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Not sure if I can get into the game industry without a degree...


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#1 lorem   Members   -  Reputation: 578

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 08:01 PM

Hello, I am currently a senior in high school and what I have noticed from looking at Job posting from various companies is "Bachelor's/higher is required/preferred". I'm starting to feel that no one will take me seriously in the business if I don't have a degree, no matter how talented I am. At least the big guy in the suit and tie won't... Is it possible to get in without a degree at least in companies like Square-Enix withyears experience of course.

I threw together a makeshift portfolio of what I'm publicly willing to show on this site. http://www.behance.n...rdPortfolio/wip

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#2 the_grimace   Members   -  Reputation: 117

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 09:13 PM

Having a degree is not always necessary. I know several colleagues that are very successful and have no degree or higher education. (They are damn good too!) Honestly, in my experience it has been more about your work experience than having a degree. The best thing I degree will do though is help you get your foot in the door by helping you with internship opportunities, networking, and getting a solid foundation to land a job sucessfully. Hiring is a scary thing, but it's reassuring seeing an entry level applicant coming from a note worthy school. It's risk mitigation, and shows that this person is just not a wild card and has success (graduation). In the end though, it's ultimately your portfolio and experience that matters the most.

So yes, there is a chance, but I should post some notes.

1. Chances of getting into a big company with no degree (if it is a listed requirement) are very, VERY slim. Your resume is probably going to be tossed out. It's just the way it is... Those companies get tons of applicants, and it's a filter method handled by HR people who are strictly following a checklist, and aren't going to stop when an impressive credit list and maybe reconsider. It sucks, but it's the way it is. Best way to get into a big company is word of mouth and networking, that way you can bypass the HR department by dialing up your contact at the studio and get right to the frontlines.

2. Leading off the last point, it goes without saying that knowing people and networking is your most valuable tool in this industry. Most people get their jobs through word of mouth from their contacts. Network as much as possible, go to job fairs when game devs are there, go to conventions, join forums (like this one). It might be slow, but keep building your network up and eventually you'll probably get word of a job. (Along with a good chance to land it)

3. Focus on making a hell of a portfolio. Yea, make something you are extremely proud of that shows off your talent. If you are in a tech or busness discipline, list big and specific achievements that will make some eyes go big. You need to sell yourself through your work and passion.

4. Lastly, be on the constant outlook for new positions. Jump on opportunities when they come.

Wish you luck. Breaking into the game industry is really rough, and requires resilience, patience, persistence, and hard hard work. Keep it up though and good things will come.

#3 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9882

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 09:14 PM

1. Is it possible to get in without a degree
2. at least in companies like Square-Enix withyears experience of course.


1. Anything is possible, but you really ought to get a degree. Read FAQs 50 and 24 (this forum's FAQs).
2. You don't have experience, if you're in high school. http://www.igda.org/...me-october-2006

Edit: Why? Why won't you get a degree? And what country do you live in?

Edited by Tom Sloper, 22 September 2012 - 11:11 PM.

-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#4 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 18620

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 09:35 PM

Yes, it is possible to get a job in the industry without a degree, but you would find it much more difficult than if you had one.

The most common ways people end up in industry without a degree are:
  • They've already been in the industry for years, and didn't need a degree when they started.
  • They worked their way up/across from some entry-level position that didn't require a degree.
  • They know someone in the position to help them get past HR screening.
I have a question for you however:
If you're currently a senior in high-school, you want to get a job in the industry, and you know that will be extremely difficult without a degree then why aren't you planning on getting a degree.

If you're concerned about cost, there are numerous scholarships, grants, student-loans, and government funding available in most places to help you obtain your degree without having to deal with the entire (or in some cases any of the) cost up front.

If it's about your grades not being up to the entry requirements, you should work on improving them, and might also consider options such as summer or night school or repeating classes.


If you want a job in the industry the best approach would be to do everything in your power to get a degree.



As for your portfolio, this might just be my ignorance of how that particular site works, but I don't see any actual examples of your work on the linked page... Your portfolio needs to display your best work and your contact details immediately, or it won't help you to get a job. Someone busy trying to decide between applicants isn't going to take the time to find your work, it needs to be right there for them to see and it needs to grab their attention.

//EDIT: I figured out the portfolio -- I needed to click the little "projects" link. You should link directly to that page (http://www.behance.net/WardPortfolio) rather than the WIP page so that your work is immediately displayed with no extra effort required on the part of the viewer. You might also consider getting your own domain name, even if you're just going to point it to that page for now -- that way if "behance" go out of business you can just point the domain to a new portfolio page and any links you've posted or given out will still be valid. Posted Image


Hope that's helpful, and best of luck! Posted Image

Edited by jbadams, 22 September 2012 - 09:38 PM.


#5 Adam Spade   Members   -  Reputation: 161

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Posted 22 September 2012 - 11:25 PM

Degree or "equivalent experience" usually works. I'm not saying "don't go to college" but get on a good indie team for the experience. Just make sure they put out (a game that is) so that your resume shows actual accomplishment.

I'd give you a job right now if you can program and commit to at least 8hrs per week.

Adam Spade

Composer, Sound Designer

http://www.adamspade.com

 

Executive Producer

Uncaged Games LLC
"Release your inner game."


#6 lorem   Members   -  Reputation: 578

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Posted 23 September 2012 - 08:16 AM

Thank you all, I will wait and get a CS degree.

Edited by 1337coda, 23 September 2012 - 08:16 AM.


#7 mholmes   Members   -  Reputation: 189

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Posted 01 October 2012 - 12:11 PM

Higher education is highly prized in the industry but beware certain degrees are not prized as much as you would think. For instance, one would think a degree in “game design” would be useful. Not really, the best degrees to obtain for this industry our business, public relations, math, art and programming. “Game Design” is typically a degree offered by colleges such as Full Sail which have almost no foothold in the industry, less than 10% hiring rate and your degree obtained has very little to do with the actual field. Always have a backup plan. The entertainment industry is very harsh and extremely hard to break into.

#8 Vodahmin   Members   -  Reputation: 233

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 12:00 AM

Not sure what kind of "game company" you're looking for but if it has "guys in suits wearing ties" in HR department instead of real-time programmers, I think something is wrong. There is a video I posted in another thread about how you can get yourself a job at Valve. It seems that degree isn't THAT much valuable after all. The things that professional game studios are usually looking for is whether you can actually accomplish specific tasks in a given time.

According to Chet Feliszek from Valve, one of the most important thing is to actually do something from beginning to end (to ship it). The things they're more interested in than a fancy resume is your portfolio - if you can create a nice demo from scratch (that is creating your own game engine, graphics handler, cache handler etc) and then explain how it works, you'll already a step ahead from people who have fancy degrees but no real experience.

Of course not every company is like Valve - maybe some of them, for some crazy reason, would still require you to have a formal education (even though you already have a nice collection of games in your portfolio) - on the other hand, why working with them? That being said I think a college/university degree should be an addition to your profile, not the focus point.

Edited by Vodahmin, 02 October 2012 - 12:02 AM.


#9 theflamingskunk   Members   -  Reputation: 318

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 11:56 AM

Not sure what kind of "game company" you're looking for but if it has "guys in suits wearing ties" in HR department instead of real-time programmers, I think something is wrong. There is a video I posted in another thread about how you can get yourself a job at Valve. It seems that degree isn't THAT much valuable after all. The things that professional game studios are usually looking for is whether you can actually accomplish specific tasks in a given time.
According to Chet Feliszek from Valve, one of the most important thing is to actually do something from beginning to end (to ship it). The things they're more interested in than a fancy resume is your portfolio - if you can create a nice demo from scratch (that is creating your own game engine, graphics handler, cache handler etc) and then explain how it works, you'll already a step ahead from people who have fancy degrees but no real experience.
Of course not every company is like Valve - maybe some of them, for some crazy reason, would still require you to have a formal education (even though you already have a nice collection of games in your portfolio) - on the other hand, why working with them? That being said I think a college/university degree should be an addition to your profile, not the focus point.


I believe that is the way it should be, and I don't doubt that the higher ups at companies would say that. However, applicants do not exist in a vacuum and it is a highly competitive job market. Large companies such as Valve probably get hundreds of applications a day from all sorts of people, and that is what HR is for. And i'm not sure about Valve, but it is VERY common for them to simply filter out applications without any degree or experience. I dont know of any programmer that would rather be review applications all day rather than...well...programming. So I would believe their is something wrong if the HR department is filled with programmers, they should be reviewing potential hires, not every application.



That being said, to speak to OP, not only is your portfolio very confusing to use with it starting on a blank page, the projects that you put on their aren't overly impressive at first glance. Ultimately appearance is everything, and you could definitely use some work with that.

I guess the biggest thing that you need to remember is that your not in a vacuum, you are in a pool of hundreds of other applicants. You are NOT proving that you can do the job, you are proving that you can do the job better than anybody else. A formal education can supplement the rest of your "package" and prove that you are able to dedicate yourself to something for 4 years (Assuming 4 year degree). Just think if you are hiring, would you rather have someone with no degree and little to no formal experience, or someone With a degree and little experience. I certainly would take someone with a degree.
Note however that I am still in High School as well, so all my comments are based of of MY understanding, not how it actually is. What you should be doing right now, is start working as a freelancer and do contract work. Of course this is assuming that you know what you are doing and are good at it. Im not sure exactly what area you are interested in, but if you are intrested in programming, you should have no problem finding work. (I have to actually turn most people away their are so many companies looking for short term engineers).
As has been mentioned a descision Grid will help you clarify your thoughts and wants. If you decide not to get a degree, you better have a good plan of exactly what you are going to be doing instead to better your odds at getting a job, because you certainly arnt doing yourself any favors.

Portfolio: http://jel-massih.com


#10 Vodahmin   Members   -  Reputation: 233

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Posted 02 October 2012 - 11:22 PM

I believe that is the way it should be, and I don't doubt that the higher ups at companies would say that. However, applicants do not exist in a vacuum and it is a highly competitive job market. Large companies such as Valve probably get hundreds of applications a day from all sorts of people, and that is what HR is for. And i'm not sure about Valve, but it is VERY common for them to simply filter out applications without any degree or experience. I dont know of any programmer that would rather be review applications all day rather than...well...programming. So I would believe their is something wrong if the HR department is filled with programmers, they should be reviewing potential hires, not every application.

You seem to follow a very conservative crowd, that thinks degree = skills. This may be right if you're aspiring to be a new doctor or a lawyer. However that is usually not true in areas such as game development. Of course, as I mentioned in my previous reply, degree is a great addition to your resume and taking a Computer Science class may help you understand a lot - that being said, software development is one of the very few fields that you can enter, simply by learning on your own (just look at how many tutorials and programming books there are on Amazon).

That being said, to speak to OP, not only is your portfolio very confusing to use with it starting on a blank page, the projects that you put on their aren't overly impressive at first glance. Ultimately appearance is everything, and you could definitely use some work with that

Appearance is important but if it's related to the position you're applying for. If you wanna be a programmer, they will look at how flexible, intelligent and efficient is your code. The more professional it is, the more it speaks about your experience. Trust me, no one should be judging you for so called "programmer's art". Unless of course, you're applying for a 3D modeler position - but that's another story.

I guess the biggest thing that you need to remember is that your not in a vacuum, you are in a pool of hundreds of other applicants. You are NOT proving that you can do the job, you are proving that you can do the job better than anybody else. A formal education can supplement the rest of your "package" and prove that you are able to dedicate yourself to something for 4 years (Assuming 4 year degree). Just think if you are hiring, would you rather have someone with no degree and little to no formal experience, or someone With a degree and little experience. I certainly would take someone with a degree

Let's stop here and think for a second. It's true that you're in a pool of hundreds of candidates, no one has ever denied it in this conversation. However, because of that simple fact, you should make yourself somehow unique. I'm not quite sure what you expect from college but higher education focuses on giving you a theoretical knowledge. It teaches you universal coding practices and pure concepts. To make it more clear, most of the universities will teach you for example what is OOP and when to use class interfaces instead of inheritance (purely universal concept), however there won't be too much about how to make the most efficient game loop or how to efficiently cache from disk your high quality SFX for PS3, which has somehow limited RAM. In most gaming companies experience > formal education - mainly because game programming is something you have to teach yourself (for the most part).

Note however that I am still in High School as well, so all my comments are based of of MY understanding, not how it actually is. What you should be doing right now, is start working as a freelancer and do contract work. Of course this is assuming that you know what you are doing and are good at it. Im not sure exactly what area you are interested in, but if you are intrested in programming, you should have no problem finding work. (I have to actually turn most people away their are so many companies looking for short term engineers).

And I'm a second year student of an IT-oriented studyline (developing mobile applications, networking etc) at one of the biggest European universities and I still feel like I need much more stuff to learn, aside from what I get from my school. University is only a couple of hours a day in a classroom of many people when teaching isn't always the most efficient - it doesn't matter whether it's Harvard, Yale or some cheap community college - if you want to make yourself unique, you have to do extra work on your own. The "pool of candidates" you mentioned will be filled with tons of graduates with degrees like yours or even "fancier" but it really isn't enough to say whether you're ready for the work. That's why I said, degree is important but should be treated as an addition to your portfolio - unless you actually make something practical that you can show around and present to people, no one will know of your true skills - university gives you some important insights and teaches theoretical knowledge - your own private work, on the other hand, is how you apply this knowledge in practice and that's how you can make yourself outstanding.

Summarizing my opinion, if you can get a degree - do it, you can definitely benefit from that. However, it shouldn't be the main point on your resume - do extra work and create a few demos, so you can always prove your practical skills. This can really increase the chances of getting hired. I recommend you to watch the video I posted in another thread. It should give you some more insights on what companies, such as Valve look for.

Edited by Vodahmin, 02 October 2012 - 11:49 PM.


#11 theflamingskunk   Members   -  Reputation: 318

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 08:49 AM

Summarizing my opinion, if you can get a degree - do it, you can definitely benefit from that. However, it shouldn't be the main point on your resume - do extra work and create a few demos, so you can always prove your practical skills. This can really increase the chances of getting hired. I recommend you to watch the video I posted in another thread. It should give you some more insights on what companies, such as Valve look for.


I do agree with most of the points you stated, for I believe that a degree is only necessary for certain types of people, and of course a degree should only be a supplement. And experience will always trump education, however my comments were geared towards the posters situation, and their are many things that must be considered:

1. For the most part, game companies can be broken into two major categories 1.) Large development studios which are usually publishers (Activizzard, EA, Valve etc..) and 2) Smaller development studios which independently develop (indies).

Without a college degree, you are already pretty much cutting out your chances of getting a job with the first group. That is because they receive such a high volume of resumes daily that they have higher and stricter standards and policies, so HR will look for certain things (Certain buzzwords, education, etc...) BEFORE they pass it on to the departments that actually do the hiring. Therefore, unless you know someone with some kind of pull in the company to vouch for you, your pretty much out of luck.

With the second group, the indies, you have a much better chance of getting hired. However, it still wont be easy because they will be turned off by your age. It is VERY risky hiring someone straight out of high school for a key position (Which most indie teams require, they need a few people to do ALOT, not alot of people to do a little [ie few entry positions]) simply because they are unproven. It is much easier to show nice art in an art portfolio, but is is MUCH more difficult to show your extent of programming knowledge in any kind of portfolio.
Additionally, you must look at it from an employers perspective, the average developer stays at a company for ~2 years since they jump around alot to get diffrent experiences. If an employer has to spend 1-2 years training a guy whos fresh out of highschool to make them truly effective, usually they are ready to jump jobs at that time.


2. Another big thing that is being overlooked is college diversity. Although you can learn things much faster out of school, their are alot of useful things you would have learned in school that you wouldnt have taken upon yourself otherwise. When you are taking computer science, their are many things that you will learn about that you simply didnt know you needed to know (computer hardware, programming in assembly, linear algebra, computer networking, algorithms, technical writing, programming in Lisp, Prolog, etc.). Some of these things would probably not have been learned on your own, however ALL of them will be extremely handy in your job.
Additionally, you say that you learn allot of theoretical knowledge and other unpractical stuff in college. this is true, however this is a good thing. It is simple to teach yourself how to do things and what is the best way to do things, however it is MUCH harder to learn WHY it is that you do that. WHY is doing the game loop way x is faster, or WHY is way Y the most effiecient way to cache data. You wont be forced to do things how other people are doing, you will learn about the underworkings of a computer and why certain things work better certain ways. This is MUCH harder to teach on the job then simple syntax and other similar stuff.


Once again my advice to the OP,
Try and apply for various jobs with your current Resume and Portfolio, but at the same time apply for colleges. If you get a sweet job lined up, then go ahead and do that if you want, but you better have a good plan if you are not continuing on to university. I am in a similar situation where I do not want to go to college, so it is my backup plan should I not be able to get a legitimate job. I would advise that you go to local gaming events and start networking with people that do hiring at companies so you will have a leg up.

ps. In reference to your portfolio, I meant unimpressive in sense of the appearance of the portfolio itself. It is confusing to navigate, and tough to see what you actually have done. You say that it is a makeshift portfolio that you threw together, so I hope that it does get cleaned up. Just make sure that as soon as they click on the link, the looker is impressed, not just staring at a blank, grey screen. Also keep in mind your audience, if you know actual programmers are going to be reviewing it, it is ok to have programmer art. However if it will go through some form of HR, it needs flashy graphics to impress HR turds. Just do your reasearch before you apply.

Portfolio: http://jel-massih.com


#12 Vodahmin   Members   -  Reputation: 233

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 10:51 AM

1. For the most part, game companies can be broken into two major categories 1.) Large development studios which are usually publishers (Activizzard, EA, Valve etc..) and 2) Smaller development studios which independently develop (indies).

Without a college degree, you are already pretty much cutting out your chances of getting a job with the first group. That is because they receive such a high volume of resumes daily that they have higher and stricter standards and policies, so HR will look for certain things (Certain buzzwords, education, etc...) BEFORE they pass it on to the departments that actually do the hiring. Therefore, unless you know someone with some kind of pull in the company to vouch for you, your pretty much out of luck.

With the second group, the indies, you have a much better chance of getting hired. However, it still wont be easy because they will be turned off by your age. It is VERY risky hiring someone straight out of high school for a key position (Which most indie teams require, they need a few people to do ALOT, not alot of people to do a little [ie few entry positions]) simply because they are unproven. It is much easier to show nice art in an art portfolio, but is is MUCH more difficult to show your extent of programming knowledge in any kind of portfolio.
Additionally, you must look at it from an employers perspective, the average developer stays at a company for ~2 years since they jump around alot to get diffrent experiences. If an employer has to spend 1-2 years training a guy whos fresh out of highschool to make them truly effective, usually they are ready to jump jobs at that time.

You missed the whole point. Have you watched the video I mentioned? Don't put Valve as an example because it's not how they work. Also EA/Activision don't make games - they would require a degree but from a marketing/business school.

Also, there are no such things as "indie" game studios. Being indie means that you sell something without a publisher - no actual company does that. It's usually individuals working for their own money in their spare time. Unless of course, you consider a group of 2-3 people to be a studio.

By the way, regarding EA/Activision - I think you just provided the two worst companies to work in. In my humble opinion, 80% of the games they publish is rubbish.

#13 theflamingskunk   Members   -  Reputation: 318

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 12:53 PM

You missed the whole point. Have you watched the video I mentioned? Don't put Valve as an example because it's not how they work. Also EA/Activision don't make games - they would require a degree but from a marketing/business school.

I wont comment on Valve since im not sure how they work, It Just seems highly unrealistic.

Both EA AND Activision/blizzard Make games (In house Studios)....... Go on their respective websites and look at careers section. They have a plethora of job postings, From Art To ENgineering to buisness, so I have no idea where you are getting that information.

Also, there are no such things as "indie" game studios. Being indie means that you sell something without a publisher - no actual company does that. It's usually individuals working for their own money in their spare time. Unless of course, you consider a group of 2-3 people to be a studio.


Once again what on earth are you talking about? We live in the now, not ten years ago. In my area alone there are over 50 independent game development studios (Boston, MA). Not 3 people teams, legitamate studios. More companies are independent than publisher controlled in the current market.


By the way, regarding EA/Activision - I think you just provided the two worst companies to work in. In my humble opinion, 80% of the games they publish is rubbish.


I do not know what you are basing your opinion on, but from the many people I have talked to that worked at EA, Most of them loved it. From what I heard, EA has a better environment then many other studios.

But we are going way off topic, so I will recommend you get back on track or we can just end this little discussion.

Edited by theflamingskunk, 03 October 2012 - 12:54 PM.

Portfolio: http://jel-massih.com


#14 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 9882

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Posted 03 October 2012 - 01:07 PM

You missed the whole point. Have you watched the video I mentioned? Don't put Valve as an example because it's not how they work.

I wont comment on Valve since im not sure how they work, It Just seems highly unrealistic.

Perhaps watching the video, and reading the handbook also linked above, would dispel any misgivings. I haven't yet watched the video, and I dislike reading handbooks, but I've bookmarked the information as being informative and potentially educational.

Also, there are no such things as "indie" game studios. Being indie means that you sell something without a publisher - no actual company does that. It's usually individuals working for their own money in their spare time. Unless of course, you consider a group of 2-3 people to be a studio.

Once again what on earth are you talking about? We live in the now, not ten years ago. In my area alone there are over 50 independent game development studios (Boston, MA). Not 3 people teams, legitamate studios. More companies are independent than publisher controlled in the current market.

Now we are getting into a semantics discussion. I do not believe you two are using the same definition of "indie," and I do not believe there is or can be a universally applicable definition that will fit all usages of the term. Let's stop the discussion of the term "indie" right here, because that is outside the topic of the Breaking In forum. Have that discussion elsewhere - in either Business or The Lounge.

But we are going way off topic, so I will recommend you get back on track or we can just end this little discussion.

And I might close it. I probably should have before this. Anyone want to add any closing words that bring it back to "getting into the industry without a degree"?
Remember, what we're talking about in this forum is entry-level jobs.
For an entry-level job, you have to get noticed among the hundred or so other applicants.
Absence of degree means your portfolio might not get looked at.
It depends on the company, their desperation level, their location in the physical world, their pool of applicants.
If you're in North America, if you are not applying for a non-degree position like QA, a degree is fairly essential, unless you can explain in your cover letter why your portfolio deserves consideration without it. And you can pretty much forget AAA companies, where they are even more choosy.
In other countries, the degree might not be so essential.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#15 Runesabre   Members   -  Reputation: 157

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Posted 15 October 2012 - 12:20 AM

As a hiring manager, I can say that having a degree is not necessarily required, however you will have the burden of proof of showing your passion and capability for me to take a chance on you. I have hired and worked with some spectacularly talented individuals who did not have a college degree, but, they are few and far between and in all cases they exhibited exceptional and proven passion and capability whether it was in Art, Design, Production or Engineering.

Edited by Runesabre, 15 October 2012 - 08:04 AM.

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