Certified public accountants (CPAs) are known for their ability to manage time and money, a skill honed through years of learning the art of time management by coping with presentations and examinations. The life of an accounting student can be tough, but the rewards could be great. At this year's Career Forum 2010, organised by the Hong Kong Institute of Certified Public Accountants (HKICPA), two graduates of the qualification programme talked about its challenges and benefits. 'A CPA licence is essential if one wants to work in an accountancy firm or accounting-related work in the private and public sectors, and the high entry barrier is what makes the profession attractive,' says Edward Tsui, who completed the programme five years ago and is now audit manager at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu. 'Whether the economy is up or down, and no matter what kind of business, the essential skills of a CPA are sought after,' says Kim Ting, who completed the 2004 course and worked for an accountancy firm before joining an airline. According to the HKICPA, almost 100 per cent of students who qualify through the programme are able to get a job. The course can be challenging, but time management and thorough preparation are essential, the pair say. Students should be careful to maintain a balance between their studies and leisure time. Tsui did this by taking a break to play video games when he got home every day. He says students should not stress themselves and must remember that study, work and rest should be balanced. Taking a maximum of two modules every six months, candidates should be able to manage their time well. 'Be prepared to revise during weekends,' Ting says. 'Preparation is very important to excel in the programme.' Students should read relevant materials before each workshop as sessions give them the opportunity to work in teams and tackle accounting cases. At the same time, they can learn from experienced and accomplished CPAs. Ting says students should prepare summary notes since examinations are all open book and it is more important to understand materials thoroughly rather than simply memorising facts. For his part, Tsui adds that commitment and determination are equally important if candidates want to do well in the programme.