How To Become a Chartered Accountant: Definition and Steps

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated October 4, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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In this video, we follow Ektaa, a tax accountant working for a family-owned accounting firm, as she shares the skills and education needed to be a successful accountant.

An accountant manages financial information for individuals or companies, which may include examining financial statements or taxes. The requirements for becoming a certified accountant may vary depending on the location. When beginning your accounting journey, it's important to understand the right pathway for you to meet your goals. In this article, we define what a chartered accountant is and provide seven steps for how to become a chartered accountant in different locations throughout Canada.

What is a chartered accountant?

A chartered accountant is an international designation for a certified accounting professional. Some of their typical duties include:

  • Examining financial records and official tax documentations

  • Recording and maintaining documentation for financial transactions

  • Auditing financial transaction costs or financial assets

  • Researching current financial trends or industry-related financial trends

  • Organizing financial information, data, and statistics

  • Developing and designing visual or written reports highlighting finances

Chartered accountant professionals are also responsible for sustaining strong ethics in relation to financial management and accounting practices. Individuals who meet the requirements of being a chartered accountant can work anywhere in the world as a professional in this career field.

Related: The Differences Between a Bookkeeper and an Accountant: A Review

How to become a chartered accountant in seven steps

If you are interested in becoming a chartered accountant, here are seven steps to help you reach your goal:

1. Gain initial education

Obtaining a bachelor's degree from an accredited program is the first step in becoming a chartered accountant. These degrees usually take at least three to four years to complete. Specific course requirements and course levels may depend on where you live in Canada. Here are some examples of general courses you might engage in:

  • Introduction, intermediate, and advanced financial accounting

  • Introduction, intermediate, and advanced financial auditing

  • Introduction, intermediate, and advanced financial analysis and evaluation

  • Principles and foundations of financial auditing

  • Principles and procedures of international financial accounting

  • Financial information management systems and technology

  • Strategies and methods for financial planning, budgeting, and reporting

  • Accounting theories and methods

  • Personal financial tax management

  • Corporation financial tax management

  • Financial assurance and ethics

  • Principles of economics

  • Principles of business law

  • General finance management

  • Financial cost accounting

When deciding where to gain your initial accounting educational experiences, it is important to research what accredited universities your region or province recognizes. The majority of accredited programs require you to have a B average or higher in your studies.

Read more: 12 Skills Accountants Need for Workplace Success

2. Engage in practical and professional experience

Gaining practical and professional accounting experience is the next step to becoming a certified professional chartered accountant. Depending on where you live in Canada, these experiences may have specific requirements. Here are specific practical and professional experience specifications based on location:

  • Atlantic and western provinces: These regions may require you to gain two-and-a-half years of practical and professional training experience with an official chartered accountant firm, agency, or company. Typically, this includes at least 2,500 recorded work hours in required areas like financial assurance, auditing, and tax management.

  • Ontario: This region may require you to secure a position with an official chartered accountant firm, agency, or company. Each candidate must gain at least two-and-a-half years and experience. Typically, this includes at least 2,500 recorded work hours in required areas like financial assurance, auditing, tax management, financial risk management, and operating financial systems and technologies.

  • Québec: This region may require you to gain two years of practical and professional training experience with an official chartered accountant firm, agency, or company. Typically, this includes at least 2,500 recorded work hours in required areas like financial assurance, auditing for public accounting, and tax management.

If you are searching for officially recognized organizations to help you gain these experiences, you might reference lists of organizations in your area.

Related: A Guide to Entry-Level Accounting Interview Questions

3. Focus on growing skill sets and knowledge

Regardless of your location, there are many important skill sets and knowledge you may need to help you reach your highest potential in your accounting career. Some relevant skill sets and knowledge include:

  • Ethical decision-making for managing finances

  • Confidentiality for maintaining client financial records

  • Personable professionalism for directly engaging with clients

  • Financial performance management, analysis, and reporting

  • Financial quality assurance and tax management

  • Financial strategy development and risk management

To grow your specific skill sets and knowledge you might examine existing case studies, engage in readings from industry professionals, or set learning goals for yourself.

Related: 13 Types of Accountants and What They Do

4. Achieve additional education

To be qualified for your certification examination, you may need to take any additional professional courses at your local chartered accounting school, depending on where you live. Typically, you can complete this additional education while gaining practical and professional experience. Here is information about additional educational requirements based on location:

  • Atlantic provinces: If you are in one of these regions, you will most likely need to register with the Atlantic School of Chartered Accountancy (ASCA) to complete professional learning courses prior to your certification examination. Their programs may consist of multiple learning modules over topics like financial performance measurement, reporting and assurance, general finance principles and foundations, financial and tax management, and overviews of important financial accounting skill sets. Before taking your Uniform Final Evaluation (UFE) exam for official certification, you might also choose to complete additional preparation learning modules to help you study.

  • Western provinces: If you are in one of these regions, you will most likely need to register with the Canada School of Business (CASB) to complete professional learning courses prior to your certification examination. Their program may consist of multiple learning modules structured to have you practise daily chartered accountant duties for a mock company through assignments and discussion boards. Throughout, each module might prompt you to complete a short skill set or knowledge-based evaluation. Before taking your Uniform Final Evaluation (UFE) exam for official certification, you might also engage in a mock exam to help you prepare.

  • Ontario: If you are in this region, you will most likely need to register with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Ontario (ICAO) to complete professional learning courses prior to your certification examination. Their program may consist of a comprehensive learning program focused on individual accounting readings, case study examinations, and assignments. Upon completing these, you might need to take a final program exam to see if you qualify to move forward. You may also need to take a Core Knowledge Examination (CKE) to determine whether you have enough accounting knowledge to take the UFE exam.

  • Québec: If you are in this region, you will most likely need to register with the Québec Order of Chartered Accountants (OCAQ) to complete a professional education program. Their program may include courses focused on financial evaluation and analysis, financial documentation, and financial auditing. They might also ask you to engage with practice examinations throughout this learning program.

It is important to remember that completing these additional learning programs may take time and that costs may vary depending on location and program.

5. Study for your certification examination

Although some additional education experiences may provide you with structured practices for your certification examination, studying on your own can also boost your preparation efforts. As part of your practice, you might use technology or software programs to help you apply your accounting knowledge or review information about core accounting competencies. Consider these tips when studying for your exam:

  • Allow yourself to have regular breaks to help your brain refocus

  • Study in an environment you are comfortable or familiar with

  • Try to limit the distractions around you

  • Focus on one task or concept at a time

  • Reference your resources like online materials or notes from previous courses

  • Use tools like flashcards to help you stay organized

  • Set studying goals to help keep yourself on track to meet your goals

You might also consider studying with others who are preparing for the same exam, like classmates from your educational courses.

6. Take the certification examination

The Uniform Final Evaluation (UFE) exam is how chartered accounting professionals gain their certifications. These exams are organized by the Canadian Institute for Chartered Accountants (CICA). Typically, this exam takes three days to complete and seeks an understanding of each individual candidate's skill sets and financial accounting knowledge. Once a candidate passes this exam, it officially certifies them to work as a chartered accountant internationally and provides the qualifications to apply to chartered accountant groups or organizations.

Read more: Finance vs. Accounting: Understanding the Differences

7. Continue to learn

After becoming a chartered accountant, you may join related groups or organizations to network and connect with other professionals in your field. Depending on your location or accounting specializations, your memberships may vary. You might also gain additional certifications or licensure for specific areas of financial accounting, which accredited universities can offer.

This article is based on information available at the time of writing, which may change at any time. Indeed does not guarantee that this information is always up-to-date. Please seek out a local resource for the latest on this topic.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organizations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

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