Prior to 2015, there were three accounting designations in Canada:

Chartered Accountants (“CA”)
Certified Management Accountant (“CMA”)
Certified General Accountant (“CGA”)

All three had a different focus. Only us accountants actually knew the difference. In response to the confusion this fractured state created for the public, the accounting associations decided to merge and all designated accountants became part of one new association, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada.

So a CPA may be someone who has completed the new CPA program or they may be an accountant who held one of the legacy designations. This is typically communicated by using both the CPA designation and the legacy designation after the name. I my case, David Lord, CPA, CMA highlights that I was a Certified Management Accountant originally.

CPA’s have all completed a rigorous professional training program that takes about two years and includes both coursework as well as a practical work experience similar to an apprenticeship. In industry circles its called articling.  In most cases, people work full-time in an accounting role and they complete their studies and assignments in the evenings and on weekends over two years. It is very intense. The outcome however is that a CPA has a lot of very specific expertise that is used to assist businesses and individuals with their accounting and tax needs.

CPA’s are required to do 40 hours a year of professional development in order to keep our skills sharp. In addition, we have to commit to following a strict ethical code of conduct. Every year we have to renew the designation and this process ensures that both the quality of expertise and the strength of character among CPA’s remains exceptionally high.

I completed my CMA in 2009. At the time, the program consisted of four modules. Each module consisted of a weekly assignment that had to be submitted to our course moderator for grading. A failing mark meant you had to redo the assignment alongside your next one. You couldn’t complete the program without successfully passing each assignment to demonstrate you had mastered the material. The modules were roughly six months long, so 4 modules over two years. At the end of every module there was a two day in class session. I was fortunate to have had a great cohort so our in-class sessions were always very interactive and engaging.

The final module involved a large group project where, as a team, you had to complete a business plan for a hypothetical business.The plan involved analyzing multiple opportunities in front of the business and using real world research along with our accounting knowledge and the facts presented in the case arrive at a recommendation. The final output was a written proposal and a presentation to a mock board of directors. It was simultaneously an exceptionally difficult and exceptionally rewarding  assignment.

I learned a lot of valuable technical skills through the CMA program that were relevant for businesses and business owners. And I’ve since combined those skills with new ones by completing the Certified Financial Planning designation. With both designations, Red Seal Financial Ltd. is now able to offer a very comprehensive financial planning service to our clients.

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