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Majoring in Accounting? Need help on designation choice...

  • Last Updated:
  • Sep 10th, 2012 11:38 am
[OP]
Newbie
Aug 3, 2012
4 posts
Markham

Majoring in Accounting? Need help on designation choice...

Hello.

I will be a first-year student entering a university with a co-op program and I will be majoring in accounting. I've been reading on theses forums and other forums about getting jobs in the real world, and the amount of people going for a CA designation. Personally, I am aiming for a CA designation, but the competition is what is holding me back. I just don't realize the level of competition yet, though I am willing to put in the work to achieve my goals. I have some questions.

1.)Relative to attaining a job in the future, in Ontario or any other province in Canada, which designation would likely be the best to pursue?
2.)Has there been any updates regarding the possible CPA merger? Do you agree with the possible merger? Why?
3.)When applying for a job, how important on a scale of 1-10, is extra-curricular activities to an employer when he/she reviews your resume/application?
4.)How do I stay competitive, and compete with other people?

I know these might be weird questions, but it would mean a lot if I can get some honest answers, no matter how harsh.
Thanks for taking the time to read my questions.
23 replies
Deal Addict
Nov 22, 2004
1546 posts
642 upvotes
i'm a CMA, and here's my take on the questions. it's a long post, sorry but articulating isn't my strongest suit. hope it helps.

1. depends on what kind of jobs you're looking for. based on my understanding:
CMA -> a mix of accounting/management/business...not very technical but you cover a bit of everything.
CGA -> more accounting oriented with focus on numbers/technical stuff and not as much on management/business
CA -> originally designed for public practice where you're essentially an expert on all aspects of accounting - so you do your time in taxes, auditing and other "fun" stuff.

depending upon what you want to do later, you can pursue whatever designation suits you best. in all 3 designations, your biggest hurdle is going to be getting the practical experience (it's toughest for CA's because it has stricter guidelines).

ultimately, the person's capabilities are dependent on their aptitude, depth of understanding and endurance ('coz let's face it, it's accounting). i've met both really stupid and really bright people in all 3 designations so i can't say that one trumps the other in a person's skillset, but yes, CA is hardest to attain and is far more comprehensive than the other two.

2. the talks are ongoing. it's off again, on again type of a deal as far as i can tell. some provinces are going ahead with merging 2 of the 3 designations, others aren't doing anything. i'm indifferent as to what happens from my career/designation's perspective but given how they are progressing, it's becoming more confusing than simple. there's another thread on the merger talks that you can follow regarding this. from the looks of it, you'll have one province with CPA and CA...another with CPA and CGA...others with CA/CMA/CGA...it's...idiotic.

3. depends on the employer and the position. next to your experience or grades (if the experience is lacking), the employer wants to know how good of a fit you would be to their organization. if you're a shy, meek person who'll only keep to himself then odds are that you'll struggle with team work and that'd be a no-no. extracurriculars essentially show an employer that you're more than books/work. i'd value it at 5 because if you have the qualifications/experience you can still get a job with no extracurriculars, but if you have them, your chances will be higher.

4. to be competitive in studying, do all the homework problems, don't cut corners and try to understand what you're doing (not just mathematically but the underlying concepts and principles).
to be competitive in work - learn to do your job really well (maintain a good aptitude), but don't limit yourself to your job responsibilities alone. i hate it when people go "this isn't part of my job description" because those are the moments where you get exposed to other aspects of the business and you gain valuable experience from. take initiative and follow through.
Realtor @ Royal LePage Ignite Realty
Deal Fanatic
Jul 13, 2009
5042 posts
3236 upvotes
CA = you might hate yourself for putting up with audit and "fun stuff", but it does open more doors. CA+MBA = killer combo! Or CA with good career focus like banking, or retail, mining, oil & gas, NPO's.....

Not to say the CMA/CGA aren't great, but in all honesty it is really up to what you REALLY want to do as a career. Some people love the technical accounting aspect (tax, IFRS/GAAP, audit, policy, reporting), some people love FP&A and spending more time dealing with management than numbers (some are opposite!).

Best advice is to talk to as many people as possible, talk to people who love their jobs, and people who hate their jobs....Know what you really want!

If I was an accountant (i'm not...but if i were to), I would definitely jump into CMA and go into the FP&A space, budgeting, planning, sales analysis etc. Being a huge part of seeing what drives success (or failure) in businesses is pretty exciting.
Member
Jul 23, 2009
267 posts
53 upvotes
CA student here.
1) As the above mentioned, CA opens doors. It's really what drew me towards the designation. Many of my peers and myself included view the designation as a "doorway" to future careers such as banking, wealth management, etc.

3) Get involved. I can't stress this enough. Good grades are important, but when you have hundreds of students across the board with similar marks, what's going to differentiate you from another applicant is your experience. It doesn't have to be academic, it just has to make you memorable.

4) Outside of good marks and resumes, you need to network. Attend all the networking sessions your university provides you, prep some business cards, and make yourself memorable. One thing many people would suggest you do is establish a connection. Find something both you and the recruiter can be passionate about. Chances are, the recruiter will not want to answer work related questions for an entire evening.
Sr. Member
Oct 18, 2010
707 posts
108 upvotes
BCAB
I think you guys are missing some stuff. He's in year 1, he should just get his courses done and see how the acctg profession evolve first before deciding to enter which designation program. By the time he has his degree, we all could be CPAs.
Sr. Member
Apr 27, 2008
726 posts
19 upvotes
bavarianboy wrote: I think you guys are missing some stuff. He's in year 1, he should just get his courses done and see how the acctg profession evolve first before deciding to enter which designation program. By the time he has his degree, we all could be CPAs.
Keep in mind that, even if the merger goes through, the CPAs would STILL be distinguished by their legacy designations for another ten years. (ie. CPA-CA, CPA-CMA, CPA-CGA)

The significance is that, whatever perceptions the business world has of CA vs CMA vs CGA now will STILL likely matter for at least another ten years after the merger. Let's say a certain employer prefers CMA over the other two for a particular role. After the merger, the employer will probably still prefer CPA-CMAs.

Hence, OP should consider which designation is the most appropriate for his goals despite the possibility of a merger.
Sr. Member
Oct 18, 2010
707 posts
108 upvotes
BCAB
sardaukar wrote: Keep in mind that, even if the merger goes through, the CPAs would STILL be distinguished by their legacy designations for another ten years. (ie. CPA-CA, CPA-CMA, CPA-CGA)

The significance is that, whatever perceptions the business world has of CA vs CMA vs CGA now will STILL likely matter for at least another ten years after the merger. Let's say a certain employer prefers CMA over the other two for a particular role. After the merger, the employer will probably still prefer CPA-CMAs.

Hence, OP should consider which designation is the most appropriate for his goals despite the possibility of a merger.
I think you are wrong. By the time he graduates, there should only be ONLY a CPA certification program. No CA or CMA or CGA programs anymore. He can choose management, finance or public acctg, tax or audit specialization in the CPA program. Tagging is for ppl who earned the legacy designation. The CPA program will be similiar to CMA program with modules with a 2 day final evaluation exam and meeting the competency mapping.

This is if they all merge. I assume OP will graduate 4-5 yrs from now,and the acctg world inCanada could be completely different then.
Newbie
Aug 20, 2012
19 posts
1 upvote
Toronto
i would highly recommend pursuing a CA. in some large companies in canada, the high ranking accounting and finance executives are mostly CAs. competition should not be the factor detering you from pursuing the best.
Sr. Member
Sep 14, 2008
794 posts
112 upvotes
Vancouver
bavarianboy wrote: I think you are wrong. By the time he graduates, there should only be ONLY a CPA certification program. No CA or CMA or CGA programs anymore. He can choose management, finance or public acctg, tax or audit specialization in the CPA program. Tagging is for ppl who earned the legacy designation. The CPA program will be similiar to CMA program with modules with a 2 day final evaluation exam and meeting the competency mapping.

This is if they all merge. I assume OP will graduate 4-5 yrs from now,and the acctg world inCanada could be completely different then.
Not really. The CPA program is going to go the route of CASB with additional modules as electives for the "cga/cma" students instead of audit.
CASB is pretty comphrehensive from module to module, so I'm curious if they'd have to rewrite all the modules from scratch but in principle it won't be that drastic (that is, from the CA point of view).

According to the hall talks, the comp. exam won't be made any easier to accomodate for this, but I have my doubts. Based on the academic quality of the people that got in and what those that have finished have said, the other two designations have an easier acadiemic path. So if they're telling the truth, pass rates might start dropping.
Jr. Member
Aug 29, 2012
118 posts
6 upvotes
British Columbia
On the cusp of a CGA designation, I have a friend who got his CA designation a rather hard way. Only go for the CA designation if you're willing to go to another part of the country to work for a CA Training Office.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
82 upvotes
Toronto
bhrm wrote: CA = you might hate yourself for putting up with audit and "fun stuff", but it does open more doors. CA+MBA = killer combo! Or CA with good career focus like banking, or retail, mining, oil & gas, NPO's.....

Not to say the CMA/CGA aren't great, but in all honesty it is really up to what you REALLY want to do as a career. Some people love the technical accounting aspect (tax, IFRS/GAAP, audit, policy, reporting), some people love FP&A and spending more time dealing with management than numbers (some are opposite!).

Best advice is to talk to as many people as possible, talk to people who love their jobs, and people who hate their jobs....Know what you really want!

If I was an accountant (i'm not...but if i were to), I would definitely jump into CMA and go into the FP&A space, budgeting, planning, sales analysis etc. Being a huge part of seeing what drives success (or failure) in businesses is pretty exciting.
Many people mistakenly think as a CMA you'll be or you'll be BETTER at doing financial planning & analysis than a CA. The issue with this line of thinking is that FP&A is very easy to learn for anyone with an accounting background. Many employers (especially those where the controller/manager/cfo is a CA) recognize this and hire CAs into these roles because in addition to being able to handle the FP&A tasks, they are also better equipped to handle other stuff like internal controls, impact of decisions on what's reported on f/s, process improvements (e.g. they've seen how budgetting is done at many other companies), etc.
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Sep 13, 2005
6860 posts
375 upvotes
Ottawa
Nucks wrote: Not really. The CPA program is going to go the route of CASB with additional modules as electives for the "cga/cma" students instead of audit.
CASB is pretty comphrehensive from module to module, so I'm curious if they'd have to rewrite all the modules from scratch but in principle it won't be that drastic (that is, from the CA point of view).

According to the hall talks, the comp. exam won't be made any easier to accomodate for this, but I have my doubts. Based on the academic quality of the people that got in and what those that have finished have said, the other two designations have an easier acadiemic path. So if they're telling the truth, pass rates might start dropping.
Lets not get into a pissing contest as to which path is easier to attain.

At the end of the day it’s the individual that shapes his/her career. You can have successful people in all three designations. I hope the new CPA program allows for people that don’t have an accounting degree be able to enter the field without having to redo a degree and set them back many years.
tylaw83 wrote: Many people mistakenly think as a CMA you'll be or you'll be BETTER at doing financial planning & analysis than a CA. The issue with this line of thinking is that FP&A is very easy to learn for anyone with an accounting background. Many employers (especially those where the controller/manager/cfo is a CA) recognize this and hire CAs into these roles because in addition to being able to handle the FP&A tasks, they are also better equipped to handle other stuff like internal controls, impact of decisions on what's reported on f/s, process improvements (e.g. they've seen how budgetting is done at many other companies), etc.
I partly agree with you on this. Being a CMA does not make you better at financial analysis. Actually, any of the designations does not make you amazing at financial analysis unless you can adapt and learn.

I firmly believe that you can have an accounting designation but it does not make you an amazing accountant. Takes more to excel in the field than the letters after your name.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
82 upvotes
Toronto
setell wrote: I hope the new CPA program allows for people that don’t have an accounting degree be able to enter the field without having to redo a degree and set them back many years.
Why would they make it eaiser? Can business students become engineers without doing another degree? Can engineering students become law students without going to law school? Can arts students become pharmacists without doing a ton of science courses?
Sr. Member
Apr 27, 2008
726 posts
19 upvotes
bavarianboy wrote: I think you are wrong. By the time he graduates, there should only be ONLY a CPA certification program. No CA or CMA or CGA programs anymore. He can choose management, finance or public acctg, tax or audit specialization in the CPA program. Tagging is for ppl who earned the legacy designation. The CPA program will be similiar to CMA program with modules with a 2 day final evaluation exam and meeting the competency mapping.

This is if they all merge. I assume OP will graduate 4-5 yrs from now,and the acctg world inCanada could be completely different then.
I agree with the part that IF the merger goes through, there will be one CPA certification program and the legacy programs will cease to exist. However, there is no guarantee that the merger will go through. To ask OP to base his course and career path choices on the dubious possibility of the merger may be unwise.

In Ontario, CGA and CMA have already withdrawn from the negotiation talks. The ICAO, once unanimous on the merger issue, has become divided after the most recent council election. Numerous young candidates who are on the record as being opposed to the merger were elected in place of some long standing council members of the "natural ruling party," who towed pro-merger lines in their candidate biography. This is a clear sign that the ICAO members are getting annoyed with the direction the Institute has been moving in.

At this stage when the possibility of merger is still uncertain, my advice to OP is to pursue the most appropriate accounting designation assuming the merger is not going to happen.
Newbie
Aug 18, 2012
34 posts
3 upvotes
tylaw83 wrote: Why would they make it eaiser? Can business students become engineers without doing another degree? Can engineering students become law students without going to law school? Can arts students become pharmacists without doing a ton of science courses?
Yes business students can become PEng.'s without going to school or even having a University degree (technician diploma may be required). Just takes X year's of experience and passing THE test.
Member
Mar 5, 2008
250 posts
20 upvotes
1.)CA, reputable training offices are a safe bet to land good exit opportunities once you designate. Ultimately, it's your track record/reputation and not the letters that define your success but the CA gets your foot into more doors so you can have the opportunity to get noticed.

2.)Stalled as expected. Honestly, it's not something you should worry about. Even after the merger, industries will still look at work experience to differentiate between candidates. If you follow the current CA path, your experiences and resume will likely stand out. It's a bit naive to think you can shortcut an easier route in anticipation of a merger. That's like saying every MBA, CFA etc etc is equivalent. Employers are not stupid and will adjust accordingly. IMO Big 4 experience and a few select training grounds will be the new "CA" if the new merger goes through.

3.)Very important. Accounting/auditing is not rocket science. Firms will want to see if you are the right fit as opposed to a machine that can regurgitate IFRS standards. What's most important to them is your ability to work well with your team and the client. Extra-cirricular activities may suggest that you willingly associate yourself with social activities and build rapport with others. Hence the odds of you being terribly awkward around the client would hopefully be lower :)

4.)Grades are still important as it is an indicator of your likelihood to progress through the UFE process. I would say the most important thing is to not sit on your ***** and get involved, doesn't really matter what. We can't all be Olympians or Rhode Scholars. However, if you can demonstrate that you are a well-rounded person in terms of work experience, volunteer, and hobby/interests, you'll stand a good chance through the filters. Lastly, attend all networking events and try to have the recruiters remember your face. Just be yourself, appear normal and convey the image of someone that others won't mind shooting the breeze at the office or an afternoon stroll to Starbucks.

Best of luck in your first year and to everyone else who is going through the recruiting process this fall.
Sr. Member
Sep 14, 2008
794 posts
112 upvotes
Vancouver
IntoTheRain wrote: 1.)
2.)IMO Big 4 experience and a few select training grounds will be the new "CA" if the new merger goes through.
That's what I believe will happen and drive up the demand for the big4 spots even higher than they are now. The perception of the substantial improvement they give over the other CA routes is already astronomical; will impact the midsize and other training offices quite a bit.

I can only imagine how it'll become if the perception changes to "big 4 CA is the real designation". I suspect that's why the large firms weren't worried about the merger affecting the number of cheap labour coming through the doors.
Though many current big4 students don't seem too pleased with losing their CAs after just obtaining them (yeah yeah legacy tags)
Sr. Member
Nov 8, 2007
520 posts
113 upvotes
Ottawa
Just read the CMA-CA merger posts and ask yourself if you want to turn into a CA elitist snob.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
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TheBigShow wrote: Yes business students can become PEng.'s without going to school or even having a University degree (technician diploma may be required). Just takes X year's of experience and passing THE test.
You're twisting the point. A business student would have to do so many extra course he might as well just do a degree.
Deal Addict
Mar 24, 2009
2085 posts
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Babbsy wrote: Just read the CMA-CA merger posts and ask yourself if you want to turn into a CA elitist snob.
Yes ask yourself if you want to be a CA elitist snob or a bitter CMA underachiever looking up.
I love how generalizations work sometimes.

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