Qualifying practical experience positions
Does my position qualifiy as a CPA practical experience?
CPA practical experience offers a vast array of employment opportunities. In general, these positions require candidates to have completed their university studies in accounting or have partially completed their CPA qualifications.
You can self-assess your position by using the Practical experience reporting (PER) self-assessment tool developed by CPA Canada. Even though the Order remains responsible for the final decision, this tool will help you determine if the tasks that you perform can meet the requirements of the CPA practical experience requirements. Examples of tasks are also available in the guide on proficiency levels to help you with the progress to follow.
Examples of qualifying positions
The following examples are given for information purposes and provide for a variety of task combinations and time allocations deemed acceptable. This list of examples is therefore not exhaustive or restrictive.
Note: The percentages represent the amount of time spent on the task shown over the entire 24-month period of practical experience.
In industry or in the public sector, the position of controller enables candidates to develop competencies in finance, management accounting, financial reporting and strategy and governance.
The controller ensures the quality of financial information and contributes to the organization’s management accounting process. The controller supervises the entire accounting staff and is responsible for accountability to senior management. The controller generally reports to the organization’s vice-president of finance or the president and CEO.
- Manage the entire accounting cycle process – 20%
- Oversee the budget process – 10%
- Oversee the preparation of periodic and annual financial statements – 10%
- Analyze financial statements and explain them to senior management – 10%
- Propose new strategies to improve the company’s profitability – 10%
- Ensure internal controls are implemented and monitored – 10%
- Manage tax-related and governmental compliance activities – 10%
- Prepare the audit file for the external auditors – 10%
- Supervise the accounting staff, for example accounting clerks/technicians – 10%
Similar positions: management controller, financial controller, assistant controller.
In industry or in the public sector, the position of financial analyst provides candidates with the opportunity to develop competencies in management accounting, financial reporting, finance and strategy and governance.
Reporting to the controller, the financial analyst ensures the quality of financial information and contributes to the organization’s management accounting process.
- Prepare financial statements and ensure their accuracy – 30%
- Prepare and analyze budgets and financial forecasts – 30%
- Monitor performance indicators and explain variances – 20%
- Contribute to the development of accounting information systems – 5%
- Make month- and year-end journal entries – 5%
- Work with external auditors during the annual audit process – 5%
- Prepare, analyze and design reports on operational and financial measures – 5%
Similar positions: accounting analyst, costing analyst, budget advisor.
In public practice, the external auditor position enables candidates to develop competencies in assurance, financial reporting and strategy and governance. It is the only position that can lead to a public accountancy permit (CPA auditor designation).
The external auditor visits numerous clients to perform assurance mandates (audit or review engagements), so as to provide assurance on the financial statements of enterprises and organizations. The external auditor can also perform compilation engagements. Depending on the firm, the external auditor is sometimes required to file personal and corporate income tax returns. On rare occasions, the external auditor performs bookkeeping.
- Participate in audit engagements – 50%
- Participate in review engagements – 30%
- Perform compilation engagements – 10%
- File personal income tax returns – 5%
- File corporate income tax returns – 5%
Similar positions: audit senior, auditor, junior auditor.
The internal auditor position can be in industry or the public sector, but is most often in large organizations. The position enables candidates to develop competencies in assurance, financial reporting and strategy and governance. The internal auditor is responsible for developing audit strategies on risks with a view to strengthen and enhance the employer’s governance, control and management processes.
- Identify risks relating to financial and operational processes – 20%
- Design audit programs taking into account changes in auditing standards – 20%
- Check the effectiveness and efficiency of internal controls – 20%
- Draft internal audit reports – 20%
- Ensure information security – 10%
- Assist those responsible for controls in the various departments – 10%
Similar positions: internal auditor, internal control analyst/advisor.
Reporting to administrative managers in the public sector, the financial management officer performs various tasks related to the planning, organization, coordination, control and processing of budget, financial and accounting data. This position enables candidates to develop competencies in financial reporting, management accounting and finance.
- Assess expenditure and budget monitoring – 20%
- Prepare monthly and annual financial statements – 20%
- Prepare analyses required by the auditor general – 20%
- Perform accounting transactions – 15%
- Control and analyze expenditure reduction policies – 15%
- Participate in accounting system implementation projects – 10%
Similar positions: financial resource advisor, socio-economic research and planning officer.
The financial management officer at Revenu Québec performs tax audits for various types of taxpayers in Quebec, i.e. enterprises and individuals. Audit tasks are performed within organizations, at their head office or major places of business. The financial management officer plans, coordinates and performs audit mandates. This position enables candidates to develop competencies in taxation and financial reporting.
- Assess the level of risk of the audited enterprise – 10%
- Organize information gathering on the accounting system and negotiate access to the enterprise’s computer
files – 10%
- Determine the auditing procedures and develop work methods – 20%
- Analyze the accounting records and supporting documentation according to various audit methods – 30%
- Identify misstatements and possibilities of tax disputes and implications, and obtain a legal interpretation – 20%
- Analyze submissions by lawyers, tax specialists and CPAs, and refer to them when auditing enterprises – 10%
Similar positions: tax audit advisor, Canada Revenue Agency agent.
Note that the position of audit technician at Revenu Québec can only qualify as practical experience for a limited time, i.e. less than 24 months.
Working in public practice or in a large enterprise, the tax specialist prepares tax returns for individuals, corporations and trusts. This position enables candidates to develop competencies in taxation and financial reporting. The tax specialist also provides tax planning services, for example by creating trusts or implementing estate freezes. For corporate tax mandates, the tax specialist must have an overall view of the organization’s financial position and determine the optimal tax structure to minimize the tax liability while complying with the law. The tax specialist may be called upon to work on international mandates by applying the tax laws of other countries. Note that the CPA period of practical experience must include a significant Canadian tax component.
- Perform Canadian tax mandates including documentation and drafting opinions, and perform compliance mandates by analyzing financial statements – 30%
- Review income tax returns and other forms for corporations, individuals and trusts – 30%
- Do research on specialized tax issues and propose appropriate solutions – 20%
- Draft tax documents intended for clients and employees of the firm – 20%
Similar positions: senior tax advisor, tax advisor, tax manager.
Competency development by practical experience profile
Factsheets have been created to highlight how the tasks for the above profiles leading to the CPA designation can become progressively complex.
At the end of the first year, a minimum of 4 to 5 competency sub-areas should reach the level 1 in order to meet the competency requirements at the end of the 24 month period of practical experience.
How to use the factsheets?
- Before submitting a declaration of practical experience: The employer and the candidate can use this factsheet to assess the position and prepare a job description that the Order will review when authorizing the period of practical experience.
- During the period of practical experience: Candidates can self-assess changes in their tasks against the tasks described below. They can also use the factsheet as they write their practical experience reports, making sure to adapt the wording of the tasks to accurately reflect the position and provide necessary explanations.
For more information, refer to the guide of proficiency levels or and the CPA practical experience competency requirements guide.
Examples of non-qualifying positions
Some positions do not qualify as CPA practical experience. Examples include:
The main task of accounting technicians, namely bookkeeping, does not meet the practical experience eligibility criteria, since it does not allow candidates to develop a sufficient level of proficiency in the CPA competencies in a 24-month period. This task does not enable candidates to acquire a deep understanding of concepts in accounting standards, audit and management accounting. In addition, the task of analyzing financial information does not take up a sufficient amount of time. Note that the financial analyst position may sometimes include certain tasks of an accounting technician, but only for a small proportion of the time.
Tasks generally performed by an accounting technician:
- Recording accounts receivable
- Recording accounts payable
- Calculating taxes and making remittances (GST, QST/HST)
- Preparing invoices and invoice coding
- Approving expense reports
- Providing customer service
Similar positions: accounting clerk, administrative technician, accounts receivable or accounts payable clerk, invoice clerk.
Self-employment positions, whether they involve acting as president of one’s own company or providing accounting services from home or an office, are automatically rejected under the practical experience program without exception.
A period of practical experience must be completed under the supervision of qualified professionals in order to foster coaching, the transfer of knowledge and an effective and adequate understanding of the competencies acquired.
Being a professor or lecturer does not allow candidates to apply the concepts learned in the Professional Education Program (PEP) in a real-life decision-making context. Although a professor is knowledgeable in the application of standards, the CPA period of practical experience enables candidates to apply accounting concepts and standards in a real work environment. Learnings remain theoretical and the position does not involve applying diverse competencies in complex situations.
Generally paid on a commission basis, personal financial planning advisors develop their own network of contacts and recommend simple savings products to individuals, such as RRSPs, term deposits and mutual funds. Since these sales-related tasks do not involve accounting standards, tax laws and other management concepts related to the CPA competencies, these positions do not qualify as practical experience.
Tasks generally performed by a financial planning advisor:
- Participating in the implementation of business development strategies and assisting in prospecting activities
- Preparing information or client solicitation mailings
- Preparing reports, portfolio analyses and documents required to build financial plans
- Meeting and onboarding current and prospective clients
- Performing business development and various sales and promotional activities
- Performing and monitoring client transactions
Similar positions: financial planning representative, financial service representative.
Software advisors provide telephone and email support to software and software package users. They help users experiencing software issues, participate in software quality control testing, and also draft standard responses to frequently asked questions.
These positions do not allow candidates to apply a variety of competencies in complex situations. While these tasks do not enable the development of core competencies in financial reporting or management accounting, they may sometimes be authorized as practical experience for a limited time of less than 24 months.
Not sure if your job meets the eligibility criteria of the CPA practical experience? Send a summary description of the position to firstname.lastname@example.org for evaluation.