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Master's at CMU vs. Digipen's Bachelor

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Hi I'm a diploma student that graduated from Singapore. Going over my choices for university/college, other then the ones in Singapore, I am applying for both Digipen's RTIS and CMU's Master's in Entertainment Technology, both in USA.

(I graduated from, http://www.nyp.edu.sg/schools/sidm/full-time-courses/game-development-and-technology.html , notice at the bottom that it says I can have direct entry to the Master's at CMU)

Part of my research, is to know the benefits and demerits of going to either. Unfortunately, I have not found many places that details CMU's MET course in detail, and from what I see on its website it seems to be a much more, higher level topic that goes beyond programming.

My main concern is that I am not skilled enough for the Master's at CMU. While I am confident in my C++ (used it for around 4 years), I am not confident enough to say that I can create a Game Engine myself (given infinite time). Given that I am not a US citizen but I want to work in the US, I'm not sure if a Master's is very helpful compared to Digipen's network and exposure.

Digipen's Bachelor Degree in RTIS seems to fit my bill as it allows me to breakthrough to the industry while setting up my foundations properly. 

What I'm looking for is advice as well as determining which is more suited for me. A bit more about me, I'm generally more interested in actual programming rather then the game design or the game itself. Being able to efficiently optimize an algorithm or having a clever solution to a programming issue, for now, gives me more highs then balancing a delicate game.

I'm currently serving my National Service (compulsory uniformed service) and am finishing it next year. So while I have already secured a placement in Digipen Singapore, I would like to look into the US since I do believe more opportunities lay there.

Also, 2 years at CMU compared to 4 years at Digipen.....

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5 hours ago, HunkofSteel said:

What I'm looking for is advice as well as determining which is more suited for me.

Only YOU can make this determination. It's YOUR LIFE decision, not ours. You can make a simple Decision Grid and figure this out for yourself. It will require some research, but doing that research yourself is the only way to make this decision about YOUR life. 

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson25.htm

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm

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6 hours ago, Tom Sloper said:

Only YOU can make this determination. It's YOUR LIFE decision, not ours. You can make a simple Decision Grid and figure this out for yourself. It will require some research, but doing that research yourself is the only way to make this decision about YOUR life. 

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/lesson25.htm

http://www.sloperama.com/advice/m70.htm

I understand that which is why I put that there. However, while information abounds for Digipen RTIS, I can barely find any info regarding CMU's master course. Which is why I've posted here hoping I can get some information. This is part of the research I'm doing; seeing other people's perspective and arguments. 

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Hi,

You're lucky:). Singapore-based NYP DET/Digipen RTIS alumni here. It really depends on you - the subsidies provided by the local institutions is great, if you're intending on working in singapore it might be good to make a head start on local ground; Digipen's been making a splash. That said, I've known both CMU and Digipen students now working in Ubisoft Singapore; end of the day it's all up to the individual. As a Digipen student, I can tell you it's going to be hard and rigorous, but you'll have more projects under your belt than CMU I believe. And it's not necessarily 4 years, I think you can take classes during the break semesters - I was in the earlier batch where the course was 2+ years, do check.

 

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Also, unless something's changed, I believe there's a semester where you get to go to Digipen USA for a student exchange, that's the time where you've to work your opportunities.

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Among the many items on your decision grid, make sure you include the difficulty of a game-specific degree if you choose to change careers.

Although the definitions are always a little vague, tech workers tend to change jobs about 15-20 times over their lifetime. Various management sites I frequent suggest people change careers (with varying definitions of what that means) 2-5 times over their lifetime.  Talk to parents and other old people about how their life ambitions have changed.

While you might want to be developing games now, and you might want to be developing game ten years from now, always consider that your life situation may change. Age discrimination in games is very real, and many developers struggle to find new jobs starting around age 35.

Having a degree that is not game-centric will help if you want to stay in the software field but are either unwilling or unable to work in the game industry.

 

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On 10/2/2017 at 1:04 PM, ddengster said:

Hi,

You're lucky:). Singapore-based NYP DET/Digipen RTIS alumni here. It really depends on you - the subsidies provided by the local institutions is great, if you're intending on working in singapore it might be good to make a head start on local ground; Digipen's been making a splash. That said, I've known both CMU and Digipen students now working in Ubisoft Singapore; end of the day it's all up to the individual. As a Digipen student, I can tell you it's going to be hard and rigorous, but you'll have more projects under your belt than CMU I believe. And it's not necessarily 4 years, I think you can take classes during the break semesters - I was in the earlier batch where the course was 2+ years, do check.

 

I've checked this, and while the course before was an accelerated course, the current one is no longer like that. Not too sure about taking classes during breaks, but I did check and find the Digipen USA student exchange you were talking about. It happens for one semester. So here is a concern, I'd rather find a job in USA then Singapore, and its harder to get a job when the degree is done overseas. Could I possible spend 3 years in Singapore doing the degree, then swapping over to Digipen USA to finish it?

 

9 hours ago, frob said:

Among the many items on your decision grid, make sure you include the difficulty of a game-specific degree if you choose to change careers.

Although the definitions are always a little vague, tech workers tend to change jobs about 15-20 times over their lifetime. Various management sites I frequent suggest people change careers (with varying definitions of what that means) 2-5 times over their lifetime.  Talk to parents and other old people about how their life ambitions have changed.

While you might want to be developing games now, and you might want to be developing game ten years from now, always consider that your life situation may change. Age discrimination in games is very real, and many developers struggle to find new jobs starting around age 35.

Having a degree that is not game-centric will help if you want to stay in the software field but are either unwilling or unable to work in the game industry.

 

This is also why I am asking on these forums. I do not know how much a Master's at Entertainment Technology would help me compared to a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and Real-Time Interactive Simulations. What my brain is telling me, is that people would be relunctant to hire a Masters holder without sufficient experience. Moreover, it seems to me that M.E.T is focused solely on, well, entertainment systems.

In contrast, Digipen's degree is first a degree in Computer Science, then an Real-Time Interactive Simulation (RTIS). RTIS could mean anything in a computer, from an OS to each program. So it seems to me that this degree is more far-reaching then CMU's. Am I correct in this assumption?

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35 minutes ago, HunkofSteel said:

This is also why I am asking on these forums. I do not know how much a Master's at Entertainment Technology would help me compared to a Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science and Real-Time Interactive Simulations. What my brain is telling me, is that people would be relunctant to hire a Masters holder without sufficient experience. Moreover, it seems to me that M.E.T is focused solely on, well, entertainment systems.

In contrast, Digipen's degree is first a degree in Computer Science, then an Real-Time Interactive Simulation (RTIS). RTIS could mean anything in a computer, from an OS to each program. So it seems to me that this degree is more far-reaching then CMU's. Am I correct in this assumption?

Vague words here. What is 'more far-reaching'? You can reach far in many directions. You can be a hack but be surrounded by the right people you've met at any varsity. You can be a programming guru but have bad social skills. A piece of paper will only take you so far.

Not many can detail out the all differences between CMU and Digipen courses. I can only tell you about the high number of game projects Digipen puts you through. Also, I think you have the option to apply to skip a few courses (you'll have to take a written test I believe).

 

EDIT: You're asking for specifics here. Email directly to Digipen's contact email address, they'll have most accurate answers.

 

Edited by ddengster

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Story time:

I had a co-worker who attended a game-specific school for their bachelors degree.  After working in the industry for about two years he applied to several of the graduate schools nearby in the hopes of getting a masters degree in computer science. He took the GRE tests and scored mediocre results. All three local universities he applied to turned him down. He appealed to the one he most wanted to go to, and they said the game school was not rigorous enough around theory and mathematics.

I recalled my own experiences entering grad school about the math and theory courses, and quizzing my co-worker friend I could tell his skills in both were far below what mine were entering the program, and mine were barely adequate. He forwarded a copy of the university's response to his game school, and the department heads said that my co-worker friend was at the top of his class in their theory and math classes, and also appealed to ask why the university would reject him from the program so easily.  

Taking the appeals seriously, the school agreed that if he could get passing marks on the senior-level mathematics and theory courses they would let him in to the program. The Monday after he took the tests, he came in and told me there was no way he passed the tests, he had no idea about most of the concepts and the math was far beyond him. He only knew the statistics relevant to game development and failed the rest, had no clue about most of the discrete mathematics, and struggled with calculus. While he could handle most of the data structures, he couldn't even understand many of the questions being asked in the CS theory tests.

He said the end of the next week that his game school professors were surprised that he did so poorly on the tests, and he relayed that one suspected the university was setting him up to fail with extra-hard tests. But given my own experiences with their graduates, while game school graduates have adequate skills as coders of game algorithms, most are woefully under-skilled at any tasks requiring pure computer science.

 

I've worked inside and outside the game industry.  There are some jobs where it really doesn't matter. If a game school graduate were to apply to many business programming jobs they could probably do fine; there may be some learning curves to pick up SQL and similar, but they are easily learned. However, if the job involved more of the science side of computer science skills, I would not trust any of the game school graduates I have known. 

 

And finally, regarding the masters degree, when hiring I personally see the degree as roughly similar to six months of work experience focusing on a topic, and a slightly higher than normal drive to focus on the details. The grad students themselves (including me those many years ago) see their accomplishment as far greater than that.  The sad truth is that many industry veterans can design and implement similar algorithms and techniques within a few weeks that take PhD candidates months or even years to develop.  It won't have the same mathematical rigor nor as many references and citations, but the work of the veterans is usually as good or better and implemented in a small fraction of the time.

Students compare themselves to other students. Among other students the oldest and closest to graduation compare favorably to those with fewer years. Among each other some students are stellar.  But when they enter the workforce even the most stellar student discovers they are still entry level, possibly comparing favorably to other junior developers with a year or two of experience, but no higher, and certainly not comparing favorably to those with a decade or more in the trenches.

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On 10/5/2017 at 1:35 AM, frob said:

Story time:

I had a co-worker who attended a game-specific school for their bachelors degree.  After working in the industry for about two years he applied to several of the graduate schools nearby in the hopes of getting a masters degree in computer science. He took the GRE tests and scored mediocre results. All three local universities he applied to turned him down. He appealed to the one he most wanted to go to, and they said the game school was not rigorous enough around theory and mathematics.

I recalled my own experiences entering grad school about the math and theory courses, and quizzing my co-worker friend I could tell his skills in both were far below what mine were entering the program, and mine were barely adequate. He forwarded a copy of the university's response to his game school, and the department heads said that my co-worker friend was at the top of his class in their theory and math classes, and also appealed to ask why the university would reject him from the program so easily.  

Taking the appeals seriously, the school agreed that if he could get passing marks on the senior-level mathematics and theory courses they would let him in to the program. The Monday after he took the tests, he came in and told me there was no way he passed the tests, he had no idea about most of the concepts and the math was far beyond him. He only knew the statistics relevant to game development and failed the rest, had no clue about most of the discrete mathematics, and struggled with calculus. While he could handle most of the data structures, he couldn't even understand many of the questions being asked in the CS theory tests.

He said the end of the next week that his game school professors were surprised that he did so poorly on the tests, and he relayed that one suspected the university was setting him up to fail with extra-hard tests. But given my own experiences with their graduates, while game school graduates have adequate skills as coders of game algorithms, most are woefully under-skilled at any tasks requiring pure computer science.

This is exactly what I'm more worried about. I know Digipen's course is very rigorous and daunting, but I do not know how it compares to other universities CS. Thanks for the sharing though, it was very informative! What your post has more or less convinced me is that getting a Masters degree is not as good as it seems simply because I do not have the experience to back it up, and thus am more of a liability then an asset.

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If you want the masters degree because you want the focused education, then go for it.

If you want the masters degree because your career plans include roles where it looks good, then go for it.

If you want the masters degree because you think it will help you find a job easier, or you're trying to bump your wages by a significant amount, don't bother.  There will be a very slight benefit to those things, but probably not enough to justify the money, time, and effort involved in getting the degree.

 

A masters degree in a computer science department -- as opposed to a game school's trade degree program -- will include all the topics many people hate. Those usually revolve around the math-heavy theory classes like compiler theory, algorithm theory, complexity theory, and similar depending on the school's names. The courses are typically mandatory, and some schools require additional qualifying examinations taken a short time after having the course.

There are good reasons for requiring the rigorous courses. The nature of a masters degree is that it implies mastery. Upon earning their masters degree some students immediately begin teaching undergrad students. If the masters degree student does not fully understand those topics they will struggle to teach them, or be unable to explain the concepts well to others.

With the game industry trade school degree all bets are off. For example, CMU's Guildhall offers a "Master of Interactive Technology". They are not a CS degree. 

DigiPen offers both options, the traditional degree and the . You can get trade degrees in game design or a masters in digital arts, and you can also choose the more rigorous traditional degrees like a BS or MS in computer science.  They will let students transfer to the less-rigorous programs if they were already in a more advanced one, but if you're going through the other way students need to be prepared to show skills in mathematics and academics generally.

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On 10/1/2017 at 5:56 AM, HunkofSteel said:

Digipen's Bachelor Degree in RTIS seems to fit my bill as it allows me to breakthrough to the industry while setting up my foundations properly. 

 

DigiPen's degree won't give you a magical stepping stone into the industry. It may help you, it may hurt you. There are plenty of people (including DigiPen alumni) out there who look back on their time at the school and believe it was helpful - and may be inclined to look on candidates from DigiPen favorably. There are also plenty of people (including DigiPen alumni, including myself) who look back on the program and believe it wasn't really that great -- and may be inclined to look on candidates from DigiPen unfavorably.

I generally recommend people go for more generalized computer science degrees than specialized stuff like what DigiPen offers. But it ultimately depends a lot on what you are looking for in your future, and what you can or cannot afford to do now.

On 10/1/2017 at 5:56 AM, HunkofSteel said:

While I am confident in my C++ (used it for around 4 years), I am not confident enough to say that I can create a Game Engine myself (given infinite time).

Being able to "create a game engine yourself" is not something you generally need to do in the games industry, for what it's worth. 

What are you career goals? What do you want to do immediately after finishing your education, and where do you want to be in five or ten years?

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