First of all let me introduce myself, I'm software engineer with a practical background. I worked in software companies mostly for developing web and mobile applications. My love of programming started with games, I was always curios about game development, a lot of times I found myself asking to myself 'Hell, how did they do this?' when playing computer games. I started programming with turbo pascal then migrated to C and eventually C++ (I programmed some games with Delphi too though using object pascal). Where I come from %90 of the industry is about web and mobile programming and there are not much game programming companies and most of them are producing casual games(mostly flash games using action script) , there is no single AAA game producing software company. That's why I picked web programming and worked on that field for a living but my passion for game development never died.
I programmed tetris, tic-tac-toe, hangman, breakout and that kind of games as a beginner and then I started to study 3d graphics (I'm a self-taught game programmer). Then I have written some 3d applications running on a single window which were rendering some 3d geometry (geometric data from .3ds files, collada files .X files of D3D etc...) with texture mapping them using OpenGL & Direct3D. After digging in 3d programming area I gained intermediate knowledge on fixed and programmable pipeline using GLSL and HLSL. I never used a graphics engine such as unity or unreal and stuff like that because I always wanted to know what's going on behind the scenes. I'm good on Math & Science and C++ (definetly not a guru but I have good foundation on C++ thanks to the books I bought).
I quit my job on my home country and now I'm a full-time ESL student in NYC and I want to transfer to a certificate, associate or bachelor degree program on game programming. So you guys have any suggestions on that? A certificate program is better for me considering the time and finance of a 2-4 year full-program. What's the quickest way to jump into the game development industry as junior game programmer and in time become a better game programmer? I'm not in game programming for money, game programming is a passion for me as long as I can pay the bills I'm ok with that.
Thanks for your time.