Have you ever considered a career in accounting? While the profession may be saddled with stereotypical images of diligent pencil pushers in dark suits, accounting is a vital part of any business and offers opportunities for advancement. A degree in accounting is often the first step up the ladder towards a position in senior management as a chief executive officer, a financial controller or as a chief financial officer - the people who make the decisions. In Hong Kong there is a rising demand for accountants in the commercial, educational, financial and governmental sectors. To meet this demand, the Hong Kong Association of Accounting Technicians (HKAAT) is offering a new book-keeping and accounts paper to attract recruits. The Fundamental Book-keeping and Accounts paper, which started in June, is a six- to-12 month introductory course designed for either home study or in the classroom. Candidates wanting to sit the exam must have completed at least up to Form Five. The paper is aimed at those who have studied basic book-keeping and accounting principles. It involves concepts such as the preparation of accounting statements for various types of businesses and organisations, ratio analyses and final account adjustments and correction of errors. Successful students who pass the examination will be granted a certificate, which is useful when looking for entry level accounting or clerical jobs. A credit or above pass mark also allows a student to skip the first paper in the eight-paper HKAAT examination. Completion of the HKAAT examination accredits a person with the title of Hong Kong Accounting Technician (HKAT). The HKAT qualification is suitable for gaining entry to such mid-level positions as an assistant accountant or accountant depending on the nature of the business or organisation and the experience of the graduate. Graduates of the HKAAT module papers are then nearly halfway through their professional examinations. They can then become registered students of other accounting bodies and obtain exemption from the first six papers of the 14 papers which make up the Hong Kong Society of Accountants/Chartered Association of Certified Accountants Joint Examination Scheme. Terry Ching, chief executive of the HKAAT, said it was important to offer the book-keeping and accounts paper to find out whether students were interested in the profession. 'This is really a general paper to give students a taste for what the profession is about. It's very fundamental and based on accounting principles and concepts,' she said. 'The opportunities for employment in this field are tremendous. By successfully passing the book-keeping and accounts paper they can move into an entry-level accountant clerk position and with further studies and qualification, they can become a mid-level supervisor and then move into senior management.' The book-keeping and accounts paper also allows a student to gauge whether he is cut out for the profession. Only about 30 per cent of students successfully completed the HKAAT's eight papers, Ms Ching said. 'A person really must know if they have what it takes to be an accountant before they register to be a student. It's a lot of hard work and something that must be taken seriously, but the profession does offer its rewards,' she said. Ms Ching said China was another area of growth as accountants with Western-style training were in demand. 'Because of the opening up of China there is a need for qualified accountants. China has an accountancy system which is quite different from the outside world. However, with all the joint-venture companies operating in the country, they all use international standards. 'Western-style accountancy practices play a big part in the operation of those companies.' The book-keeping and accounts paper, which is conducted in English, is offered at the Hong Kong Baptist University, Hong Kong College of Technology, the Hong Kong School of Commerce or through the Hong Kong Management Association. Course fees start at $860. For information, phone Judii Hiew at the HKAAT at 2529 9474.