For this issue of Learning Curves, which looks at the educational advantages of professional associations, we interviewed a young woman, Sarah M., who has the CGA designation also known as a certificate. (CGA stands for Certified General Accountant.)
LC: You are a CGA. What kind of accounting does a CGA do?
SM: A CGA does most kinds of accounting: finance, tax, costing, controllership. You tend to specialize though.
LC: What kind of accounting do you do?
SM: I do analysis of financial results.
LC: What is the difference between a CA (chartered accountant) and a CGA?
SM: It used to be that only a CA could perform audits, but now CGAs can as well. In the past a CGA did not need a university degree while a CA did; however, a CGA now requires a university degree as well. While CGAs and CAs do much the same work, the CA seems to have more status.
LC: Why did you choose to get a CGA instead of a CA?
SM: When I was studying for my CGA, you did not have to have a university degree. Now you do. But I decided to do the CGA because I wouldn’t have to go to university. In fact, I worked full time the entire time I was studying for my CGA.
LC: How many years did this take you?
SM: I did the whole program by Distance Ed and it took me about six years. But the system has changed since I got my designation. Now you cannot get your CGA designation until you have a university degree. That doesn’t mean you need the degree when you enter the CGA program. You can get it along the way or after you have completed the courses for the CGA, but you won’t actually have the CGA until you have a university degree. The CGA Association has partnership agreements with several universities so that CGA students can get their university degree as well as their CGA designation. They are SAIT Polytechnic where you can earn a Bachelor of Applied Business Administration; Laurentian University, where you can earn either an Honours Bachelor of Commerce (B.Com.) or a Master of Business Administration (MBA); and Athabasca University where you earn an Executive MBA for CGAs. Now that the degree is necessary, I plan to get my B.Com from Laurentian. I get a lot of credits for the CGA courses I have taken. So I don’t think it will take me long to get the degree.
LC: What would a person do who wants the CGA but does not want to do Distance Ed?
SM: Many colleges and universities offer accounting courses that count as CGA courses. These courses are developed and monitored by the CGA Association but delivered by educational institutions.
LC: Who do you work for and what is your job?
SM: I manage the accounting department of a multinational freight forwarding company. I manage the information systems and prepare financial statements. This is my sixth job in four companies since I started working in accounting.
LC: Are you happy with your career choice?
SM: I am. I enjoy it very much.