"I knew that I wanted to continue to enhance my accounting knowledge, and specifically tax knowledge, so that I was prepared to really start my career professionally," Layer says.
An added bonus of entering a specialized program was being able to network with her future colleagues immediately, she says.
"I think, especially in a specialized program, the people that I spend the most of my time with are the people that I'm going to be working with for a really, really long time," she says, noting that some of her classmates will work with her at an accounting firm after graduation. Others will work at similar firms, she says.
Having such an ardent focus, though, can sometimes be detrimental to a business student, says Purdue University's Earley.
After graduating from school and working for a few years, students can develop what he calls "functional fixedness," which is a tendency to view the world in terms of a specific functional background.
"If you get a master's of finance, and you work in that capacity for, say, four or five years, it may be more difficult for you to put on the conceptual hat of somebody in marketing or somebody in strategy or somebody in operations. So you have to be careful, I think, to remain flexible in your thinking and how you approach problems," he says.
Another drawback of specialized degrees can be salary prospects after a student graduates.
"On average, the MBA will pay the most, a master's in finance would be second and a master's in accounting would definitely be third," says Chad Oakley, president of the executive search firm Charles Aris Inc.
"The more well-rounded an individual is, probably the more expensive they are. If you bring a good skill set and multiple disciplines, you probably can command a higher salary," he says.
Ultimately, when deciding on a business school degree, it comes down to more than money and choosing the right skill set. Candidates should consider which degree will best meet their career goals, says Goldfarb from NYU's business school.
"For everyone, it's a journey in terms of figuring out where their right path is going to lead and what program is going to be the best one for them," she says. "It's very much an individual decision in terms of where they're hoping their future plans go."
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