3 Replies - 1647 Views - Last Post: 26 October 2013 - 11:51 PM

#1 mimimintan  Icon User is offline

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Thoughts on degrees/schools/that jazz?

Posted 20 October 2013 - 02:08 PM

I'm going to try and keep this short but I usually fail. But I'm trying!

Basically, I want some opinions on where degrees, schools, etc. fall into programming industries, especially game development industries.

I've heard a lot about how going to school to learn about programming won't do you much good, and I think I see what is meant by that. I feel much better and productive teaching myself than paying to sit in a class where they bring up some pre-written code from a textbook and say "See? If you do this it does that. Cool, right? Now go do this assignment while I sit in my office and pretend I'm here to help you".

I've also heard that a degree is very important if you want to get anywhere, even if you just breeze through the classes after having taught yourself everything. One of my concerns is whether or not what I'm teaching myself has anything to do with what I'll actually need to know if I want to be on a professional team.

I want to get some more opinions on this. I have a bit of a rough history concerning colleges and education that I won't get into, but basically money is one huge issue, especially considering that it's been hard for me to stay in one place. Lately I'm considering an online degree program since I'm not technically a resident of the state I'm living in right now. I've looked into various schools but have seen mixed feelings on all of them.

One that caught my attention was "Full Sail", since they actually have a game design program and at first glance it looked reasonably priced, but some reviews told me they actually cost about as much as most art schools and are seen as a bit of a joke to employers. I read that you go there to learn, not for a free ticket to employment, which is basically my goal, but I'm concerned about the cost and that the degrees coming from it are evidently not very useful.
(Clarification: I want to learn and build up experience, not be handed a job.)


What are your guys' thoughts? Anyone familiar with "Full Sail" or other online degree programs? Should I even bother with schools right now or just focus on an independent portfolio?

....iwroteanotheressayohmygod.

This post has been edited by mimimintan: 20 October 2013 - 02:09 PM


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Replies To: Thoughts on degrees/schools/that jazz?

#2 lordofduct  Icon User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on degrees/schools/that jazz?

Posted 21 October 2013 - 07:17 AM

First I'd like to point out that there are several threads already on this topic here in the 'Student Campus' section where people go on and on and on about it.



Next I'd like to point out that everyone on the 'pro-school' side are the software engineer types, where as the ones on the 'meh, don't need it so much' tend to be on the regular old developer side of things. And then there's people like me who are like, it depends on who you are.

Here's the thing, the education you get from something like ITT Tech, and FullSail, and the sort like that. That isn't engineering level stuff. They just teach you some java and C# and kick you back out the door. You can learn this stuff in half the time on your own with some dedication and sweat. Even the dingey piece of paper you get from these places are often giggled about... sure they'd take a person with a certificate from some tech school and no experience over some other person with no experience and no paper. In the end though, experience is where it's at when you're talking this level.

Engineering level stuff though, degrees are where it's all at. A computer science degree doesn't just teach you to program, it teaches you the fundamentals of computers in general. Jobs that expect this level of knowledge will expect a degree (or years upon years of experience, which is more or less a grand-father clause because the computer science field is so new). Sure, the right person, with the right level of dedication, could teach themselves everything at this level, but they'll still expect that shiny piece of paper proving that you know it.

I'm not going to try to convince you not to go to school if your want a computer science degree. If that's your plan, do it.

If you want to go to some 6 month tech school though. Save your money, teach yourself, go online and do some freelance work, and build a portfolio. It's just as effective.




Oh, I also noticed you mentioned games. You want to program games? On what level?

You want to be a script monkey working 70+ hour weeks, then purged from the company at the end of the project because you're burnt? No creative control, you just write stupid simple scripts to code up scenarios in the latest bang bang boom game.

Or do you want to be the guy making game engines (computer science degree required... technically)? You don't really do anything game wise, it's all about physics simulation, and creating frameworks for games to be built on?

How about being the lead on a project for a company of varying size? That just takes years of experience really, and actually once you have this position has less to do with programming and more to do with managing. Of course you had to know programming to get here.

Or do you want to make games in your free time on an independent level? You have all the creative control, doing it the way you want, in which case... you don't need anything really, you can start doing that right now.
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#3 astonecipher  Icon User is offline

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Re: Thoughts on degrees/schools/that jazz?

Posted 24 October 2013 - 11:35 AM

You don't NEED a degree for any of it. You read right. I have two friends who have been programming, one for 20 years the other for 30. The later stared when programming ment using ouch cards. One has a degree one does not. The one that does not have a degree would not benefit from gaining a degree however because he has x years experience. If you have x years experience they don't care about the degree.
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#4 jon.kiparsky  Icon User is online

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Re: Thoughts on degrees/schools/that jazz?

Posted 26 October 2013 - 11:51 PM

You'll hear every opinion in the world on the value and worth of degrees for employment. Every developer sees a finite number of situations and extrapolates from them. Since the data they're extrapolating from doesn't actually have any larger patterns to draw out, random samples are evenly distributed.

So when someone tells you "in my experience, employers don't care about degrees, they want experience", they're right - thats their experience. And when someone contradicts them the same way five minutes later, same deal. That's their experience.

In my opinion "will it get me hired" is simply the wrong way to approach the question from the start. Assume that you'll work in the software industry. Now think about what sorts of things you want to be prepared for, and what sorts of things you have to do to be prepared for them. Now go down that list and see if it says "school" or "just make stuff" or "take a few classes in the things I need to fill in, but mostly just make stuff" or what.

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What are your guys' thoughts? Anyone familiar with "Full Sail" or other online degree programs? Should I even bother with schools right now or just focus on an independent portfolio?

I will also point out that initiative and self-direction are both valued very highly in the software world, and asking this question usually shows at least a weakness in these areas. You should probably read Richard Feynmann's autobiographies, particularly the one titled "What Do YOU Care What Other People Think?". Try to cultivate that attitude. Start evaluating for yourself.


Anyway, if you really want to know how people get hired at software companies, you don't want to ask programmers. You want to ask people who do the hiring. Or, hell, just go to the websites of the companies you'd like to work for and see what they have to say. Most of them are largely bullshit, but you knew that already, because you figured out that they're written by a team of marketing and HR flacks. That's fine - if you don't already know how to sift through suit-talk and filter out the grains of truth buried in there, it'll be good practice.
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