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A CGA has expertise in a number of areas, including finance, taxation, business strategy, auditing, management and business leadership

This story is part of the Globe Careers’ series looking at specific jobs, with their qualifications, descriptions, responsibilities and current salaries. For more, see our Salaries series.

Job:

Certified General Accountant (CGA)

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Salary:

Starting at about $55,000 a year, and it can climb well into the six-figure range, depending on the role. CGAs rank in the top 5 per cent of all Canadian earners, and many of them are C-level executives, according to the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada).

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Education:

The CGA program is the only Canadian accounting course you can enter without a degree, but a bachelor's degree must be completed before entering Professional Applications and Competence Evaluations (PACE), the two-year certification program. The cost of the higher certification levels, not including the bachelor's degree, is approximately $650 a year, plus additional course fees of $1,100 to 1,500 per course (depending on the province or territory).

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By the numbers:

Depending on where you’re at with your career, age varies and there are slightly more female CGAs than male. As of 2012, newly certified general accountants were 54 per cent female.

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The job:

A CGA has expertise in a number of areas, including finance, taxation, business strategy, auditing, management and business leadership. “CGAs don’t just crunch numbers. They make decisions, help orchestrate deals, provide strategic advice,” says Lyle Handfield, vice-president of international and corporate affairs at the Certified General Accountants Association of Canada (CGA-Canada).

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Job prospects:

Given the broad range of industries where you can find CGAs, the job prospects are good. “Becoming an accountant gives you the skills and freedom to find a rewarding job at any organization, anywhere in the world,” says Mr. Handfield, calling accountants “the financial heart” behind most businesses. Mutual recognition agreements between Canadian accounting organizations and foreign accounting bodies mean accountants have opportunities to work internationally.

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Challenges:

It’s not easy to get a CGA designation. There are tough exams to pass. A love for math and problem solving is a must. Once you land in the profession, you need to stay on top of the current requirements and developments in your field.

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Why they do it:

CGAs hold diverse positions in businesses across Canada and around the world, Mr. Handfield says. “There’s no limit to the places you can go or the industries you can work with an accounting designation.” They’re also well respected. “Employers value and respect the CGA designation and recognize it for its rigorous technical and skills training.”

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Misconceptions:

Most people think accounting is boring. But according to Mr. Handfield, the work of an accountant is just as diverse as the people, and it can be practiced in fields such as film and television, non-profit organizations, consumer products, education, and information technology. “There are endless possibilities with an accounting designation,” he says.

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Give us the real scoop:

Are you a CGA in Canada?

Write a note in the comments area and tell us what you would tell others who are interested in the profession, or e-mail your comment to careerquestion@globeandmail.com

Want to read more stories from our salaries series? Click here:

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