How to Become an Accountant in Canada

So, you’ve got an interest in becoming an accountant? Maybe your parents or family friends are accountants, you’ve heard your friends talk about this career, or you’re good with numbers and want to see what you can do with it. Discover everything you need to know about the career, including what it takes to become an accountant in Canada.

What is an accountant?

An accountant is a financial professional who helps clients analyze and understand their financial records and data.

Accountants have a lot of variety in where they’re able to work. They can work in companies, the governments, non-profit organizations, or even take on personal clients. There are more career pathways for accountants than you may expect. Accountants can be Chief Financial Officers for companies, forensic accountants, auditors, tax accountants, and more! Accountants typically will work 9am-5pm jobs, but they can work longer hours during certain times of the year, like tax season or the end of financial reporting periods.

What does an accountant do?

Accountants are good with numbers, spreadsheets, and have analytical minds, no matter which industry or role they end up in. Their day-to-day duties don’t just revolve around taxes and may vary depending on their role, but check out these common responsibilities for accountants:

  • Preparing and filing tax returns
  • Performing financial risk assessments and forecasts
  • Offering financial guidance to reduce costs and increase profit
  • Recommending best financial solutions to increase efficiency
  • Ensure financial records are accurate and comply with accounting standards and procedures

Want to get a better idea of what to expect with a career in the accounting field? Check out this video following the day in the life of an accountant:

How to become an accountant in two simple steps

Find out how you can become an accountant in Canada in just two quick steps!

Step one: Complete an undergraduate degree

The first step to becoming an accountant is earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting, finance, or a related field. The subjects that you’ll cover in these programs — like tax policies, information systems for accounting, economics, and more — will help you start off your career on the right foot with the best background of knowledge.

Your undergrad is also the perfect time to begin exploring a career as an accountant. Get involved with the accounting club at your school, network with the professors and other students, and complete a co-op program in an accounting field to gain valuable experience and get your foot in the door!

Step two: Gain experience

The next step to becoming an accountant is to begin your career and start earning experience. Many recent graduates of an accounting, finance, or related field begin their careers as junior accountants, or work in consulting, finance, auditing, and other roles that specialize in accounting.

Another entry-level job option you may have after pursuing a bachelor’s in accounting is bookkeeping. Did you know that an accountant can also be a bookkeeper, but a bookkeeper cannot call themselves an accountant? Bookkeepers are responsible for financial administrative and clerical tasks, like organizing receipts and data entry, and then an accountant can analyze those transactions to make financial decisions.

As you enter the workforce, you’ll develop and earn valuable skills necessary to succeed in a career as an accountant. You can expect to develop your skills like:

  • Critical thinking
  • Data analysis and attention to detail
  • Problem solving
  • Software proficiency
    • MS Excel, QuickBooks, Xero, etc.
  • Standards of accounting
    • Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS), Accounting Standards for Private Enterprises (ASPE)
  • Effective communication
  • Customer service
  • Teamwork

Step three (optional): Earn a graduate degree in accounting

One way to advance in your career as an accountant is to pursue further education. Whether you’re interested in a master’s or doctorate degree, a certificate, or simply continuing your education with courses, these options can help you develop your skills and specialize in different aspects of accounting.

For example, a master’s degree in accounting could have you conduct research and focus on a specialization, like advanced auditing, accounting research, fraud examination, and more. Or you could choose to pursue an interest of yours and take a course in something like forensic accounting.

Step four (optional): Earn an accounting certification

Your journey as an accountant doesn’t have to end once you find a job! If you love what you do and want to advance further in your career, you could earn a professional designation or accounting certificate to level up.

Check out some of these accounting certificates you can pursue in Canada:

  • Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA) — to earn this certificate, you’ll have to complete preparatory courses, the CPA Professional Education Program, complete practical experience, and pass the Common Final Examination.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) — this certificate tests your skills in portfolio management, economics, investment standards, and professional and ethical standards. This certificate will help you pursue jobs in the financial industry, like consultants, financial advisors, etc.
  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) — this global certificate will help you if you want to work internationally or with international organizations in Canada. To earn this certificate, you’ll need to complete three years of work experience and up to 13 examinations.
  • Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) — to earn this certificate, you’ll need to complete the CGMA Finance Leadership Program, pass the required case study exams, and complete their practical experience requirement.
  • Chartered Alternative Investment Analyst (CAIA) — this certificate is for those interested in working with alternative investing, like with real estate, private equity, and risk management.
  • Certified Internal Auditor Certification (CIA) — this international certificate will prepare you for auditing roles where you can perform internal and external audits for organizations.

There are plenty of accounting certificates available for you. Earning these certifications can help you advance your knowledge in the field and leverage your skills to earn more money.

What’s the difference between a CPA and an accountant?

So, what really makes a CPA and an accountant different?

Chartered Professional Accountant Accountant
EducationCPAs must complete a bachelor’s degree, the CPA Professional Education Program, a period of practical experience, and the Common Final Examination to qualify as a chartered professional accountant in Canada. Accountants typically have a bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related subject.
Job responsibilities Due to the further education and training that is mandatory for CPAs, they tend to have a higher level of responsibilities than accountants, like tax accounting, internal audits, budget consulting, and more. CPAs can also complete certain tasks that accountants can’t, like preparing an audited financial statement. CPAs often have more independence and flexibility in their role. They’ll often manage or supervise teams of accountants due to their greater experience and education. Accountants typically work as part of a team to help with a company or client’s tax documents, budgeting, and financial analyses. However, with further certificates and training, accountants are able to move up into higher positions in the industry.
Salary CPAs require more years of education and training than accountants, so their salary average is closer to $80,000. Accountants in Canada tend to earn on average, $74,360, but there's the possibility of earning more as accountants sharpen their skills and earn experience.

Career prospects

Want to know how much accountants in Canada make? On average, accountants in Canada earn $74,360! Accountants can also earn $124,800 on the high end of their salary. Keep in mind that the more experience and certificates you earn, the more your salary could be.

Your career options as an accountant aren’t limited! You could work your way up to an accounting manager, CFO, or CEO. Common entry-level positions for accountants can be junior accountants and consultants.

How will AI impact accountants?

Over the past year, there’s been a boom in AI, and people want to know how it could affect their career. So, will AI affect a career in accounting? AI can be used to automate mundane tasks, like performing a digital audit and identifying risky transactions, which frees up time to do more in-depth financial analysis. Although AI can assist an accountant in automating their work and going through large sets of data, accountants will always be in demand due to the soft skills they’ve developed in their education and career.

Does being an accountant sound like the career for you? If you’re interested in working with numbers, identifying trends, and offering valuable insight, then being an accountant in Canada is right for you!

Explore your accounting program options