Posts tagged ‘Careers’

March 1, 2011

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.

February 16, 2011

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door” – 8 strategies to develop accounting experience

by Scott Roehl

The  Milton Berle quote I reference in the title has been on my mind of late. Increasingly, my conversations with students in university and college includes that all important question “How can I get accounting experience?” To be sure, this can be a challenge for anyone trying to obtain related experience in their chosen field of interest. Companies are reluctant to hire and trust individuals that lack experience. Yet how exactly do you get that experience when no one will hire you without experience?

Sometimes you must build a door.

Here is a list of 8 strategies to assist students in the search for accounting experience. By no means is this an exhaustive list and I welcome your thoughts/suggestions in the comments section. I would also like to acknowledge a couple of organizations (credit below) who contributed valuable feedback through CMA Manitoba’s Twitter Account.


  • On Campus Career Resource Centres – You know that office you have been meaning to visit and haven’t yet? Perhaps now is the time. These centres exist to support students in providing information on career options, locating employment, reviewing resumes and more.

  • Co-Op Programs – These types of programs have grown to become an important source for developing paid entry level experience as well as exposing students to a variety of businesses and industries. Best of all, it could lead in to a permanent position with a business you had a co-op term with after graduation.

  • Volunteering – Countless non-profits and associations can use your help! Look for opportunities to be a treasurer or to do bookkeeping. Don’t overlook this strategy as it can be an important part of developing experience and creating contacts in the community. (Thanks to CMA BC for this tip)

  • Join Student Groups – Is there an accounting or business student group on campus? Student groups exist to connect a community of interested students around a particular topic or focus. Active groups will host regular events and meetings to expose their members to trends and opportunities in the industry.

  • Designated Accounting Bodies Support – Whether you are considering a CMA, CGA or CA, make the effort to connect with each one to learn more about your options.  Find out what supports they offer to students looking to obtain accounting experience.

  • Use Technology – We live in a hyper-connected world – use this to your advantage! Whether it is registering with on-line job banks or using social media to join the conversation and make connections (don’t forget to forge those connections with real human interaction), learn how to leverage technology in your search for accounting experience. (CFO2Grow has some good advice in a recent blog post)

  • Apply Anyways – Even if you don’t feel you quite meet the qualifications for a listed accounting job, consider applying anyways. Be honest and highlight your willingness to learn on your resume. While you may not get that particular job, the company may take a chance on you in an entry level role.

  • Expand your learning – Stay up to date on trends in the world of accounting, continue to develop your knowledge of accounting principles through your course work and learn the software packages that are commonly used in business. Taking initiative to learn “beyond the textbook” can make you more appealing to employers.

Lastly, don’t discount any work experience you have previously developed (ie. working in restaurants, retail, etc.). The soft skills such as teamwork and communication are essential skills to carry with you in accounting and in your career.