“It will take sacrifice, but it is worth it!” Interview with Herbert Herrera, CPA, CGA

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A family of fiveHerbert Herrera was a Certified Public Accountant working in his home country’s central bank when the opportunity to immigrate came into view. Initially, he was hesitant to move because of his stable job. But for the betterment of his young family, he started considering moving either to Australia or Canada. Having aunts and uncles who have established successful lives in Manitoba made Canada a clear choice for Herbert. Together with his family, he arrived in Winnipeg in 2007 and has not regretted his decision since. Today, Herbert is working as an Income Tax Officer (Auditor) for Canada Revenue Agency, a job which he finds both fulfilling and rewarding. He shares with us his settlement journey and how achieving his designation as a Chartered Professional Accountant has been the key to his overall success in Canada:

English Online (EO): Could you please share with us the general steps an internationally-educated and trained accountant would have to go through to be a Chartered Professional Accountant? How long does the process usually take?

Herbert Herrera (HH): Before, internationally-trained and educated accountants can choose from three paths/designations (Legacy Programs): Certified Management Accountant (CMA), Certified General Accountant (CGA), and Chartered Accountant (CA). This had reference with your specialty. But now, it has been streamlined into one program. Here are the general steps:

  1. First, decide if you want to go through the CPA program. You will need to invest a lot of money and time in it, so make sure that you are ready to commit to the program.
  2. Connect with the Chartered Professional Accountants Manitoba. It will be better if you start researching the requirements while still in your home country. This could facilitate the faster acquisition of proper credentials and documents. Check this page on their website: Get Started. You can also download the step-by-step guide: Program Admission. If you have questions about the steps, send them an email. You can even attend free Information Sessions, which are conducted online and face-to-face.
  3. Have your transcript assessed. This assessment is done by the CPA Western School of Business (CPAWSB). To get started, you will need to create an online profile on the portal. You will then get step-by-step instructions on how to complete a transcript assessment request.
  4. Assessment proper. When your request is processed, they will notify you of the required documents to be submitted. Once all the documents are with CPAWSB, they will conduct the assessment of your academic and professional credentials. Aside from your education, they will also check if you are member of an international accounting body and if they have a standing Mutual Recognition Agreement (MRA) or Reciprocal Membership Agreement (RMA) with a legacy CA, CGA, or CMA accounting body.
  5. Apply for admission. After the assessment, they will advise you of the next steps. They will email you when it is ready in your My CPA Profile. They will inform you of the program and the courses you need to take and how to apply for admission.
  6. Register for the courses and take exams. When your admission application has been approved, you will receive an email. You can now register for the courses or modules that you need. The program may take an estimated two to four years to finish, depending on how many courses you take per semester. You will also need to have relevant employment since the program has a practical experience requirement component.

“Even if you have not finished the courses yet, you can get good accounting jobs just by being in the program.”

EO: Considering the investment in money and time, was taking the program worth it?

HH: Definitely. If you have decided that the accounting field is where you belong, going through the process of getting the designation is well worth it. Going through it is not easy. In my case, I was working while studying plus I have a young family. You really have to be dedicated with your studies. Of course you wouldn’t want to fail because of the effort and time put in, and the cost. But even then, I would advise accountants to go through it because:

  1. It is good training. The program prepares you for real-life accounting situations in Canada.
  2. Even if you have not finished the courses yet, you can get good accounting jobs just by being in the program. If you look at current job postings, most of them will say that they prefer candidates who “must be enrolled in a CPA-approved accounting course” or “pursuing a CPA designation”. You have to be at least a level 3 or 4 CPA. That’s the requirement for hiring for an accountant.
  3. Some companies will shoulder your tuition for courses. Some pay for 50% or cover 100% if you pass the course.
  4. After getting the designation, you get the good, well-paying accounting jobs. Your options will actually be limitless when you have the CPA designation.

EO: Is the designation recognized in all Canadian provinces and territories?

HH: If you move from Manitoba to another province and need to work there, you may have to transfer provincial CPA membership. You should consult the local CPA body in that province or territory on the rules to be able to use your designation in that jurisdiction. According to the CPA Manitoba FAQ, “Each provincial organization regulates the use of its respective accounting designations in its province.”

EO: What were some of your biggest challenges in your journey to licensure/registration?

HH: The English language was the main challenge for me. I did not come from an English-speaking family so my grammar was really bad when I arrived here! I found that some people will judge you if you can’t speak in English. They would assume that you’re stupid when you can’t communicate well. So even if you are smart, if you can’t speak English, it’s going to be a problem. So I read a lot of books and watched a lot of English movies. I also practiced conversing with my niece to improve my communication skills.

The courses in the CPA program require report-writing. It’s not a matter of choosing from multiple choice answers where you can blindly pick and sometimes get lucky. It requires processing all the information and making reports in English. So again, if you don’t know how to write in English, you’re not going to make it.

Right now I am also teaching at Robertson College and I have a lot of Filipino students. For many of them, English is their main problem too. I tell them that they have to improve because as an accountant you have to talk to a lot of people. Without being able to communicate comfortably, you will not be able to perform well. So I advise them to keep reading and do their best to improve their language skills.

EO: What options do unlicensed or unregistered accountants have if they don’t want to go through the registration process? Do you think a career-change is advisable?

HH: In my opinion, I don’t think it’s advisable if you love being an accountant. However, if you see that your interest is in something else, maybe you can do it. Career change is not easy. Just like the process of registration, it will take time, effort and money. You would have to go through training and invest time in gaining new experience.

If you don’t want to go through the CPA program, you have the option of taking an accounting assistant program (a 6-month diploma program) offered by colleges in MB. It is geared toward entry level accounting employees. You can also check out CPA Canada’s Advanced Certificate in Accounting and Finance (ACAF). I think Red River College also has an accounting program where you can get a full degree. But again, if you are ambitious and if you are dedicated to your chosen profession, I would still advise you to get into the CPA program.

EO: What tips can you give internationally educated accountants who are looking to earn their licensure/registration in MB?

HH: Here are my tips:

  1. Improve your English communication skills continuously.
  2. Prepare yourself. You should expect some sacrifices but earning your designation is totally worth it. Right now I can choose any job I want.
  3. During the process, be prepared to have no social life. Your time will be divided between work and studies. I mainly socialized with my family.
  4. Take breaks when you can. It took me 3 ½ years to finish because I took a break every summer. I went camping with my kids and did other fun stuff. I made it a point to spend some quality time with my family.
  5. If they’re in the program and need a mentor, they can find my name on the list. It’s on the website.

CPA mentor match portal for CPA practical experience requirements (how the portal works):

EO: Would you say that accounting is a flourishing profession in Manitoba? Would you recommend to internationally-educated and trained accountants that they practice their profession here?

HH: I think that there is a demand for accountants here and there will always be a demand. I’m just not sure if there is a big demand right now. But I can tell you this. A lot of companies may cut some employees but never accountants. Because as long as the business exists, they will need records and they will need accountants to keep them. So there’s job security in this profession, especially when you are a CPA.


Disclaimer: English Online shares stories of newcomers who have successfully achieved their licensure or certification for the purpose of encouraging other newcomers who are aspiring to practice their regulated professions in Manitoba. As personal circumstances, credentials, and experiences vary from person to person, the experience related in the feature may not be the same for all aspirants. Also, rules, eligibility requirements and procedures may have changed from the time the featured professional completed their licence to the time the story was published. Therefore, it is important that internationally-educated and trained professionals contact and connect with their respective professional associations or regulatory bodies to get up-to-date information. English Online does not provide credential assessment or qualifications recognition services.

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For specific questions or other inquiries, contact the Chartered Professional Accountants Manitoba via email or face to face. Go to this page to find the link for specific questions or to set an appointment for counselling: Contact Us.

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