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GCG Feature: ‘Schooling Game Programmers’

To become a game programmer, there are two major educational paths: earning a computer science degree from a traditional university and earning a degree from a game-specific school. Junior programmer Marie Ferrer looks at the
December 11, 2007
To become a game programmer, the two main educational paths are earning a computer science degree from a traditional university and earning a degree from a game-specific school. Junior programmer Marie Ferrer, who attended a more conventional CS program, looks at the advantages and disadvantages of both in a new GameCareerGuide.com article. The advantages and disadvantages range beyond simply the differences in curriculum and teaching methodology. For example, universities and colleges with a computer science department are easy to come by, whereas game schools are comparatively few and far between, which forces a good number of students to have to uproot before enrolling. In this excerpt from the article for students who are still learning about the game industry, Ferrer points to a few other differences: “[One] advantage of a game development program is its faculty typically count a number of industry professionals among them. Their involvement with and direct knowledge of the game industry make them valuable resources in the classroom (and noteworthy references on later job applications). These industry-insiders can also help students begin networking in the game industry. Students looking to transfer into the video game industry from another field, or after completing an undergraduate degree elsewhere, might consider enrolling in a master’s degree program. The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University caters particularly well to this sort of student. Since June 2003, The Guildhall has been offering a program in computer science that is similar to the undergraduate programs at DigiPen and Full Sail but at a graduate level. Ron Jenkins, deputy director of development and external affairs at The Guildhall says the program is a result of the institution’s belief that 'professional development education' should only come after general undergraduate education. 'It is essential students get a broad base undergraduate degree or have industry experience before they begin,' he says. Graduates are then well prepared to become valuable members of a game development team. And because the placement rate for programming graduates at The Guildhall is 100 percent, students are able to do just that upon graduation. Another advantage of game-specific schools is that they generally offer shorter programs, which lets students enter the industry quicker. In addition to its master’s program, Guildhall offers a five-year program, which combines a BS in computer science with a master’s degree. Although the real-time interactive simulation program at DigiPen is a four-year program, the Full Sail game development degree takes only 21 months.” The complete article is available on GameCareerGuide.com.

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