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Advice on choosing degree course

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Hey guys, I was hoping you guys could help me out here, i need send my application away to university and before that i need to make my mind up on what course i wish to study. I live in the UK and Ireland and my teachers tell me that i need to chose by the end of this month. I have an enthusiam for programming and i am completely sure that i want to be a game programmer, the problem is that i don't know what course would be best suited for that. I think i have four real choices. Computer science. Software engineering. Computer Game development. Game programming. They are all full degrees. I want to enter the game industry for game programming with strong programming skills so i was thinking of software engineering, but this means i wouldn't have any real experiance for making games. I've heard bad things about game orientated degrees which is why i don't know if i want to do them, them being very vocational isn't an issue, because you may call me naive but i am sure want to be a games programmer and i'm not the artistic type so i don't want to be spending all my uni days on 3d Max... What do you guys think? what would you reccomend for a guy that wants to be a game programmer. At the minute the BE in software engineering looks the best Cheers, niall

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From what i have heard from the recruiters at work, the top two degrees there would be more valuable than the bottom two. They also said this is a somewhat typical view throughout the industry at the moment.

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Computer Science / Software Engineering are obviously the two big ones. A less obvious choice would be a Computational/Applied Mathmatics degree. This would be good if you already felt you had a strong programming background, and could speak to interview questions about software design, OOP, and language specific quirks.

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As others mentioned, the first two are definately more worthy. For game development in particular I would recommend Computer Science over Software Engineering, since the scientific approach to problem solving is more valuable when dealing with a highly inter-related field as the games industry where not all solutions are already available for you. That said, make sure you at least take one computer engineering course during your study to improve your understanding of how large and complex projects are built.

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The degree in CS or SE will be the most beneficial. Which one you will want to choose will be the one that will be able to get you a non-game programming job in the event you are not able to get a game programming job. Between CS and SE, neither one will be of more use than the other.

Here's how it was setup for me at the university I went to:

CS dealt with abstract algorithms and theoretical concepts.

SE dealt with project planning, management, testing, quality assurance, and team management.

Now here's the real issue at hand:
- Neither CS or SE taught programming. You need to learn programming how to make games.
- The algorithms learned in CS are important, but you won't learn anything that you can't learn online or use an existing code base for (think standard C++ library / boost and all the advocates that say to use those rather than code your own)
- The things learned in SE are important for any project, but once again, nothing you don't learn from general experience.

That's why you choose the degree that can more or less guarantee that you won't starve after college and not be able to pay off debts if you cannot find a job. The goal is to get a game job, but that's not always doable. I don't know how the market is in your country, but you will want to look at job postings to see what kind of degree is required.

If more jobs look like they want CS degrees, go for the CS degree and take SE classes on the side as your electives rather than "easy" classes. I think this is what you will probably find. SE is a relatively "new" degree still, it's not been around as long as CS has, so many companies don't actually look for SE just from always looking for the CS degree.

There are trade offs between both degrees, but in general there should be a lot of overlap. Core knowledge was the same for us, but we had more "building experience" based classes in SE with team projects than CS ever did.

Either way though, it will always be up to you to go the extra mile and make sure you make yourself as marketable as possible, independently of school. I.e. hard work and dedication outside of school to whatever you want to pursue will ultimately get you where you want to go. Going through college helps you get the opportunity to actually get in the door. Don't think that just by having a degree in anything is all it takes, because you will find that you will be quickly replaced by people who want that job more ;)

Good luck deciding!

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