CPA: one professional title, seven career paths!

The Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada have been shouting their message from rooftops for a while now: being a CPA is far from boring! We work with hundreds of CPAs every year, so we can easily confirm the accuracy of that claim. With your title in-hand and a few years of experience under your belt, you have the opportunity to choose the perfect specialization for your interests.

Understanding the possibilities available to you and evaluating your objectives at the beginning of your career is a must. From one position to the next, the title of CPA can take on very different meanings. As you rise through the ranks, you’ll develop an increasingly specialized skill set, which makes it difficult to change disciplines. That’s why you need to be on the right track from the start!

CPA accounting accountant jobs career paths
 

the generalist

For many people, the generalist CPA is the archetypal pencil pusher. In reality, it’s a specialization for people who want to experience a little bit of everything. Financial statements, budgets, profitability analysis, financial strategy, supervisory responsibilities ... you will wear many hats, especially if you’re working at an SME.

As a generalist, you will be THE resource for everything that has to do with finances. Knowing how to inspire confidence, act professionally, stay organized, and be a team player are essential skills. With a bit of strategic thinking, you may even be able to carve out a spot for yourself as the VP or CFO!

 

the budget and performance expert

If you’re interested in financial planning and analysis (FP&A), aim for a large company. Organized by department, their financial divisions leave more room for specialization. This highly strategic role requires an analytical mind and sharp interpersonal skills. If interacting with management makes you sweat, you might want to pass on this job! Financial analysts serve as a link between accounting and operations: 15 to 25% of their time is spent in meetings with managers.

On a day-to-day basis, this type of specialist will inspect budgets, detect weak points that reduce the company’s profitability, suggest solutions to curb expenses, and conduct financial modelling using Excel. They are also in charge of completing a profitability analysis. Backed by a rigorous budget forecasting process, they decide whether or not a project is viable, therefore contributing to important business decisions. Knowledge transfer is also an important part of their work: they simplify concepts to make them more accessible, write reports, host follow-up meetings… in this role, communication skills are just as important as math skills!

 

the financial reporting pro

Specializing in financial reporting means you will probably be working for large companies listed on the stock exchange or public institutions. Since you’ll be producing financial statements, as is required by law, you’ll need to be comfortable with legal texts. One thing you would need to do is stay on top of changes to the legislative framework – no matter how small – and following it to the letter. If meticulousness is in your DNA, this is the job for you.

Financial reporting experts need to ensure the proper transmission of documents both internally and externally. They focus on processes and may be asked to implement new methodologies or tools to facilitate interdepartmental communication. Analysis, financial policy development, and making recommendations are also part of their day-to-day responsibilities.

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the external auditor

Conducted by accounting firms, external auditing is, without a doubt, one of the best learning experiences. But be careful – the workload is no joke. When a client hires an external firm for an audit, a team of CPAs sets up shop in their office and combs over every detail.

It’s a golden opportunity to explore different professional environments, like SME’s, public companies, and organizations, while learning more about a variety of industries. If you don’t know what type of company might suit you long-term, being an auditor will allow you to explore every option. It goes without saying that the ability to adapt quickly, manage stress, and work under pressure are essential for this type of career.

 

the internal auditor

Similar to the previous specialization, internal auditing is like the last line of defence for a company. Its role is to prevent and target irregularities.

The role of an auditor isn’t limited to sounding the alarm: implementing strategies to improve accounting methods, ensuring regulatory compliance, and tightening financial and operational control is essential. Risk analysis and counteracting fraud also come with the territory. Critical and analytical thinking are therefore central to this type of work.

For some people, this job can be a springboard into finance or management. If you work for a large company or a multinational, internal auditing will allow you to travel across the country since you’ll need to visit different offices. If you’re working for a company, expect to be traveling for approximately one week per month.

 

the tax expert

Each CPA career path has its own set of challenges. For this type of expert, it’s the infamous tax season. If you’re good at keeping your cool, this is the specialization for you! Your daily goal: to advise your clients on how to reduce their tax burden.

Beyond producing tax declarations, you can be in charge of planning for individuals, corporations, or trusts, as well as estate planning and wealth management. It’s important to note that a master’s degree in taxation is required. Whether you work for an accounting firm or a corporation, this specialization requires attention to detail, a customer-centric approach, and a knack for problem solving. In other words, efficiency and communication should come naturally to you.

 

the IT CPA

Are you a CPA whose secret dream is to create the next big app or video game? If so, this profile is perfect for you – it’s a hybrid between accounting and geekiness, if you can believe it! Even though they’re not essential, programming, software, and computer skills are an asset for this job. Generally hired by very large companies, IT CPAs are, as indicated by their title, the link between the IT and accounting departments.

They manage tech implementation projects and ensure that business processes are being optimized. They identify improvement opportunities for accounting systems and pave the way for change by creating an office full of super-users. An IT CPA can be seen as a reference who is able to decode and translate the languages of technology and accounting.

everyone else!

The seven major CPA profiles still don’t cover every possible specialization. By obtaining different certifications or studying in related fields, you can forge a path that’s unique to you. A diverse range of careers awaits you!

Feeling confident about your career goals, but unsure of how to get there? Not only do our CPA recruiters have years of experience in accounting, but they’ve already helped tons of candidates find their dream jobs. Get in touch with your nearest Randstad branch!

want some professional help choosing the best career path for your skills and experience? connect with a recruiter.

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