Mastering number crunching
Employment opportunities in Hong Kong for postgraduate students of accountancy continue to remain strong, despite the current European financial crisis and low growth rates in other countries of the developed world.
Hong Kong's relationship with China is one of the main reasons that graduates with a master's in accountancy remain highly sought after. China's ongoing high growth rates have resulted in the creation of greater opportunities for employment in service sectors such as wealth management, investment, finance, banking, and insurance.
'The market outlook for the accounting industry in Hong Kong is continuing to be positive, due to factors such as the large number of IPOs on the mainland and Hong Kong, the growing use of international accounting standards in China, and rising business opportunities in East Asia attracting more international accounting firms to have a presence in Hong Kong,' says Dr Ben-Hsien Bao, programme director at the Graduate School of Business at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU).
'As a result, our graduates are able to work for one of the Big 4 accounting firms or other CPA firms as senior accountants, managers or partners; as mid-level or senior-level managers in accounting or related fields at various organisations,' he adds.
PolyU offers a master's of science in accountancy that aims to help students update their basic knowledge of accounting, connect more closely with relevant contemporary theories in accounting practice, and further develop their analytical and decision-making skills.
'Our programme benefits students by providing them with opportunities to acquire relevant and updated accounting knowledge and skills, to develop a professional network within their field, and enable them to perform their work more efficiently and effectively in order to obtain future career advancement,' explains Bao.
For students who are focused on China for developing their professional careers or who want to work for a Hong Kong company with established business interests in China, the programme provides the opportunity to study accounting practices and issues in China that relate to financial accounting, auditing, taxation, contemporary business environments, the legal system and economic law.
Additionally, local students are able to benefit from studying alongside fellow students who possess a first-hand knowledge of the accounting profession in China because PolyU, through its collaborative agreement with the National Audit Office (NAO) in China, offers two places in the programme to students from the NAO each year.
It was this exposure to the nature of the accounting profession in China that recent graduate Chen Cheng found to be the most helpful part of the programme. 'I am now more familiar with some [mainland] accounting issues and the accounting and tax systems of China,' says Cheng. 'It is now easier for me to read and understand the financial reports made under [Chinese] accounting regulations, and I think this will help facilitate my understanding of my mainland clients as a professional accountant in the future.'
Throughout the programme, lectures are delivered by faculty members, professional practitioners who are experts in their field, and alumni. Students are also involved in class discussions, case studies and presentations on current accounting and related issues, as well as individual and group assignments, written reports, oral presentations and examinations. Another key element of the programme is its focus on familiarising students with the latest computerised accounting information systems.
Applicants are required to have a bachelor's degree in accounting or another relevant discipline, or equivalent professional qualifications. Preference is given to applicants with at least one year of relevant work experience.
The programme can normally be completed full-time over 18 months or part-time over 30 months. Tuition fees for the 2012-2013 academic year are HK$126,000 for local students and HK$165,000 for others.
The Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) offers a master's in accountancy programme that can be completed full-time over one year or part-time over two years.
'It is aimed at accounting graduates and professionals who wish to learn the advanced accounting knowledge and skills needed in higher level accounting, pursue a globally recognised accounting master's degree or who want to study for a master's qualification while working towards the professional stage of the certification examinations, such as those offered by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA),' explains Professor Jiang Zhaodong, director of CUHK's master's in accountancy programme.
The programme is also aimed at non-accounting graduates or professionals with work experience in other professional fields - such as finance, engineering, law or information technology - who wish to re-focus their career on the accounting field.
The programme requires students to complete 12 courses of study, with the first six core courses enabling them to fulfil the requirements of their professional examinations. The remaining six courses are electives that allow students to deepen their knowledge in various areas of the accounting field.
Gaining credit towards professional qualifications such as the ACCA proved to be a major benefit to Caroline Wan, who graduated from the programme in 2001. 'From a practical perspective, the major benefit of the programme was that I got five papers exempted for the ACCA exams, which accelerated my path to membership,' says Wan.
'The programme helped me to work smarter in my job. However, what I treasure most are the friendships with my classmates [made] over the two years of working together on various group projects,' explains Wan.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree with a minimum average grade of no lower than a 'B', and a recent GMAT score of at least 500. Applicants for the part-time programme should have three years of post-qualification full-time work experience. Tuition fees are HK$162,000 for the 2012-2013 academic year.