Providing Clarity on the CPA Practical Experience Requirements

By CPABC; published in CPABC in Focus
Published: July/August 2016

From CPABC’s PER Team

In the May/June 2016 issue of CPABC in Focus, we highlighted a recent change made to the practical experience requirements for CPA candidates—specifically, the removal of the 100 Tax Hours requirement for CPA certification. As we noted, CPA candidates[1] who elected to follow the CA legacy practical experience requirements (CA PER) are no longer required to complete the 100 Tax Hours that previously formed part of the CA minimum practical experience requirements.[2] We also explained that the profession’s minimum practical experience requirements for certification may differ from those required to enter a public accounting licensed pathway, and noted that the removal of the 100 Tax Hours requirement from both our CPA certification and licensed pathways does not remove the other chargeable-hour requirements expected of our various licensed pathways.

As the above paragraph illustrates, the practical experience requirements are complex and nuanced. Recognizing this, and given that we continue to receive inquiries from members, employers, and candidates about the requirements, we wanted to provide some additional clarity. Below, some FAQs:

Q: How do the CPA practical experience requirements (CPA PER) differ from those of the legacy bodies?

A: The new CPA PER are based on the CPA Competency Map, which sets the standards for the technical and enabling competencies required of a newly certified CPA through education, evaluation, and experience. While legacy body practical experience requirements were similar in nature to the CPA PER, they were based on their own respective legacy body competency maps.

Q: From what I understand, there are two routes to completing the CPA PER. What are these routes, and how do they differ?

A: Yes, there are two routes candidates can take to complete the CPA PER.

  • Pre-approved program route (PPR) – In this route, employers offer training positions that have been pre-approved by the profession. These positions are designed to meet the CPA PER within 30 months.
  • Experience verification route (EVR) – In this route, students are given the flexibility to demonstrate relevant competencies as they gain them at an employer of their choice. The candidate completes an initial assessment, which is reviewed by the profession. This initial review helps ensure that the candidate’s employment is on the right track to meeting their experience requirements.

Although different in format, both routes share the following requirements:

  • Students must gain relevant and progressive experience and develop as professional accountants.
  • Students’ practical experience must be supervised appropriately.
  • Community service.
  • Students must record detailed experience reports at regular intervals.
  • Students must meet and discuss progress with a CPA mentor on a semi-annual basis.
  • Experience must be assessed by the CPA profession.

Q: Is one route easier or better than the other?

A: Both routes are equally demanding and aim to enable CPA candidates to develop the appropriate CPA competencies through relevant experience, progression, and mentoring. However, note the answer below regarding candidates seeking future licensure.

Q: Could a candidate switch from one route to the other partway through their practical experience?

A: Candidates can complete their practical experience through either route or a combination of both. However, if a candidate is seeking future licensure in the audit or review categories, they must complete their entire 30-month practical experience term in a pre-approved path.

Q: What is the duration of practical experience required?

A: Candidates are required to complete a term of relevant practical experience of no less than 30 months of employment. This 30-month period of employment includes an allowance of up to 20 weeks’ leave from work.

Q: Is practical experience gained toward a legacy designation acceptable for the CPA designation?

A: Yes. Subject to its currency, experience recognized by a legacy body is recognized towards meeting the experience requirements under the CPA PER.

Q: Is international experience recognized?

A: Yes, experience that satisfies the CPA PER is recognized, regardless of whether it was gained within Canada or internationally. In either case, a minimum of 12 months of experience must be gained concurrent with a candidate’s time on the CPA Professional Education Program (PEP).

Q: When do candidates start reporting their experience? And where and how do they report?

A: In BC, candidates may begin reporting once they have registered for the PEP with the CPA Western School of Business (CPAWSB), hold a relevant PPR or EVR position, and have a mentor.

A PPR candidate starts the reporting process by creating an initial report that enables their employer (program manager) to verify their start date; once the start date has been verified, the candidate can start reporting experience. An EVR candidate starts the reporting process by creating a pre-assessment report for review by CPABC; once the profession has ensured that the position will meet the PER entrance requirements, the candidate can start reporting experience.

All CPA practical experience reports are recorded using the CPA Practical Experience Reporting Tool (PERT). Access to the PERT system is granted to candidates when they register in the PEP with CPAWSB.

Q: What are the eligibility requirements for becoming a CPA mentor?

A: Any CPA member in good standing with the profession, whether recently qualified or very experienced, can apply to become a CPA mentor. Approved legacy body Mutual Recognition Agreement members may also apply to become mentors.

Q: What is required of a CPA mentor?

A: A mentor is required to meet with their mentee(s) on a semi-annual basis. The objective of these meetings is to discuss the candidate’s competency development, both technical and enabling, and provide them with constructive feedback. All mentor meetings are documented in the student’s experience report.

Q: Is there a limit on the number of mentees a CPA mentor can have?

A: No, there is no limit. It is at the CPA mentor’s discretion to determine how many candidates he/she can mentor successfully.

Q: How does a candidate find a CPA mentor?

A: CPA candidates taking the PPR will be matched with a CPA mentor by their employer. CPA candidates taking the EVR will seek out their own CPA mentor; these candidates are guided to seek out mentors who may be colleagues at their current or past workplace, current or past instructors/faculty, or contacts met through workshops/seminars, community organizations, or their local CPABC chapter. In the event that a candidate in the EVR is unable to find a mentor, they can ask CPABC for help in matching them with a CPA mentor through our Mentor Match Portal. The Mentor Match Portal is an interactive tool designed to help candidates in the EVR find approved mentors.

Q: What is the difference between certification and licensing?

A: CPAs who receive certification are candidates who’ve completed all the CPA program requirements (education, examination, and practical experience) for membership in the profession.

Licensing is the process through which members may apply to practise public accounting as defined in the CPABC bylaws. CPAs who wish to be licensed in the audit, review, or compilation categories must meet specific education, examination, and practical experience requirements. CPA candidates who intend to apply for a public accounting licence after certification should follow specific pathways within the certification model while completing their CPA program of studies. If these requirements are not met during the certification process, bridging mechanisms are available once the candidate becomes a member.

To learn more about these pathways to public accounting, visit the Members section of the bccpa.ca website and look under Public Practice>CPABC Public Practice Licensing>Practitioners Licensing. Information about CPABC’s public practice licensing can also be found in this section.

Q: Can a CPA member provide public practice services without being licensed?

A: Not if they’re a partner, shareholder, or proprietor of a firm engaged in public practice in BC (this includes sole practitioners) or an employee who has overall engagement responsibility where activities are included in the definition of public practice. A CPA member who does not fall into the aforementioned categories could work for a public practice firm without being licensed, but would not be able to sign off on engagements or open their own public practice.

Q: Are PPR positions restricted to public practice firms?

A: No. PPR positions can be found in industry as well. However, PPR positions that will enable candidates to meet future licensure requirements for audit, review, or other assurance engagements must be in an audit or review path, as appropriate, that has been pre-approved for a public practice firm.

Q: How can my firm/company offer pre-approved positions?

A: As firms/companies differ in nature, we recommend that you contact Ella Bohinska, CPA, CA, CPABC’s program manager of pre-approved programs, to discuss the opportunity to create a pre-approved position at your firm/company. She can be reached at ebohinska@bccpa.ca.

Contact us

For more information on the practical experience requirements, please contact the CPABC PER team at cpabcper@bccpa.ca.

Quick glossary

CPAWSB – CPA Western School of Business
EVR – Experience verification route
PEP – Professional education program
PER – Practical experience requirements
PERT – Practical experience reporting tool
PPR – Pre-approved program route

Footnotes

  1. “CPA candidates” are individuals who are registered in the CPA Professional Education Program (CPA PEP) and who will write or have written the new Common Final Exam (CFE).
  2. The change is not applicable to legacy CA candidates in the audit and review paths—these individuals must still complete the 100 Tax Hours requirement in the CA PER.