Becoming a certified Canadian professional can be a rewarding, but tedious process. Let us clarify the inner workings of the certified professional designation world.

Typically, professions are regulated by labor standards and professional associations. These professional associations maintain the profession’s working conditions and protect the public from unethical practices. Members must meet the organization’s standards to practice their profession and retain that advantageous designation. However, not all designations are created equal, some are necessary, while others are only supplemental.

Professional Designations

Professional certifications, sometimes considered licenses are legally required to practice in specific fields. For example, according to Quebec’s civil law regarding professional codes, it is illegal to claim a certified designation without going through each province’s respective professional association. These licenses can range from accounting, dentistry, to aviation. They are usually obtained by graduates in university programs recognized by their field’s provincial professional order. However, the process depends on the field; some require bachelor’s degree, others (like physicians) require a masters, and some simply require a vocational degree. Some fields are heavily regulated whereas others are less restrictive.

Supplemental Designations

Supplemental designations are designations that are not required to practice in a field, but provide specialized knowledge and a competitive advantage. Even if these certificates may not be required by law to practice a profession, employers might favor candidates with them if they deem it essential for the offered position. For example, according to Service Canada, auditing designations—such as the Certified Internal Auditor (CIA) certification—are not required to practice. Therefore, Canadian accountants need a licence to practice accounting such as the Chartered Accountant Certification (CPA), but can perform audits in their field without the CIA designation. There are also certificates unrelated to designations that demonstrate proficiency in certain programming languages or software. For example, a variety of certifications are offered by Adobe for passing their product’s knowledge courses and exams. Whether to give you a specialty or to prove your ability to use a software effectively in the office, they are still valuable to have on your CV.

University Programs

Universities provide professional knowledge in a field; however, some programs are not officially recognized. Oftentimes, universities offer different levels in same program and only the honors program or a specialization will be recognized. For example, the Ordre des traducteurs, terminologues et interprètes agréés du Québec (OTTIAQ) will only certify translation students in the specialization and not in the major profile. Be wary of your program and check the certification standards required by your provincial order. The criteria differs per institution and may even differ depending on the province.