Edwards ready for designation change

Provinces across Canada are unifying professional accounting designations and the Department of Accounting at the U of S Edwards School of Business is ready for the change.

"This is a tremendous accomplishment for the profession of accounting and has been in the works for a really long time," said Noreen Mahoney, associate dean of students and degree programs in the Edwards School of Business.

In the past, accountants could work towards one of three professional designations: a Chartered Accountant (CA), a Certified General Accountant (CGA), or a Certified Management Accountant (CMA). New Saskatchewan legislation will see those designations merged into one: the Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA).

"Why does accounting need three separate designations? Each designation has its own governing body. The profession was really fractured and each designation competed with the others. In the marketplace, no one was sure who to hire, a CA, CGA or CMA," explained Mahoney, who is a CA. "Last year, the Quebec government merged all three and other provinces are doing the same. In Saskatchewan, legislation has gone through second reading and we are hopeful it will pass very soon."

The new CPA designation will require new certification programs and the Edwards school, with its Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc) program, is prepared for the new process. MPAcc, explained Mahoney, is the only program of its kind in Western Canada that is ready to provide the necessary training and preparation for the CPA designation.

"In addition to being a graduate program, MPAcc also has been providing CA preparation. So we had some adjustments to make in preparation for the unified designation and in May, the first group of students will go through the program to be the first CPAs."

For that reason, explained Kaili Xu, acting director of graduate programs in Edwards, MPAcc attracts students from across Western Canada. "About a third come from BC, a few from Manitoba, and the rest pretty equally from Saskatchewan and Alberta," said Xu, adding that the program takes place over two summers. "We receive about 250 applications for admission each year, but only accept 90 students each summer so we have a maximum of 180 students enrolled each year."

Now in its 15th year, MPAcc has a reputation for preparing its students for the certification process, said Nathalie Johnstone, assistant professor of accounting and MPAcc instructor. "The U of S is known for its exceptional accounting education. We have made a large investment in accounting faculty and have one of the largest faculty complements in Western Canada."

"We gave out the first undergraduate accounting degree in Canada; we've been at this for awhile," Mahoney added. "The CPA designation will send a strong signal to the marketplace that we are business professionals with strong technical and problem- solving skills. We are really proud to offer the program that prepares students for this designation."

Once legislation passes in Saskatchewan, CPA will be an officially recognized designation that meets or exceeds the standards as set by the International Accounting Standards Board.

"Frankly, we're really excited about the future," said Mahoney. "We won't have to spend so much time or money explaining the difference between the designations, and we will be a unified voice focused on protecting the public interests."

Share this story