Career Map: Certified General Accountant (CGA)
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Access to the Certified General Accountant Designation in Ontario
This document was updated in January 2012. Requirements may have changed by the time you apply. Please visit the website of Certified General Accountants of Ontario for the most up-to-date information about applying for membership.
Copyright in this Career Map is held jointly by the Queen’s Printer for Ontario and Certified General Accountants of Ontario (CGA Ontario), © 2012. This Career Map may be used or reproduced by any third party for non-commercial, not-for-profit purposes, as long as no fee, payment or royalty of any kind is charged by the third party for any further use or reproduction of the Career Map by any person. Any proposed commercial or for-profit use or reproduction of this Career Map requires a written license from the Queen’s Printer for Ontario and the Certified General Accountants of Ontario.
This Career Map is for internationally educated Certified General Accountants. It describes the requirements you need to meet to become licensed by Certified General Accountants of Ontario and the steps involved in the licensing process.
Certified General Accountants of Ontario
Certified General Accountants (CGAs) are financial management professionals who analyze and interpret financial information; think creatively and solve complex problems; and plan, forecast and implement corporate strategies. They apply current technologies to make sound business decisions, manage complex information, and provide effective organizational leadership. The CGA designation is recognized throughout Canada and around the world as a standard of excellence and professionalism in all aspects of finance and business management.
Certified General Accountants of Ontario (CGA Ontario) represents over 20,000 members and 8,000 students in Ontario. It protects the public by maintaining rigorous standards for the accreditation, regulation and continuing professional development of CGAs in the province of Ontario. It operates under the provisions of the Certified General Accountants Act, 2010, CGA Ontario’s by-laws, and the Code of Ethical Principles and Rules of Conduct.
To use the designation "Certified General Accountant" or the initials "CGA" or to work as a Certified General Accountant in the province of Ontario, you must be a member in good standing of CGA Ontario and have been certified by CGA Ontario or a provincial/territorial affiliate of CGA-Canada.
CGA Ontario and the other provincial/territorial CGA associations are members of the CGA Canada, the national CGA organization. CGA Canada represents over 75,000 students and CGAs across Canada, as well as students and CGAs in Bermuda, the nations of the Caribbean, the People’s Republic of China, Hong Kong, Mauritius, Mexico, and France. CGA Canada is a full partner of the world’s leading accounting standards organizations and conforms to the international guidelines of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC), delivering its program of professional studies to accounting students around the world.
The CGA designation is distinct from other accounting designations such as Chartered Accountant (CA) and Certified Management Accountant (CMA), which have different professional bodies, qualification requirements, and areas of practice. For information about the CA and CMA bodies, contact them directly or refer to the Career Maps posted on this website.
For more information about becoming licensed as a CGA in Ontario, contact:
Certified General Accountants of Ontario
240 Eglinton Avenue East
Toronto ON M4P 1K8
Tel: 416-322-6520 or 1-800-668-1454
Help Line: 416-322-8884 or 1-800-242-9131
Mutual Recognition Agreements
CGA Ontario, through CGA Canada, has mutual recognition agreements with the following international accounting associations. This means that CGA Ontario and these accounting associations recognize the qualifications of each other’s members:
- Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
- CPA Australia
- CPA Ireland
- Ordre des Experts-Comptables de France
If you are a member from one of these international accounting associations, you may need only to complete a course in Canadian tax and law to be eligible for membership with CGA Ontario. CGA Canada’s online course Overview of Canadian Income Taxation and Law is designed especially to provide you with essential knowledge about Canadian taxation and business law.
Please note that in Ontario you are not permitted to practice public accounting until you are granted a special licence to do so by CGA Ontario or another accounting regulatory body.
To download the application form for CGA membership under a mutual recognition agreement, visit the CGA Canada website.
How to Obtain your CGA Designation in Ontario
To obtain the CGA designation in Ontario, you need to:
- Complete CGA’s part-time online program of professional studies (or receive transfer credits for equivalent courses);
- Gain at least 36 months of acceptable practical work experience; 12 months must be in Canada at the professional/senior level; and
- Earn a bachelor’s degree in any field of study from a recognized university. A recognized university is one that grants a degree that is considered by CGA Ontario to be equivalent to a degree granted by a Canadian university.
Please note that a bachelor’s degree from a recognized university is an exit requirement, not an entrance requirement. Even if you do not have any post-secondary education, you can register with CGA and begin the program of professional studies as a mature student if you have completed high school, are over the age of 21, and have at least two years of work experience.
To be eligible to register with CGA Ontario and begin the program of professional studies, you must:
- Be a Canadian citizen or landed immigrant or hold a valid study visa;
- Be a resident of Ontario (you can have your academic credentials evaluated before you come to Ontario by submitting an application for transfer credits; however, you need to be resident in Ontario to enrol in CGA courses);
- Have good communication skills in English; and
- Be bondable (not have been found guilty of any criminal offences).
Once you have met the requirements to become a CGA, CGA Ontario’s Education Department will present your name to the provincial board of governors at its next scheduled meeting for admission to members. The formal admission to membership ceremony is held annually every fall.
Once admitted to membership, you become a registered member of both the national organization (CGA-Canada) and the local affiliate (CGA Ontario).
Public Accounting & the CGA Program
CGA Ontario has been granted the authority to license Certified General Accountants to practise public accounting. CGA Ontario and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO) are the only two accounting bodies in Ontario authorized to license their members to practice public accounting.
To qualify for a public accounting licence, a student in the CGA program must:
- Hold a four-year university degree with specified courses in auditing and accounting;
- Complete the technical proficiency exam (TPE), professional applications 1 (PA1), and applications in public practice 1 (AP1) courses and exams; and
- Complete 30 months including 2,500 hours in an approved training office. The experience must include a minimum of 1,250 assurance hours, with a minimum of 100 hours of reviews and 625 hours of audit. This experience must be confirmed by a professional accountant with a licence in public accounting from the approved training firm where the experience was obtained.
Language Proficiency Requirement
You do not need to pass a fluency test to register as a CGA student or qualify as a CGA. However, to be successful in CGA’s program of professional studies and to be able to work as a CGA student, you will need advanced communication skills in English, including the ability to use appropriate vocabulary and correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation in all written work. You also need to possess mathematical aptitude equivalent to at least the high school grade 12 level.
If you need to upgrade your English communication skills, English-as-a-second-language (ESL) classes are offered throughout Ontario by community-based organizations as well as by local school boards, colleges, and universities. To find out about English-as-a-second-language courses in your community, visit OntarioImmigration.ca.
Your path to Qualifying as a CGA
Step 1) Before you come to Ontario
Submit your Application for Transfer Credits
Your first step is to have your international academic and accounting credentials evaluated by CGA to determine if you are eligible for any transfer credits for the knowledge you have already attained. If you are granted transfer credits, you will be exempted from specific courses in the CGA profesional program.
Before you come to Ontario, you should complete an Application for Transfer Credits, available on the CGA Ontario website.
If you are a member of an accounting association, ask this organization for a letter stating that you are a member in good standing. Mail your completed application along with a detailed resumé and your letter of good standing to CGA Ontario. The processing fee for this application is CAN $401.15 ($355 plus 13% Harmonized Sales Tax).
In addition, you need to ask your post-secondary educational institution(s) to mail an official sealed transcript of your grades directly to the CGA Ontario office. Alternatively, you can bring an official transcript in a sealed envelope with you when you come to Ontario and drop it off or mail it to the CGA Ontario office. See page 1 for contact information.
If any of these supporting documents are not in English or French, you also need to provide CGA Ontario with certified translations. To find a certified translator in Ontario, contact the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO). Alternatively, you can use a certified translator in your country. CGA Ontario requires the original translations and proof of the translator’s certification.
CGA Ontario may also ask you to provide an evaluation of your academic credentials by a third-party evaluation service such as World Education Services (WES) and/or official course descriptions or a program syllabus from your post-secondary educational program.
CGA Ontario will review your academic credentials and send you a Transfer Credit Evaluation Report within three to four weeks. This report will advise you if you are eligible for any transfer credits. If it has been a long time since you completed your education, CGA Ontario will review your courses closely to make sure their content is still relevant to current accounting practice standards. If you are granted transfer credits, you will be exempted from completing specific courses within the CGA program of professional studies. CGA Ontario will also let you know if your university degree satisfies the degree requirement for accreditation as a CGA. The Transfer Credit Evaluation Report is valid for two years. If you delay your enrolment in the CGA professional program beyond this two-year period, your qualifications must be evaluated again for eligibility for transfer credits.
Gather Letters from Employers
If you have attained intermediate or senior-level on-the job financial management or accounting experience, you should also gather together letters from your employer(s), written on company letterhead, confirming:
- your work experience;
- your position title(s) while employed at that organization;
- the start and end dates of your employment; and
- your major responsibilities/accomplishments in each position, described under the following categories (your experience does not have to cover all these areas):
- Financial Management
- Information Systems Management
- Non-financial management (such as human resources, corporation restructuring, feasibility studies)
For more information about the practical experience requirement for accreditation as a CGA, visit the CGA Ontario website.
Note: Do not send letters from your employers with your Application for Transfer Credits. CGA Ontario will not keep them on file. You will not need to provide this documentation to CGA Ontario until you become a student in the CGA professional program. At that point, CGA Ontario will evaluate your previous work experience, and you may be able to count up to one year of your work experience in your home country toward the 36-month practical experience requirement.
Step 2) After you come to Ontario
Meet the Academic Requirement
a) Complete the CGA Program of Professional Studies
You may apply to enrol as a student in courses within the CGA program of professional studies once:
- Your academic and accounting qualifications have been evaluated;
- CGA Ontario has determined your eligibility for any transfer credits; and
- You have become an Ontario resident.
The CGA program of professional studies is delivered online and is designed to let you study part-time while working full-time. In many communities, lectures are offered at local colleges as an additional support, but they are not required. There are four sessions annually (fall, winter, spring and summer), and you can take only one course per session.
All courses in the CGA program of professional studies use computer-integrated delivery and business software. You need to have the appropriate technology to access course content and study resources including audio lectures, online course reviews, audio-streamed exam reviews, and multiple choice testing. This technology also allows you to find a study partner in your course anywhere in Ontario. In addition, online tutors are available to answer all of your questions about course content.
You can apply for enrolment in CGA courses by downloading and completing the Application for Enrolment Form and sending it to CGA Ontario by fax or regular mail, or by dropping it off in person at the CGA office in Toronto.
CGA Program of Professional Studies
The following 19 courses and the accompanying national examinations (or transfer credits for their equivalent) are required for CGA certification:
- Foundation Studies
- Level 1 (three courses):Financial Accounting Fundamentals (FA1); Micro & Macro Economics (EM1); Business Law (LW1)
- Level 2 (four courses): Financial Accounting: Assets (FA2); Business Quantitative Analysis (QU1); Management Accounting Fundamentals (MA1); Business Communications (CM1)
- Level 3 (three courses plus a business case): Financial Accounting: Liabilities and Equities (FA3); Corporate Finance Fundamentals (FN1); Managing Information Systems (MS1); Accounting Business Case (BC1)
- Advanced Studies
- Level 4 (five courses plus a business case): Advanced Management Accounting (MA2); Personal & Corporate Taxation (TX1); Accounting Theory & Contemporary Issues (AT1); External Auditing (AU1); Financial Accounting: Consolidations & Advanced Issues (FA4); Public Practice Audit Case (BC2)
- Professional Admission Comprehensive Examinations (PACE Level)
- Compulsory (two courses): PA1: Issues in Professional Practice (PA1);Strategic Financial Management (PA2)
- Plus two courses in one of the following financial management career options:
- Option 1: Corporate & Small-Medium Enterprise: Advanced Corporate Finance (FN2) plus Information Systems Strategy (MS2) or Internal Auditing Controls (MU1)
- Option 2: Information Technology: Information Systems Strategy (MS2) and Internal Auditing Controls (MU1)
- Option 3 : Government and Not-for-Profit: Public Sector Financial Management (PF1) plus Information Systems Strategy (MS2) or Internal Auditing Controls (MU1)
- Option 4: Public Practice: Advanced Personal & Corporate Taxation (TX2) and Advanced External Auditing (AU2)
Visit the CGA website for detailed course descriptions.
If your previous education satisfies the academic requirements for courses from Level 1 through Level 4, you may:
- Receive transfer credits that allow you to enter the program at a more advanced level. You will need to provide proof that you have successfully completed the substantial equivalent of a course or courses at an approved post-secondary institution and that the course content and standards are equivalent and acceptable by CGA Ontario. (For information about applying for transfer credits, see Step One.) Work experience is not accepted as a basis for granting transfer credits, but may be counted toward the 36-month practical experience requirement. CGA Ontario may prescribe a special program of studies for students who have been granted transfer credits.
- Write a challenge examination for advanced (Level 4) equivalent courses. If CGA has some doubt about whether a transfer credit is justified for an advanced course you completed, you may be invited to write a challenge exam for a Level 4 course. You must write the exam within one year of enrolling in the CGA program of professional studies. If you are unsuccessful, you will have to enrol in and pass the course.
To appeal CGA Ontario’s decisions with respect to transfer credits, you need to send a word-processed, signed and dated letter by fax or regular mail to the attention of the Registration Management Appeals Panel. Your letter should:
- state which transfer credit(s) you are appealing;
- provide all relevant information;
- be accompanied by supporting documents (course descriptions, syllabus, etc.).
The Registration Management Appeals Panel reviews appeals on a monthly basis. You will receive the Panel’s decision by regular mail within six weeks.
You are allowed a maximum of two appeals relating to the same course, but you have to provide additional information or documentation for the second appeal.
b) Obtain a Bachelor’s Degree
If you do not have a university degree, or if CGA Ontario has determined your degree does not satisfy the CGA degree requirement, you must obtain an acceptable bachelor’s degree before you can qualify as a CGA. Your degree may be from any approved post-secondary degree-granting institution and may be obtained in CGA recognized field.
CGA Ontario has a partnership with Laurentian University that allows you to work toward a bachelor’s or master’s degree at the same time as you are completing the CGA qualification process. These part-time study programs are delivered online and can be completed in two years.
Honours Bachelor of Commerce (H.B.Com.), Laurentian University
This degree program provides you with management education and core business skills. You are eligible for admission if you are currently enrolled in the CGA program and have completed Levels 1 through 3 of the CGA program of professional studies (or their equivalent in transfer credits). Laurentian University will also accept transfer credits for Level 4 courses that have been granted by CGA Ontario.
Masters of Business Administration (MBA), Laurentian University
This degree program is for people who want to continue their studies once they have completed their Honours Bachelor of Commerce degree. To be eligible for this program, you must be in the advanced level of the CGA program of professional studies or have already earned the CGA designation.
If you obtained a degree or diploma in a field of study other than accounting, you will likely begin the CGA program of professional studies at Level 1. However, some of the courses you have taken may qualify for transfer credit. If you have a non-business related degree, it may meet the CGA degree requirement. If you have a college diploma, you will be required to meet the CGA degree requirement.
If you have obtained some courses toward a post-secondary business degree or diploma, CGA may still grant you transfer credits for some or all of these courses, or they may supplement skills you will develop within the CGA program of professional studies. You must still meet the degree requirement of the CGA program of professional studies.
The number of years you are allowed to complete the academic portion of the program depends on how many transfer credits you are awarded and whether you are completing one of CGA’s integrated degrees:
- If you have two or fewer transfer credits, you have 10 years
- If you have three or four transfer credits, you have nine years
- If you have five or six transfer credits, you have eight years
- If you have seven or eight credits, you have seven years
- If you have nine or 10 credits, you have six years
- If you have 11 or 12 credits, you have five years
- If you have 13 credits, you have four years
- If you have 14 credits, you have three years
- If you are completing one of CGA’s integrated degrees you are allowed an additional two years.
Step 3) Meet the Practical Experience Requirement
To meet the practical experience requirement, you need to have at least 36 months of full-time work experience in accounting and financial management. At least 12 months of your experience must be at a senior/professional level in Canada.
Normally, students meet the practical work experience requirement at the same time as they are completing the program of professional studies. However, you can take up to three additional years to gain acceptable work experience after you have met the academic requirement.
Students are required to find their own employment to satisfy the practical work experience requirement. As a student, you will have access to the CGA Ontario online employment referral service. This service allows you to view job postings from employers as well as to post your resumé for employers to review.
You would typically begin in an entry or basic level position in accounting while you are in the first two levels of the professional program, to acquire skills in such areas as clerical work, bookkeeping, tax preparation, accounting maintenance, procedures implementation, and use of computer tools/packages. You would then progress to an intermediate level position while you are in the third and fourth levels of the program, working at activities such as interpretation of financial statements, financial analyses, annual budgeting, investment management, procedural recommendations, small organization audits, and systems analysis. You would then advance to a senior stage, with greater responsibilities, acquiring experience in management, policy, and/or long-range planning. Typical senior stage activities include complex financial analyses, senior management presentations, complex budgeting, long-range financial planning, forecasts, complex consolidations, audit planning, strategic planning, policy recommendations, project team leadership, client relations/contacts, and corporate audits.
When you have completed all but five of the courses in the CGA professional program, you can submit a Practical Experience Assessment Questionnaire (PEAQ). This is an online form. It must be verified by your current employer, who must hold a recognized professional accounting designation (CGA, CA, or CMA). At that time, you will also submit confirmation of your international work experience in the form of letters from your previous employers, written on company letterhead, confirming:
- Your experience, including your major responsibilities and accomplishments;
- Your position title(s); and
- The start and end dates of your employment
If letters from your previous employers are not in English or French, you must provide CGA with certified translations. Visit the website for the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO) to find a certified translator.
CGA Ontario will assess your experience from time to time through the program to make sure that you are making satisfactory progress toward meeting the experience requirement.
Communities in Ontario offer a variety of services to help newcomers find employment. For information about services in your area, visit the Services Near Me section of the Settlement.org website.
You can find out about bridge-to-work programs that help internationally educated accountants gain the skills and information they need to work in Ontario.
Fees and Costs
The following fees and costs are in Canadian dollars and are for 2010/2011. To these fees, you must add 13% HST (Harmonized Sales Tax). Fees change every year. Please check the CGA Ontario website for the most up-to-date information.
|Initial application for Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) applicants only||No fee|
|Online Overview of Canadian Tax and Law (for MRA applicants)||$200|
|Application for membership under an MRA – fee is pro-rated depending on when in the year it is submitted||$942.67 (for applications submitted in September)|
|Application for transfer credits||$355|
|Transfer credits (this fee applies only to additional transfer credits granted after initial enrolment in the CGA professional program)||$55 for each additional transfer credit granted|
|Annual student fee (covers the cost of administration, student services, and publications)||$715|
|CGA professional program courses (course fees include textbooks, lesson notes, CD/internet-based resources, educational software, and examination fees)||Range from $210 to $1,280 per course|
|Challenge examinations (not including textbooks or software)||$295 per exam|
|Safe Accpac EERP 5.3A (software required for several CGA courses that is not included in any course fee)||$115|
|CICA handbook (published by the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants; required for several Level 4 courses; modules include accounting, assurance, and public-sector)||$200
|Annual membership fee for licensed CGAs (includes membership in CGA Ontario and CGA Canada)||$743.58|
The Bank of Montreal offers a special line of credit to students in the CGA program. Students may borrow up to $6,500 per year to a maximum of $39,000 over six years. The line of credit can be used for tuition and course fees as well as for the purchase of books, computer equipment, software. There are no fees and students can make interest-only payments for up to one year after certification.
Students in the CGA program may also qualify for the federal government’s Lifelong Learning Plan (LLP). This plan allows you or your spouse to withdraw funds from your or your spouse’s registered savings plan to finance your CGA education. To qualify, you must enrol in courses in at least three sessions during the year. Further information is available on the Canada Revenue Agency website.
Labour Market Information
According to CGA Ontario, CGAs in Ontario hold the most senior financial executive positions, as Presidents, CEOs, CFOs, directors, and partners. Its salary surveys indicate that CGAs rank among Canada’s top five percent of income earners.
CGA Ontario provides an on-line employment referral service, located in the student section of the CGA Ontario website, for students in the CGA program of professional studies and members. Employers from around the province use this venue to advertise a full range of accounting/financial management positions.
Canadian Labour Market Trends
According to the Working in Canada website, the average hourly rate for 2009 for accountants throughout Ontario ranged from $24.55 per hour in the London-Woodstock area to $26.75 per hour in the Toronto Region. For the period 2009 to 2018, Working in Canada predicts there will be slightly more job openings for accountants and auditors than applicants to fill these positions. Employment opportunities will be greater for workers with experience in industry and regulatory compliance, accounting software, and international trade and finance.
Recent regulatory changes have allowed Certified General Accountants of Ontario to license CGAs to practise public accounting. This change is expected to give CGAs more opportunities in the job market. Employment prospects are expected to be fair to good for this occupation throughout Ontario between 2009 and 2018. Toronto and the surrounding area will see more job growth as it is the home of large numbers of companies and firms, including audit and accounting firms, banks, and insurance companies.
Market sectors that employ CGAs include:
- Public accounting
Contacts and Resources
For information about how to become a CGA in other provinces and territories, contact:
Certified General Accountants of Canada
100-4200 North Fraser Way
Burnaby, BC V5J 5K7
Tel: 604-669-3555 or 1-800-663-1529
For information on finding a certified translator, contact:
Association of Translators and Interpreters of Ontario (ATIO)
1 Nicholas Street, Suite 1202
Ottawa, ON K1N 7B7
Tel:613-241-2846 or 1-800-234-5030
To have your international university degree evaluated, contact:
For information on where and how to get help with settlement in Ontario, visit www.settlement.org or contact:
For information on English language and French language classes in your community in Ontario, visit OntarioImmigration.ca.
For information on employment services that can help you find a job in your field in Ontario, visit the Municipalities of Ontario website.
Find information about bridge-to-work training programs. Bridge training programs can help internationally educated professionals in the accounting sector gain the knowledge and information required to practice in Ontario.
For a government contact about accessing professions in Ontario:
Government of Ontario
Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
Global Experience Ontario
Tel: 416-327-9694 or 1-866-670-4094
Telecommunication Device for the Deaf
416-327-9710 or 1-866-388-2262
Copyright to this career map is held jointly by the Queen’s Printer for Ontario and CGA Ontario, © 2012