100% success rate from MHC Alumni at local accounting firm

The path to becoming Chartered Professional Accountants (CPA) has been a journey for five Medicine Hat College (MHC) alumni, but they are all celebrating the same milestone after passing the Common Final Exam this fall, the last step to receiving their professional designation.

Tyson Chow, April Dart, Cam Robinson, Kristen Suelaman and Nathan Vanderham are all graduates of MHC’s business administration program and associates at EBT Chartered Professional Accountants in Medicine Hat. After three years of commitment and hard work, the group is well on their way to advancing their careers and mentoring others on a similar track.


Becoming accountants

Accountants are financial professionals who perform various duties including account analysis, tax return preparation and client service. While there is often the assumption the profession is heavily focused on math and numbers, the alumni agree there is more to accounting than meets the eye.

“It’s a lot more legal, like laws and rules, than I ever expected,” explains Dart, who really enjoyed all of the accounting classes she took as a student at MHC.

Chow adds, “We do deal with numbers, but most of them are run through Excel or other programs. Our job is to really understand what you can and can’t do with the numbers.”

While some of the students, like Chow and Vanderham, had an early interest in accounting, others discovered the career in different ways. Suelaman, for instance, began her education in a field grounded in science.

“I was actually going to study nutrition and switched after my first year. I liked all the business electives that I had taken at MHC and realized that biology and chemistry were not what I wanted to do.”

Similarly, Dart and Robinson entered the industry after receiving encouragement from other accountants. While all of the students had varying introductions to the industry, their commitment to their studies drove all of them to complete their undergraduate degrees and subsequently find jobs at EBT.


Making the commitment

To become a CPA, students are required to enter the Professional Education Program (CPA PEP), a graduate-level program designed to enhance their ability to apply the knowledge learned in previous studies. Having completed the challenging PEP program while working full-time at EBT, the students recognize the significance of their achievement.

EBT Principal Brett Pudwell, notes that taking the program is a sacrifice that requires a high level of self-motivation, but the students possess skills that undoubtedly aided in their success.

“They’re all driven, smart, capable students and professionals in their industry. All of them are leaders in our office. We have a lot of young students too, and these students set the example for them.”

Additionally, EBT offers a mentorship program, which was designed to help new accountants and those taking the CPA PEP program.

“We’re there to help with their work but as well with their studies,” explains Pudwell. “We want to make ourselves available to mark exams or mark practice exams for the students to be there for any questions they have. Whatever they need to help them through the process, EBT wants to be there to facilitate it.”

Reflecting on their experiences, the students attribute both their cumulative knowledge and work experience to providing a solid foundation for success.

“I think all the accounting classes at MHC gave us the base knowledge and working at EBT gives us the practical experience and that all helped us throughout the [PEP] program,” says Suelaman.

As the students put the CPA PEP program behind them, many will take their time deciding what their next step will be.

“We all just finished a very long slog of getting through this program, so I think the next year is probably just a little bit of a relax button before we move into the next step,” says Robinson.

For Chow and Dart, they plan to use their newfound skills to give back to EBT.

“Earning my CPA has been a 10-year goal of mine. Now I want to pay it forward and really get into the mentorship side of EBT,” says Chow, noting his appreciation for the support he received and the desire to help others.

Regardless of where their careers take them, their college instructors are pleased to see the level of success they have achieved so far, notes MHC’s chair of the School of Business & Continuing Studies, Rick Robinson.

“Our school and the instructors who remember each of these students are so very proud of all of them. Passing those exams is a significant achievement and this speaks to the quality of students graduating from Medicine Hat College. On a personal note, I am so happy to see my own son’s name on that list.”


Getting started

For those interested pursuing a CPA designation, MHC is currently accepting students to its Advanced Accounting program. This one-year certificate can be taken following the completion of an accredited business administration program with an accounting major and includes all of the accounting courses required to enter the PEP. The program builds on previous knowledge of accounting theory and application and consists of eight academic courses and one work placement. Its flexible delivery allows students to attend in-person or virtually from anywhere in Canada.

MHC also maintains an excellent partnership with Athabasca University where students can complete their undergraduate degree, which is a requirement to enter the CPA Professional Education Program. To learn more about the advanced accounting certificate program at MHC, please visit www.mhc.ab.ca.