Internationally trained accountant

Publication date: 
Thursday, March 21, 2013

I have worked as an accountant in my country for many years. Since I come to Toronto I only find temporary work, not in my field. My wife thinks we should go on Ontario Works. I am feeling really bad right now. Can you advise me how to find work as an accountant?



Dear Juan,

Unfortunately, employers are sometimes reluctant to hire accountants who are not familiar with the Canadian income tax, payroll and accounting systems. Getting relevant experience can be challenging but is by no means impossible. If you do have to apply for Ontario Works (OW), talk to your caseworker about Skills for Change’s Job Preparation for Internationally Trained Accountants and Bookkeepers Program. Designed for newcomers with experience in accounting or bookkeeping, this program can help you become familiar with Canadian taxation systems and accounting and bookkeeping practices. (Please note that the program for 2013 winter term is under way but you can call 416-658-3101 ext. 221 or 232 for more information.)

You can also take a bridge training program. In addition to helping you get workplace experience, these programs can assess your education and skills and prepare you for necessary examinations.

One such program is Ryerson University’s International Accounting and Finance Professionals Program, which includes taxation workshops, networking opportunities, workplace communication, work placements and mentoring. (The length and cost of the program depends on the needs of the participant.) Another option is York University’s Bridging Program for Internationally Educated Accounting Professionals, designed to allow students to work part- or full-time while studying. (Part of the cost for this program is borne by York.)

As well, ACCES Employment offers the six-week Financial Services Connections Program, which provides internationally trained accountants with the fundamentals of Canadian taxation as well as practical job search information and direct connections with employers.

Most if not all bridging programs offer workplace communications components which deal with soft skills. David Boughton, an English language and workplace communications trainer who works with internationally trained accountants, says that along with English skills, newcomers often have to improve these soft skills if they want to find work in their field. Boughton also recommends that newcomers take Language Instruction for Newcomers to Canada (LINC) classes.

If you think that lack of Canadian experience is your biggest drawback, consider registering with a temporary agency, particularly one specializing in accounting and finance jobs, such as Accountemps. In addition, consider volunteering as a way to expand your network. Many agencies seek volunteers with business and accounting background year-round; the need is especially high during income tax season.

Getting your accounting designation
Although internationally trained accountants sometimes find relevant jobs, such as accounting clerk or tax assistant, options improve for those with a Canadian accounting designation. Even those with an accounting designation from overseas need to take steps to achieve designation in Canada (through either the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants [CICA] the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada [CGAAC] or the Society of Management Accountants of Canada [CMA Canada]). *

This may include taking courses, completing exams and gaining Canadian work experience. The exact path you need to follow depends on where you received your accounting certification as well as your work experience and education.

In Canada, Chartered Accountants (CAs) and Certified General Accountants (CGAs) tend to deal with financial accounting while Certified Management Accountants (CMAs) focus more on analyzing both financial and non-financial information to help managers make decisions. To find out more about how to obtain one of these designations check the front page of the Skills for Change website to see when their next information session is.

Consider making an in-person appointment with a staff member of Global Experience Ontario (GEO), which carries extensive career information on accounting. As well, the Ontario government provides detailed career maps for CMAs, CGAs and CAs. (Note that the Certified General Accountants of Ontario [CGAO] offers two bridging programs for those who plan to obtain the CGA designation: the Gateway for Accounting and Finance Professionals Program and an online program.)

I encourage you not to give up your goal of landing an accounting job. Generally speaking, accounting is a solid career choice. In the US, for example, a 21 per cent increase in job growth of accountants and auditors is projected between 2008 and 2018. With some persistence I think you can find employment in your field.

Best of luck,


* The accounting profession in Canada is in transition right now — as of Jan. 1, 2013, CMA Canada and CICA joined together to establish the Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada (CPA Canada), creating a new CPA certification program.

About is a free online magazine to help Toronto job seekers find work. An initiative of Findhelp Information Services, is an Employment Ontario project funded in part by the Government of Canada.

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