Becoming a Chartered Accountant in Canada
The Chartered Accountant (CA) designation is the most widely recognized of its kind in the world. It is the world’s original formal designation for accounting professionals, established nearly 150 years ago, and has been in use ever since. Chartered accountants are now found practicing on every continent, upholding the highest professional and ethical standards in the practice of accountancy. In Canada, the general process is uniform across all provincial jurisdictions, with most distinctions existing only in the educational prerequisites established for entering the graduate level training and competency based experience component of the CA program.
Becoming a CA is a years-long process that requires a unique level of talent and dedication to the practice of accountancy. Choosing to pursue the chartered accountant designation means choosing the designation that is not only the most respected across Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories, but also the one best suited to international commerce in an ever-expanding global economy.
Thirteen Provincial and Territorial Institutes, Four Educational Regions, one National Organization
Canada’s 10 provinces and 3 territories have been delineated into four separate educational regions represented by separate educational bodies responsible for facilitating graduate-level education during the work experience component of the chartered accountant program.
Ontario and Quebec are each considered educational regions unto themselves, while the Western Canadian Region consists of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, NW territories, Yukon and Nunavut; and the Atlantic Canadian Region consists of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Bermuda.
Based on their providence of residence, aspiring CAs work with their respective regional educational body until all experience and graduate-level education requirements are met. At which point, candidates gain membership through providence-specific provincial bodies that govern the practice within each respective providence.
Western Region Provincial Institutes:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of British Columbia (ICABC)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta (ICAA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Manitoba (ICAM)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Northwest Territories and Nunavut (ICANTNU)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Saskatchewan (ICAS)
- Institute of Charted Accountants of the Yukon (ICAYK)
Ontario’s Provincial Institute:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO)
Quebec’s Provincial Institute:
- Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec (OCAQ)
Atlantic Region Provincial Institutes:
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Nova Scotia (ICANS)
- New Brunswick Institute of Chartered Accountants (NBICA)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Prince Edward Island (ICAPEI)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Newfoundland and Labrador (ICANL)
- Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bermuda (ICAB)
Regional Educational Bodies:
- Western region provincial institutes work with the Canadian School of Business (CASB)
- Ontario’s regional education body is the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO), which also functions as its provincial institute
- Quebec’s regional education body is the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec (OCAQ), which also functions as its provincial institute
- Atlantic region provincial institutes work with Atlantic School of Chartered Accountancy (ASCA)
All educational bodies and provincial institutes operate under the auspices of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants (CICA). This national organization is responsible for establishing, maintaining and updating the education, competency and testing standards for chartered accountants throughout Canada.
Steps to Becoming a Chartered Accountant in Canada
The process by which one becomes a chartered accountant in Canada consists of four major components:
Prerequisite undergraduate education consists of earning a bachelor’s degree through an approved program that provides specific courses at specified levels as determined by each educational region.
Competency based practical experience consisting of three years (30 months) of active full time employment, during which time competencies are mastered through supervised work experience. Candidates will dedicate much of their time to developing the specific competencies they choose to focus their careers on. Candidates choose two competency areas, which become the focus for their careers, from these six areas: performance measurement and reporting, assurance, taxation, risk management, management decision-making and finance. Experience is gained through approved CA training offices, referred to as CATOs. CATOs are fully operational accounting and professional services firms that have agreed to provide the paid supervised experience aspiring CAs need to achieve the designation.
Educational modules are participated in during the three-year work experience component of the CA program. There are a total of four educational modules that combine in-person and online classes, workshops and seminars to augment and enhance the work experience. The education is integrated into the experience component in such a way that candidates can apply new information to their practical experience. These modules generally conclude with a finalist preparation program (FPP) designed specifically to help students prepare for the Uniform Evaluation.
The Uniform Evaluation (UFE) is the final step to becoming a chartered accountant in Canada. It is a three-day long exam where candidates demonstrate their knowledge of accountancy and mastery of competencies developed during their work experience.