Working as a Co-Op student in a CPA Firm

by a Co-op Student

I am a second-year student at Selkirk College, following the program post-graduate diploma in accounting. I have a BSc in applied accounting degree with 6+ years of experience in finance and accounting. During my working career, I have worked in auditing, managerial accounting, bookkeeping, and financial accounting.

I started to work as a Co-op student on 9th January 2023 with Virtual Heights Accounting. The Co-op position has provided me with the platform to build my accounting career in Canada. I was able to gain knowledge and develop my skills during my Co-op tenure.

Virtual Heights Accounting firm is an online firm. Virtual Heights Accounting provides services like bookkeeping, compilation engagement, personal taxes, and corporate taxes. Virtual Heights Accounting firm is a small accounting firm that is able to serve a higher number of clients. The reason that they can serve a large volume of clients is due to the more efficient technology that the firm uses. The firm is dependent on technology and the staff are always up to date with new developments.

All the Things I Learned….

  • Bookkeeping – Importing the bank statements to the system, Coding the supporting to the correct accounting code, and matching the bank statement line item with the supporting receipts. Report unmatched transactions to the client and obtain support.
  • Compilation Engagements – Compilation engagement refers to performing the year-end financial statements. Setup the year-end working papers, Verify the prior year’s balances, draft the financial statements, identify any missing accounting codes, and add them, obtain supporting for balance sheet line items, prepare year-end adjusting journals, report any supporting mismatches, submit the working papers and financial statements for the review.
  • Personal Taxation – Set up the personal tax return and document management file, extract the information from the CRA account, add any missing slips, Review the numbers with a document supporting, Rectify the errors, and submit the tax return for review.

At the start of the Co-op, I was given a brief orientation. After that, I started online system training. After the online training. I started to work on bookkeeping for a few clients. I learned that knowing sales tax for different products and services is very important for a bookkeeper. Later I perform a compilation engagement (Accounting Year End). During the second month, I started to work on more compilation engagements and continued the bookkeeping for the same clients whom I engaged in the previous month. Performing compilation engagements allows me to understand the structure and procedures used by a Canadian firm in completing a compilation engagement. Later, I was given training on (personal) taxation. After that, I was involved in preparing personal tax returns. This allowed me to be part of the tax preparation team for VHA. This was my first hands-on experience working with personal taxes.

With the experience of the first Co-op term, I was given work with more complex clients including company groups. During this tenure, I solely handled a catch-up bookkeeping assignment for two clients. During these assignments, I learned the different strategies used in performing bookkeeping for different industries.  Further, I was involved in completing several compilation engagements from which some of them were group companies.  Finally, I helped prepare the draft policies and procedures for VHA as a requirement for CPA quality assurance standards.

Technically, this position requires basic accounting, bookkeeping and Canadian taxation knowledge. Apart from the book knowledge, there are more technological skills, like learning new systems, navigating, and applying the book knowledge to the software. Further, this position requires soft skills like self-learning, working independently, time management, task prioritization, attention to detail and self-motivation. Working independently and self-learning are the two most important transferable skills that I acquired during the Co-op term. Working independently helps me to learn that making professional judgments is an important part of becoming an accountant. I want to improve my decision-making skills and self-learning. I believe these two skills are important when I go through my career ladder.

This is my first Canadian accounting job. This has provided me with Canadian accounting experience which will provide me with the foundation for an accounting career in Canada. This experience provided me with knowledge of the Canadian accounting system and the Canadian taxation system. If you are an international student with experience from your home country, I suggest you start your career with a Co-op position as it will provide a strong foundation for your career in Canada. Since I have more than six years of accounting and finance experience, I expected that the Co-op would be easy for me. However, it was not as expected. The co-op position became a challenge as I was exposed to new rules and new systems.

Overall, I would say my Co-op placement was successful. It provided the experience of working independently, and self-learning, Canadian accounting rules and tax rules. I was able to identify that I should work on communication and collaboration in my future work placements.