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Sali

University or job experience?

6 posts in this topic

Hello there. Excuse me if this is too long :(

I'm a 20 years old guy from Spain, very interested in game development. I've just finished something called "Superior Profesional Formation" for programming, which makes me a technical programmer. It's two years of formation, VERY practical, it doesn't enter into abstract things like algebra. It gives me access to a programming job in many places. 

The other day, I read that you really need a degree for working at "real jobs" in the industry.  I'm thinking about going to university and study something like Computer Science degree. This gives me access to a videogame master degree that would really improve my knowledge and CV.

However, there are more options. Right now, I'm doing a 1 month Unity course in my city, organized by an university, very solid (I was given a scholarship). The design teacher (a really good professional) told us that he can help us to get a job as QA tester in a videogame company. It may not be great, but it's a way to getting into the industry, while I keep making things on my own. After making some games, maybe I can try to enter the programming team, or search somewhere else.

Also, I 've given a job offer for Java Programmer in a consulting company. It's not videogames, but it's programming experience. That's a safer route.

My question here is that... I don't know if studying for another 4 or 5 years is really worth compared to start gaining real job experience. I can access the videogame master degree that I want after working for 3-4 years with demonstrable job experience.
What should I do? In my case, do I really need that degree for working seriously in games?
Should I stick to the safe route of Java programming?
Or do I have more chances in game programming after working as a game QA tester if I'm given the chance?
Thank you.

Edited by Sali
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13 minutes ago, Sali said:

 

1. I don't know if studying for another 4 or 5 years is really worth compared to start gaining real job experience.

2. do I really need that degree for working seriously in games?

3. Should I stick to the safe route of Java programming?

4. Or do I have more chances in game programming after working as a game QA tester if I'm given the chance?

 

1. Read http://www.sloperama.com/advice/route66.htm

2. It depends. You live in Spain, you say. Have you looked at how many game companies there are in Spain, or are you planning to work in another European country? Not every company regards a degree as a requirement. Check https://gamedevmap.com/

3. It depends. What is your priority? Working in games? Or having a "safe" job you can stay in, regardless of how much the work appeals to you?  I recommend you make a decision grid. http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm

4. Yes, there are other ways. A good resume and portfolio can get you straight into a programming job, without going through QA. QA is really mainly good for people who don't have programming chops or artistic chops. Read http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson34.htm

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The game industry is relatively forgiving in substituting experience for a degree - but not just any random work experience. If I have an applicant who doesn't have a degree, I need to be assured of a couple things:

  • There's a good reason for not having a degree. Money (in the US) is a valid one. "I didn't think it was useful" is not.
  • The work experience and independent projects are sufficient to produce a capable engineer in general.
  • The actual abilities and skillsets are directly relevant to the job at hand.
  • There is intellectual potential for continued growth and advancement.

In that light, I have some comments.

  • "It's two years of formation, VERY practical, it doesn't enter into abstract things like algebra." Red flag. Algebra (and linear algebra) are not abstract nonsense, they're absolutely foundational. If you can't demonstrate basic mathematical competence then I have zero interest in hiring you for any programming position.
  • "Right now, I'm doing a 1 month Unity course in my city, organized by an university, very solid (I was given a scholarship)." While this is a perfectly good way to achieve personal growth, it has no relevance to employment.
  • "The design teacher (a really good professional) told us that he can help us to get a job as QA tester in a videogame company." While I have some friends who have followed this route, I don't advise it. In general, I'd rather see someone doing non-game programming work than spending time in the QA trenches just to say they were in games. QA is a better route for those who have minimal relevant skills of any sort.
  • "Also, I've given a job offer for Java Programmer in a consulting company. It's not videogames, but it's programming experience. That's a safer route." Unfortunately, Java consulting is very unlikely to get you into the game industry. It's a good way to make ends meet while doing independent projects that can demonstrate your abilities, though.

To be candid, I get the distinct vibe that foundational Java programming is all you know. That is not even remotely sufficient to get a games job. While both the university and job experience routes are ultimately viable, neither one automatically gets you there. In either situation, you're going to need to do substantial independent work to be considered qualified for a game programmer job. Generally the university path is much more likely to give you a smooth entry into the industry, as it raises less questions about your abilities and decisions. The main reason for not doing so in the US is related to the financial challenges of going to a university. If you're going to attempt to use job experience instead, it should either be because you need to make ends meet or because the job experience is strongly relevant to the game industry.

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Are you sure that you enjoy programming? Programming as a job is very different from doing it in school or for side projects, you really gotta be fine with mundane problem solving to stick with it. Taking your current skills and working for a year might help you make a more informed decision.

 

I can only speak to the U.S., but getting a 4-year Computer Science degree is really the best bet (if you're sure that you want to program). From there, you can either get a regular programming job and work on games on the side, or do games-related side projects during the degree and go straight into the games industry when you graduate. Also, you'll always have the degree as a fallback if you do go straight into games.

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Simply stated: You don't exist in a vacuum.

Your application needs be better than the other candidates to get the interview.

Your interview needs to be better than the other candidates to get the job.

Once you get the job you need to be able to do the job to your employer's satisfaction.

The details of that depend on your location on the globe.  For some locations and some jobs your job application needs to show both a 4-year degree and a strong portfolio. That is because in those locations the degree and portfolio are commonplace, many applicants have them.  For other locations a university education is rare, and in those locations you can be without the degree and still be better than the other candidates.

=====

As for math skills you'll need during the job, if you are working in 3D you'll need some linear algebra (that's the math of 3D manipulation) including how transformations matrices work, translations, rotations, cross products, dot products, law of cosines, and a few other topics. In both 2D and 3D you'll need trigonometry for all rotations and curves.  I recommend some calculus (the math of change) since some operations like infinite sums and integrals are much simpler when solved directly rather than using iterative methods to add up a bunch of tiny pieces or to make a bunch of tiny steps over time, but some people get by without calculus.  You will need statistics, at least enough that when someone draws a distribution curve of how often something should happen you can implement it. 

There are many CS topics I use on a daily basis and never really consider.  Basically know all the algorithms and data structures, and if you don't know how to implement them know where to look them up.

 

If you can do the job and if you are able to find a job with your current certifications and qualifications, then you should go for it.  If you can't do the job then figure out your gap between where you are and where you need to be, then figure out how to fill the gaps.  You might fill the gap by getting a degree (age 20 is still young for a student) or by other ways available to you.

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Thank you for your responses and sincerity. I didn't expect so many responses, and so honest ones. I really apreciate that.

I'll keep doing things on my own, independently of my decision.

I think I need to meditate it for a while. Going to college seems to be my best bet, since the QA job isn't confirmed yet. I really feel that I need to complete my education, for what you've told me. I'll come back here if I have any more questions.

Thanks again :)

 

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