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Suppose a student (who is seeking to become a video game developer) is studying Computer Science at a state-level university, and is about to complete his or her bachelors degree.

Would the student stand a better chance to get hired as a game developer later if they proceeded to obtain their masters degree in Computer Science, or if they tried to instead obtain an internship or entry-level development position at a local software developer (not game development, but still software development)?

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closed as primarily opinion-based by concept3d, Nick Wiggill, Jimmy Shelter, jhocking, Sean Middleditch Feb 25 at 18:13

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

Masters degrees in CS at best can get you considered by more companies, but over time the real thing that matters is experience and skill. I expect, though, that a degree matters even less in the game design industry than the typical software development industry. –  Magus Feb 25 at 16:18
My advice (which is predicated on opinion and my own experience as a hiring manager, and thus not part of my answer below), is to get the Masters if you want it for some aspect of the education itself. It's not likely to be a bad thing, just recognize that it won't be on it's own that much of a boon to getting hired. –  Josh Petrie Feb 25 at 16:22

5 Answers 5

The answer is that it depends. Hiring practices, needs, and wants are different in every studio and even vary over time. Often they vary wildly. It may be a benefit, or it may even be disadvantage.

But, that said, generally your resume, which includes your degree, is only going to get you in the door for the part of the interview where you actually talk to a human. Once you get to talk to a human, what you can actually do is far more important than what the papers say you can.

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+1 That's similar to what I thought. Thank you for confirming my suspicions. How can having more education be a disadvantage? –  Sparkz63 Feb 25 at 16:47
Sometimes it will make you look "overqualified." (Why this is is also highly variable and in some cases seems to be a way to legally say "we think you spent too much time in academia and wouldn't have relevant skills" or "we think you'll ask for too much money." Irrespective of whether or not either of those are true, people are rejected for being "overqualified" for whatever reason.) –  Josh Petrie Feb 25 at 16:52

The best answer you're going to find is that there is no answer. Right now I am going to persue a Computer Science degree to (hopefully) further my career. On the flip side I have a friend who got an internship and eventually a job working at Nintendo with no official college education. I have a few friends who have obtained some for of degree from a college specializing in game development who work at minimum wage because they're lazy.

tl;dr: Schooling doesn't guarantee you a job

So in all, not one solution is really going to be appropriate. It primarily depends on your luck and your skill in your field. The projects that you work on the side, and the portfolio you build is also going to matter.

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"It depends / there isn't a definitive choice" is a valid answer and can be given without any bias or opinion. –  Josh Petrie Feb 25 at 16:25
What I meant to mean is that there is no specific answer to his question. –  Thebluefish Feb 25 at 16:31

Between those two choices I don't think either is better. I don't think either is bad precisely, but mostly irrelevant to the issue of getting a job as a game developer. Either way what matters is the games you've developed previously, ideally on the job but the next best thing is games you've developed on your own. Getting a master's degree or general software development experience each have different pros and cons so overall I would say they are about equally useful to getting a job as a game developer, but neither is nearly as important as the games you've made.

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+1 Thank you for your response. A portfolio of the games I make in my spare time is one of the things I would really like to focus on over the next year or so. If you don't mind, could you please elaborate more on the pros / cons of a masters degree vs. software development experience? –  Sparkz63 Feb 25 at 16:44
It depends a lot on the specific masters program vs. the specific software development job. The closer to your future job the better obviously (eg. writing mobile applications if you plan to develop mobile games) –  jhocking Feb 25 at 17:05

You will gain more skill and knowledge when you develop games than doing either of those things. Getting a masters might help you gain knowledge useful in resolving certain programming related challenges you may encounter as a game developer. The same can be said about working as an intern in a software firm. I think both paths are somewhat equal because they don't put emphasis on the domain of challenges that naturally occur in the process of game development. While some of these (game development challenges) do overlap with challenges you'll face in the University or at a "generic" software corporation, it will not be sufficient or as effective as developing games today. The differences between a masters and a job in a regular software firm exist but are somewhat perpendicular to the aspects that affect your chances of getting a paying job in the industry. Your chances as others said will increase dramatically if you have something of (great) value to offer and you can actually benefit the team in ways that are more relevant than any of the candidates competing for the position.

In my experience the person who can bring "it" to the table is the one who honed their skills in many (small) projects that were completed successfully.

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From my experience (as someone who is finish up his master's degree) it is best to get a masters degree. During your master's degree there will be room for an internship so you get both. Also make sure to choose courses relevant to the game industry (like graphics, geometric algebra, calculus, etc...).

This is because unfortunately game industry related bachelors are 'tainted' these programmes have been creeping up everywhere and usually do not contain the knowledge at all that you need to program games. For example not much of these programmes include advanced calculus and linear algebra courses while most do include some sort of silly gamemake based course. Guess which of these two courses will come more in handy when you're trying to find an efficient algorithm to compute vision metric over a complicated graph structure ;).

Added bonus: people with a master's in CS are very scarce (at least here in the EU) so if you have a hard time finding a game related job you have a very easy time finding something else (that will probably pay a lot better ;) )

Sources: me and people I talked to at Nixxes (Tomb Raider) and Abbey Games (Reus) where I did internships) and Crytek where I had an in-house day.

Edit: the opinions here differ a lot. So why not call up a few of your favorite game companies and ask them what they think? Just find their phone number (best) or e-mail address (really only if you cant contact them by phone). Most HR people are actually quite nice and will love to give you some short advice.

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