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pbj

How important is higher education choice to getting into the games industry?

10 posts in this topic

I would very much like to go into programming / game design. From reading the threads on game dev my understanding of the way most people get into is by starting at the bottom and working their way up, usually in jobs that don't even require a degree. I've just finished the first year of a four year degree in music but I pretty much spend most of my time programming games, however, when I come out of my degree I won't have any qualifications to saying I can actually program apart from the projects I have produced in my free time. I've been considering abandoning my music degree and reapplying for game design / comp sci at other universities. Obviously this is a serious financial risk and entails a lot of lost time. Is it actually worth getting a degree in something so specific as game design or even comp sci, I assume it helps to get into the video games industry but does it make or break one's chances of getting accepted. I'm competent and hard working but I don't know if the fact that I'm missing out on having a degree in what I actually want to do will stop be from ever being able to prove myself in the industry. Any advice is appreciated.
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You have only finished one year of your program. Consider that about 80% of students change their major before graduation, many change their declared major multiple times.

If you have decided that music is not your passion, and that programming is your passion, by all means change your major.

If both topics interest you strongly, you can also pursue a double major. Back in my university days I knew a few people who had CS/Music double majors. It is not common -- more common to see CS/Math, CS/Physics, but it certainly is a possible route. You can also get a major in CS with a minor in music, or some other combination.



As for actually having the degree: It is important because you do not exist in a vacuum. You are not the only applicant.


You will be competing for a job against other people who have degrees in the field.

You need to provide strong enough evidence that the company should pick you -- without a related degree -- over someone who has a related degree but limited experience.
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Thank you for your reply frob. I'm not sure I made myself entirely clear. I am not just studying music, I am at specialist music college which only offers courses related directly to music. Changing to a course in programming would mean completely reapplying for university which is why I am apprehensive to do so.
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pbj, you might want to check out this forum's FAQs. Lots of information there about the necessity of education and how to make important decisions like the one you're facing. Go back out to this forum's main page and you'll find the FAQs link above right.
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[quote name='pbj' timestamp='1343661390' post='4964510']
From reading the threads on game dev my understanding of the way most people get into is by starting at the bottom and working their way up, usually in jobs that don't even require a degree.
[/quote]

It is a crying shame that this bad advice is what is so often given here. pbj, what country do you live in?
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In England. I've sort of shot myself in the foot by picking such a specialised degree and instuition but because of funding issues it is very difficult to switch colleges.

Although, from reading your articles it looks like I shouldn't be too worried about my degree. You seem to advocate hard work and passion over just having a degree (correct me if I am wrong). I believe I am self motivated and hard working enough to at least have a good try at getting into the industry. I am trying to put together a portfolio of my own games that I have made, I would hope that a portfolio of works showing that I can actually make games would be of more value than just having a piece of paper telling employers I can program Edited by pbj
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Regardless of what direction you end up taking. You should not discount the validity of the music aspects of what you are studying atm. Music does have some relevance in the game industry. It may not be directly on the track you seem to be focussing on from your post i.e. programming, but don't vanquish it out of hand as being a detriment to future opportunities.
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[quote name='pbj' timestamp='1343666206' post='4964544']
In England.
from reading your articles it looks like I shouldn't be too worried about my degree. You seem to advocate hard work and passion over just having a degree (correct me if I am wrong).
[/quote]

I advocate hard work and passion AND having a degree. A lot of Brits have said here that degrees are unimportant in your country. I don't live there, so I can't speak on that, but I am very skeptical.

I don't know what you are saying when you say "I shouldn't be too worried about my degree." I think you should get a degree, and build a game portfolio.
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Sorry, I didn't mean I shouldn't be worried about my degree in terms of not working hard or finishing the course. I meant I shouldn't be too worried about my degree subject as I am also good at, and passioante about music as well as comp sci, it's just not the ideal degree to go into the games industry which is what I feel like I want to do in terms of my career.

I will get a degree. It will just be in the wrong subject which I hope doesn't hold me back too much. :( I am trying very hard to change but computer science requires a different set of entry qualifications and altering my degree comes with a set of financial complications: course fees in England have just increased nationally by 200%. I hope I don't sound like I am complaining! I'm just trying to figure out what the best course of action is.

[i]Degrees in the UK are a lot more specialised than in America. If you go to unviersity to get a degree in Maths for example, all you will study for four years is Maths. There is no notion in the English system of majors and minors, all your options must pretty much be in your chosen subject (apart from a few credits here and there, although even this cross disciplinary education is discouraged by most faculties). Furthermore if you want to change your degree half way through there is no transferable credit as your experience thus far is considered to be in the wrong subject entirely. So if you want to switch over from one subject to another you have to completely abandon what you have been studying up until then and start all over again - This doesn't have much relation to games I just thought it might be interesting to get a better idea of Britsh undergradtuate education system as it is so different the American one.[/i]

[i]In terms of the value of degrees for employment, I wouldn't say they were unimportant in the U.K. but a degree is only useful until you get your first job. I assume this is the same in America though, having experience and record of employment in the industry that you want to work in is worth a lot more than any degree. They become less useful in terms of procuring employment after you have got your first job.[/i]
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Having never applied [i]without [/i]a degree, I can only give the other perspective. It feels as though most HR agents uses degrees to weed out which resumes to even bother looking at. I would say a relevant degree in computer science at least starts you off in the right direction in the hands of an HR agent - your passion and hobby projects only become evident if they've looked for more than a few seconds at your resume after all.
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[quote name='pbj' timestamp='1343661390' post='4964510']
I've just finished the first year of a four year degree in music but I pretty much spend most of my time programming games
[/quote]

It sounds like you have great potential as an audio programmer.

[quote name='pbj' timestamp='1343661390' post='4964510']
when I come out of my degree I won't have any qualifications to saying I can actually program apart from the projects I have produced in my free time.
[/quote]

I don't think this is necessarily a big deal. In my experience, good demo projects are worth far more than qualifications when it comes to demonstrating your programming ability. The exception may be working with large companies and recruiters, who may look for qualifications as an easy way to filter a long list of candidates into something more manageable. So apply directly to small and medium sized developers, include your hobbyist experience in your CV, and where possible bring your demos and show them off!
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