2014, when planning my move to Canada I researched CPA in Canada and learnt about its immense opportunities.
After compiling the research, I soon looked for institutions in Canada that could help me complete the Canadian CPA. That is when I found ‘Douglas College’ and I chose it for the following reasons:
- It's Post Baccalaureate in Accounting serves all the CPA PREP courses that are required to get entry into CPA PEP (more on it later).
- It was a two-year program which meant that I could get a three-year work permit after graduation.
- Douglas College was the only public college from Lower Mainland offering this course in 2014. (Public colleges are preferred since their fees are less costly than private colleges and universities.)
And that is how in 2015, I moved to Canada through a study visa with the intention to become a CPA.
Personal CPA Canada Journey
Right after graduating from Douglas College in 2017, I got accepted to the CPA Institute. I registered with CPA British Columbia.
I joined Grant Thornton as I wanted to gain more exposure and grow. I did Core-1 and Core-2 while I worked here.
In 2018, I got an opportunity with KPMG in Enterprise Practice. The CFE experience at KPMG is unmatched and incredible.
In 2019, I wrote my CFE and qualified as a CPA…a dream come true.
(Both the firms offer pre-approved routes and supported their employees with additional resources required to study these modules.)
CPA Canada Pathway
Similar to ‘states’ in the US, Canada has provinces.
Each province has its own regional accounting body however in 2015 Canada has merged its accounting qualification (CA, CMA and CGA) into one big CPA Designation.
While CPA Canada is the national level organization to support the unification of the Canadian accounting profession, there are provincial and territorial CPA bodies that work to regulate the profession.
The pathway to becoming a CPA depends on the educational degrees but in general, it has 3 stages: 1. CPA PREP 2. CPA PEP 3. CFE.
STAGE 1: CPA PREP (PREPARATORY)
- Entry to CPA for 'Canadian' degree holders: If you have a Canadian accounting undergrad and have secured a minimum grade of 50% for non-core courses and 60% in core courses with a minimum GPA of 65%, you can get admitted to CPA PEP directly.
- Entry to CPA for 'international' degree holders: If you have completed your undergraduate degree from a foreign country, you will have to complete 'these core and non-core courses' from either CPA Institute or any Canadian university or college to get admitted to CPA PEP. (I did my Post Baccalaureate Diploma in Accounting as it serves all the CPA PREP courses that are required to get entry into CPA PEP.)
PREP can take about 2 years to complete but one also needs to ensure that GPA requirement is met.
Note for Immigrants: For PEP courses, students are expected to work full-time in an accounting or a financial management related position while studying. Therefore, students should have a work permit and CPA will provide a letter of status to help the students in getting a student visa completing their part-time CPA PEP alongside their work permit.
These are the core and non-core courses covered in the CPA PREP:
CPA PREP’s Exemptions:
In case you want to complete your PREP courses from 'CPA School of Business', here are the exemptions you will receive:
- Have an international B. Com Degree: In case you have completed a B.Com degree, you can get exemption in entry-level courses such as Economics, Statistics, Introductory Financial Accounting and Introductory Management Accounting. You must complete the remaining courses.
- Have an international B. Com Degree + ICAI IPCC: In case you have completed both B. Com and two groups of IPCC, you can get exemption in courses mentioned above plus Audit and assurance and Information Technology.
- Have an international B. Com Degree + CS: As per my understanding, there are no other exemptions than listed in B.Com since CS is based on the Indian law system and none of it can be used in CPA PREP.
- Have an Indian CA: You get the maximum exemption and must complete CFE and Capstone 2. It is highly suggested to take the Capstone 1 module as well.
STAGE 2: CPA PEP (Professional Education Program)
After you have completed all the required PREP courses with the above-mentioned GPA, apply to CPA Institute for transcript assessment.
The assessment can take anywhere from 12 to 14 weeks and is valid for 1 year. Once approved, you can register for CPA PEP courses.
The following courses are covered in CPA PEP:
1. Core 1 and 2: These are two common core modules that all CPA candidates must take which develop their competencies in management and financial accounting. The competency areas covered are:
- financial reporting
- strategy and governance
- management accounting
- audit and assurance
2. Elective 1 and 2: Once both core courses are completed, a candidate must choose any two electives out of four available based on their interest and industry. These are:
- assurance (mandatory for CPA candidates pursuing careers in public accounting)
- performance management
- tax (mandatory for CPA candidates pursuing careers in public accounting)
(Usually, all public practice folks enroll in Assurance and Taxation and industry candidates, enroll in Performance Management and Finance. But you can mix-match these courses too such as Assurance and finance can be taken together.)
3. Capstone courses: These are culminating courses that test candidates what they have learnt over the course of CPA PEP.
- Capstone 1: Capstone 1 combines individual and group work, supported by written assignments and oral presentations. CPA Provincial bodies will enroll candidates in a group of 4 or 5 based on your postal code. All the group candidates must collectively complete a large business case and a board report. To pass Capstone 1, candidates will need to give a presentation to a panel of jury. It is a great module that teaches you strategic leadership and team management.
- Capstone 2: Capstone 2 has no module-specific examination since it immediately precedes the national Common Final Examination (CFE). CPA National Marking Centre marks the cases from Capstone 2 and provides individualized feedback on case responses, technical knowledge support and case-specific debrief guidance. The cases prepare a candidate well for the final stage – CFE.
Please note that PEP is a part-time program and the students are expected to complete their practical experience alongside. This program takes two years to complete on a part-time basis. All the courses have weekly assignments that are due on Friday midnight and ends in an examination (except Capstone 2). Therefore, candidates need to keep up with the speed of delivery of these modules.
Also, there are in-person presentations by CPA facilitators at regular intervals which are eminent to attend. From personal experience, I would suggest 15 to 20 hours of study is required every week for these modules. Most of the Core and elective courses are delivered all-year-round unlike Capstone and CFE, which usually runs from May to September.
STAGE 3: CFE (Common Final Exam)
CFE is a three-day examination and tests candidates to demonstrate depth and breadth in technical and enabling competencies.
During the exam, candidates have access to the CPA handbook and Income tax act and can use references from them for answering the cases.
As per my personal experience, I believe time management is a key learning from CFE along with technical knowledge. The exam setting of CFE is as follows:
- Day 1: Candidates get an extended version of the same case they completed during Capstone 1. The exam is 4 hours long.
- Day 2: Candidates are tested on the elective they chose (assurance in my case) and must display depth and breadth in the elective area. The exam is five hours long.
- Day 3: Usually there are three to four cases that can range anywhere from 45 minutes to 90 minutes. The exam is for four hours.
Additionally, there is a requirement to complete 30 months of approved practical training. There are two routes to complete practical experience:
- Pre-Approved Path (PPR): This is mostly available at public practice firms. A candidate requires a minimum of 1250 chargeable hours plus meet enabling competencies (leadership, communication, strategy etc.) to get their experience approved.
- Experience Verification Path (EVR): This is usually available at industry positions and public practice firms that do not offer a pre-approved path.
Time and Cost Analysis of CPA Canada
- If you are completing PREP and PEP, know that it will take you about 5 years before you can write CPA with your name.
- The complete program will cost you around $24,000 CAD if taken from CPA Institute.
- If you are doing Post Baccalaureate or graduate program from a university or college, their fee structure is different.
- The cost for PEP is about $11,500 CAD based on the FY2020-21 fee schedule. Usually, the candidates also refer to materials outside of CPA which will cost extra!
Disclaimer: I have assumed that you are completing the 30 months practical experience along with your PEP but the time period can fluctuate if you cannot complete it alongside. Another assumption is that you pass all your courses in the first attempt. Exemptions provided by CPA Institute can also vary depending upon your degree and home country. The information relates to Western Canada specifically British Columbia, but I assure you that the process for other provinces is similar to Western Canada. The source for most of the information is the CPA website and personal experiences. For more information, please refer to https://www.cpacanada.ca/
New to Canada?
Even if you are coming as a permanent resident or international student, know that you need to do most of the courses listed above. Therefore, I would suggest doing a Post Baccalaureate program from any Canadian college or university.
These programs are usually 2 years long and will allow international students to get a three-year work permit (trust me, you will learn a lot).
If you are a PR and confident that your ultimate goal is CPA and have a full-time job alongside, do your CPA PREP courses through CPA Institute.
CPA provincial bodies offer these courses part-time and online, therefore one can complete them with their job. It can take approximately 2 years to complete it from CPA as well.
If you are studying for the first time in a western country, know that the education system is not the same as your country. You only have three attempts to pass your exams, so spend the time and effort to do an intensive study for at least two to three months before writing CFE.
Bhavneet Toor, is a Chartered Professional Accountant with 7+ years of public practice experience combined with corporate and tax law knowledge. Currently working at KPMG as a Senior accountant in Enterprise Practice.
Now It's Your Turn...
Are you looking at pursuing CPA Canada? Bhavneet is happy to answer all your questions. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.