5 questions to ask when considering an accounting designation.

by Scott Roehl

When it comes to accounting designations in Canada, there are three very prominent and respected options to choose from – CMA, CA and CGA. Regardless of your choice, it is abundantly important that you ask the right questions to make an informed decision. After all, an accounting designation will change your life both professionally and personally.

Here are some important questions to consider:

  • What differentiates one designation from another?
    One of if not the most asked question, and also one of the most difficult to answer. Your best answer to this question is to speak with each accounting body directly and learn more about the type of training they provide and the work their Members are involved in. Having the opportunity to speak with a CMA, CA or CGA can also be helpful in gaining a better perspective on the distinctions.
  • What is the program length?
    How fast can I complete a <insert designation here>? Sound familiar? This is a common question for students to ask. After all, a student has likely spent 2, 3, 4 or more years in post-secondary studies and doesn’t want to become a professional student. Perhaps the better question to ask though is how long is the program? Regardless of what path you choose, there will be a time investment required and a lot of hard work. Consider the upside though of what doors will open for you once you attain a designation. Make sure you really understand how long it is going to take you to get through the process.
  • What is the common designation in my area of interest?
    Considering a career in the agricultural or telecommunication industry? How about government? Find out what which designation (or designations) are commonly held by people in that industry and why. Perhaps there are some key factors to consider that will assist you with your decision.
  • What is the earning potential?
    You are willing to make the commitment, why not find out what your job prospects are and the current salary averages? Each accounting body can provide specific information on salary averages but make sure you get context on the numbers provided (are the averages broken down by years of experience or type of position for example). External organizations such as recruiters can also provide useful information. One example is the Robert Half Financial Salary Calculator.
  • What are the associated costs?
    Take time to understand what type of financial investment is required. This would include program costs, reference materials and support resources, exams and student fees. Do you have to pay all up front or is there a fee schedule? Is there financial support available or will companies support the cost of these programs? These are all really good questions to ask.

Students, are there other questions that you commonly ask? Let me know in the comments section.

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