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Full Version: Do degrees matter?
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So my question is, how much do degrees actually matter? Currently I am enrolled in a very good animation program, but my passion lies in concept art/illustration, which this program in particular do not offer. I mean other than life drawing, all the other courses do not contrition to my learning in the concept art field at all. Nothing on design philosophy, painting, idea generation, presentation. It is already my third year, and I am questioning whether I should save the last years worth of tuition and just focus on honing my skills in the field I want to go into, as well as trying to find jobs/freelance gigs to gain some valuable experience. If a degree is nothing more than ink on paper in this field, then I will have no regret making this decision. What are your experiences with degrees and how much did they matter in terms of you getting work? Also any advice is greatly appreciated.
All I know is that I've seen some jobs that require degrees, but for the ones that don't, experience in the industry matters more.

As someone finishing a 3d program, what I did was get special permission to take units outside my curriculum in another major (Game Design) and have them credited to my degree. If you're already on your third year I'd say just go for the last year, IMO it helps when your job options may be limited (right now we're seeing a lot of instability and layoffs in the game and film industry, and people have been looking to do work for other things like children's books, etc). I guess more experienced artists can chime in on this.
(04-19-2013, 11:54 AM)Kitsune Wrote: [ -> ]All I know is that I've seen some jobs that require degrees, but for the ones that don't, experience in the industry matters more.

As someone finishing a 3d program, what I did was get special permission to take units outside my curriculum in another major (Game Design) and have them credited to my degree. If you're already on your third year I'd say just go for the last year, IMO it helps when your job options may be limited (right now we're seeing a lot of instability and layoffs in the game and film industry, and people have been looking to do work for other things like children's books, etc). I guess more experienced artists can chime in on this.

Thanks for the input! I haven't gotten any courses out side of my program, as for all I know our curriculum is locked, and there are only couple slots for elective courses and that's it. I can definitely see my self going through with the last year, but I'm still doubting the usefulness of actual degree paper.
The only time degrees have mattered for me, is when I'm trying to decide whether to wear my scarf out-doors or not.
I'm not a professional, and I've had very select and limited success doing odd or freelance art but I do know a handful of people who are working professionally or making a living doing freelance and the general consensus between them is that your portfolio takes greater precedence over your degree.

You said your animation program is much to your liking, which I hope means you're learning a lot, so I would say that in all likelihood that (providing it's relevant towards illustration) will help you far more than a degree.

That said, it is becoming a disturbing trend that places of entry level employment require a degree regardless.
Thank you guys for your comments, I'm not set on a decision yet, but reading all your personal experiences are definitely helping me reach one.
I remembner feng zhu said something along the lines of a degree doesnt really matter and no-one has ever asked him to see it, it's all about your portfolio, many times jobs will have 'a degree in this blah blah or the equivelant' meaning basically a portfolio as good as someone who has it or better. But if you have one year left I'd probably finish the year and get the degree and concentrate on improving your concept skills in your free time and after the course is finished. It will look good on your resume, and it would be a shame not to finish the course with only a year to go.
I believe having a degree shows something more than just being good at your craft. It shows you can commit to something most do not have the patience for. It shows you can work hard to achieve your goal even when the scenario is not optimal. I have experienced hiring artists who are self taught and 90% of them have a difficult time working in a team environment. They tend to exert force when they have to compromise their own vision for the good of the project. This is obviously a problem when working on a project that already has a vision cast. Only about 40% of those with a degree pose such a problem. This helps increase the odds that you will find someone who is able to do the job without bringing a lot of drama. Good team work builds good friendships that last much longer than a project. But drama tends to compromise the team and the vision.

Also, not all degree programs help equip one in their chosen field. I personally had a difficult time adjusting to my career as a concept artist, because, much like you I had been educated in animation. Animation can have a positive effect on an illustration but perhaps not as much so for a concept designer. Feng Zhu discusses the differences here --> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3TVji_fi...CjCsjAGFAA

Either way, I believe you should either hop over to a school that focuses on concept design or illustration and see if some of your current units transfer. Or finish out your current program then supplemental your education after you graduate. Having a degree in-and-of-itself is worthless. Being skilled in your desired field and having a degree will broaden your opportunities... especially as you get started. But having skill in your field without a degree will limit your opportunities significantly. The only time, and this is very very rare, that I have seen an artist without a degree make it without a lot of heartache and disappointment is if he/she was a prodigy with a natural team player mindset. So, if you by chance are one of those rare cases then you may be able to bypass all this junk and begin working as a valued member of society in your field of passion. As I said though, prodigies are rare. And a prodigy that is not full of himself is even rarer.

Anyhoo, this is of course my opinion. There are always exceptions to the rule but I consider those exceptions to be like movie stars. There are very few of them and most of it was luck (Being in the right place at the right time; when all the stars align.)

And please take my words with a grain of salt. These are just things I have picked up over the years. I hope it helps with your choice. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors. Take care.
^I couldnt disagree more with you.
In this industry, a degree isnt going to help you find work, that is not going to happen.
What is going to make you land a gig is ultimately your portfolio.
Also, of course that being a nice person is important, not only for team work but for every aspect in life. No one wants to work with a jerk, this is also true for art directors.

Going to an artschool or not is more related to the way you want to learn, i personally quited artschool because i was tired of all the unnecessary stuff and the bohemian artist scent that was in the air.
(05-21-2013, 06:22 PM)EduardoGaray Wrote: [ -> ]^I couldnt disagree more with you.
In this industry, a degree isnt going to help you find work, that is not going to happen.
What is going to make you land a gig is ultimately your portfolio.
Also, of course that being a nice person is important, not only for team work but for every aspect in life. No one wants to work with a jerk, this is also true for art directors.

Going to an artschool or not is more related to the way you want to learn, i personally quited artschool because i was tired of all the unnecessary stuff and the bohemian artist scent that was in the air.

Hey Eduardo,

I can appreciate your opinion. As I said, take my words with a grain of salt.
Yeah i know, but still i wanted to share my point of view and i´m sorry if my post sounded aggresive, it wasnt my intention.
Why this is a myth that degree does matter If you are capable then why the recruiters will see or look out to your degree I personally think that degree does not matters a lot well I you have degree but you don't have skills then what will happen have you ever thought about this.
(05-21-2013, 09:30 AM)JCdied4me Wrote: [ -> ]I believe having a degree shows something more than just being good at your craft. It shows you can commit to something most do not have the patience for. It shows you can work hard to achieve your goal even when the scenario is not optimal. I have experienced hiring artists who are self taught and 90% of them have a difficult time working in a team environment. They tend to exert force when they have to compromise their own vision for the good of the project. This is obviously a problem when working on a project that already has a vision cast. Only about 40% of those with a degree pose such a problem. This helps increase the odds that you will find someone who is able to do the job without bringing a lot of drama. Good team work builds good friendships that last much longer than a project. But drama tends to compromise the team and the vision.

Sorry to bring this back from the dead.

As a self-taught artist I agree with most of this to some extent.  The big thing I disagree with is the idea that no degree shows a lack of patience.  I would argue that it may just show a lack of complacency instead.  I left college after my sophomore year because I didn't see where the connections were going to come from that would lead to a job.  I took a nine month 3D animation course, and shortly thereafter I had a job.  Three years later, I'd doubled my salary.  

As for self-taught being a little difficult to work with, sometimes you need your Steve Jobs.

If you remember the movie "Final Fantasy:  The Spirits Within," the guy who did most of those faces was about 70% Steve Jobs.  Self taught (aside from the same computer animation program I took, but that program was a bit of a rip off).  No college.  That movie would have been unwatchable if he hadn't been unpleasant and taken over the faces.  The ones they were going to use blew.  I don't care if I ever speak to him again, but the role he played in that movie has to be acknowledged.  He should have been on Advent Children too, then those faces wouldn't have been such a big plastic mess.