Sign up  |  Log in

CFA vs CPA for a Career in Finance in Canada

Hi Guys,

I was debating whether to pursue CFA vs CPA. Brief background, 8 years experience in Technology Consulting.  Pursuing MBA at province level MBA in Western Canada(ranked within top 10 in Canada).

Have passed CFA Level 1 and thinking to write CFA Level 2 at the end of the 2nd year. However on observing replies on this forum: Most investment jobs are in Toronto, where we have an oversupply of CFAs.

I was looking at CPA route and :) , even after finishing all pre-requisites, I need to do 2 years of CPE and then I can write the exams.

Do you think CPA is an easier route to finance.

The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

What do you want to do with your life? Wanting to be in finance is like wanting to be an engineer. It’s an open statement with little meaning. That could be processing invoices to negotiating billion dollar M&A. The answer you get will be highly dependent on what you want to do.

“I can no longer obey. I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”

I’m a CA/CPA working in Finance in Toronto, might be able to provide some insight if you share a bit more on what it is you want to do for a career

I am a quantitative type of person, who tends to analyze situations from a logical point of view.

For e.g. I spent some years of life in a place where the language was spoken was alien to me. I would describe the process of understanding the language as re-engineering i.e. where you have the final product but you don’t know the individual components.

I realize that CFA is more suited to my background. However, I have seen people with engineering/econometrics background going the accounting route. I believe there is a need for analytical people in accounting, as people have failed to see scandals in the past (Correct me if I am wrong) ?

So my question to you is this:

Do we need to study 2 years of weekend classes after completing the pre-requisite to be able to be eligible to sit for the 4 exams ? 

How easy would it be to start your own practise after a few years ?

The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

.

AbhiJ wrote:

Hi Guys,

I was debating whether to pursue CFA vs CPA. Brief background, 8 years experience in Technology Consulting.  Pursuing MBA at province level MBA in Western Canada(ranked within top 10 in Canada).

Have passed CFA Level 1 and thinking to write CFA Level 2 at the end of the 2nd year. However on observing replies on this forum: Most investment jobs are in Toronto, where we have an oversupply of CFAs.

I was looking at CPA route and :) , even after finishing all pre-requisites, I need to do 2 years of CPE and then I can write the exams.

Do you think CPA is an easier route to finance.

I know few alumni who tried this CPA thing.. didn’t work out. Finally end up going back to engineering jobs..

Did they complete CPA ?

I can make more money as a Business Analyst to start.Having said that you know that tech is not big in Canada. Money made over the career is not a spot price but rather area under the curve. I think you too have 4 years of tech exp +  bachelor degree in Engg. 


My target market is not Toronto to begin with. I would rather try in Western provinces and may be few years later move to US/Toronto. If nothing works out I can stick to tech.

The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

^ Completely wrong. Tech is way bigger than accounting in Canada. You’re seriously misled if you’ve heard otherwise. Most accountants struggle to crack $100k but someone with 5+ years of SAP or BI or Oracle is making bank. I know, my wife is one of them. She gets headhunted weekly for opportunities. I do well in finance but I’m near the top of my class for outcomes from the people I’ve kept in touch with. Most are still in intermediate analyst roles 10 years out. Three of us (out of maybe 50 I keep in touch with) are manager level.

Currently in Calgary I see 5x as many postings for SAP, Business Analysts & IT project managers compared to anything in accounting/finance. And they probably outnumber pure finance jobs 100:1.

You should figure out what standard of living you want to achieve and determine the best path to it from where you’re at. Your IT background (if legit and not just call centre support) plus MBA is a much bigger ticket than accounting jobs.

CPA can be beneficial. Don’t get me wrong. But your 10 years of IT experience should have a much higher NPV than spending another 5 years chasing a credential with marginal benefit in your situation.

“I can no longer obey. I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”

Something weird I have figured out recently is that in tech there is so much room for maneuver than accounting.I maybe totally wrong but improving in tech is directly correlated with how you think and your creativity which can be improved significantly. From what I have seen accounting is alot like the armed forces, you have to spend specific time at specific positions.I may be completely wrong but breadth and depth of knowledge plays a much more significant part in CS/Tech than in accounting.The reason I chose not to major in accounting was because its not easy to move up the ranks if you are talented IMHO. 

Also these days with all the distruptive industries you can never be certain that jobs like accounting that are kind of blue collar corporate stuff will not be automated.I personally think one has to be an idiot to change from tech to accounting unless they are in very specific situations.In my very very very uneducated guess and from what I have seen myself ( at least 5 cases) its very easier to transition from a decent tech background to “high finance” than an accounting one.

geo wrote:
^ Completely wrong. Tech is way bigger than accounting in Canada. You’re seriously misled if you’ve heard otherwise. Most accountants struggle to crack $100k but someone with 5+ years of SAP or BI or Oracle is making bank. I know, my wife is one of them. She gets headhunted weekly for opportunities. I do well in finance but I’m near the top of my class for outcomes from the people I’ve kept in touch with. Most are still in intermediate analyst roles 10 years out. Three of us (out of maybe 50 I keep in touch with) are manager level. Currently in Calgary I see 5x as many postings for SAP, Business Analysts & IT project managers compared to anything in accounting/finance. And they probably outnumber pure finance jobs 100:1. You should figure out what standard of living you want to achieve and determine the best path to it from where you’re at. Your IT background (if legit and not just call centre support) plus MBA is a much bigger ticket than accounting jobs. CPA can be beneficial. Don’t get me wrong. But your 10 years of IT experience should have a much higher NPV than spending another 5 years chasing a credential with marginal benefit in your situation.

Thanks for your reply. It makes sense. Do you have any idea what sort of skills/domain knowledge along with tech can makimize my value in Canada. By tech I mean business analysis/ project management.

The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

I think you’d be best of staying in your industry. Finance is great, but difficult to break into. That said, I see that you are in an MBA program, any contact with banks there for recruiting?

geo wrote:
^ Completely wrong. Tech is way bigger than accounting in Canada. You’re seriously misled if you’ve heard otherwise. Most accountants struggle to crack $100k but someone with 5+ years of SAP or BI or Oracle is making bank. I know, my wife is one of them. She gets headhunted weekly for opportunities. I do well in finance but I’m near the top of my class for outcomes from the people I’ve kept in touch with. Most are still in intermediate analyst roles 10 years out. Three of us (out of maybe 50 I keep in touch with) are manager level.

Currently in Calgary I see 5x as many postings for SAP, Business Analysts & IT project managers compared to anything in accounting/finance. And they probably outnumber pure finance jobs 100:1.

You should figure out what standard of living you want to achieve and determine the best path to it from where you’re at. Your IT background (if legit and not just call centre support) plus MBA is a much bigger ticket than accounting jobs.

CPA can be beneficial. Don’t get me wrong. But your 10 years of IT experience should have a much higher NPV than spending another 5 years chasing a credential with marginal benefit in your situation.


You nailed it.

.

.

.

AbhiJ wrote:

geo wrote:
^ Completely wrong. Tech is way bigger than accounting in Canada. You’re seriously misled if you’ve heard otherwise. Most accountants struggle to crack $100k but someone with 5+ years of SAP or BI or Oracle is making bank. I know, my wife is one of them. She gets headhunted weekly for opportunities. I do well in finance but I’m near the top of my class for outcomes from the people I’ve kept in touch with. Most are still in intermediate analyst roles 10 years out. Three of us (out of maybe 50 I keep in touch with) are manager level. Currently in Calgary I see 5x as many postings for SAP, Business Analysts & IT project managers compared to anything in accounting/finance. And they probably outnumber pure finance jobs 100:1. You should figure out what standard of living you want to achieve and determine the best path to it from where you’re at. Your IT background (if legit and not just call centre support) plus MBA is a much bigger ticket than accounting jobs. CPA can be beneficial. Don’t get me wrong. But your 10 years of IT experience should have a much higher NPV than spending another 5 years chasing a credential with marginal benefit in your situation.

Thanks for your reply. It makes sense. Do you have any idea what sort of skills/domain knowledge along with tech can makimize my value in Canada. By tech I mean business analysis/ project management.

Financial IT is good cash. Your MBA will help with that. CPA would help too but you’ll have to grunt through the experience component and your NPV is likely going to suck down that path.

“I can no longer obey. I have tasted command, and I cannot give it up.”

Bro, For an MBA you use an awful lot of words to convey few ideas. You are comparing Indian IT with North American IT.  Companies such as Wipro will only mislead you regarding IT. The stressful part about IT is wrong. That’s what you experienced back in India. In Canda the stress aspect is significantly lower though not absent. Learning new stuff every day that’s not how tech companies operate in NA. IT is not only software developer. You have team leaders/project managers/business analysts etc.  The link below will educate you the differences.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhA3zeELPzc

The part regarding  IT that sucks is lower respect within the organization and a lower upper cap in salary - unless you are in a hot domain such as SAP or Analytics. That’s why I inquired regarding how to maximize my NPV using complimentary skills. 

I see your experience is similar to mine (though 4 years less). So what’s your plan ? Do you want to start in accounting ? 

The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

geo wrote:
AbhiJ wrote:

Thanks for your reply. It makes sense. Do you have any idea what sort of skills/domain knowledge along with tech can maximize my value in Canada. By technology I mean business analysis/ project management.

Financial IT is good cash. Your MBA will help with that. CPA would help too but you’ll have to grunt through the experience component and your NPV is likely going to suck down that path.

I agree that CPA would be a good complement to tech. I was interested in CMA as it did not have pre-requisites etc. CMA merged with CPA so no longer have that option. However as you have said path of CPA is too long = 1 year of prereqs + 2 years of PEP + exams. So CPA is out of question.

For the next 1 year my goals would be:

  1. Improving writing and communication skills by joining groups such as Toastmasters.
  2. Doing PMP and Business Analysts certifications. 
  3. Sharpening my tech/analytical skills by taking such courses in MBA.
  4. Possibly writing CFA Level 2 (graduating year).

CFA looks like a total overkill given I will be most probably working in tech. By gut, however, says that I should complete CFA.

I would be interacting with a few more people to finalize my plans and update the thread if something changes.


The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

.

.

Bad idea man. As an ex-auditor I can tell you.. accounting is dog$hit

.

Suggest you talk to people in tech sector in Canda and consider it an option. 

The harder the battle , the sweeter the victory.

.

What did you decide AbhiJ? What was the outcome? have you moved to canada?

AbhiJ wrote:

How easy would it be to start your own practise after a few years ?

as (another) former auditor, size is important for accountancy firms. If you work for firms the size of KPMG, some of your clients will be huge. If you hang out your own shingle, what do you see yourself doing? You’re not going to be auditing Amazon or GM. If you’re lucky, you’ll be doing taxes for super-rich people. If you’re less lucky, you’ll be doing the accounts for the local convenience store and laundromat.

I was only an auditor for a year, but I remember being told that whenever they got a new client, the first year’s audit was always done at a loss because they had to learn how the client company worked etc. Subsequent years would be less work as they could just dig out the files they had prepared in the first year

And at least at the firm I worked for, it seemed that many are called but few are chosen, so to speak. There was a pyramid structure which I assume is normal, with very very few people making it to the top of the pyramid as partner. Those that didn’t make it to partner were basically kicked out of the firm and either got jobs at the firms they’d been auditing or went to smaller accountancy firms.

If you’re a “quantitative type of person,” have you considered being a quant? You’d likely need something like a MFE (masters of financial engineering, though the name varies greatly from school to school) and would spend most of your time programming.

———————————————– Trust God and keep your powder dry ———————————————– Southern by the grace of God

well, it depends upon your career goals, to be honest CFA and CPA titles cannot be compared apple-to-apple because they represent qualification in two different sub-sectors within the general accounting and finance field. 

CPA is more focussed towards accounting whereas CFA is for those who are more interested in finance and investment and looking for a career as equity analysts, fund managers the first and foremost consideration is the relevance to your career. Though if you take time as a factor then  CPA has more restrictive education and experience requirement, but once you get qualified, the process is much faster when CFA is compared it usually takes more time to complete. 

You can also opt for a finance course in Canada in parallel that would also help you make your profile stronger as well as land into a finace job.

Agreed. You can finish CPA much faster than CFA (eg within a year). It is computer-based vs handwriting, and have flexibility in choosing test date compared to CFA