# Degree versus diploma

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Some folks here say that whether or not you "need" a degree depends on what country you live in. I'm 26 years old, and I live in New Zealand. universities here are all the same, there's no such thing as one university that's better than another.

I'm settled on doing a software diploma for 1-2 years. Universities are "overkill" in my opinion, and I'm disgusted at their marketing tactics toward high school leavers: everything is about having friends/status/ego and "chasing the party". I dislike many of the university students that I've met, I perceive them to be brainwashed with conventional nonsense; or the other extreme, they think they can change the world. I've been to local gamedev meetups here in Christchurch and the guys there are great - completely the opposite of university graduates. I was telling guys at the local gamedev group that I intend to do a diploma. One of them questioned my objective. I said that I want the piece of paper (the qualification), but I want to make games on the weekend. The guy blurts out: "don't waste your time, New Zealand's education system is 4 years behind, and you'll most likely end up working on things like Barbie Seahorse Adventures and Air New Zealand complaint forms - you should just make the next Call Of Duty from your basement and break into the games industry that way"

:lol:

From what I can tell there's nothing wrong with doing a diploma in software engineering, so long as you aren't forced to do Microsoft Office. If you have to learn office for the first 4 weeks, don't do the course! The benefit of a degree seems to be maths knowledge and advanced concepts. I'm confident that I can learn advanced stuff from a book. Anyway, as mentioned I'm already going to do a diploma. I just wanted to offer my 2 cents and have a little discussion about this topic. What countries do you think are friendly toward candidates who have diplomas, not a degree? Are there cultural reasons for this or is it a case of shallow employers, who essentially hire people based on data?

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Blimey! :)

If you were asking this question during your final mandatory year of school then I'd know exactly what advice to offer you. But alas, at this point, it's simply going to be trial and error.

I don't normally reply in the "Game Industry Job Advice" forum because I cannot promise any guarantees, nor do I want to reinforce lofty optimism.

Welcome to the most competitive industry in the world!

• Tip #1: Save every cent.
• Tip #2: Focus like a Zen monk on your goals.
• Tip #3: Get some goals!

If you're not an investor then you need to have a "marketable" craft.

"Marketable" craft means (to me at least) what you are good at doing.

I'm not going to argue the merits of "Degree" vs "Diploma". Take what you can get and gain as much experience as possible.

Good luck! :)

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In the UK, it more or less reflects what Promit has mentioned. Almost job in the in industry (both in and out of games) will have a degree requirement as filter.

With more sites like HackerRank popping up to demonstrate skills first rather then education, this requirement may start to shift over the next few years.

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In the UK, it more or less reflects what Promit has mentioned. Almost job in the in industry (both in and out of games) will have a degree requirement as filter.

With more sites like HackerRank popping up to demonstrate skills first rather then education, this requirement may start to shift over the next few years.

I haven't seen Hacker(Wank) or Codility being used in that way.  In my experience a Degree is the minimum requirement to get past HR or a Recruiter.  The next step is the HW test to filter out candidates followed by either a face to face or another programming test devised by the team.

The hacker rank tests are just being used as another filter.   Also in my experience they are a waste of time and don't actually provide the best candidates.  The guys who are good at HackerRank tests tend to be the guys that spend all their time doing these kind of online puzzle but once you get them on your team they don't actually have a clue about how to find a bug, architect a solution or do anything that a half decent coder should be able to do.  They also tend to spend all day not actually getting any work done because they are trying to optimize silly fizz buzz programs to maintain their hackerwank score instead of their job.

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In the UK, it more or less reflects what Promit has mentioned. Almost job in the in industry (both in and out of games) will have a degree requirement as filter.

With more sites like HackerRank popping up to demonstrate skills first rather then education, this requirement may start to shift over the next few years.

I haven't seen Hacker(Wank) or Codility being used in that way.  In my experience a Degree is the minimum requirement to get past HR or a Recruiter.  The next step is the HW test to filter out candidates followed by either a face to face or another programming test devised by the team.

The hacker rank tests are just being used as another filter.   Also in my experience they are a waste of time and don't actually provide the best candidates.  The guys who are good at HackerRank tests tend to be the guys that spend all their time doing these kind of online puzzle but once you get them on your team they don't actually have a clue about how to find a bug, architect a solution or do anything that a half decent coder should be able to do.  They also tend to spend all day not actually getting any work done because they are trying to optimize silly fizz buzz programs to maintain their hackerwank score instead of their job.

That's very interesting to hear from someone who has interviewed a few people from the HackerRank site.

As a side question, how do you feel choosing/finding someone that generally live streams coding sessions on sites like Twitch and Live Coding?

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universities here are all the same

That's really not accurate. There's a vast amount of effort that goes in to overall rankings for Universities in NZ; the system is somewhat flawed (a lot of it is based on quantity of research papers produced, content aside) but there are definitely places you want to go to study certain subjects. Mathematics and computer science at Waikato have been way ahead of the game for quite some time, although Auckland seems to have pulled ahead as far as mathematics goes in recent years.

NZ's education system is much better than that guy would have you believe. You may end up working on licensed titles while in NZ but that's got more to do with how remote it is, so there really aren't that many game development companies. NZ is where I started but that experience got me work in Sweden, the U.S. and Canada.

While you won't be wasting your time with a diploma, you'll definitely find it harder to get work in the industry compared to those with four year degrees. That being said it's not an absolute rule, if you have a good portfolio and experience people aren't going to be turning you away.

Edited by Orangeatang

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Thanks Promit, I hadn't heard of an associate's degree before. When I made this thread I was thinking: "whaaaaaat, you don't have a diploma course in the US". Ha-ha. Anyways, some of the local game developers have no C.S. degree. One of them was working in the pharmacy business, and somehow turned to game development. These guys make $30,000 NZD a year which is probably about$20,000 - \$25,000 USD a year, LOL! I'm not that interested in writing reports at this stage in my life, so I'll do the diploma and learn everything I can on the side (PHP and CMS too). Without a degree I think you can network with good folks and improvise a career. I met a scruffy, short, cigarette-smoking Linux fan once. He started on helpdesk and made friends there, then made his own software development company - he had no qualifications, he had trustworthiness.

While getting a degree may generally be the best approach, I'm going to avoid it for a heap of personal reasons. I know a national socialist in Australia who has 2 degrees but because of the jobs he wants, he has to self-censor and he can't even write letters to the editor without risking his "reputation" ... and I'm talking about any old letter to the editor, not necessarily one about his favourite ideology. I'm strongly opposed to this "corporate" nonsense. If it means being shallow, having no spare time and having no free speech then I'll go my own way. I went to an open-source meeting 1-2 months ago, and heard brilliant insights from the organiser. I get all of my inspiration from independent companies.

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Without a degree I think you can network with good folks and improvise a career.

I don't think anyone here is saying otherwise, however the norm is for any role for a software engineer is to have a degree. (A degree is also quite valuable for VISA reasons).

There are exceptions to the norm and I certainly know a few of them in the industry. It's just generally a more difficult path and therefore not advised but that doesn't make it impossible.

I know a national socialist in Australia who has 2 degrees but because of the jobs he wants, he has to self-censor and he can't even write letters to the editor without risking his "reputation"

To be fair, everyone has this problem thanks to the Internet. Googling someone doesn't take much effort so everyone really has to watch what they write/post/say because that can come back to haunt them in some way in the future (something that teens REALLY have to watch out for as I think that will affect in a much larger way).

If you form your own company, this applies even more as you are the face of the company and what you say is reflective of the company and you are now responsible for anyone that works with/for you. e.g. Palmer Luckey.

I'm strongly opposed to this "corporate" nonsense.

You will have to encounter some red tape along the way be it clients, press, publishers, VCs, banks etc. If you are working on something is commercial, there's no way of getting around this.

Edited by yaustar

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You will have to encounter some red tape along the way be it clients, press, publishers, VCs, banks etc. If you are working on something is commercial, there's no way of getting around this.

I forgot to mention publishers. I had a long debate at CNCNZ forum regarding EA Games and Command & Conquer. Apparently, EA Games doesn't have creativity or ingenuity, except when it comes to marketing and finance. I'm told that EA won't make another C&C because RTS games are considered "high risk" investments, yet Petroglyph made a new RTS, albeit on a small budget. If it weren't for a small handful of people who think for themselves, then the games industry would become meaningless and have no guidance. It has got near that point already. I owned a PS4 for about 18 months and only had maybe 6 games before I became bored and sold the console.

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Apparently, EA Games doesn't have creativity or ingenuity, except when it comes to marketing and finance.

EA is a public business with thousands of people under their employ. They HAVE to make money and that means going into areas that have high gain (look at their stock price graph over the last 5 years) as this is what investors expect. To say that they don't have any creativity just because they won't make another C&C game is missing the fact that they do work on new IP, just not as often people may expect. Titanfall (2014). New Mirror's Edge (2016). Unravel (2016).

Petroglyph don't have this problem. I'm assuming they are self funded so they don't have to deal with investors or banks and therefore don't have to reach nearly the same number of sales to earn a profit. That said, they still have the same risk. Let's say the game takes 6 months with a team of 5. At a £40k each salary (which is pretty low), that's £16.7k just in wages, not taking into account of office rental, taxes and the such. That's a pretty big risk for a company owner to take on on something that may not sell.

A friend of mine wanted to make a niche title and just couldn't get the numbers to add up during market research so he had to change the genre to one that had a bigger player base. It's not on the same scale as EA's decisions but similar all the same. You just can't make a game and hope people will buy it, you have to make sure there is a potential audience there first otherwise you are just taking on debt.

Edited by yaustar

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I know a national socialist in Australia who has 2 degrees but because of the jobs he wants, he has to self-censor and he can't even write letters to the editor without risking his "reputation"

To be fair, everyone has this problem thanks to the Internet. Googling someone doesn't take much effort so everyone really has to watch what they write/post/say because that can come back to haunt them in some way in the future (something that teens REALLY have to watch out for as I think that will affect in a much larger way).

If you form your own company, this applies even more as you are the face of the company and what you say is reflective of the company and you are now responsible for anyone that works with/for you. e.g. Palmer Luckey.

What he said. You can be held responsible and judged harshly for the things you say in public. This has nothing to do with university degrees and everything to do with being an adult member of society.

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In the UK, it more or less reflects what Promit has mentioned. Almost job in the in industry (both in and out of games) will have a degree requirement as filter.

With more sites like HackerRank popping up to demonstrate skills first rather then education, this requirement may start to shift over the next few years.

I haven't seen Hacker(Wank) or Codility being used in that way.  In my experience a Degree is the minimum requirement to get past HR or a Recruiter.  The next step is the HW test to filter out candidates followed by either a face to face or another programming test devised by the team.

The hacker rank tests are just being used as another filter.   Also in my experience they are a waste of time and don't actually provide the best candidates.  The guys who are good at HackerRank tests tend to be the guys that spend all their time doing these kind of online puzzle but once you get them on your team they don't actually have a clue about how to find a bug, architect a solution or do anything that a half decent coder should be able to do.  They also tend to spend all day not actually getting any work done because they are trying to optimize silly fizz buzz programs to maintain their hackerwank score instead of their job.

That's very interesting to hear from someone who has interviewed a few people from the HackerRank site.

As a side question, how do you feel choosing/finding someone that generally live streams coding sessions on sites like Twitch and Live Coding?

Somebody live streaming coding sessions probably wouldn't have much impact on if I hired them or not.  Obviously its a plus point that they take the time to do stuff in their spare time and that would go in their favour but, the chance of me actually watching one of their sessions is very slim.

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Somebody live streaming coding sessions probably wouldn't have much impact on if I hired them or not.  Obviously its a plus point that they take the time to do stuff in their spare time and that would go in their favour but, the chance of me actually watching one of their sessions is very slim.

I was thinking more that you can see/watch/replay how they worked, how they approach problems, structure their code, explanations to the viewers, etc.

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Somebody live streaming coding sessions probably wouldn't have much impact on if I hired them or not.  Obviously its a plus point that they take the time to do stuff in their spare time and that would go in their favour but, the chance of me actually watching one of their sessions is very slim.

I was thinking more that you can see/watch/replay how they worked, how they approach problems, structure their code, explanations to the viewers, etc.

Thats all well and good but the recruitment process is usually very costly in term of senior developer man hours lost reading CV.  Watching / playing demos, interviewing candidates.  In most companies they want this as streamlined as possible.
CV and Demo -> Coding Test -> F2F Interview.

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To answer your original question, if you intend to work in another country, doing so without a four year degree complicates matters significantly.

It is possible, but generally, you need to either demonstrate a long professional career (such that it is deemed equivalent expertise) or be so far above the norm that you qualify for a given country's exception for exceptional individuals. The only exception I can think off the top of my head is Ireland -- if someone wanted to hire you as a game developer in Ireland for more than 40,000 Euros/year, I believe that would automatically qualify you for a work visa.

Edited by Dave Weinstein

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Col. Nathan R. Jessep: "You want answers? You? Want? Answers? You can't handle the truth!"

I know I will get down-voted for saying this but that's okay (I'm trying to get my rep down to an even 100 for my OCD :P)

I wouldn't want anybody to be too discouraged from pursuing their dream career but I cannot deny that unemployment world-wide has certainly made things much more difficult (more people look for work each week than there are jobs posted). The youth live in their own modern-day catch-22; they can't get a job without having experience but they can't get experience without having a job. I suppose one could offer to work for free :unsure:

It is also true that University education will mean the difference between having your CV getting looked at or being ignored for white-collar professions.

I'm strongly opposed to this "corporate" nonsense. If it means being shallow, having no spare time and having no free speech then I'll go my own way... I forgot to mention publishers... If it weren't for a small handful of people who think for themselves, then the games industry would become meaningless and have no guidance. It has got near that point already. I owned a PS4 for about 18 months and only had maybe 6 games before I became bored and sold the console.

Are you sure this is the right path for you? You've already built-up quite a strong resentment for the industry you intend to break into.

Whatever you decide, keep studying anyway and try to look at the positive side of the industry.

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Are you sure this is the right path for you? You've already built-up quite a strong resentment for the industry you intend to break into.

Whatever you decide, keep studying anyway and try to look at the positive side of the industry.

There, gave you a +1 :P

But on a more serious note, I am with BrianRhineHeart here, I would strongly encourage the TO to question his goals.

1. If you want to do game development dodging ALL corporate BS, there is basically only the Indie route. Question is, if you want to go that direction, why even strive for a diploma? You don't need any degree or diploma to do your own thing. University can teach you a lot, but its usually not the best place to actually learn, you know how to program or draw or all that stuff. That is something that comes from tons of practice and repetition... something universities don't waste time with, because they try to cram as many topics into their curriculum as possible.

If you do study, you do it for the "broadness of education", getting insights into as many different topics as possible, while learning indepth about what catches your interest on your own time..

Of course, you will need a TON of luck to survive on your own in the Indie world. Entering that route without a safety parachute in form of a proper education and a backup career you can return to should you fail, or even having a day job you can work on to pay the bills, is highly suicidal IMO. Given you can live from ramen noodles and live in your parents basement or only have to pay a really cheap rent you might be able to survive until you find enough success to pay for your bills...

Other than that, you can try to find employment in the smaller Indie Shops. You will most probably face less Corporate BS, but lower pay, more uncertainity, and less security. And again, you are in the rat race for jobs. You might have a higher chance to get a job without a degree... but all other things equal, your missing degree might make you loose out against a similar candidate with a degree.

2. If you want to work in bigger Studios or the AAA ones, you gotta play by the rules. Nobody is waiting for you, and nobody needs you. You need to sell yourself as hard as you can. Going on a rant against how much studying sucks is not going to help you there...

IF you want the best chance of getting a job, get a degree. IF you cannot because of whatever reason, find a GOOD reason to tell people why you couldn't be arsed to get one. And work your ass off to create a portfolio that blows people away and get all the skills you can.

You will loose out to less skilled people WITH a degree in the first round in enough situations when you will apply for a job, you want to be able to really impress your potential new boss when you finally manage to pass the HR filter in spite of your missing degree.

I have no expierience with the situation in NZ, I just guess its similar to Switzerland. Yes, there are the posh and highly overrated "elite unis"... yes, there are the elitist students that like the sound of their own voice above all else.

But even these elite universities CAN actually be good places to learn SOMETHING, even though clearly they are nowhere as superior as their marketing make SOME people believe. And you will find non-elitist students even on these elite institutes... I actually would bet most are jolly good blokes you would enjoy having a beer with and talk about normal stuff... you know, if batman is better than superman, if the new star wars film sucked, if they think there will ever be a new C&C.... not just listen to them brag about their scores, talk about science bullshit they do not completly understand themselves and stuff like that.

I rarely met annoying students in my time. We had a pretty cool gang of people who shared similar interests and helped each others out, not only with preparing for exams and stuff like that. Besides all the exams and studying and stuff it was a fun time. And while I do have to say I learned little in detail there, and a lot of the stuff we skimmed never really helped me in my current career as a software developer, I did get introduced to a wide range of topics I wouldn't have looked into otherwise.

I would bet if you would look around for the right university in your area and would really look into it, you would be surprised to find a lot of nice people studying there.

My 2 cents

Edited by Gian-Reto

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I'm now in the process of applying for the diploma course. Even though I'm not enrolling for "web programming" it seems that everything is about web programming anyway. When the tutor mentioned the trend, I realised how true it was: look at Microsoft's outlook.com. If you right-click a folder it brings up a custom menu, instead of the generic "back / print / view page source" stuff. Outlook is an application running in a browser. I always wondered why PHP and Javascript seemed uninteresting to me, it's because you need a database to go with those languages, otherwise there's nothing to process. There's my new job idea: website backend programming. c++ / SDL games for Linux will be my weekend project, and I want to re-balance the Battle For Wesnoth campaigns, especially Descent Into Darkness, the missions of which are nearly impossible to beat! I'd also like to develop Fedora or at least do the packaging. I'll be busy next year.

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I'm now in the process of applying for the diploma course. Even though I'm not enrolling for "web programming" it seems that everything is about web programming anyway. When the tutor mentioned the trend, I realised how true it was: look at Microsoft's outlook.com. If you right-click a folder it brings up a custom menu, instead of the generic "back / print / view page source" stuff. Outlook is an application running in a browser.

Not just Outlook but the trend of using web technology is getting huge.  There are web apps for 3D modelling, Photo editing, DTP, Banking, Finance etc.. Also a lot of windows desktop .exe apps are now just using web technology in an executable wrapper.

I always wondered why PHP and Javascript seemed uninteresting to me, it's because you need a database to go with those languages,

This is where a lack of formal comping education starts to show.  Strictly from a computer science background any non trivial computer program requires a database (or indeed is a database).  A database is just a term to mean a collection of data so it doesn't just have to be SQL or JSON.  In an unreal engine game for example, the map you produce is actually your database.

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