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My Experience in pursuing the CPA Designation in Canada and thinking of a change now

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  • Jan 26th, 2021 1:02 pm
[OP]
Member
Aug 12, 2016
261 posts
65 upvotes

My Experience in pursuing the CPA Designation in Canada and thinking of a change now

My experience in Canada has been a roller coaster ride. I actually immigrated to Canada in April 2012 at the age of 27. I had completed my Bachelors in Business Administration (BBA) and Masters in Business Administration (MBA) specializing in Finance/Accounting in my home country from the top business school there. I then proceeded to work in a bank as a Relationship Manager in Commercial Banking for 2 years prior to moving to Canada. During this time period i also cleared my CFA Level 1 examination.

I did as much homework as possible prior to landing in Canada to better understand the local economy and the system in Canada. After speaking to many relatives and some locals in Canada and other immigrants i knew for a fact that my qualifications which i acquired in my home country would have no real standing in Canada and that i was better of doing a local degree, certification to improve my long term employment prospects in the country. Many people had also warned me that the job market over all was extremely over saturated and that finding jobs and good jobs in Canada was a mixture of hard work, persistence, who you know and good luck. But the truth of the matter is that it is one thing to listen and hear about these things from people and a totally different experience to actually experience these things yourself.

I had heard a lot about the CA, CPA designation in Canada. A friend of mine who is a CA, CPA in 2011 advised me to do another MBA in Canada i.e. from the top most universities i.e. Queens, University of Western Ontario and Rotman. But a lot of my family members and extended relatives encouraged me to look into doing the CA, CPA designation. I too personally didn't wan't to do another MBA, i wanted to diversify and do another qualification to supplement the MBA i had completed from my home country.

When CPA Ontario first assessed me, they gave me 6 exemptions out of 13 courses but required me to complete the other remaining courses at a University in Ontario. I managed to get admission in York University's Professional Certificate of Accounting Program and decided to complete the remaining CPA prerequisite courses there. Unfortunately the University had their own prerequisite courses for these CPA prerequisite courses and i had no choice but to abide by the University's rules and regulations, therefore 8 remaining courses became 13 remaining courses. Then the CA, CMA and CGA designations merged into the CPA and they included another 3 new prerequisite courses that i had to complete. I had completed all my course work by the Summer of 2013 and had applied to CPA Ontario for an assessment which i felt was just a formality and a stepping stone to get them to officially register me as a CPA student.

To my absolute shock and horror CPA Ontario informed that the original exemptions i got when i first landed in Canada in April 2012 had been withdrawn and now i was required to complete those courses. I was very angry and upset about this and i appealed against this decision at 2 levels in CPA Ontario but then i realized that too much time would be wasted in the appeals process and that i was just better off sucking it up and completing these 6 courses as well. So by January 2014 i had managed to finish all the CPA prerequisite courses and was now eligible to apply for article-ships in Accounting firms.

While i was completing my CPA prerequisite courses at York University from April 2012 to January 2014. I worked for 6 months at Tim Hortons, another 6 months at a gym as an assistant and then i volunteered at a Start up bookkeeping firm for 8 months. I was lucky that i didn't have to work to make a living or pay my fees as my dad is working in a top most position in a hospital in Toronto and is earning very handsomely but i still did it to keep busy and to get some Canadian experience while doing my best to integrate to the local culture as fast as possible.

Unfortunately finding a job in an Accounting Firm in Ontario and even Industry Position was very hard. I applied all out from January 2014 to March 2014 but only ended up with a handful of interviews but i managed to get a more favorable response outside Ontario and was offered a short term contract position in an Accounting Firm in Drumheller Alberta. My parents were initially against me accepting the position and leaving to live so far away from home but i didn't want to waste any more time and was willing to avail this opportunity. So i worked in an accounting firm in Drumheller operated by just one partner from March 2014 to June 2014 where i was able to most get experience in preparing Personal tax returns, Corporate tax returns, GST returns and a few book keeping tasks. Just before the expiry of my contract, i had randomly applied to an accounting firm in Calgary also operated by one partner and was offered a full time position there. I worked in the firm in Calgary from June 2014 to January 2016 where i again was able to work at $38,000 per annum and was responsible for preparing Personal Tax Returns, Corporate Tax Returns, GST Returns, Notice to Reader engagements, Book Keeping tasks and other random miscellaneous duties. Unfortunately i was not able to get any exposure to any audits and review engagements.

Unfortunately during this time period the Alberta economy had tanked, many oil and gas workers were being laid off, economic activity was very slow,lethargic, business in the accounting firm had suffered tremendously and the last 2 months were extremely slow, the partner was becoming extremely unfriendly, irritated day by day and i just started fearing the worst. Also my family in Toronto had been on my case to move back home now that i had almost 2 years of relevant accounting experience on my resume. My Appartment lease was expiring at the end of January, i was also getting sick and tired of living hand to mouth with very little savings. So i decided that now was the right time to leave for Toronto.

I coldcalled a firm in Toronto and they took an interview on Skype. Now in that interview they only just asked very general questions, nothing technical and they didn't even ask me too many questions in detail about the firms i had worked in Alberta. They immediately requested me to come to Toronto and to join them in 10 days in Toronto and that they would be delighted to have me working for them. I was very happy that i would finally be getting an opportunity to work at home, be close to my family and friends and enjoy some more savings.

Little did i realize about the nightmarish sequence of events that were to follow. When i actually joined this firm in Toronto, i was just shocked to see the difference b/w a one person owned accounting firm and an accounting firm with a staff of 20-25 people. In the previous 2 firms in Alberta, the working environment was so chill, so laidback, there would be no budgets on when to finish a file, the partner would hand me a file and politely request me to try and finish everything by the second half the next day, he would then sit down with me, review everything, tell me about my errors, mistakes and this way i was able to learn on the job and with each and every file. Also there would be an open door policy in those firms, no question would be considered a dumb question, if you got stuck anywhere, you were welcome to come in and ask any question you wanted. The partners themselves would contact the client for any missing information, queries and would also contact the CRA, i was not authorized to do so. Also the partner himself would e-file all the Personal tax returns, Corporate tax returns, GST Returns. Bottomline while like any accounting firm, when there were deadlines, it would get stressful and busy but overall it was a much more relaxing and enjoyable and less overwhelming experience.

Unfortunately the culture in the accounting firm i joined in Toronto was completely different. Much to my shock, it was a completely sink or swim environment over here. You had to be technically perfect over here i.e. you really needed to know how to resolve each and every accounting issue you encountered on a file, if you got stuck you got stuck, everyone else was either too busy with their own things or really didnt give a damn to help you out. Every Corporate Tax Return and Notice to Reader file had a budget of 6 hours, some Personal tax returns you were expected to complete in 10-20 minutes. In this firm you were expected to complete the whole file entirely on your own, while yes you could ask the odd question here and there but it was your responsibility to clear all outstanding queries with the Client, CRA, do the whole tax planning and complete the file on your own before it went to the partners office for review. A Chinese supervisor was assigned to me to help me but she was a total bitch, in the 3 weeks i worked in this firm in Toronto, i kid you not every hour i would be at the receiving end of one obnoxious comment after the other "Where did you do your schooling from?" "Here is a little tip for you, whatever you decide to do in life from here onwards", "You are F ********", "You better come in on a Saturday and Sunday to work and finish everything".

I mean in the firm i politely kept my down, acknowledged my short comings, the fact that i wasn't as technically competent as i thought i was, i realized that working in 2 laid back accounting firms had actually in the long run hurt me tremendously and had not really prepared me for working in a high volume, high pressure accounting firm. I never once spoke back or answered back to my chinese supervisor, i would come in to work at 7 in the morning and leave at 10 at night to try my best to get up to speed on things and to learn as quickly as possible. But inspite of my best efforts i just knew i was struggling badly, i just knew i was not welcome there anymore, the partner even came up to me during the second week to give me a warning that if i am still struggling to catch on then they will have to part company with me. By the third week mentally i was just gone, the amount of learning i had to do in such a short period of time just seemed impossible, also the fact that my supervisor would humiliate me on a regular basis every hour began to take its toll as well. Also given that it was in the middle of February during tax season, i also started wondering is it worth spending any more time in this firm knowing full well you will be fired when i could utilize the time to get into another accounting firm. After one final taunt by my supervisor on a Friday, i just had enough, i went straight to the Partners room and was very direct and straight forward with him in terms off what his plans were for me and whether is he going to lay me off or not. He was like they will try to give me one more week but i knew realistically that working in that environment where my supervisor was only more interested in taunting the hell out of me it just wasn't going to work out. So i owned up to the partner that i think its better for me to leave and i wont waste any more time.

But this experience really badly scarred me. Totally wrecked my confidence about working in a public accounting firm. For introspection purposes i realized that there was indeed no substitute for quality work experience. If a guy has 6-8 months of quality work experience in a high pressure accounting firm over a guy who has worked for 2 years in an accounting firm in a more laid back environment, then the guy with quality experience is much better off.

It took me a few days to get over this experience. It was also nerve wracking for me to give interviews because the dilemma was that if you dont have a good attractive CV you will not get an interview call in this tough over saturated job market but at the same time if you oversell yourself, people will have really high performance expectations from you. It was nerve wracking for me to answer questions like "How quickly can you finish a Notice to Reader file, Corporate Tax Return from start to finish, doing each and everything on your own?" I answered very honestly in terms of what type of accounting firms i worked in Alberta, what the operating environments were like there, what accounting issues i had exposure too and which were my weak areas.

One thing which absolutely shocked me was that even though i had 2 years of accounting experience. In 20 accounting firms, tax offices i had interviewed in, a vast majority of them were demanding i volunteer and work for them for free and they used all sorts of excuses "Alberta's experience is not the same as Ontario's experience", "There are so many foreign immigrants who are desperate to work for free, you know that as well, you know we can easily find them so why should we pay you" By March i managed to get a few offers from firms in Mississauga. One firm in Mississauga offered me a 3 month contract to work on Corporate taxes with a commitment to review at the end of the contract as to whether a full time position can be offered. The other firm in Mississauga offered me a full time position, the interview was extremely friendly, they explained that they had recently moved into a new office, they were looking to expand the practice, they were looking for someone who wanted a long term career with the firm and was interested in pursuing the CPA, CA Designation, they offered me snacks, biscuits, coffee and even gave me a tour of the office. They emailed me the offer letter which clearly stated that it was a full time offer with 3 months of probation. I naturally went with the firm given that they were offering me a full time position and the fact i had the feeling it would be the most wonderful place to work in.

I joined the firm in Mississauga in March. It was indeed a fantastic and wonderful environment. There were 2 partners, one office manager, 2 part time staff, one book keeper and everyone was extremely friendly with each other, open door policy, you could ask any question any time. I was strictly working on all of their Personal Tax Returns. I was 100% motivated and i gave it my all for them, i worked every single day in March and April even coming in on Saturdays and Sundays because i felt motivated by the fact that i was learning with each and every tax Personal tax return and the fact that they were treating me well. The partners even complimented me and praised my work ethic, the fact i was going out of my way to get the files done without any complaints, nothing. My files would be comfortably reviewed and barring the odd minor issue which they understood i never got exposed too, the personal tax season went very smoothly.

On the afternoon of April 29th, the office manager and partner came to see me where they once again complemented me for doing an excellent job with all the personal taxes, given that all the personal taxes were fully completed and now only a few had to be reviewed, they were going to reward me by giving me Saturday and Sunday off and they requested me to come to the office on Monday. So i went home happy, delighted and finally relieved that i will now be able to sleep comfortably and wake up at my own time for the next 2 days.

What was to follow was completely beyond my comprehension. On Sunday evening, i get an email from the firm in Mississauga where they thanked me for doing an excellent job for them during the Personal tax season where they appreciated my efforts and long hours that i had put in, but given the fact that they had no more suitable work for me given my level of experience and skills, they were officially notifying me that this is your official lay off notice and that your personal belongings and your final paycheque will be mailed to you. I was just absolutely stunned, shocked. I couldn't believe that i never saw this coming. I was fuming mad for a few days and had even consulted an employment lawyer to see if i could sue for unfair dismissal but she advised me to make peace and let me go because my offer letter had a 3 month notice period and they had the legal right to do what they did, she was like just see if you can get a reference out of them. So i went to meet the people at the firm and i just played it cool and thanked everyone for the wonderful working opportunity, one of the partners was kind enough to give me a reference

However now that personal tax season was over. It has been very hard to get too many interview calls. I must have given around 15 interviews from May 1st to August 10th but my overall impression is that the accounting field right now is very slow. In July one accounting firm in Vaughan owned by one partner requested me to come for a trial where he wanted to see if i could work with him, but it was yet another horrible experience, his computers were slow, he didn't have a receptionist, he had a huge deadline, he was trying to train me how to do payroll processing but lol he didn't even know how to do it himself, he was all over the place with his instructions and he was only going to offer me $20,000 in pay if he decided to take me on, but at the end of the 2nd day much to my relief he was like i don't think this will work out, i need someone with much more experience, i don't have the time to train someone up on all the things. Afterwards i told him about my struggles in my accounting career so far and he basically advised me that public accounting in Canada is brutal and if you are not liking how it is, then you need to get out now, it is not going to get any better, you are better off just going into industry into general accounting.

But based on my experience so far in pursuit of this CA, CPA designation. I have to admit that i was extremely dumb to not properly research as to what the reality of the accounting industry in Canada was. I completely fell for the marketing of CPA Ontario officials where they were like Entry level CPA students make $45,000 per annum, with one years of experience $55,000 per annum and with 3 years of experience with CPA, CA designation make $75,000 per annum and the fact that a Candidate with a CPA, CA designation can go into any industry and has a wide variety of options. This accounting field is extremely over saturated and it is just not what it made out to be. Another complaint against CPA Ontario officials and even University professors is that they explain everything to students from the Big 4 perspective, they do not prepare students at all for life outside the Big 4, the smaller accounting firms and industry positions.

I did not incur debts of $20,000 in University only to be told to either work for free or to work at $20,000-$24,000 that also with 2 years of accounting experience. Also my enjoyment of the field and profession has also declined especially since the last few unpleasant experiences i have had. In the small firms i have worked in, the partners don't really make an extraordinary amount of money and even if they do, it is not like they are living a very extraordinary healthy life style, they struggle to sleep at night and sometimes have to work till 12 am or even 1 am. Gradually i would have preferred to go into industry as well. But the problem is that just getting the CPA, CA designation doesn't really mean much, if it is not supplemented by high quality work experience, the designation alone will not really add value to your career. Also the longer you stay in small firms in Canada, it becomes much harder to get into the Big 4 accounting firms and it is also much harder to get into industry and industry positions often state that they prefer only Big 4 candidates.

Given that i have been unemployed since May 2016 to now and given i have seen the realities of the accounting profession, my passion and intensity to pursue the CA, CPA designation has waned as well. I do genuinely feel that i have wasted the last 4 years of my life when i could perhaps have done something else. I did meet up with my friend who advised me to do another MBA in 2011 and to be honest now that i have spent 4 years in accounting, only now do i understand his reasons for advising me not to go for the CA, CPA designation and to try and pursue an MBA from a recognized brand.

His suggestion to me was that i am still not that old at the age of 31. He was like you can help yourself by studying hard for the Gmat, aim for a 700 plus score and try to aim for the top 5-10 business schools in the US as this would help you to access and penetrate the US job market in a better way provided i network well over there and keep my grades up. I am now seriously thinking of phasing out of accounting and thinking about this option. I will try and utilize my accounting experience to try to secure a job in an accounting firm and to work for one more year but my goal is to get admission into the MBA programs of the top business schools in the US by the Fall of 2017. Given that i am now a Canadian, i should also be able to obtain a work permit to work in the US in the future.

Anyways this has been my experience in Canada so far. I look forward to hearing everyone's feedback
124 replies
Newbie
Aug 28, 2012
92 posts
20 upvotes
British Columbia
I really, really admire your initiative and ambition. I would feel very disappointed in your situation. With your drive, smarts, and qualifications I'm sure you'd succeed in accounting - you just unfortunately had some really bad speed bumps in your journey which are completely beyond your control. You don't seem to struggle in finding work which is also a positive sign! I still believe in the success stories, but it seems much harder to achieve compared to many years ago.

Everyday I feel regret for going into accounting. None of my friends ever imagined me in accounting and they continue to tell me to pursue something else. I am doing PEP and paying out of my own pocket for everything but it's hard to make ends meet when entry level jobs pay so little especially in Vancouver where wages are low and cost of living is high. I hate networking but I actually started attending some events and recruiters are literally telling me I should be volunteering to gain experience. That's nice but... how long can anybody last without having any source of income? Everybody tells me getting your CPA is worth it, and it's not like I'm not trying to obtain a designation but I seriously wonder how many years it will take to obtain it. I'm fairly far in a very long job application process at least, fingers crossed I get selected. Crap, typing this post makes me regret going into accounting even more :(
Member
User avatar
Feb 26, 2008
481 posts
47 upvotes
Old time CA here.

I must say that you really had a crazy ride here. Sorry to hear about your multiple layoffs. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the accounting field. Universities are pumping out hundreds of graduates every year and there are only so many positions that accounting firms can absorb. This created a very cut throat environment where employers have a lot of power in deciding who they want to keep.

The wages in the CPA advertising are true though. But the fact is that not everyone will get there. At this point your best bet is try to finish the designation if you can u already sunk so much time into it. Contrary to what you are feeling right now, carrying a CA designation still have some weight. But I agree that if that's all you have, it won't get you very far. At your age I would stay away from Big 4. When they are looking for students they very much prefer new grads, regardless of what they will say during the recruiting session. Mid size and small are your best bet.

Good luck with your job hunt. The hiring season is on the way and maybe u can go out to more event and meet some new ppl.
[OP]
Member
Aug 12, 2016
261 posts
65 upvotes
q0192837465 wrote: Old time CA here.

I must say that you really had a crazy ride here. Sorry to hear about your multiple layoffs. Unfortunately, this is the reality of the accounting field. Universities are pumping out hundreds of graduates every year and there are only so many positions that accounting firms can absorb. This created a very cut throat environment where employers have a lot of power in deciding who they want to keep.

The wages in the CPA advertising are true though. But the fact is that not everyone will get there. At this point your best bet is try to finish the designation if you can u already sunk so much time into it. Contrary to what you are feeling right now, carrying a CA designation still have some weight. But I agree that if that's all you have, it won't get you very far. At your age I would stay away from Big 4. When they are looking for students they very much prefer new grads, regardless of what they will say during the recruiting session. Mid size and small are your best bet.

Good luck with your job hunt. The hiring season is on the way and maybe u can go out to more event and meet some new ppl.
I haven't given any exams tho. Frankly speaking the motivation to even study for the exams is just not there given the level of insecurity in this field. What i have realized that most small and some mid sized Accounting firms only value quality work experience and whether you can do the job efficiently or not. I have met and heard of many students who cleared all the CPA exams but because they didn't have any accounting experience they were unable to get the designation and as a result all their time, money and efforts were wasted and they had no choice but to move on to other fields to get on with their lives. Before the merger, students had the option to go for the CGA or CMA but that is not an option anymore. Also many CPA's tell me and even complain that even just getting the designation with high quality work experience does not really add much value to their career in the long run.

Bottom line Experience is the King especially Quality Work Experience especially Big 4.

I dont really personally have a desire to be in Public Accounting for very long. I would have eventually gone into Industry. But then again to work in Industry, there are many other routes. I think getting an MBA from the top 5-10 Business Schools in the US will add more value than obtaining a CPA, CA designation with just industry experience, small firm experience in Canada.
Deal Fanatic
User avatar
Sep 23, 2009
5396 posts
2779 upvotes
I would agree that at 30, Big 4 will not hire you for anything decent. I have worked a complete decent gigs there, but they don't need to consider you. Because I worked 60+ hour weeks, the pay per week wasn't that bad (they did pay for all hours). But, even after doing the job well, it never went further. Also, 60+ hours are not the best and arguably unhealthy.

I have posted the numbers for Toronto area Accounting College grads before, after you take out those that pursued further education, only 70% are employed after a year while perhaps only 30-40% have found something related to Accounting.

Yes, I do know that a University Degree and College Diploma have different paths, but I think beyond getting into the Big 4, you are pretty much competing for the same jobs upon graduation (hopefully after a couple of years, you will be further along).

Add in to the fact that a number of University students are already employed in a relevant position while studying and you should be able to understand why University Graduates appear to have higher employment rates.
[OP]
Member
Aug 12, 2016
261 posts
65 upvotes
renoldman wrote: I would agree that at 30, Big 4 will not hire you for anything decent. I have worked a complete decent gigs there, but they don't need to consider you. Because I worked 60+ hour weeks, the pay per week wasn't that bad (they did pay for all hours). But, even after doing the job well, it never went further. Also, 60+ hours are not the best and arguably unhealthy.

I have posted the numbers for Toronto area Accounting College grads before, after you take out those that pursued further education, only 70% are employed after a year while perhaps only 30-40% have found something related to Accounting.

Yes, I do know that a University Degree and College Diploma have different paths, but I think beyond getting into the Big 4, you are pretty much competing for the same jobs upon graduation (hopefully after a couple of years, you will be further along).

Add in to the fact that a number of University students are already employed in a relevant position while studying and you should be able to understand why University Graduates appear to have higher employment rates.
I think in order to do well in Accounting, you have to have real passion, zeal, interest, most importantly the ability to multi-task and deal with time pressures, multiple deadlines. I had originally backed myself to do well in this field, maybe i was a bit naive but i felt any firm i would join would be willing to properly train me up before throwing me at the deep end but based on my experiences the smaller firms out there sadly are just not interested in training at all, they want people to come in with experience. If that is the reality of the profession then i need to get out of it and just work in Industry and you don't really need a designation to work in a Company.

I am now seriously aiming for an Ivy League MBA in the US and eying penetrating the US market and then aiming to work in the Middle East some 10 years down the line.
Deal Addict
Oct 16, 2013
2395 posts
749 upvotes
New Brunswick
Know how OP feels and You are not alone. In the same boat as you but did the CMA and have passion for the field. I did do the volunteering and Co-Ops, it seems that employers don't count it.

You should do the exams to get the designation and you can work in the States with a TN visa while you do a MBA btw Canadian MBA are used for networking.

Starting to regret to...
Sr. Member
May 24, 2007
545 posts
204 upvotes
OP, sorry to hear that your experience in public accounting is so shitty.... I have to say tho that your experience is definitely out of the norm. Here in BC i have heard some horror stories but none as bad as yours. Although i hated the three years I spent articling... I liked my coworkers well enough that I kept in touch with them.

It would be such a waste for you to abandon your experience and not continue with the designation; i'd imagine you only require another year or so of solid experience + assurance hours. Instead of going for more schooling... perhaps you should market your other skills/education that you have picked up prior to coming to Canada and apply for industry jobs? Forget about those entry level clerk jobs and go for financial analyst roles. These roles vary depend on the company but there should be less pressured to finish files within time budget and less client facing.

IMHO, the skills required to be successful in public acctg is quite different from other jobs such as engineering or something. The technical/acctg/tax skills are all secondary to your ability to manage your time and your clients well. Ie. knowing the deadlines and have the initiative to remind clients to provide the relevant info months ahead of time... Time budgets are all bullshit and everyone works more than the time budget.... you just need to cook up your timesheet so that it looks reasonable... I am sorry that your seniors never told you this...

Good luck and acquire skills that are in demand... At this time and age, there is no stable job/golden ticket (definitely not the CPA) ... gotta keep learning and applying in order to stay afloat.
Deal Addict
Feb 7, 2006
2354 posts
1086 upvotes
Savak2015 wrote:

I think in order to do well in Accounting, you have to have real passion, zeal, interest, most importantly the ability to multi-task and deal with time pressures, multiple deadlines. I had originally backed myself to do well in this field, maybe i was a bit naive but i felt any firm i would join would be willing to properly train me up before throwing me at the deep end but based on my experiences the smaller firms out there sadly are just not interested in training at all, they want people to come in with experience. If that is the reality of the profession then i need to get out of it and just work in Industry and you don't really need a designation to work in a Company.

I am now seriously aiming for an Ivy League MBA in the US and eying penetrating the US market and then aiming to work in the Middle East some 10 years down the line.
As a CPA myself, I must ask if you couldn't cut it at a large accounting firm, what makes you think that you will suddenly find success with an MBA? Most highly paid professional jobs require people who are technically proficient, can multi-task and meet tight deadlines while managing a whole host of personalities across the corporate hierarchy. An MBA is not going to teach you any of that.

Just reading your original post, to be frank, it looks like you're someone who has been coddled most of your life and now the realities of the workforce are hitting you (i.e. rich dad, didn't really hustle earlier in your career, thrived only a workplace where there was tons of hand holding, etc.). Feel free to obtain your MBA, but I have the feeling the issues you're having now will not be fixed with that degree.
[OP]
Member
Aug 12, 2016
261 posts
65 upvotes
winner2000 wrote:
Savak2015 wrote:

I think in order to do well in Accounting, you have to have real passion, zeal, interest, most importantly the ability to multi-task and deal with time pressures, multiple deadlines. I had originally backed myself to do well in this field, maybe i was a bit naive but i felt any firm i would join would be willing to properly train me up before throwing me at the deep end but based on my experiences the smaller firms out there sadly are just not interested in training at all, they want people to come in with experience. If that is the reality of the profession then i need to get out of it and just work in Industry and you don't really need a designation to work in a Company.

I am now seriously aiming for an Ivy League MBA in the US and eying penetrating the US market and then aiming to work in the Middle East some 10 years down the line.
As a CPA myself, I must ask if you couldn't cut it at a large accounting firm, what makes you think that you will suddenly find success with an MBA? Most highly paid professional jobs require people who are technically proficient, can multi-task and meet tight deadlines while managing a whole host of personalities across the corporate hierarchy. An MBA is not going to teach you any of that.

Just reading your original post, to be frank, it looks like you're someone who has been coddled most of your life and now the realities of the workforce are hitting you (i.e. rich dad, didn't really hustle earlier in your career, thrived only a workplace where there was tons of hand holding, etc.). Feel free to obtain your MBA, but I have the feeling the issues you're having now will not be fixed with that degree.
Hi. I appreciate the feedback and am open to my short comings. The main aim behind trying to do an MBA in the US from a top Ivy League school is to allow myself the best opportunity to penetrate the US markets as my family is planning to move and settle there in the next 1-2 years.
Jr. Member
Nov 4, 2011
185 posts
6 upvotes
Toronto
Why are you stuck on CPA, CA and yes MBA is not the solution and will get you more in debt. As mentioned above, at your age getting into Big 4 is very tough. I think you need to first figure out what you like doing and what you can see yourself doing for the next 30 years. Do you like the accounting firm environment? If you get CA out of the equation why not try applying for places such a manufacturing industry, services even banks? If you just apply with small accounting firms you are more or less dependent upon lesser pay and longer hours.
Deal Addict
User avatar
Oct 14, 2001
1726 posts
553 upvotes
GMA
One advice, stop listening to your family. They're not you and will not be the ones living with the consequences of your decisions. You're 27 so start acting like an adult and make your own decisions based on what YOU want.

And instead of focusing on letters (CPA, MBA, etc.), focus on what you want to do and where you want to go.
Deal Addict
Dec 10, 2012
3811 posts
1452 upvotes
Canada
so how come you haven't finished any of the PEP courses yet?
Jr. Member
Jul 21, 2016
171 posts
8 upvotes
Hi there Savak,

I am tremendously impressed by your tenacity and drive. Having had to go through all that unneccessary torture, I really have to commend you.

That "bitch" really had no right to verbally abuse you, this is not acceptable, and I am surprised she was not held accountable for her actions.

However, I believe, If you keep plugging along you will eventually become a CPA.... With every firm you work at you will gain some experience.

People say "market is saturated with Accounting grads blah blah blah".... My friends all got hired at firms and corporations....... so if there is a will there is a way.
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Sep 23, 2007
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hello. I actually read through most of your post. I am pretty impressed by your perseverance. It's a very refreshing change from reading about how people externalize all their problems and never take responsibility for their future. But it sucks you put so much effort just to get nowhere. I personally had mostly good experiences on my career path and moved up fairly quickly. Got my designation in no time. Didn't go through that overhyped path of working in an accounting firm. I am glad I didn't get into an accounting firm in hindsight. Crazy work hours.

You already endured a lot. I'm sure you can find the strength to keep going. It's never too late to start over but I'm not sure if you really need to. Experience is king and you already have a lot under your belt. You'd be a quitter if you quit now and change career path.

I have a CPA and let me tell you, even with the letters, you are not guaranteed a good job. All a CPA tells an employer is that you are smart enough to pass some standardized test and that you have at least some experience under your belt. Lots of CPAs make just $60k in intermediate roles. What moves you up is always your ability and your EQ. Lots of CPA have the IQ to do the tests, and move up enough to earn experience to get designated. But when it comes to managing people or dealing with clients, some people are just totally inept. So don't be too hung up on the designation. Always see the bigger picture: A job is where someone pays you to do some tasks. Hiring decisions are made by humans. the more connections and abilities you have, the better your chances. Put a positive spin on the negative experiences you had and take them as life lessons. Personally in hindsight, I am glad certain bad things happened in life early. Some lessons and pains are best absorbed early in life.
Newbie
Jul 18, 2016
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badsha wrote: so how come you haven't finished any of the PEP courses yet?
That is a good question. When i first moved to Alberta from Ontario, It took CPA Ontario 5 months to transfer my files to CPA Western School of Business. Once that was done, then it took CPA Western School of Business 2 months to assess me as a student after which i was elligible to register as a student. When i was elligible to register as a student finally, i was dealing with a lot of deadlines and was working late hours, i wanted to perform and focus on the exams a little bit later.

Even now when i came back to Ontario recently, it is the same crap again where it took CPA Western School of Business, 6 months to transfer my file to CPA Ontario. Being laid off didn't help matters for me either. I have met a lot of accounting students who have cleared all or most of the CPA PEP exams, even the CFE but are still unable to find jobs. Some have even gone into a completely unrelated field to make ends meet.

Given the level of instability in the accounting field and my own personal circumstances. I am having a rethink as to whether this is really what i want to do and whether will it be really appropriate for me in the long run.
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Jul 18, 2016
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BananaHunter wrote: hello. I actually read through most of your post. I am pretty impressed by your perseverance. It's a very refreshing change from reading about how people externalize all their problems and never take responsibility for their future. But it sucks you put so much effort just to get nowhere. I personally had mostly good experiences on my career path and moved up fairly quickly. Got my designation in no time. Didn't go through that overhyped path of working in an accounting firm. I am glad I didn't get into an accounting firm in hindsight. Crazy work hours.

You already endured a lot. I'm sure you can find the strength to keep going. It's never too late to start over but I'm not sure if you really need to. Experience is king and you already have a lot under your belt. You'd be a quitter if you quit now and change career path.

I have a CPA and let me tell you, even with the letters, you are not guaranteed a good job. All a CPA tells an employer is that you are smart enough to pass some standardized test and that you have at least some experience under your belt. Lots of CPAs make just $60k in intermediate roles. What moves you up is always your ability and your EQ. Lots of CPA have the IQ to do the tests, and move up enough to earn experience to get designated. But when it comes to managing people or dealing with clients, some people are just totally inept. So don't be too hung up on the designation. Always see the bigger picture: A job is where someone pays you to do some tasks. Hiring decisions are made by humans. the more connections and abilities you have, the better your chances. Put a positive spin on the negative experiences you had and take them as life lessons. Personally in hindsight, I am glad certain bad things happened in life early. Some lessons and pains are best absorbed early in life.
That's the thing with the CPA designation. The way CPA Ontario promotes the designation and the reality of CPA graduates that you see outside the Big 4 is totally different. It is not really an earth shattering designation as such and doesn't really guarantee a good job as such. What upsets me is i have spent 4 years trying to pursue this. Plus i don't really an earth shattering desire to work in an accounting firm forever, i will be very happy just working in Industry.

I would love to experience the once in a life time journey of an Ivy League MBA. Also since my mom, dad, sister are all green card holders and are planning to permanently move to the US in the next 1-2 years, my elder brother and his wife are already US Citizens, i realistically see myself moving to the US as well in the long run. I have tried to apply to US jobs from Canada but everytime i get asked the question "Are you legally authorized to work in the US?", i know inspite of being a Canadian Citizen who can work in the US on an H1B Visa or TN Visa, i cannot answer yes to that question. Also i know my work experience right now and qualifications are too elementary for a US employer to consider hiring me from Canada over a US employee. If the long term goal is to better penetrate the US market and to get the best networking possibility, the best chance to work for the best companies in the US, then an IVY league MBA certainly provides that prospect.
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I would love to experience the once in a life time journey of an Ivy League MBA. Also since my mom, dad, sister are all green card holders and are planning to permanently move to the US in the next 1-2 years, my elder brother and his wife are already US Citizens, i realistically see myself moving to the US as well in the long run. I have tried to apply to US jobs from Canada but everytime i get asked the question "Are you legally authorized to work in the US?", i know inspite of being a Canadian Citizen who can work in the US on an H1B Visa or TN Visa, i cannot answer yes to that question. Also i know my work experience right now and qualifications are too elementary for a US employer to consider hiring me from Canada over a US employee. If the long term goal is to better penetrate the US market and to get the best networking possibility, the best chance to work for the best companies in the US, then an IVY league MBA certainly provides that prospect.
Be careful mentioning the value of an MBA from a U.S. school. There are many UWO & Schulich alumni here who harbour jealousy towards U.S. schools.

Also, "Ivy" isn't all capitalized. Not sure why you're doing that, as it isn't an abbreviation. But if you're applying, I suggest you not capitalize it on your required personal statement.

If you want to apply to an MBA school in the U.S., especially an Ivy League, you should probably work on getting an impressive job now. I'm assuming since you believe you're elite MBA material, you have a degree with good grades from another elite school (meaning another Ivy League school, stanford, caltech, or at least something like Berkeley, UMich or UCLA). But you say you went to school internationally? So it should be something like Tsinghua, Seoul National University, or India Institute of Technology.

A great GPA out of a good school, and excellent test scores are really only a prereq to getting into these programs though. A lot of students are just really humble and don't tell you that they were former NCAA athletes, former Marine Officers, or Engineers at elite companies. The MBA/Law/Grad students here hate admitting it, but there are far less nerdy students in the U.S. programs. You're going to need a lot more than just GMAT scores. Think, instead of "I aced the math portion of the GMAT" students, and far more "I had excellent grades, nailed the GMAT, was an athlete at Havard then I joined the military and saved a couple lives in Afghanistan as a medic" in elite U.S. grad programs.

Getting in to those programs starts 2-3 years before you actually apply.
Last edited by Corner3 on Aug 15th, 2016 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."
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Feb 27, 2012
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OP, just some honest word of advice. Your chance at an Ivy MBA is low regardless of your GMAT score. Candidates with 3+ years of Fortune 500 work experience + designation(s) + Ivy league undergrad degree is the norm among the top MBA applicants. Having a 700+ GMAT means you meet just 1 of the many criteria of a competitive candidate; your Canadian work experience as described will add nothing to your appeal, and might end up LOWERING your odd of getting in. Top biz school admission can smell desperation like sharks smelling blood in water, and any slight indications of "I wish to get an MBA so I can exit chronic under-employment" will get your app into the recycling bin. But please don't let this discourage you from applying, I am merely give you the facts based on the available info, you could've been some amazing concert pianist or taekwondo champion or have some other equally impressive achievements that could bolster your applications, it's up to you to highlight those on your application.

My advice: DO move to the states, find employment in a reputable company, doesn't have to be some fancy senior strategic consultant or whatever position, give yourself a couple hours a day for GMAT/application prep, and try applying in 1-2 years. If you don't get into top 5-10 Ivy League, settle for anything in the US top 100.

Another route to consider: stay in Canada, get back into the banking sector and complete your CFA II and III. Start at retail banking if you have to, work your way up to something like your previous job as relationship manager. At that point you can should be able to find a position that will allow you to fulfill the CFA experience requirement.

However, whatever you decide to end up doing, please, please please DO NOT consider any Canadian MBA as an alternative in the short term. Getting a MBA from any Canadian Univ with your current work history means you are essentially gambling with your tuition money, the chance of you getting absolutely nothing out of it is about equal or greater than the chance of you getting a boost in career/income post MBA.
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chuchurocket wrote: OP, just some honest word of advice. Your chance at an Ivy MBA is low regardless of your GMAT score. Candidates with 3+ years of Fortune 500 work experience + designation(s) + Ivy league undergrad degree is the norm among the top MBA applicants. Having a 700+ GMAT means you meet just 1 of the many criteria of a competitive candidate; your Canadian work experience as described will add nothing to your appeal, and might end up LOWERING your odd of getting in. Top biz school admission can smell desperation like sharks smelling blood in water, and any slight indications of "I wish to get an MBA so I can exit chronic under-employment" will get your app into the recycling bin. But please don't let this discourage you from applying, I am merely give you the facts based on the available info, you could've been some amazing concert pianist or taekwondo champion or have some other equally impressive achievements that could bolster your applications, it's up to you to highlight those on your application.

My advice: DO move to the states, find employment in a reputable company, doesn't have to be some fancy senior strategic consultant or whatever position, give yourself a couple hours a day for GMAT/application prep, and try applying in 1-2 years. If you don't get into top 5-10 Ivy League, settle for anything in the US top 100.

Another route to consider: stay in Canada, get back into the banking sector and complete your CFA II and III. Start at retail banking if you have to, work your way up to something like your previous job as relationship manager. At that point you can should be able to find a position that will allow you to fulfill the CFA experience requirement.

However, whatever you decide to end up doing, please, please please DO NOT consider any Canadian MBA as an alternative in the short term. Getting a MBA from any Canadian Univ with your current work history means you are essentially gambling with your tuition money, the chance of you getting absolutely nothing out of it is about equal or greater than the chance of you getting a boost in career/income post MBA.
Excellent post. Though we'll both probably be attacked by the UWO and Schulich and Rottman alumni here for the honesty. But everyone else will appreciate the honest advice.

A few things to clarify for the OP though, there aren't "5-10" top ivy league schools, there are only 8 ivy league schools. Also, it is true you'll be better off at any Top 100 US school. Really, any major school in a metropolitan area will do the job better than a Canadian MBA program. Not sure if these are even top 100, but schools like UC-Irvine, UCSD, University of Houston, A&M, SUNY, San Jose State would be good for MBA programs. They're near big cities, they attract a affluent students, have rich alumni bases, companies are always there.

On top of chuchurocket's suggestions, I would also suggest volunteering as a route. Like we both mentioned, you're going to have a tough time getting into an elite program if you haven't done something amazing (tae kwon do champ, concert pianist, college sports, getting into sundance). They aren't about going after dudes with a lot of time on their hand with perfect test scores who have spend their lives in school so they attract a bunch of other paper chasers to fill seats at York. What have you done that is distinct or signifigant? U.S. schools are all about brands. Do they want to attach their school name to you? If they send you to Microsoft, Google, Exxon, AT&T, Nike, Under Armour, Bank of America, will that make those companies come back to hire more? Will you rise up there?

A lot of Ivy Leaguers I know spent a lot of time volunteering. When they say "I want to help kids with HIVs in Africa", they're not speaking hypothetically or in the future. They've done it, have proof of their volunteering stint, and would probably do it again. Those are the types of students those schools attach their name to.
I'm At The W, But I Can't Meet You In The Lobby, Girl I Gotta Watch My Back, Cuz I'm Not Just Anybody, I Seen Em' Stand In Line, Just To Get Beside Her, That's When We Disappear, You Need GPS To Find Her, Oh That Was Your Girl? I Thought I Recognized Her."

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