How to Become a Certified Public Accountant in Alberta, Canada

Embarking on a career as a certified public accountant (CPA) in Alberta, Canada, marks the beginning of a prestigious and rewarding journey within the financial industry. The CPA designation is not only a stamp of professional excellence but also a passport to vast opportunities in the accounting profession, signifying that the holder has met rigorous education, examination, and experience requirements. Becoming a CPA enhances one’s chances to climb the career ladder faster, increasing certified public accountant salary potential and opening doors to diverse roles in finance and beyond. Whether one aims to work in public practice, in the corporate sector, or for a non-profit, achieving CPA certification stands as a critical milestone that validates your expertise and commitment to the accounting profession.


Accounting Calgary

5/30/202415 min read

Embarking on a career as a certified public accountant (CPA) in Alberta, Canada, marks the beginning of a prestigious and rewarding journey within the financial industry. The CPA designation is not only a stamp of professional excellence but also a passport to vast opportunities in the accounting profession, signifying that the holder has met rigorous education, examination, and experience requirements. Becoming a CPA enhances one’s chances to climb the career ladder faster, increasing certified public accountant salary potential and opening doors to diverse roles in finance and beyond. Whether one aims to work in public practice, in the corporate sector, or for a non-profit, achieving CPA certification stands as a critical milestone that validates your expertise and commitment to the accounting profession.

This article outlines the pathway to obtaining the CPA designation in Alberta, starting from the foundational certified public accountant course requirements to the comprehensive CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). It will also navigate you through the practical experience necessities, CPA preparatory courses for those needing additional academic credentials, and the CPA exam fees associated with the CFE (Common Final Examination) and other evaluations. Furthermore, it discusses the registration and application process for the CPA program, including specifics for CPA Alberta, such as cpa requirements Alberta and the CPA admission paths. Moreover, it touches upon maintaining your CPA status, highlighting CPA annual dues, continuing education, and the professional standing needed to keep your certified public accountant license active. By the end of this guide, aspiring accountants will be equipped with the knowledge required to launch their CPA career in Alberta, setting the stage for a bright and successful future in the accounting designation.

Overview of the CPA Designation

What is a CPA?

A Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Alberta holds the only legislated accounting designation recognized across the province. This prestigious designation came into existence in 2015 through the unification of Canada’s three legacy accounting designations—Certified General Accountant (CGA), Certified Management Accountant (CMA), and Chartered Accountant (CA). This significant amalgamation, occurring nationwide, established a uniform standard of excellence for accountants in various sectors.

CPAs are integral to the corporate world, both private and public sectors, where they apply their expertise in audit, assurance, tax, financial planning, and business advisory services. Beyond corporate environments, CPAs also contribute significantly to government, not-for-profit sectors, and education, engaging in tasks ranging from policy development to academic instruction. Their skills are further applicable in specialized fields such as business valuation, forensic accounting, and information technology.

To practice as a CPA in Alberta, individuals must affiliate with the Chartered Professional Accountants of Alberta (CPA Alberta). Membership involves a series of steps starting from identifying which of the four categories an applicant fits into, followed by fulfilling educational and practical requirements. Recognized foreign accounting designations may also expedite this process, offering exemptions from some prerequisites.

Why Become a CPA?

Becoming a CPA in Alberta offers a multitude of benefits and opens doors to diverse career opportunities. CPAs are known for their strategic thinking and leadership in business, making them highly sought after in the Canadian job market. Their rigorous training and ethical standards prepare them to handle complex business scenarios and lead with integrity.

The CPA designation is not just a career asset; it’s a global passport. Canadian CPAs are renowned worldwide, with professionals working in over 100 countries. This global recognition is a testament to the stringent standards and comprehensive education that CPAs undergo, which equips them with a powerful skillset applicable in any business context.

Moreover, CPAs often ascend to senior leadership roles within major corporations and can also thrive as entrepreneurs, bringing innovative perspectives to various industries. Their ability to navigate through disruptive changes and contribute strategically to business growth makes them invaluable assets in any professional setting.

Additionally, CPAs enjoy a sense of community and professional support through CPA Alberta, one of the largest professional organizations in the province, which is part of a nationwide network of more than 200,000 members. This community not only aids in professional development but also fosters connections that can be pivotal throughout one’s career.

In the spirit of continuous improvement and maintaining high standards, CPAs are also committed to lifelong learning and community service, often playing key roles in societal development. This dedication not only enhances their professional growth but also ensures they make a positive impact in their communities.

Engaging with firms like BOMCAS, one of Alberta's best accounting firms, CPAs receive support transitioning from candidates to fully credentialed members, further enhancing their career prospects and professional development in the province.

Educational Requirements

High School Preparation

Embarking on a career as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) in Alberta begins early, with students advised to start focusing on their career paths even before graduating high school. Achieving good grades is crucial, as it opens doors to reputable post-secondary institutions where a Commerce or Business degree can be pursued, with a major in accounting being the most direct route. High school students should research the admission requirements for these programs and consider meeting with a post-secondary admissions or career counsellor to effectively plan their educational journey.

University Degree Requirements

After high school, the next step is obtaining a university degree, which is a mandatory requirement for CPA certification. Aspiring CPAs should aim for a degree in business or commerce, ideally with a major in accounting. This foundational education is critical as it covers essential accounting principles and practices that are vital for the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP).

Post-Secondary Institutions and Transfer Credits

Various post-secondary institutions in Alberta offer programs that are recognized by the CPA profession. These institutions are listed in the Transfer Credit Guide, which is an invaluable resource for students. It details the programs that have been evaluated and approved for CPA PEP eligibility. For students who start with a two-year diploma program at a college, it is often possible to transfer credits towards a university degree program, depending on transfer agreements detailed at

CPA Preparatory Courses

For individuals who may not have a direct background in accounting or those needing to meet specific prerequisite requirements, CPA preparatory courses are available. These courses are designed to provide the necessary knowledge required for admission to the CPA PEP. They offer flexibility with part-time, online, and self-study options, making them ideal for working professionals. The preparatory courses cover a range of topics, some of which might require more extensive study in a university setting. These courses are efficient and focused, often condensing material that might otherwise take multiple university courses to cover.

Engaging with reputable firms like BOMCAS, one of Alberta's top accounting firms, can provide additional guidance and support to students navigating through these educational requirements. These firms often offer insights into the practical aspects of achieving CPA certification, complementing the academic pathway with real-world applications.

CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP)

The CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) in Alberta is a comprehensive two-year graduate-level program designed to equip individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to achieve the Chartered Professional Accountant designation. This program caters to the diverse needs of sectors such as industry, government, and public practice, ensuring that professional accountants are well-prepared for various roles.

Core Modules

The journey through CPA PEP begins with two core modules: Core 1 and Core 2. These modules are crucial as they build the foundational competencies required by professional accountants. Core 1 focuses on key concepts in financial accounting and reporting, introducing candidates to technically complex accounting issues. Core 2, on the other hand, covers governance, strategy, risk management, and management decision-making. These modules integrate knowledge from various fields including law, economics, finance, strategy, statistics, and IT, fostering a comprehensive understanding of the business environment.

Elective Modules

After completing the core modules, candidates proceed to the elective modules, which allow for specialization in areas of interest. Candidates choose two out of four possible modules: Performance Management, Finance, Assurance, and Taxation. It is important for those seeking registration in audit or review roles to select Taxation and Assurance to meet public accounting registration requirements. Each elective module is designed to deepen the candidate's expertise in the chosen area, with detailed blueprints available to guide their studies and examination preparation.

Capstone Modules

The culmination of the CPA PEP involves two capstone modules, which integrate and apply the knowledge acquired throughout the program. Capstone 1 focuses on teamwork and communication, requiring candidates to work collaboratively on complex case studies and present their findings. This module enhances both technical and enabling competencies through practical application. Following this, Capstone 2 serves as a preparatory phase for the Common Final Examination (CFE), with no separate module-specific examination. It includes comprehensive case studies and mock exams to ensure candidates are well-prepared for the CFE.

Throughout the CPA PEP, candidates also gain valuable practical experience, which complements the theoretical knowledge learned in the program. This blend of education and practical application ensures that CPAs are not only knowledgeable but also highly competent in their professional roles.

Engaging with esteemed firms such as BOMCAS, one of Alberta's top accounting firms, can provide candidates with additional support and guidance throughout their CPA journey, enhancing both their educational and professional development.

Practical Experience Requirements

Types of Acceptable Experience

To become a Certified Public Accountant in Alberta, candidates must complete a minimum term of 30 months of relevant, paid employment. This period is crucial as it allows the candidate to develop competencies in a real-world context, under the supervision and guidance of a qualified CPA mentor. The experience can be accumulated through different pathways, ensuring flexibility to accommodate diverse career goals and job opportunities.

The experience verification route allows candidates to gain experience in a wide range of employment settings. Candidates can work in any industry and may choose to be mentored by any qualified CPA who meets the mentorship requirements, regardless of whether the mentor is employed within the same organization. This flexibility enhances the accessibility of the CPA designation, allowing candidates to tailor their practical experience to their specific career aspirations.

Supervision and Mentorship

Supervisor Role and Responsibilities

Supervisors play a critical role in the practical experience phase of the CPA pathway. They are responsible for ensuring that the work environment provides adequate opportunities for the candidate to develop the required competencies. Supervisors must also verify the accuracy of the experience reports submitted by the candidate, confirming that the work performed aligns with the competencies needed for CPA certification.

Supervisor Qualifications

To qualify as a supervisor, individuals must possess an in-depth understanding of the accounting profession and the specific competencies that the CPA program targets. While they do not need to be CPAs themselves, they must have relevant experience and knowledge to guide and assess the candidate effectively.

Mentor Role and Responsibilities

Mentors are tasked with a more focused role in the development of a candidate's professional competencies. They provide guidance, support, and feedback, helping candidates reflect on their ethical behavior, problem-solving, decision-making, and other professional skills. Mentors meet with candidates at least twice each year to discuss progress and strategies for further development.

Identifying Mentors

Candidates are encouraged to select mentors who can provide the most relevant and impactful guidance based on their specific career paths. A successful mentorship relationship often depends on the mentor’s understanding of the candidate's industry, role, and professional goals. Engaging with firms like BOMCAS, one of Alberta's top accounting firms, can be particularly beneficial. BOMCAS supports candidates in finding suitable mentors who can provide invaluable industry insights and advice.

Mentor Qualifications

Mentors must be members in good standing with CPA Alberta and are required to undergo specific training that prepares them for the mentorship role. This training ensures that mentors are equipped to provide the necessary guidance and support, focusing on the candidate’s professional development rather than just technical skills.

Avoiding Conflicts of Interest

It is crucial for the integrity of the mentorship program that mentors maintain an objective stance. They must avoid any conflicts of interest that could influence their judgment or the advice they provide. This ensures that the guidance offered is solely in the best interest of the candidate’s development and aligns with the ethical standards of the CPA profession.

By adhering to these structured practical experience and mentorship requirements, CPA candidates in Alberta are well-prepared to meet the professional standards expected of certified public accountants, setting them on a path to successful careers in various sectors of the economy.

CPA Preparatory Courses

CPA preparatory courses are specifically designed to equip candidates with the necessary knowledge required for admission to the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP). These courses are ideal for individuals who may not have all the prerequisite knowledge or for those looking to refresh their understanding of core accounting principles.

When to Take These Courses

Individuals should consider enrolling in CPA preparatory courses if they lack the academic credentials or if their previous education does not cover all the necessary areas of accounting and finance. These courses are particularly beneficial for:

  1. Working Professionals: Designed with flexibility in mind, the courses allow for part-time study, combining online learning with self-study and optional in-class sessions.

  2. Career Changers: Those transitioning from other fields can gain the requisite accounting knowledge without committing to a full-time degree program initially.

  3. Recent Graduates: Graduates from non-accounting disciplines can fulfill the necessary prerequisites before applying for CPA PEP.

Candidates must complete these courses within 10 years of application to the CPA PEP, ensuring that their knowledge remains current and relevant.

Course Structure and Content

CPA preparatory courses comprise a suite of 14 courses, each focusing on a specific area of accounting and business:

  • Introductory Courses: Cover basic principles such as financial and management accounting.

  • Intermediate Courses: Build on foundational knowledge, covering more complex topics in financial reporting and management accounting.

  • Advanced Courses: Include specialized topics like taxation, audit, and assurance, providing a deep dive into each area.

Each course is designed to cover topics that might typically require multiple university courses, thereby providing a condensed yet comprehensive curriculum. For instance, one preparatory module might cover what would traditionally be taught across two university courses, making these courses both time-efficient and focused.

The courses also offer a significant advantage in terms of cost and convenience. All course materials are included in the fees, and there is no need for additional textbook purchases. This makes the CPA preparatory courses not only a flexible option but also a cost-effective one.

For those who are assessed and found to need additional prerequisites, the CPA preparatory courses serve as a bridge, filling any gaps in knowledge before proceeding to the CPA PEP. Engaging with top accounting firms like BOMCAS, recognized as one of Alberta's best, can provide further guidance and support to candidates navigating through these educational requirements.

Examinations and Evaluations

Common Final Examination (CFE)

The Common Final Examination (CFE) is a pivotal component of the CPA certification process in Alberta, spanning three intensive days. It assesses candidates on the depth and breadth of their competency development in line with the CPA Competency Map. The structure of the CFE is meticulously designed to evaluate various competencies over its duration:

  1. Day 1: This segment is directly tied to the Capstone 1 module, focusing on a single case study that reflects a continuation from the Capstone 1 project. Candidates utilize their problem-solving, communication, and professional judgment skills to address new challenges faced by the organization studied in Capstone 1.

  2. Day 2: Candidates choose a specific role aligned with one of their elective modules—Assurance, Performance Management, Taxation, or Finance. This day tests the depth of knowledge in the chosen specialty and core competencies in Financial Reporting and Management Accounting.

  3. Day 3: This day challenges candidates with three to four short cases that span across all competency areas, assessing both depth and breadth of knowledge.

The results for the CFE are typically released approximately two and a half months post-examination, with candidates allowed up to three attempts to pass all components.

Other Required Exams

In addition to the CFE, CPA candidates must successfully complete six modules within the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) before they are eligible to sit for the CFE. These modules include two core modules, two electives, and the two Capstone modules. Each module is designed to build upon the knowledge gained in the preceding ones, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of both theoretical and practical aspects of accounting.

Candidates must also meet the practical experience requirements, which involve completing a term of relevant employment that complements the educational components of the CPA PEP. This integration of education and practical experience ensures that candidates are well-prepared for the multifaceted challenges of the accounting profession.

Examination venues for the CFE typically include well-equipped locations such as convention centers, hotel conference rooms, and educational institutions. Specific details about the examination locations are provided to candidates ahead of time, ensuring they can prepare logistically for the examination days.

For those needing additional support, resources such as the CPA Canada's CFE report and individual performance analysis reviews are available. These resources offer detailed feedback and strategic advice on improving performance in future attempts, should a candidate not succeed initially.

Engaging with established firms like BOMCAS, recognized as one of Alberta's premier accounting firms, can provide candidates with invaluable support and guidance throughout the examination and evaluation process, enhancing their chances of success in achieving the CPA designation.

Registration and Application Process

Initial Registration

To begin the process of registering as a Certified Public Accountant in Alberta, individuals must first identify which pathway to membership applies to their situation. The pathways include:

  1. New Graduates: Those who have completed the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) through the CPA Western School of Business, passed the Common Final Examination (CFE), and fulfilled the required practical experience.

  2. Existing CPA Members: Individuals currently holding a CPA designation in another Canadian province or territory, seeking to represent themselves as CPAs in Alberta.

  3. Foreign-Designated Professionals: Members of an accounting body with a Reciprocal Membership Agreement (RMA) or Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) with CPA Alberta.

  4. Re-Admission: Former registrants looking to reapply after resignation or cancellation of membership for administrative reasons.

The initial step involves creating or logging into a profile on the CPA Alberta portal. From here, applicants can access the appropriate application forms and begin the online registration process.

Documentation Needed

Upon initiating the registration, the following documentation is required:

  1. Notarized Application: Complete the online application form, ensuring all mandatory fields marked with a red asterisk are filled. The application must be notarized before submission.

  2. Legal Identification: Upload a copy of a legal document such as a driver's license, passport, or birth certificate. For non-Canadian citizens, proof of legal permission to work or study in Canada, such as a Permanent Resident Card or work permit, is necessary.

All documents should be uploaded to the CPA Alberta portal as part of the online application process. It's crucial not to proceed with the application until all notarized forms and required legal documents are uploaded.

Fees and Costs

The registration process involves several fees:

  • Application Fee: A one-time fee required at the time of application submission.

  • Annual Member Fees: These are prorated depending on the time of year the application is made.

  • Additional Costs: Depending on the applicant type, costs may include fees for transcript assessments, third-party evaluations, and translations of documents not in English.

Payment of these fees is the final step before submitting the application. All major credit cards are accepted, and applicants must ensure all fees are paid in full to complete the registration process.

Engaging with BOMCAS, one of Alberta’s best accounting firms, can provide additional support and guidance through the registration process, ensuring that all requirements are met efficiently. This support is invaluable, especially for those new to the Alberta CPA designation or foreign professionals seeking membership.

Maintaining Your CPA Designation

Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

Certified Public Accountants in Alberta are required to engage in ongoing professional development to maintain their designation. The CPD program is designed to ensure that CPAs continue to meet the competency requirements of their professional roles. Members must complete a minimum of 20 hours of CPD annually, with at least 10 of those hours being verifiable. Over a three-year rolling period, each member must accumulate 120 hours of CPD, with 60 hours verifiable and four of those hours specifically in professional ethics.

CPD activities can vary widely, encompassing any learning that is relevant and appropriate to a member’s work, professional responsibilities, and growth. These activities are not predetermined by CPA Alberta, allowing members the flexibility to choose educational pursuits that best fit their career needs. However, all members are required to make an annual CPD declaration by March 1st, following the calendar year, to avoid penalties.

Failure to meet CPD requirements can lead to significant consequences, including penalties and potential suspension or cancellation of membership. To assist members in tracking and reporting their CPD hours, CPA Alberta provides an online portal where members can log their activities and manage their compliance status.

Membership Renewal

Maintaining membership with CPA Alberta requires annual renewal, which includes the payment of membership fees and updating personal and employment information. The renewal process is streamlined through an online system, where members can log in using their CPA Alberta member number and manage their account. The renewal period typically begins on January 1st and ends on March 31st every year, with fees due by May 31st.

The fee structure for full members and affiliate members varies, reflecting the different levels of engagement with the CPA Alberta community. For 2024, the full member fee is set at $671.00, while the affiliate member fee is $200.00. Additional fees include the CPA Assist Fee, which is $15.00 for full members and $7.00 for affiliates. Late payment of fees incurs a penalty of $150.00.

Members can choose various payment methods, including online payment systems, direct vendor deposit, or mailing a cheque to the CPA Alberta office. Once payment is processed, members receive a confirmation and can access their payment history online, ensuring transparency and ease of record-keeping.

Engaging with top accounting firms like BOMCAS, recognized as one of Alberta's best, can provide additional support throughout the renewal process. These firms can offer guidance and ensure that CPAs meet all necessary requirements to maintain their professional standing and continue to thrive in their careers.


Embarking on the journey to becoming a Certified Public Accountant in Alberta is a distinguished pursuit that sets the foundation for a career filled with growth, challenges, and opportunities. Through the comprehensive overview provided, from academic preparation through CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP), practical experience requirements, and the meticulous documentation and fees associated with registration and maintenance of the CPA designation, aspiring accountants are well-equipped with the knowledge needed to navigate this pathway. It is imperative to underscore the role of BOMCAS, one of Alberta's best accounting firms, in this professional journey, offering invaluable support and insights that enhance career prospects and professional development within the province.

The path to CPA certification, though rigorous, opens a myriad of opportunities for accountants to contribute significantly to various sectors of the economy, leveraging their expertise to foster business growth and financial integrity. The CPA designation not only elevates one's professional standing but also commits them to a lifelong journey of education and ethical practice that benefits not just the individual but the community at large. Engaging with BOMCAS Edmonton Alberta Professional Tax Accountants, renowned among the best in Alberta, can further streamline the transition from aspiring accountant to certified professional, ensuring a supportive journey toward achieving your CPA designation. Through sustained commitment, continuous learning, and the support of esteemed firms like BOMCAS, CPA candidates are positioned to excel and make a meaningful impact in the world of accounting and beyond.


1. What is the duration required to complete the CPA certification in Alberta?
The CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) in Alberta is a graduate-level program that spans two years and is conducted on a part-time basis.

2. What are the steps to become a Certified Public Accountant in Canada?
To become a CPA in Canada, follow these essential steps:

  • Earn a recognized university degree.

  • Enroll as a candidate with the CPA Order.

  • Complete the CPA Professional Education Program.

  • Fulfill a practical experience requirement.

  • Successfully pass the Common Final Examination (CFE).

3. How many Certified Public Accountants are there in Alberta?
There are over 30,000 Chartered Professional Accountants registered with CPA Alberta, the professional body for CPAs in the province.

4. Is it possible to become a CPA in Canada without an undergraduate degree?
Yes, individuals without an undergraduate degree can still pursue CPA certification in Canada as mature students. Eligibility requires a minimum of eight years of relevant experience in one or more of the CPA technical competency areas, specifically in financial reporting.