Becoming a Chartered Professional Accountant traditionally required one to work for several years at a public accounting firm. But in recent years, there’s been several interesting twists in the traditional career path for CPAs.
It’s now possible to gain certification through something called an experience verification route (EVR). This track allows aspiring CPAs to gain the necessary credentials without working for a public accounting firm; more specifically, to “work in any position that meets the initial pre-assessment requirements” of CPA Ontario.
While the EVR has opened up a bevy of new and interesting options for young accountants, the value of gaining experience at a traditional, smaller accounting firm simply can’t be overstated.
“You have a very accelerated learning curve working in a smaller firm because of the sheer variety of work you’ll be doing,” says J. Rolland Vaive, the founder of Ottawa-based Vaive and Associates. “You’ll see income tax accounting, corporate tax, personal tax. It’s that variety and the constantly changing nature of it that, if you’ve got the right mindset, allows you to learn a lot more very quickly.
“I don’t think the experience you get in a small firm can be beaten,” he says. “I think it’s second to none.”
Vaive adds that, even outside of the experiential benefits of working like a firm like his, there are other perks. For one, it’s very interesting and satisfying work.
“The work is interesting,” he explains. “In a smaller firm, you’ll get a lot of autonomy in terms of working with clients. You have the opportunity to interact with clients more directly, and I think you can make a more meaningful contribution.”
Another benefit of starting out at small accounting firm is that individuals can often look forward to continued employment with the firm once they’ve passed their exam. That’s certainly the case at Vaive and Associates.
“That is kind of how we recruit,” Vaive says. “Putting your time in and getting your designation with the firm is a really fantastic honeymoon period. Our hope is that we’ll be able to take people to the stage where they get their designation, they pass their exams, and they truly have a passion for this kind of work and they stay with us long-term.
“When we hire people, we’re hoping that they’re with us forever.”