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The Most Valuable Professional Designations in Canada

A man holds up a card as proof of his many professional designations

Credibility is king, particularly within professions that require certain levels of technical and other arcane knowledge, and professional designations are often considered proof of that credibility – especially during the job application and hiring processes. Those strings of seemingly random letters are worn like second surnames because they scream acceptance and approval by a collective of experts who by definition know more about a specific field than any outsider. For employers, professional designations bring comfort; for job seekers, they bring confidence. But not all professional designations are created equal. And that has a lot to do with not all professional associations being created equal.

Many would argue that the legitimacy of professional associations – and by extension, the professional designations they confer – rests both in their commitment to test applicants’ knowledge before granting membership and in their willingness and ability to discipline, and even revoke the membership of, those who break rules or fail to meet stringent standards. Medical associations, for example, have such power, while various communications associations, although they have codes, charge dues, offer courses, grant certifications, and bestow awards, have more bark than bite. And of course, legitimacy is linked to value. A medical degree makes you a doctor; a certificate in customer experience makes you $3,000 poorer.

So, what are the most valuable professional designations out there right now? Much of that rests on where the jobs are. Currently, in Canada, the finance, IT, and engineering sectors feature some of the most in-demand jobs in the country. It’s obvious why students and job seekers should take note of the following list, but employers should too, as the missing link for bolstering that bottom line may be right below.

Most valuable professional designations in financial services and finance

  • Chartered Accountant (CA): CAs have a lot of open doors in front of them, both at home and around the world, particularly as policy makers, strategists, and other kinds of business leaders. While there are several routes to becoming a CA, they must all complete a rigorous 51 credit-hour requirement and three years of work experience with either a public accounting firm or with a corporate or government office.
  • Certified General Accountant (CGA): Respected in Canada and abroad, CGAs can work in any sector, public or private, for-profit or not-for-profit. CGAs have the potential to become highly respected senior officers, including public auditors, directors and vice presidents of finance, and CFOs.
  • Certified Management Accountant (CMA): The three pillars of a CMA are accounting, management, and strategy. CMAs can find work in virtually any organization regardless of industry, particularly because of their expertise in performance measurement, risk management, assurance, and other specialties.
  • Certified Financial Planner (CFP): Although it’s sometimes seen as an entry-level certification, the CFP designation is among the most widely recognized and respected finance sector certifications one can receive, particularly because CFPs deal in personal finances.
  • Personal Financial Planner (PFP): What’s the difference between a PFP and a CFP? Some say not much, and that CFPs are actually more credible because they’re certified by the non-profit Financial Planning Standards Council, whereas PFPs are certified by the for-profit Canadian Securities Institute (CSI). However, some argue that a PFP is more focused on banking rather than personal finance, despite the name.
  • Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU): Highly distinguished, a CLU focuses on wealth transfer and estate planning, dealing with many tax and legal issues.
  • Chartered Investment Manager (CIM): CIMs build and balance stock portfolios through research, analysis, and risk assessment.
  • Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA): Highly rigorous, time-consuming, and globally recognized, a CFA certification opens many doors in the investment world to its holder, covering a wide array of topics, including accounting, derivatives, analysis, markets, and ethics.
  • Canadian Securities Course (CSC): Offered by the CSI, passing this entry course licenses one to work in Canadian securities, and is the gateway to a banking career.

In May 2012, the unification of the accounting profession in Quebec brought together, in a single order, the chartered accountants of Quebec (CAs), the certified general accountants of Quebec (CGAs) and the certified management accountants of Quebec (CMAs). All of these accountants are now referred to as chartered professional accountants of Quebec (CPAs). The designation each held before the unification is added to the CPA designation, thus leading to the following designations:

  • CPA, CA
  • CPA, CGA
  • CPA, CMA

Most valuable professional designations in IT

  • Project Management Professional (PMP): Focused on directing projects, PMPs stay on the cutting edge of technological advances while at the same time managing teams and budgets. A PMP certification is widely recognized, highly revered, and opens doors to a lot of additional career opportunities.
  • Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate or Expert (MCSA/MCSE): With various subsets, such as Windows 8, SharePoint 2013, server infrastructure, messaging, and more, these certifications are in high demand globally as Microsoft software is still king in the business world. An MCSE has successfully completed three more exams than the MCSA.
  • Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP): Focused on Microsoft IT infrastructure, MCITPs can also choose from several subsets, including SharePoint, SQL Server, various applications, and more.
  • Certified Information Systems Security Professional (CISSP): Security is of the utmost importance in IT, and a CISSP is considered among the best in the business. Their expertise includes everything from apps to the cloud to smartphones.
  • Cisco Certified Network Associate (CNNA): For network engineers with at least three years’ experience, a CNNA certification designates expertise in setting up, operating, maintaining, and troubleshooting Cisco networks.

Most valuable professional designations in engineering

In Canada, the only engineering designation is that of Professional Engineer (P. Eng.). However, that one designation opens a variety of opportunities in several disciplines. The types of professional engineers listed below are those that are currently the most sought after in Canada.

  • Petroleum Engineer: Perhaps not surprisingly, considering Alberta’s oil boom and Canada’s eagerness to deliver more oil to foreign buyers, petroleum engineers are in high demand. Petroleum engineers can specialize in oil recovery, drilling and exploration, or interface management between the well and the oil deposit.
  • Chemical Engineer: Chemical engineering has its place in a variety of industries, including plastics, pharmaceuticals, pulp, food, and environmental preservation. Chemical engineers develop chemical processes and equipment.
  • Aerospace Engineer: Airplanes, helicopters, and satellites are just a few of the machines aerospace engineers work on. Demand in the aerospace sector is cyclical, but right now it’s on the upswing.
  • Civil Engineer: Many civil engineers have recently retired and not enough students have gone into the field to replace them. On top of that, many cities in Canada require upgraded infrastructures. That’s where a civil engineer’s knowledge of building reparation, roads, railways, and airports is most needed.
  • Computer and Software Engineers: A combination of electrical engineering and computer science, computer engineering is a macroscopic field with several specializations, including software engineering, which focuses on program development and maintenance and is specifically in high demand.

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