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jkarateking

Can I become a game programmer without a degree?

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Hey guys,

So I live in the UK and I have just finished my A Levels. Unfortunately due to being severely injured near the end of the first year and having problems for about a year with that, I missed most of school for the second year of A Level. I was doing maths, computer science and business.

 

Because of missing so much college, I completely failed maths as I didn't know a lot of techniques and I only managed to scrape a pass in business because it isn't too hard of a subject. In computer science however I got an A because I just know a lot about computers and programming comes easy to me.

 

I have always wanted to become a programmer in the games industry but I will never be able to do a computer science degree with only 2 A Levels especially with one of them just scraping a pass.

 

So is there things I can do to still be able to get a job as a programmer in the games industry?

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Yup, you can write to games companies and beg to work there (ok maybe not literally beg). There are some companies that will take you on in training terms if you can prove you have solid grounding and skills in c++, an alternative would be to get a job working as a developer for business applications etc and then after several years of work make the transition into games.

I mean I left my degree course due to some pretty heavy personal reasons but without a degree I got a job.. did have some uni training though so I could demonstrate a very solid grounding / understanding of programming.

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I'm not highly familiar with the UK's educational structure, but I can give you some perspective from across the pond.

Here in the US, degrees are highly preferred but not exactly mandatory. A degree will get you past some HR filters and maybe some basic programmer filters as well.

What sells entry-level candidates here (and I imagine the UK isn't too different) is portfolio work. If you have sample code that demonstrates your abilities and competence level, that will be enough to get past most of the filters. The rest is on you to make a good impression in an interview.


Any code you can put together that puts you in a good light is worth having around. It doesn't have to be open source but that helps. I've seen candidates do password-protected web pages with downloads of their sample code; that's acceptable as well if you don't want to make your work generally public.

Oh, and for whatever it's worth, I dropped out of high school. It's marginally illegal to ask about education (could be a source of bias/discrimination) so I simply don't bring it up.

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Long story short - yes it's possible, if you're really good at game programming and everything that goes along with it. At least, an internship should be achievable. What companies won't hire is someone with no degree and minimal knowledge. So all that math you failed? Yeah, better learn all of it, back to front, and then some.

As Apoch mentioned, having visible open source contributions is a big plus nowadays. 

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As others said, companies now prefer to take one guy who can show things than a guy who can show nothing and has lot of educations.
Education doesn't mean someone is great, the most of the time it simply means you have education but no experience on real coding.
So I recommend really to work hardly on things and learn from all you can, coding must be before all a pleasure.
If you really want to switch to professional side you must be aware of the pressure in work too.
Pressure means : you have most of the time deadline in the work.

Edited by Alundra

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It isn't clear from the OP why you don't plan to go to university, but if you wanted to get a degree, I reckon you'd be able to get onto plenty of computer science or games programming courses on the strength of those A-level results (although to get into better universities, you might need to retake that math A level). I'm not saying you should get a degree, or that you have to, but just saying that if you think your A-level results have excluded you from that path, then I don't think it's the case.

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Do your A-levels as evening or summer classes. Getting into games without a degree is hard. Getting in without decent A-Levels is harder. As someone who also had an A in Computer Science at A Level I can tell you that there is sh*tloads you would get to learn at university that is useful for game development and which you're missing out on.

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As mentionned above by most people, Yes, if you have the skills and can show that you have them, you can definitely find a job as a game programmer.

I'm currently in Montreal, and programmers that have actual skills and experience are highly sought for, so much so that they can actually ask insane salaries, and people will often hire them because they don't have a choice. On the other hand, programmers that have a degree, but no experience are having more of a hard time to get work, since the industry is mostly looking for experienced people here.

It's more a matter on finding how to get experience, and prove that you know programming, rather than actually having a degree that will define how easily you will find a job. Participating in game jams, hackathons, and making your own projects can help with that, along with networking a lot to meet people that are looking for programmers (meeting them outside of the usual application process helps a lot, as they can connect with you and see who you actually are and what impression they get out of you, not just the paper you sent). Chances are some people that you meet might be willing to take you on board for a trial period, more easily than if they had just read  your resume.

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It's more a matter on finding how to get experience, and prove that you know programming,


Sure. The degree serves to get an inexperienced applicant a foot in the door (to have one's resume
not tossed in the cylindrical file when it's in a pile with experienced applicants, and applicants
with no experience but with a degree). Once someone has a few years of experience (a body of
work, and some references), then it doesn't matter if that person has a degree or not.

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