In today’s business world, accountants are not just the custodians of financial data but also trusted advisors whose knowledge and expertise inform business decisions across departments and industries. Qualified accountants are in demand in Canada, and there’s no shortage of opportunities in accounting, taxation, auditing, and financial management.
Whether you recently completed your undergraduate studies in accounting or have been a practicing member of the professional accounting body in your country, immigrating to Canada can introduce you to a wide range of opportunities. In this article, we explore immigration programs you can leverage to move to Canada as an accountant, the CPA certification process, and in-demand accounting jobs in Canada.
In this article:
- Reasons for moving to Canada as an accountant
- Immigration programs for internationally-qualified accountants
- Do you have to be a CPA to work as an accountant in Canada?
- How to become a CPA as an internationally-trained accountant
- In-demand jobs for accountants in Canada
- How much money do accountants make in Canada?
- How to find accounting jobs in Canada as a newcomer
- Should you move to Canada as an internationally-qualified accountant?
As an internationally-educated accountant, settling in Canada can be an attractive opportunity for various reasons. Some of these include:
Accountants earn higher salaries in Canada
Although accounting salaries vary based on province and level of seniority, auditing and accounting jobs in Canada generally pay well. The median income for financial accountants in Canada is around $35.75 per hour, but experienced accounting professionals, especially Chartered Professional Accountants (CPAs), can earn over $60 per hour.
Accounting is an in-demand job in many provinces
Accounting jobs are in demand in several Canadian provinces, including Manitoba, Quebec, Saskatchewan, and Nova Scotia. According to the Government’s Job Bank, job prospects for financial auditors and accountants in Canada will remain strong until 2028, with demand outweighing availability of skilled accountants.
Canada welcomes newcomers with in-demand skills and qualifications to apply for permanent residence (PR). There are several PR programs you can choose from to move to Canada as an accountant.
|Tip: When creating your immigration application, choose your National Occupation Classification (NOC) code carefully. Your work experience will typically only qualify under NOC 1111 (Financial accountants and auditors) if you are registered as a CPA or Chartered Accountant with your regional professional accounting body. Other accounting experience may be classified under NOC 1311 (Accounting technicians and bookkeepers), NOC 1431 (Accounting and related clerks), or NOC 0111 (Financial managers).|
Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program
Internationally qualified skilled workers can apply to immigrate to Canada as permanent residents through the Express Entry Federal Skilled Worker (FSW) program. Under the FSW program, applicants are ranked and selected based on their profile’s Comprehensive Ranking Score (CRS) rather than their profession.
Your CRS score accounts for factors such as age, education, work experience, language proficiency, and more. You get additional points if you have a Canadian job offer, a provincial nomination (see below section on PNP), or Canadian work experience or educational credentials.
Provincial Nominee Programs allow various Canadian provinces and territories to nominate PR applicants with the skills, experience, and qualifications needed to bridge labour shortages. Except for Quebec and Nunavut, all provinces and territories have their own PNP programs.
Selection under Express Entry PNP streams is based on CRS scores, but other PNP streams allow provinces to nominate skilled workers in specific in-demand professions or National Occupation Classification (NOC) codes. You may have a better chance of receiving a provincial nomination from a province looking for qualified financial auditors, accountants, or bookkeepers. See the section on in-demand accounting jobs below for more information on relevant NOC codes for your profession.
Here are some PNP streams and draws to keep track of as you prepare to immigrate to Canada as an accountant.
|Province||PNP streams for accountants|
|Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Prince Edward Island|
Quebec Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP)
The province of Quebec, through its Regular Skilled Worker Program (RSWP), invites applicants with the skills, training, experience, and language skills to work and settle in the province.
Applicants in all occupations can submit an Expression of Interest (EOI) under the RSWP. Selection under this program is based on factors such as age, language proficiency in French and English, years of experience, education, and more. If selected, you receive a Quebec Selection Certificate (also known as a Certificat de sélection du Québec or CSQ) and can apply for PR with the IRCC.
Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP)
The Atlantic Immigration Program (AIP) is a federal program that allows skilled foreign workers (and international students who studied in Canada) to settle permanently in one of Canada’s Atlantic provinces: Nova Scotia, New Brunswick (NB), Prince Edward Island (PEI), or Newfoundland and Labrador (NL).
Selection under the AIP is not based on occupation. You may qualify for the program if you have at least one year of full-time paid work experience (1,560 hours) in the last five years, meet language requirements, and have a full-time job offer from an Atlantic Canada employer.
|Note: This list is not exhaustive. Depending on your situation, you may qualify for other immigration programs. Download our guide on immigrating to Canada for more information.|
In Canada, the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation is the leading professional qualification for accountants. A CPA designation can be your gateway to executive and advisory roles in accounting, finance, and business. However, you don’t necessarily require a CPA designation to work as an accountant in Canada.
Many entry-level and mid-level positions (NOC 1311), such as staff accountant, accounting technician, accounts receivable clerk, and bookkeeper, don’t require a CPA designation. Many Canadian employers hire applicants with a bachelor’s degree in accounting (BCom Accounting) or business administration (BBA) or a master’s in business administration (MBA). If you completed your education outside Canada, you’ll require an Educational Credentials Assessment (ECA) to verify that your foreign credentials are valid and equivalent to a Canadian one.
For senior-level positions in accounting and finance, as well as jobs in auditing (NOC 1111, 0111), most companies prefer to hire CPAs. Some employers may hire qualified individuals who are working towards their CPA designation for mid-level positions so they can learn and grow within the organization.
So while a CPA designation isn’t a requirement for accountants, it can help fast-track your career and open the door to senior and executive-level roles, such as chief financial officer, treasurer, auditing manager, comptroller, and more.
As an internationally educated accountant, the process of becoming a CPA will vary depending on your current qualifications and certifications. For instance, if you have a relevant undergraduate or graduate degree but aren’t a member of an international accounting body, you’ll need to start the CPA certification process in Canada from scratch. However, if you already have a Chartered Accountant (CA) or Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) designation in another country, you may be able to qualify for a Canadian CPA designation sooner under a reciprocal agreement or memorandum of understanding (MOU).
Getting a Canadian CPA designation without an international CA or CPA credential from a non-partner country
If you completed a bachelor’s or master’s degree outside Canada that’s equivalent to a Canadian university degree but are not a member of a professional accounting body or are a member of an accounting body that doesn’t have an MOU or agreement with CPA Canada, you must begin your CPA certification process in Canada from scratch. You will need to complete the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP), pass the Common Final Examination, and gain practical experience in order to obtain the CPA certification. Here’s a broad overview of the CPA certification process:
Registration with your provincial CPA body
The first step is to register with your provincial CPA body as a student and create a profile. You’ll then have to pay for a transcript assessment and submit your CPA PEP application. You can also find more information on the CPA certification process and a list of provincial CPA bodies on the CPA Canada website. Most provinces allow you to start the transcript assessment and PEP enrollment process before arriving in Canada.
You must submit your academic and professional credentials (if any) to the CPA body in the province or territory where you intend to settle and practice. Each provincial CPA body specifies how you can submit your documents.
For instance, CPA Ontario does not accept foreign academic credentials directly. Instead, you must request an International Credential Advantage Package (ICAP) course-by-course evaluation through World Education Services (WES). On the other hand, CPA bodies in British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta require foreign transcripts to be assessed by the CPA Western School of Business.
Your provincial CPA body will then use your transcript evaluation to determine whether you meet the academic requirements and have completed the prerequisite subjects for entry into the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). If you haven’t completed all the required subject areas in your earlier education, the provincial body will advise you on how to bridge those gaps before entering the program.
Since the CPA PEP program is in English, proficiency in the language is a prerequisite for admission. Although the specific requirements vary by province, you’ll likely need to submit language test results with a minimum CLB level 8 in all four skills—reading, writing, listening, and comprehension. To enrol in a CPA program in Quebec, you must submit proof of French language proficiency.
The CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP)
The CPA PEP is a graduate-level professional education program that adheres to the education, assessment, and experience standards of the International Federation of Accountants (IFAC). You must register with your provincial CPA body before starting the CPA PEP.
The CPA PEP comprises two core (common) modules, two elective modules, and two capstone modules. The core modules cover six technical competency areas: financial reporting, strategy and governance, management accounting, audit and assurance, finance, and taxation. For the electives, you can choose any two subjects from assurance, performance management, tax, and finance. CPA Public Accounting students have less flexibility and must pick assurance and tax.
The capstone modules integrate the core technical knowledge and enabling competencies you learn during the earlier modules in preparation for the Common Final Examination. It takes around two years to complete the CPA PEP while working part-time to meet the work experience requirements for your CPA designation.
The Common Final Examination (CFE)
The Common Final Examination is a three-day exam where students must solve business-case simulations and demonstrate competence in the technical areas covered in the CPA PEP program.
Gathering relevant practical experience
Competency-based practical experience is an essential qualification criterion for the CPA designation in Canada. You must have at least 30 months of relevant, paid, supervised professional accounting experience (24 months in Quebec) to qualify for a CPA designation.
Typically, this practical experience can be earned during your CPA PEP program and only begins once you have a CPA mentor. However, up to 12 months of prior experience (8 months in Quebec) gained within the last seven years can be considered provided it meets at least a level one proficiency in two CPA technical areas.
Earning your CPA designation
Once you successfully complete your Common Final Examination and required practical experience, you can register as a member of your provincial CPA body and start using the Chartered Professional Accountant or CPA designation. As a CPA member, you will be responsible for paying annual membership fees, completing the required Continuing Professional Development programs, and adhering to the regulations and guidelines for members.
Getting a Canadian CPA if you already have a CA/CPA designation from a partner country
Some countries have reciprocal agreements or MOUs with Chartered Professional Accountants Canada, which makes it easier for foreign-trained CAs or CPAs to get CPA certification in Canada. Broadly, these agreements may fall under three categories:
- Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA): Under these agreements, CPAs registered in the U.S. and CPCs registered in Mexico qualify for a Canadian CPA designation and can practice accounting in Canada provided they are licensees in good standing with the state board and meet the minimum education and experience requirements. Members of the Ordre des Experts-Comptables de France are permitted to practice in Quebec.
- Reciprocal Membership Agreement (RMA): Members in good standing with international accounting bodies in New Zealand, Ireland, Hong Kong, England and Wales, Scotland, South Africa, and Zimbabwe may be eligible for a Canadian CPA designation provided they meet the education and experience requirements.
- Memorandum of Understanding (MOU): Members in good standing with the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and Pakistan are exempt from all CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) modules, but must pass the Common Final Examination to earn their Canadian CPA designation. Completion of the capstone modules is not mandatory but is highly recommended.
|Note: To practice public accounting, members qualifying for Canadian CPA under an MRA or RMA must meet additional Canadian experience requirements in assurance and audit and complete the CPA Reciprocity Education and Examination (CPARE) program after becoming a member of a provincial or regional CPA body in Canada.|
How long does it take to become a CPA in Canada?
It takes between two and three years to complete the CPA PEP, take the CFE examination, and become a Chartered Professional Accountant in Canada, not including the time taken to complete your undergraduate degree.
For individuals who are already registered as a CPA or CA in a partner country, the process of converting their designation to a Canadian CPA is usually much shorter.
Many provinces and territories require accountants, auditors, financial officers, and bookkeepers to meet local labour market needs. According to recent provincial and territorial data, the following accounting jobs are most in-demand across Canada:
|Province||PNP streams for accountants|
|British Columbia (B.C.)||
|Northwest Territories and Yukon||
|Newfoundland and Labrador|
|Note: This list is based on in-demand jobs data published by various provinces and territories and recent PNP draws. Labour market requirements change over time and provinces may prioritize other NOCs where skill shortage is more acute. Read our in-demand jobs in Canada article series for more information on the scope of your occupation, average wages, and more.|
Average salaries for accountants in Canada vary by province, area of expertise, and years of work experience. According to the Government of Canada’s Job Bank, financial auditors and accountants (NOC 1111) earn a median wage of $35.75/hour in Canada, with median salaries being the highest in Northwest Territories ($51.37/hour), Alberta ($42/hour), and Saskatchewan ($39.42/hour).
Salaries are significantly higher for CPAs, and according to the 2019 CPA Member Compensation Survey, the median annual compensation of Canada’s professional accountants in all sectors, age ranges, and regions was $112,000 (or $53.85/hour).
For accounting technicians and bookkeepers (NOC 1311), the median hourly wage in Canada is $24.04. Median salaries for this occupation are the highest in Nunavut ($51.21/hour), Northwest Territories ($42.82/hour), and Alberta ($27/hour).
As an internationally educated accountant, you can start looking for your first job in Canada before you arrive. Here are some tips to help you find a suitable accounting job to kickstart your career:
Understand local job market requirements
Compared to your home country, employers in Canada may look for different skills and qualifications in candidates for accounting roles. One way to familiarize yourself with job market requirements is to review job postings for accounting roles at your level and identify skills, experiences, and qualifications that are in demand. For entry-level and mid-level positions, the CPA designation is generally not a requirement, although some employers may prefer to hire applicants who are working towards their CPA.
If you intend to get a CPA designation, you can register with your provincial body and begin your CPA PEP modules before arriving in Canada. Not only will this expand the pool of job opportunities available to you, this work experience may also count towards the 30-month professional experience required for CPA certification.
Gather additional qualifications and skills
As a newcomer, you should familiarize yourself with the commonly used accounting standards in Canada, including the Accounting Standards for Private Enterprises (ASPE), the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Public Sector Accounting Board (PSAB) accounting standards, and Accounting Standards for Not-for-Profit Organizations (ASNPO).
Investing in certifications and upskilling programs can also help position you as a strong candidate for accounting jobs in Canada. For instance, certifications in software such as MS Excel, PeopleSoft ERP, SAP HR and Finance, Qlikview, and report writing tools such as Cognos and Power BI are valuable in the Canadian job market. In addition, knowledge of tax and accounting software such as Quickbooks and Xero can help you stand out from the crowd.
Craft a Canadian-style accounting resume
In Canada, there are three common types of resume formats: reverse chronological, functional, and combination (hybrid). The ideal format for your resume will depend on the amount of relevant accounting experience you have and whether you have gaps in your work history.
Many Canadian employers use an Applicant Tracking System (ATS) to shortlist resumes that are a good match for the job. You can increase your likelihood of being selected for interviews by customizing your resume for each job and including keywords from the job description. To get started, download our free Canadian-style resume templates.
Look for opportunities on job portals and employer websites
Job search platforms such as Job Bank, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, GrabJobs, and Indeed are great places to look for job opportunities. In addition, you should create a list of target employers and keep tabs on their websites’ career pages and LinkedIn profiles.
Build your professional network
Networking plays a crucial role in the professional culture in Canada. Canada has a huge hidden job market which can only be accessed through your network.
As a newcomer accountant, connecting with professionals in your field on LinkedIn, at networking events, or through your provincial association can help you learn more about the job market. After you form an initial connection, you can nurture your network through one-on-one coffee chats or stay in touch over email or social media. You can then leverage your network to get insights into the hiring practices of specific employers, get referrals, and even learn about job opportunities that aren’t publicly advertised.
|Tip: For more job search insights, read Prepped’s article on how to get your first job as an accountant.|
Recruitment process for accounting jobs in Canada
Many Canadian employers advertise open job positions on their websites or job portals. However, between 65 and 80 per cent of job openings are filled through the employers’ networks without ever being listed.
Once you submit your resume, employers will screen your resume and cover letter to see how well they match the job description. If your resume is shortlisted, the next step is typically a screening interview where the recruiter will ask questions to verify your qualifications, experience, and interest in the role.
After the initial screening, you must clear multiple interview rounds, including skill testing and a culture fit interview, to demonstrate your technical and soft skills. For accounting roles, skill testing may be in the form of a case-based assignment or specific technical questions. If you’re selected for the role, you will receive a job offer, often after a thorough background and reference check, and may be allowed to negotiate its terms.
|Tip: Read our Canadian job market analysis for accounting for more insights into the hiring process.|
Qualified accountants are sought after in most provinces of Canada and the local supply isn’t enough to meet the labour market needs. As an internationally-trained accountant, Canada’s immigration programs offer you an exciting, lucrative opportunity to move to Canada and settle permanently. If you plan to work towards a Chartered Professional Accountant designation, the certification process can be time-consuming but will pave the way to senior-level accounting jobs in Canada.