A Strong Case for Bachelor's Degrees
In the game industry, like most creative industries, it is common knowledge that a good portfolio, proper networking, and passion are necessary to thrive. I'm here to take that advice and crack it over my knee.
I attended a small private college in Chicago called Tribeca Flashpoint Media Arts Academy. During my time studying, ex-game developers, career coaches, and my peers downplayed the importance of a Bachelor's Degree. I parroted their insight back to my parents who weren't entirely comfortable with their son only receiving an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science. It was their generation after all that normalized the great migration to colleges after High School. It has been three years since I graduated with my Degree and I wanted to share some insight for students currently enrolled in courses for Game Development.
I have been a game development student. I am currently a game development teacher. I have spoken with industry veterans and worked with educational institutions to hear what they believe will most prepare students for employment.
I want to be very clear about this.
Developers, teachers, students, and everyone in between agrees that junior developers need a robust portfolio, the ability to network, and sheer unadulterated passion.
There is, however, a crucial, often overlooked part of the equation.
Who? What? Where??
Game Development is a global industry. I was lucky enough to be born in the United States, a major hub for game developers. However, there are big and small clusters of developers scattered around the world!
I have chosen to travel and explore different facets of the game industry throughout the world. However, I am crippled by my Associates Degree. Companies have rejected me because many countries have strict rules on skilled migration and work visas. It isn't uncommon for governments to require a Bachelor's Degree or greater to be eligible for visas or residency. Unlike creative industries, governments won't take the time to look at your portfolio among a pool of other applicants. There is no way around it. In 20 years, when I'm an expert in my field I will still struggle to work overseas due to tight immigration laws requiring a Bachelor's Degree.
There are lots of factors to consider as a student. It is important to remember that in an increasingly globalized world mobility is an asset. It won't get you hired, but I'll be damned if it doesn't make getting hired abroad easier. If you were born in a country with a burgeoning development scene, it might be worth the extra time and expenses to have a backup plan in case you outgrow your fish bowl.