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Computer Science - a MUST?

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I take a look at alot of job posting here on gamedev but whether the job is for programming or design it states that a 2-3 year degree in computer science is a must for that position. I have heard from people within the industry that talent is the most important tool you have to getting into the industry. So if there are two people applying for a position that listed Computer Science as one of the requirements, one canadate has a degree in computer science and the other has not even attended university. The canadate that has no degree but has an outstanding portfolio that appealed more to the employer, would talent then prevail over a degree? I'm not asking so I can take computer science and just walk in but I would actually prefer to get in due to any talent I may possess. Obviously a combination of both would be best but lets say it is either great portfolio or degree. Anybody have any insight on this topic?

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I would say that the dedication required to complete a degree program usually serves as a prescreen against slackers (not always true, but it reduces them). However having samples of your work is also important, as is showing that you can complete projects.

Why not have both? Surely you can still have a good portfolio and get formal education in a subject. They are not mututally exclusive things ;).

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In the past in the game industry it was a 'really nice to have' but if you could prove you were brilliant and had a nice portfolio than it wasn't a must.

Quite honestly today is a different story and unless you can convince them you are well above an average CS graduate there is absolutely no reason to even look at you. Although there is one backdoor to this, and that is if you already have experience in the game industry than that is much more important than your degree.

That being said I was in the game industry and did not have a degree but that was in the past, and I had always wished that I returned (as I didn't go initially due to the dotCom boom and business reasons). I am actually doing my degree part-time right now.. not because of a job requirement as I have 9 years of development experience so a degree is pretty redundant, but because I want to end up with an MBA to start my own company in 10 years time.

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The game industry isn't the only one that does this. Go to Monster or Workopolis or any of those job sites and look for programming jobs, and you'll find that most of them are asking for the same things that game development houses are asking for; 2-5 years experience or more, a bachelor's or better, a broad range of knowledge, and all kinds of other things that seem like too much.

My college teachers keep saying that this is mostly a "wish list" that employers are putting out, but sometimes I can't help but wonder if that is the case, since it seems that EVERY employer, regardless of industry, is asking for the same things. The only things really stopping me from getting a degree in Software Development instead of my wimpy Computer Programmer diploma are A) time (not that I don't have the time, but I'm 23 and feel the pressure to, you know, get started with my life), B) money, and C) my desire to have an actual job (which goes back to A).

Whether these things are a "wish list" for the game industry or not, I don't know. I certainly hope so, otherwise what was the point of ever going to college and getting a diploma?

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Quote:
Original post by Quanta_StarFire
Whether these things are a "wish list" for the game industry or not, I don't know. I certainly hope so, otherwise what was the point of ever going to college and getting a diploma?

Please don't let the following discourage you, it is just my personal experience in Canada of about 10 years of development starting as a developer, to project manager, to lead technical, back to senior engineer (I've actually been in charge of hiring for about 7 years of work). My experience here in Canada I can say that the majority of game companies (and also regular tech companies) will only look at you if you have a B.Sc., M.Sc. or B.A.Sc (although degrees in mathematics and physics are also accepted and deemed just as good, and sometimes they are actually individually sought after). The place I'm working now only looks at applicants that either have a BSc/Msc or do not have post-secondary education (as these guys seem to be brilliant or utterly stupid so it's easy to weed out). We actually don't even look at the college applicants or PhD applicants (mainly because the PhD's only want to work in the single little area they studied, they want high pay, and 99 out of 100 are definately not worth any more than a junior B.Sc., although obviously if you are hiring them to do a single job and it is in their area of research they would be a real nice fit.. but they don't seem to match product-lifecycle oriented companies at all)

Also regarding the 'minimum requirements' on job sites, the majority of the time those are hard requirements to be honest, although maybe .5-1% are not. The reason is that HR manager and recruiters have no idea about tech and are told to weed out people without certain skills and credentials. This is why 99% of the jobs that say 'minimum B.Sc.' actually mean it. But like I said you do find a small percentage which is normally always a small company where the development team/manager does the hiring himself, and that is where academic requirements are usually relaxed.

[Edited by - Saruman on September 28, 2006 1:47:14 AM]

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You can look for my other comments on this matter on this board, but the gist of it is: I don't care much about a degree, beyond it saying that you can sit still for a few years and function within an established system.

If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

The other people in the game industry that I know (personally) that are also responsible for making hiring decisions have similar views. This isn't to say that that's universal, but it is my experience.

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Quote:
Original post by JasonBlochowiak
If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

Maybe it depends on the program. I'm in the last semester of a CS B.Sc. -- and one more semester away from a Chemistry B.Sc. as well -- and I honestly have to say that my programming ability has vastly improved because of it. You don't learn, say, the Operating Systems and Computer Organization side of things from work experience (which I've had) or reading C++ books (done lots of that too), but understanding the low-level stuff has made me write better code instinctively.

Sure, the piece of paper itself doesn't mean much. You can scrape by and get a degree with minimal effort. But if you actually learn and understand the material being taught, it's incredibly useful.

"Talent" is nice if you're an artist. Software development requires knowledge, experience, the ability to rapidly learn new things, a propensity for math and logic, and good communication skills.

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A degree doesn't necessarily demonstrate technical knowledge. I know for a fact that my technical knowledge is from my self learning and nothing to do with my university.

However, I did a lot of work for IBM's university team and they distilled the vital knowledge that a degree is not about the specifics and more about the process.

A graduate knows how to learn things and can pick things up quickly - sounds simple, but for a company looking to invest in future employees, someone who can learn is much more valuable than someone who already thinks they know everything.

Being a graduate proves your calibre wrt learning - it shows you're capable of understanding complex technical concepts as well as being able to take an assignment and produce a complete solution. Those basic skills can be improved by your employer, as opposed to someone who goes in all guns blazing claiming to know anything and everything - that (potential) arrogance doesn't make a good long-term employee.

(Apologies if this is a repeat of previous posts, but I'm tired from a long day on the MS campus ([razz]/[grin]) and haven't read much!)

Cheers,
Jack

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Quote:
Original post by drakostar
Quote:
Original post by JasonBlochowiak
If you don't have a degree, expect to have to demonstrate knowledge that at least matches that of a graduate, which isn't a whole lot in most cases.

Maybe it depends on the program. I'm in the last semester of a CS B.Sc. -- and one more semester away from a Chemistry B.Sc. as well -- and I honestly have to say that my programming ability has vastly improved because of it. You don't learn, say, the Operating Systems and Computer Organization side of things from work experience (which I've had) or reading C++ books (done lots of that too), but understanding the low-level stuff has made me write better code instinctively.

Sure, the piece of paper itself doesn't mean much. You can scrape by and get a degree with minimal effort. But if you actually learn and understand the material being taught, it's incredibly useful.

"Talent" is nice if you're an artist. Software development requires knowledge, experience, the ability to rapidly learn new things, a propensity for math and logic, and good communication skills.


I'm not saying that having the foundations down isn't useful - quite to the contrary, they're very useful. I'm just saying that that foundation layer that I've seen from grads is a tiny part of what I really need from programmers that I hire.

A number of years ago, someone (forget who) was complaining about talking to recent grads. Conversation went something like:
interviewer: "What can you do?"
grad: "I can program in C and Pascal." (like I said, this was awhile ago)
interviewer: "No, no - what can you do?"
grad: "I can program in C and Pascal."
interviewer: "Aaaaaagh!"

I would say that talent, on its own, is pretty useless for either an artist or an engineer. However, when appropriately applied, it's priceless.

I do agree wholeheartedly with jollyjeffers about learning: I expect that people that I manage will treat learning as a continual process; people who already think they know it all are wrong, and should stay away. My personal rule of thumb is that if you look at code you wrote a year ago, you should be embarassed by some aspect of it that you could now do significantly better.

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Haha I'm embarrased by code I just wrote... rewritten my programs so many times.

Anyway, a quick side question: I am doing a degree called "Information Technology and Physics". It used to be called Computer Science and Physics but for some reason they renamed it... I think it's a bit more web-based than what it used to be. (My first lectures tomorrow, callled "Programming for the WWW". Anyway, is that degree going to be any good? As you've probably noticed it's a joint degree, 50-50 physics and computers split. Because I like computers and science, and I just couldn't pick "one"!

Anyway, I'm considering a job in computer industry, possibly games possible not, I've got a while to think about that. But would that degree be beneficial, or do they want a "straight" computer science degree?

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