Walking a non-traditional path

By Emily Clark

Consultant | Risk Advisory

While many students are familiar with the Audit path as a means of achieving their accounting designation in public practice, not everyone is aware that there are other non-traditional routes you can take to achieve your designation through the Financial Advisory, Risk Advisory and Tax practices.

Each of these areas will move you towards your goal of achieving a CPA designation, but they can also offer you different opportunities and experiences along the way. As a Consultant working in Risk Advisory, I’ve been lucky enough to experience this non-traditional path firsthand, including the unique challenges it brings.

So how do you know if one of these alternative routes is the right one for you? Here are a few things you should consider:


  • There are fewer positions available in non-traditional service lines so be ready for some stiff competition.
  • Fewer students are hired within these areas, which means it may be difficult for you to connect with other students going through the CPA at the same time as you.
  • Projects can be less structured than you might experience in Audit, so carefully consider your learning preferences.
  • Staffing isn’t always as formalized as it is in Audit, so occasionally you will have to take more initiative to obtain projects.


  • The work is often steadier throughout the year, so you are less likely to experience those infamous busy seasons offset by long lulls.
  • Smaller departments usually mean flatter organizational structures, so you are likely to get more access to managers, senior managers and partners so you can learn directly from them.
  • There can be a greater variety and flexibility in the work you get to do. For example, in Risk Advisory you can work on internal audit, cybersecurity, data analytics, sustainability or a multitude of other types of projects.
  • The variety of work can give you more opportunity to leverage prior work experience or other designations you might have. It can also open doors to career paths you haven’t even considered yet.

No matter which route you decide to take – audit or a non-traditional path – you are sure to get valuable experience in an exciting industry! So be sure to choose the route that fits you best.

Emily is a recent graduate of The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology majoring in Accounting. She is currently a Consultant in our Calgary practice.

Emily Clark
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