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CGA - Is it a good idea?

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[OP]
Newbie
User avatar
Jun 18, 2012
10 posts
TORONTO

CGA - Is it a good idea?

Hi guys,

This is my situation, I'm in my mid 30's with not much work experience, I just found a job as admin assistant for not even 30K a year. I'm tired of getting paid so low and need to make a change to improve.

While I was a student at university (I have a bachelor in business) I wasn't a good student, I was very young and didn't really care about it. Now I see the consequences..After doing some research I think on enrolling to the CGA program. The reason is that typical admin jobs have a customer service side that I hate, that's why I think accounting will spare me that part. Is this really a good idea? My concerns are about:

1) How hard is the program itself? Are grades very important to get a job?

2) How hard is to get a job to fulfill the 2 year work experience requirement?

3) If I take courses in the university of toronto, why would I need to pay the $730 tuition fee per year?

Thanks!
19 replies
Newbie
Jun 18, 2012
1 posts
1 upvote
Toronto
it took my wife about 8 years to complete the whole process.
It's tough but doable, and also you need to prepare for the expensive courses, registration fees, even you pass all your tests, you still need to have working experience for the senior position. So it's not a short term solution.
Member
Feb 2, 2010
348 posts
8 upvotes
I actually called the CGA office in my province yesterday and I suggest you do that to in order to clear up any questions.

For BC:

In terms of cost:

1) $750 per year in tuition fees for as long as you are in the program
2) $800+ per course taken in the program (19 required courses altogether)
- You can bypass the expenses if you take courses at a local college that are transferable

In terms of length:

1) Up to 10 years in the program
2) If you are starting from scratch (ie. no accounting background), they say the average is 5 years with the work experience requirement

Things to ponder:

1) Getting that first accounting job to fulfill the work requirements

At this point in time, I have actually thought about accounting as well as I am currently in banking, but I find it useless if you don't have an accounting job in place. You can't get designated unless you have the work experience and AR/AP doesn't pay that well. I've applied for the experience and haven't had much luck aside from the usual collection jobs. One thing that makes me hesitant with accounting is the amount of people wanting to do it. There may be a lot of jobs, but with such a high surplus of applicants, the wage is going to go down. But, if you feel it'll provide you with better career potential, go for it!
Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
1150 upvotes
Lunita wrote: Hi guys,

This is my situation, I'm in my mid 30's with not much work experience, I just found a job as admin assistant for not even 30K a year. I'm tired of getting paid so low and need to make a change to improve.

While I was a student at university (I have a bachelor in business) I wasn't a good student, I was very young and didn't really care about it. Now I see the consequences..After doing some research I think on enrolling to the CGA program. The reason is that typical admin jobs have a customer service side that I hate, that's why I think accounting will spare me that part. Is this really a good idea? My concerns are about:

1) How hard is the program itself? Are grades very important to get a job?

2) How hard is to get a job to fulfill the 2 year work experience requirement?

3) If I take courses in the university of toronto, why would I need to pay the $730 tuition fee per year?

Thanks!
I have a CGA and my advice is that you should not expect a CGA to magically open doors for you. By the time you get designated, it's really all that office experience that lands you a good job, not your CGA. The things you learn in CGA courses are marginally useful at best in real life setting. I find it criminally wrong that all these advertisement make it seem like having a CGA is the end of the road. It isn't. People should attribute their success to their motivation, and ability. Without these, you don't get promoted and can't get a CGA. You simply can't get your CGA with low level experience unless your manager fudges your experience.

With that said, I'm not saying the CGA is worthless. Going for a CGA signals that you have ambition. It'll make you feel you're wasting your money if you don't make something out of paying CGA thousands each year. That will motivate you to try to build your resume. You should definitely pursue a CGA if you're the type of person that wants to see things from start to finish.

In the long term, pursuing a CGA will pay off. In the short term, you'll be down a few thousand $$$. Remember that once you get your CGA, you're not guaranteed a good salary. You're just LESS likely to be low balled.
Member
May 17, 2011
306 posts
38 upvotes
GVRD
BananaHunter wrote: I have a CGA and my advice is that you should not expect a CGA to magically open doors for you. By the time you get designated, it's really all that office experience that lands you a good job, not your CGA. The things you learn in CGA courses are marginally useful at best in real life setting. I find it criminally wrong that all these advertisement make it seem like having a CGA is the end of the road. It isn't. People should attribute their success to their motivation, and ability. Without these, you don't get promoted and can't get a CGA. You simply can't get your CGA with low level experience unless your manager fudges your experience.

With that said, I'm not saying the CGA is worthless. Going for a CGA signals that you have ambition. It'll make you feel you're wasting your money if you don't make something out of paying CGA thousands each year. That will motivate you to try to build your resume. You should definitely pursue a CGA if you're the type of person that wants to see things from start to finish.

In the long term, pursuing a CGA will pay off. In the short term, you'll be down a few thousand $$$. Remember that once you get your CGA, you're not guaranteed a good salary. You're just LESS likely to be low balled.
+1 - I like BananaHunter, he gives good advice.

Don't place too much emphasis on designations, it signals you have ambition like he says and also a minimum level of skill set to achieve the designation.

Everything else is still up to you.
[OP]
Newbie
User avatar
Jun 18, 2012
10 posts
TORONTO
Thanks guys for the advices!

I understand that this is long-term, but in short term I would like to at least be able to make 40k and hopefully live without roommates. I heard people say that once you put in your resume that you are enrolled to the program it helps you to get at least an accounting junior position.. I think I will take it anyways :)
Newbie
Oct 7, 2008
32 posts
3 upvotes
Toronto
Well my two cents is - you have a degree from university in business...you should not be low balled. dont settle !! go for something u want and keep pursuing!

As for CGA, red carpet is not rolled out however it does separate you from the crowd. Go for it. The few letters of designation does help but before all this, do you like accounting? I love it and i am accountant myself but my friends hate it! it would be sad to discover you dont like it after 5 years of hard work to be a CGA....

Good luck!

Lunita wrote: Thanks guys for the advices!

I understand that this is long-term, but in short term I would like to at least be able to make 40k and hopefully live without roommates. I heard people say that once you put in your resume that you are enrolled to the program it helps you to get at least an accounting junior position.. I think I will take it anyways :)
Deal Addict
Apr 7, 2011
1833 posts
386 upvotes
[quote="noreason" post_id="14917921" time="1340157838" user_id="426362"]
Don't place too much emphasis on designations, it signals you have ambition like he says and also a minimum level of skill set to achieve the designation.

Everything else is still up to you.[/QUOTE

I'll respectfully disagree on this, what I've found in the last 10 years is that if you don't have a designation many opportunities won't look at you. My business degree is in accounting, I had 13 years of office/managerial experience and in the words of one headhunter I'd be perfect for this one job. But without a designation they wouldn't look at me.

We're now living in a time of designations - across all industries and careers. CGA, PMP, CHRP, MOUSE. It seems you have to have those letters.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
79 upvotes
Toronto
Sum_guy wrote: Agreed. Most of the better companies will not even interview you for director of finance/controller/senior accountant/senior analyst without a designation (CGA/CMA/CA/CFA) or ibanking/consulting experience.
Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
1150 upvotes
tylaw83 wrote: Yes but what I said was that a designation ALONE will not do anything. And once you reach a certain stage in your career, your designation doesn't matter because everyone else you're competing with has one. Competent people have no reason not to pursue one. After being designated, it's still all that experience and your interview skills that lands you the job. All a CGA does is SIGNAL to people that you have a minimum level of experience. It also filters out people that are below that level.

You COULD land a controller position without a CGA/CMA/CA. But the reverse is not true: No company will hire a controller with inadequate experience. When I put it that way, I still think a designation is not all that. It's value is definitely much less than the 3 accounting bodies make it seem. Experience is more important than designations but you can have both.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
79 upvotes
Toronto
BananaHunter wrote: I've only met one public company controller without a designation and he had 25+ years of experience to reach that point - he was brought in as more of an operations controller.

On the other hand, I've met plenty of controllers who are pretty much fresh CAs (3-5 years out of school). How else do you think a 25/26 year old lands a controller position? Your designation plays a big part. Having it doesn't set you apart. Not having it does.
Sr. Member
Aug 12, 2010
749 posts
567 upvotes
Lunita wrote: Hi guys,

This is my situation, I'm in my mid 30's with not much work experience, I just found a job as admin assistant for not even 30K a year. I'm tired of getting paid so low and need to make a change to improve.

While I was a student at university (I have a bachelor in business) I wasn't a good student, I was very young and didn't really care about it. Now I see the consequences..After doing some research I think on enrolling to the CGA program. The reason is that typical admin jobs have a customer service side that I hate, that's why I think accounting will spare me that part. Is this really a good idea? My concerns are about:

1) How hard is the program itself? Are grades very important to get a job?

2) How hard is to get a job to fulfill the 2 year work experience requirement?

3) If I take courses in the university of toronto, why would I need to pay the $730 tuition fee per year?

Thanks!
First off, don't lock yourself into just CGA: your jobs will do that for you.

As for the "fee." You can take the prereqs from anywhere: UofT, Athabasca, Colleges, etc. Just get them done! In Toronto Ryerson is a good option for some due to the frequency but most colleges are the same. The fee is only to lock you into the current program, as mergers are stalled you might just weight till you're done. I would also look into the CGA/MBA deal from Laurentian. You can use 2 senior CGA courses as a double dip towards your MBA.

Another option might be CMA, they offer a program called the "Accelerated Program" which gives you all "their pre-reqs."

Once you're into any accounting body, you get their best asset: the job bank! Their job banks have targeted ads that are a great resource, albeit not as good as it once was before the downturn.

If you want more info msg me.

Cheers
Sr. Member
May 29, 2012
743 posts
40 upvotes
MAPLE RIDGE
Consider not only CGA, but CMA as well.
Open up your options.

Since you aren't satisfied with your pay, don't see yourself going far in the near future, and are feeling a sense of urgency (i.e. aging), I'd say do it.
Member
May 17, 2011
306 posts
38 upvotes
GVRD
tylaw83 wrote:
I've only met one public company controller without a designation and he had 25+ years of experience to reach that point - he was brought in as more of an operations controller.

On the other hand, I've met plenty of controllers who are pretty much fresh CAs (3-5 years out of school). How else do you think a 25/26 year old lands a controller position? Your designation plays a big part. Having it doesn't set you apart. Not having it does.
For every 25/26 year old designated Controller, there's probably 10 designated accountants in a non-management role (sr financial analyst, etc.)

The point wasn't to discourage the OP from taking on an accounting designation but not to expect doors to magically open because he/she is enrolled or completed a designation, it still depends on your own work experience and performance. The 25/26 year old controller got there because they are an ambitious high performer first most, the designation confirms their competency.

Also OP, in accounting/finance you still have 'customer service'. Your customers just changes to management and they can be even more demanding.
Deal Fanatic
Sep 23, 2007
5061 posts
1150 upvotes
tylaw83 wrote: I'd argue that CA is very different from CMA and CGA. CA designation seems to have more prestige in the market because most CAs come from the Big 4. Nowadays, the majority of students choose CA as their first choice and only pursue CMA/CGA if they fail to get into CA firm. If you ask people why they chose CMA/CGA, they usually cite a fake answer unless you are really close friends. The real reason is because their grades are not good enough or they lack the social skills to get into a CA firm.

In essence, having a CA tells you more about the candidate than a CMA/CGA does. Having a CA implies that the candidate (very likely) has above average social skills because he/she got into a CA firm. Whereas for CMA/CGA, it's perfectly plausible to have a CMA/CGA without even being fluent in speaking English. CMA/CGAs can also get their designations from anywhere so there's a wide variance as to the competence and background of CMA/CGAs. Combined with the competitive GPA requirements for CA firms, CAs seems to give the impression that they are the best of the best.

So..at the risk of turning this thread into another CA vs CMA vs CGA, I'll concede that CA designation does matter a lot, relative to CMA/CGA. But even after being designated, there will come a point where experience is more important because all the other job candidates have designations. Having a designations will land you an interview at best. You still have to ace the interview.

BTW, yes I've seen some young CAs with relatively high level positions. But I can't say the same for CMAs and CGAs.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
79 upvotes
Toronto
BananaHunter wrote:
I'd argue that CA is very different from CMA and CGA. CA designation seems to have more prestige in the market because most CAs come from the Big 4. Nowadays, the majority of students choose CA as their first choice and only pursue CMA/CGA if they fail to get into CA firm. If you ask people why they chose CMA/CGA, they usually cite a fake answer unless you are really close friends. The real reason is because their grades are not good enough or they lack the social skills to get into a CA firm.

In essence, having a CA tells you more about the candidate than a CMA/CGA does. Having a CA implies that the candidate (very likely) has above average social skills because he/she got into a CA firm. Whereas for CMA/CGA, it's perfectly plausible to have a CMA/CGA without even being fluent in speaking English. CMA/CGAs can also get their designations from anywhere so there's a wide variance as to the competence and background of CMA/CGAs. Combined with the competitive GPA requirements for CA firms, CAs seems to give the impression that they are the best of the best.

So..at the risk of turning this thread into another CA vs CMA vs CGA, I'll concede that CA designation does matter a lot, relative to CMA/CGA. But even after being designated, there will come a point where experience is more important because all the other job candidates have designations. Having a designations will land you an interview at best. You still have to ace the interview.

BTW, yes I've seen some young CAs with relatively high level positions. But I can't say the same for CMAs and CGAs.
That's the problem with everyone's thinking on here. It isn't one or the other. The designation is not a magic key, but it is a very significant complement to your experience. Without it, you will often to passed up on for less qualified candidates and your growth is often capped.
Newbie
Aug 19, 2010
57 posts
11 upvotes
Toronto
tylaw83 wrote: That's the problem with everyone's thinking on here. It isn't one or the other. The designation is not a magic key, but it is a very significant complement to your experience. Without it, you will often to passed up on for less qualified candidates and your growth is often capped.
+1... It's a tool for career advancement but you still have to work. Doesn't matter what designation you pursue.
Deal Addict
Apr 7, 2011
1833 posts
386 upvotes
Agree with that last thought.

A designation doesn't get you the job but without one you'll be at a disadvantage to get one.

As far as that CA/CGA/CMA thing - I've worked directly for all three and of the lot, the smartest had no designation, the second was a CMA, the worst was a CA. I say this not to pick on CA's or any other designation but as to note that skills outside of GAAP are what matters down the road.

But in my experience a designation is now table stakes.
[OP]
Newbie
User avatar
Jun 18, 2012
10 posts
TORONTO
So, I guess it would be best to get first an accounting job, even a junior position and then enroll to the program. I just received the results for the credit transfer evaluation by the way, only got two courses exempted. I might just start taking a course in the UofT or a college.

On the other hand, I don't really consider the CMA since I don't see their courses have much of the accounting foundation I need to work/apply for accounting positions.

I have some doubts in reference to what would happen if after two or three years I must stop the course or can't continue i.e. maternity, money, etc..
Deal Addict
Apr 7, 2011
1833 posts
386 upvotes
Lunita wrote: So, I guess it would be best to get first an accounting job, even a junior position and then enroll to the program. I just received the results for the credit transfer evaluation by the way, only got two courses exempted. I might just start taking a course in the UofT or a college.

On the other hand, I don't really consider the CMA since I don't see their courses have much of the accounting foundation I need to work/apply for accounting positions.

I have some doubts in reference to what would happen if after two or three years I must stop the course or can't continue i.e. maternity, money, etc..
CMA has a significant accounting foundation - you either have to have significant pre-requisites (accounting degree) or you take the accelerated program to learn your accounting/business stuff. After that it's mostly managerial accounting and analysis work. You're not exclusively talking debits & credits during the SLP, but you are spending a lot of time in Excel.

CMA is the right designation if you're in a larger firm and reporting on things like cost of acquisition/utilizations/variance to plan.

Personally I think you'll have a easier time getting an accounting role if you're in the program.

I just hired for a 'just out of school' position. If you've completed one level that's something that so many other applicants don't have. That said I don't want to imply that it'll be easy to find that job: I got 168 resumes in 3 days after posting for a role that required a designation/close to getting one.

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