Which Accounting Certification Is Right For You?


Pursuing your certifications is one way you can advance in your accounting career as a recent grad.

Because each certification qualifies you for different things, the challenge is figuring out which certification is relevant to your career path. In many cases, having one of these certifications is not only necessary, it can also open many doors for you. This guide explains two Canadian accounting certifications, how they differ, and when you should consider pursuing each one.


“CPA” stands for “Chartered Professional Accountant” – and is the most commonly required accounting certification. Nearly every accounting-related career requires you to have your CPA, so it is a must to include in your portfolio. When you pursue your CPA, you will learn skills in financial accounting, reporting, and auditing that will benefit you greatly when you enter the workforce. If you’re looking for a career as a public accountant or auditor, this is the certification you should be pursuing.

Almost everyone is eligible to obtain their CPA. If you have an undergraduate degree in accounting, you can apply for the CPA Professional Education Program (PEP) directly to begin your CPA certification training. However, if your degree is unrelated to accounting but you still wish to pursue your CPA, you can apply for the CPA Prerequisite Education Program (PREP) to get the basic coverage you need to successfully pass your CPA examinations. Even those without undergraduate degrees can work towards their CPA if they have at least eight years of relevant experience in a CPA related field such as auditing or financial reporting.


“CMA” stands for “Certified Management Accountant”. This certification is similar to the CPA, except it incorporates management principles into your training to compliment your basic financial accounting skills. Essentially, when you pursue your CMA, you’ll be focusing on how to account from an internal perspective as opposed to just producing public documents. This certification is best for someone looking for a career in management accounting, financial analysis, or business management. Many people who hold their CPA also pursue a CMA as they feel this designation is relevant to many accounting careers.

To hold your CMA, you must meet a few simple requirements. Firstly, you must join and maintain a membership with the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Secondly, in order to qualify for taking the exam, you must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university as well as two years of professional work experience related to financial management or management accounting. If you meet these educational and professional requirements, you can enter the CMA Program. In order to obtain your CMA, you must successfully complete both parts of the exam. One major benefit of pursuing your CMA is that you can go at your own pace – the CMA designation can take anywhere from 12 months to 3 years to complete based on your preference. Lastly, you must respect the guidelines listed in the IMA Statement of Ethical Professional Practice to maintain your CMA certification.

Curious about other accounting career paths? Check out our Accounting Career Guide!