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How Important is an Honours Degree in Games/Audio Industries?

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 I know there are a good few game audio legends on this forum - it's the pros that I'd really like to hear from today.  Also would love to hear from those of you who are self-employed in the game or audio industries.  



I completed my bachelors degree and am now half way through my honours year, but I feel like I want to drop out.  I've been absolutely killing myself over this decision for months. What I hope to gain from your responses is some idea of the difference between an unclassified bachelors degree and an honours degree in both the games and audio industries.  I'm more interested in being self-employed presently, but the decision to complete the degree would be based on the doors that it will open for me in terms of employment.

Just to give a little background on my thoughts, I think that I could achieve more in terms of knowledge, skills, and portfolio content through developing my own personal projects than I could through completing my honours degree (and honours project).  I feel highly motivated to get started on my own projects right away whereas my university work makes me feel quite demotivated in contrast.  My own projects would include building a website for my work, creating a music/sfx pack for game audio (to be sold through Unreal and Unity stores), at least one DAW plugin (to be developed for Reason but possibly in other formats), and indie games (longer term projects).  For the purposes of this conversation, please assume that my personal project work will be to a high standard!  My thoughts are that in undertaking these personal projects successfully that I would have a pretty good portfolio that would make up for my lack of honours classification.  99% of people I've asked advise me to finish the degree to be on the safe side, but I've never felt that any of these people really knew my industries or the demand for practical skills, showreels and creative passion.  Subsequently I doubt myself because 99% people are telling me something I don't agree with; it's hard to tell whether I'm being blind to a bigger picture or not...  Still, it seems the most popular argument I'm given in favour of finishing the degree is that "I'm nearly there - it's only another 4 months", but to that I say it's an entire thesis that will take up all my time and energy for the next 4 months; it won't benefit me to do the thesis anymore than being able to say "Hey employers, I have an honours degree!" will.  

So if you were an employer, would you want to see my name next to an honours degree, or next to real products, or both?  Am I going to mess up my life by dropping out?  
 

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I feel highly motivated to get started on my own projects right away whereas my university work makes me feel quite demotivated in contrast.  ...
99% of people I've asked advise me to finish the degree to be on the safe side, but I've never felt that any of these people really knew my industries or the demand for practical skills, showreels and creative passion.  ...
it seems the most popular argument I'm given in favour of finishing the degree is that "I'm nearly there - it's only another 4 months", but to that I say it's an entire thesis that will take up all my time and energy for the next 4 months; it won't benefit me to do the thesis anymore than being able to say "Hey employers, I have an honours degree!" will.  ...
Am I going to mess up my life by dropping out?


The purpose of your post is to figure out whether you should finish the degree you're THIS CLOSE to finishing. YOU SHOULD FINISH THE DEGREE.
Moving this to the Game Industry Job Advice forum. You should read the job advice FAQs. http://www.gamedev.net/page/reference/faq.php/_/breaking-into-the-industry-r16 Edited by Tom Sloper

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The purpose of your post is to figure out whether you should finish the degree you're THIS CLOSE to finishing. YOU SHOULD FINISH THE DEGREE.


Aha, so you agree with the 99%?  

To answer you, that's sort-of correct.  The purpose of this post is to find out if, and precisely how it matters if I don't have an honours degree in these industries.  As I say, I may be 4 months from completion, but I still have essentially ALL the work to do.   All I've completed of this year is a video production module and an advanced game audio module.  I'm proposing that if I drop out I could spend my time doing more meaningful work and in 4 months time I would be more capable in these industries than if I'd completed the degree.   

  I want to drop out, but I can barely find a soul who doesn't automatically advise that I finish it.  Many of my fellow students really want degrees and that's why they went to university, but my attitude has always been very different.  I only ever cared about learning what I needed to learn to be able to bring my ideas to life.  I admired this attitude in myself for the most part, but that admiration has never been reciprocated by anyone else and now my faith in it is being tested pretty hard. 

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4 months is a very short amount of time, considering you'll be able to put it on your resume for your entire life.

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It's easy to spend 4 months working on personal projects that you enjoy doing. And odds are, in the course of your life, finding the free time to develop your skills won't be difficult either. It is hard to face that thesis and get your degree. Show future employers that you can do something hard and see it to completion.

Also, employers intend on paying you for the work they want you to do not the work that you want to do. What conclusions will they draw reading your resume, before you have any chance to explain, when it shows you didn't finish your degree?

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The only down side to finishing the degree is 4 months of your time; in the long term that's absolutly nothing. The audio industry has changed a lot in recent years. What used to take a million dollar investment can now be accomplished with a fraction of the cost. Couple that with the fact that musical talent isn't exactly rare and the technical aspect has become greatly simplified. All of these factors have led to an oversaturated market that can be very daunting to enter. Whenever I hire someone I have to see something that separates them from the masses. That is either going to come in the form of a degree or previous work experience, a demo doesn't cut it anymore. To get work experience without a degree you're going to have to spend a lot of time on unknown projects hoping that one of them will pan out into something impressive. That will take you a lot longer than the 4 months it will take to finish that degree. Finish the degree, there's no real downside.

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As others have said, four months is nothing in the grand scheme of life. Sometimes a single job hunt will take more time than that. You're in a marathon and the finish line is visible, are you seriously going to throw in the towel at that point? Seems a waste, and if employers learn of it, it will make you look like a quitter.


Absolutely! Well said.

It is about viewpoints. When you are a child you think like a child, interpret the world as a child, and struggle to interpret the world differently.


And this, too. Thumbs way up. Edited by Tom Sloper

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@frob

I appreciate the lengthy response.  It was balanced and helpful.  

There are some important circumstances in my situation as it happens.  I've been quite depressed being at uni for a long time now, and this decision to potentially drop out is anything but impulsive on my part. In fact the only reason I didn't drop out earlier is because I was determined to finish the modules I had already started.  This was partly due to an obligation I felt committed to in a team project.  My plan was to complete those modules and to decide my course of action over the holiday period.  A very strong factor in this for me is stress relief - it actually feels like I burned out a year ago and have being doing damage ever since.  

I'm not sure what the sense of spirituality and/or gut-feelings is like around here, but I've felt a sort of calling to go and do my own thing as it were.  I have a choice now to either commit all my energy to making myself /look/ good by getting a degree, or /getting/ good by doing more relevant self-study and seeing through my own set of goals.  

It's hard to know what to say to your analogy of thinking like a child, teenager etc.  I'm not sure the way I think falls into any of those categories.  For one thing, I think of time as precious and the coming 4 months aren't so insignificant to me.  I want to do something meaningful in the time it wouldve taken to finish the degree.  I think I'm about to do more work than I've ever done and give something my all, and I don't want that something to be for purely superficial reasons e.g so I don't look like a quitter.  If an employer doesn't look further beneath the surface to see a candidates true abilities, that candidate would probably only have existed as a number in a corporate environment.  I'm a bit too free-spirited for that sort of thing anyway, so I suppose I'd be better off.  It seems there will always be a trade off between my attitude to life and being successful in life, but you've got to do what makes you happy, right?  Call it child-like or even idealistic if you will though...












 

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