How to Become CPA in Canada: The Beginner’s Guide

My site covers the US CPA exam, but since I get lots of questions on the new CPA Canada designation, I decided to write a short post on the basics.

Special thanks to “Noname” for explaining the basic steps to my readers in the comment section before this page is written.

How to Become CPA in Canada? Is It Similar to that in the US?

Similar to the states in the US, Canada has provinces, and each province has its own regional accounting body. Canada has taken a bold move by merging its accounting qualifications (CA, CMA and CGA) into one big “CPA “designation. The process has been completed with much success.

In order to get started, candidates should follow the rules applicable to their status.

1. New Candidates

Accounting Majors in Canada

This is the default route to become CPA in Canada. If qualified, you will be admitted to the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP).

how to become cpa in canada

Here is the prerequisite for CPA PEP:

  • Complete a bachelor degree in relevant concentration, e.g. B.Comm with an accounting major
  • Complete the prerequisite learning defined in The CPA Competency Map
  • Complete at least 120 credit hours or equivalent of education

Shown on the right is an extract of the CPA Competency Map. You can get more info and download the full version here.

Others

Those who are not qualified for CPA PEP will get into the CPA Prerequisite Education Program (CPA PREP). This may include non-accounting majors and international candidates.

This is a bridging program developed on a nationally basis to help students make up for the missing accounting courses. The courses are offered part-time, through distance learning or in classroom setting.

2. Legacy and Transitioning Students / Candidates from CA, CGA and CMA

Legacy Students

If you have completed the respected course of your CA, CGA or CMA designation on or before September 2015, then you don’t need to do anything but to wait for the legislation to pass in your jurisdiction (Update: this should have been completed in all provinces).

Transitioning Students

If you are half way in the course, you will enter the appropriate point in either the CPA PEP or CPA PREP to complete the program.

You will also need to complete the experience requirements in your original designation in order to become a CPA in Canada. You can get more information from the links at the bottom of this page.

How to Register for CPA PEP

CPA PEP is a 2-year part-time program designed for accounting professionals who work full time. It consists of six modules:

2 core modules

  • 6 core technical competencies including financial reporting, strategy and governance, management accounting, audit and assurance, finance and taxation.

2 electives

  • Students can choose from assurance, performance management, tax and finance.
  • Those who pursue public accounting or tax must take assurance or tax respectively.

1 capstone integrative module

  • Focus on leadership and professional skills, integrating core competencies

1 capstone exam prep mode

  • Focus on the Common Final Examination

Each module ends in an examination. CPA candidates must pass each module examination to proceed to the next module. The Common Final Examination is a 3-day test to complete the whole process.

CPA PEP is developed on a national basis but the program is delivered on a provincial basis. You can register for the CPA PEP through your provincial or regional CPA body. There are also schools that run across the provinces.

Examination

You will have to sit for 6 exams (Core 1 and 2), 2 exams (Elective1 and 2) plus 2 learning modules (Capstone 1 and 2) and a final three days exams to complete the exam part of the program.

How to Register for CPA PREP

The CPA PREP consists of 14 modules. The sequence in which you take modules 1-10 is important as some modules are prerequisites for others. Modules 11 and 12 are self-study an can be taken at any time, subject to availability. You only have to complete the ones you require. Each module ends with an examination.

For information about the module fees and scheduling, please contact your provincial body.

Once you complete CPA PREP, you are qualified for CPA PEP.

Experience Requirements

Since September 2015, the provinces have standardized the requirements. There are two routes:

  1. Take pre-approved programs in training positions that are offered by your employers and have been pre-approved by the profession. These programs are designed for you to meet the practical experience requirements within 30 months.
  2. Complete experience verification. This flexible route allows you to demonstrate competence and have relevant experience recognized as it is gained at an employer of choice.

Students can choose one route or take a combination of the two.

Is the Reciprocal Agreement with CA, CMA and CGA Still Valid?

There isn’t a simple answer to that. I understand that the US state boards still allow legacy CA members to take IQEX and get a faster route to become a CPA in the US.

CMA Canada used to have numerous agreements with other management accounting bodies, and I am not sure how that turns out. You may want to check with your current provincial accounting body for details.

As the unification is completed, there may be a new round of negotiation with other accounting bodies around the world and new reciprocal agreements will be made then.

How about Review Courses?

I don’t cover them for now, but heard from friends that Prepformula, Densmore and Pass are the bigger providers.

Note from Stephanie

This is my attempt to provide a basic understanding on how to become a CPA in Canada. I have never gone through the process myself, and definitely not an expert. Because of this, I will likely not able to answer specific questions that you may have. Please call the accounting body in your province for assistance.

Good luck to your path towards the Canadian CPA!

For Your Further Reading

About the Author Stephanie Ng

I am the author of How to Pass The CPA Exam (published by Wiley) and the publisher of this and several accounting professional exam prep sites

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  • Hadeeqa Rashid says:

    Hi, I am an ACCA affiliate with a two years b.com degree. Planning to move to canada by the end of this year. I know that ACCA members gets exemptions in CPA and you only have to give two exams then, I guess. I am applying for acca membership and it will be there in 2 months but the MRA between acca and cpa is ending in June. So is there any chance of the renewal? Or of not how I am supposed to get CPA membership.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Hadeeqa, unfortunately I can’t provide further information because I don’t go through the Canadian system myself. There are official websites that you can get more info. Best of luck to a smooth application process! Stephanie

  • Mimi says:

    Hi Stephanie,

    I am new to your site and I am currently in the process of applying for the Canadian CPA PEP. I just wanted to clarify that most of the content on your site is only for the US CPA exam correct? Is the difference – in the US, you have to pass one exam whereas in Canada, it is a 2 year program with multiple exams? I’ve been reading your articles on exam course reviews, but I’m assuming those courses are only for the US?

    Thanks!

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hi Mimi, that’s right. Everything is for US CPA unless otherwise (such as this page — this is pretty much the only page on Canadian CPA).
      Good luck on your Canadian CPA exam! Stephanie

  • Sohail says:

    Hi Stephanie, i have applied for Canadian Immigration and wanted to inquire about courses like PMP, Six SIGMA, CMA? which one is the best course among all in getting Job. All 3 are of different categories like Project Management, Operations Service Quality and Accounts. Which one will be more beneficial for me in Canada? Please assist. Thanks.

    • Stephanie Ng says:

      Hello, as stated in my post, I am afraid I cannot answer Canada-specific questions. You can check out the links above for more information.

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