Education overkill or higher failure potential?

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  11 November 2012
Education overkill or higher failure potential?

This is a very frustrating position. Go to school for 2 more years, 70k in debt with paid living expenses through student loans and a guaranteed position in my dream career, or... attempting to bump myself to the next level by taking individual courses, a part time job and no field placement?

Here is some context to my question. I graduated with a bachelors in fine arts a year ago only to discover that I lack some industry skills to land the job. After spending a year trying to self educate and build a better portfolio I have found myself in this desperate situation of sink or swim. At this point I know I need to get out of the midwest where I reside currently, and with that comes the above dilemma.

My grand scheme revolves around attending Gnomen, which is a dream come true, but with it comes some major down falls. Anything under a 2 year commitment with them and you get little to no support with money or placement. There are A LOT more short term financial risks surrounding my second option, independently financing to survive in LA seems daunting, failing and moving back home being a potential outcome. On the other hand I also feel as though the first option is way overkill considering I already have 4 years of art education already under my belt.

So CGSociety, what am I missing here? are there other options?
  11 November 2012
Originally Posted by mjtrickster: Go to school for 2 more years, 70k in debt with paid living expenses through student loans and a guaranteed position in my dream career

Going to school is not a guarantee of a job. Whoever told you that is a liar. You already have your degree; frankly I think it's not worth getting into more debt. Spend more time on your own developing your portfolio, because it's that which will get you a job, not another two years and a mountain of debt.
  11 November 2012
Fair enough, Gnomen advertises 97% placement rate. I would also like to think that 6 years of schooling would eventually do the trick, especially considering 2 of those years would be full time at a specialized school. Maybe both are false, but if the second one is... then god help me, I would rather not entertain that idea or else I would give up entirely.

I totally see your line of thinking though, I have been doing it for a year now. Maybe all I need is the move, but otherwise keep on course? Maybe online courses?

Last edited by mjtrickster : 11 November 2012 at 07:57 PM.
  11 November 2012
"97% placement rate" is meaningless marketing speak. Placement rate where, exactly? Technically speaking, a placement could be a two week internship at some studio nobody has ever heard of, rotoing frames for a 3D conversion. It's absolutely not a "guarantee" of a placement in a "dream job". Be wary of the promises that specialised schools make - and this is particularly true considering the current climate of the VFX industry, especially in the States. Lots of my friends in California can't even find work, and they've all generally got more than a decade of experience behind them.

I'm telling you a fact that most schools will not tell you: most studios do not care about your schooling. They really don't. I've never, ever in my entire career (which has lasted over a decade and been spent at numerous studios across three continents) ever been asked about my education by a studio; employers want to see your reel and that's it. Education only really becomes a factor if you're looking to relocate to another country, and considering you already have a degree, you already have that covered.

Learn any way you wish, whether it's online courses, DVD tutorials, books, whatever. Just sit down and focus on your work and get really good at it. I'm assuming that since you wanted to go to Gnomon, you probably want to work in VFX. Well VFX studios, especially the bigger ones, tend to hire mostly specialists so it would be a good idea to choose a discipline you enjoy the most and focus on that once you've got a good mastery of the fundamentals of everything.
  11 November 2012
Thanks a ton for your responses, it is helping out considerably. Just thought I would clarify a bit, my intent with schooling wasn't to have credentials or anything, I was under the impression that it would be the most beneficial way in acquiring skills. For the sake of argument, if I switch gears to online courses and more portfolio development that would leave me with no real destination for my move. I feel as though I have a disadvantage geographically speaking when it comes to networking, is this an illusion? I am feeling very isolated where I am right now and do not know how to change that.
  11 November 2012
It depends on how you prefer to learn. Some people definitely learn better in a structured, organised learning environment like a school, while others learn better in their own. Only you know for sure which type you are; having said that, if you do fall into the former category, that doesn't mean you should dash out and take a $70k loan. It's a bit hard to give you more advice in this regard though as I've not seen your work, and therefore have no idea as to what stage you're currently at.

Your location does play a role though. It definitely helps to live where the work is, and conspiring that, it probably would be beneficial for you to move. However, there'd be no point in moving until you're at a point where you'd be attractive to employers, otherwise you'll move out there and still be jobless.
  11 November 2012
Quote: Going to school is not a guarantee of a job. Whoever told you that is a liar. You already have your degree; frankly I think it's not worth getting into more debt. Spend more time on your own developing your portfolio, because it's that which will get you a job

mjtrickster : hi i relyl agree wit leigh point of view, just from experince i can tell you i spend 1 year as international student overseas study advanced 3d animation, specialize in character animation, overseas education esepcially is very expensive besides study locally and apply for student loan, deal wit visa's, tuition fee, i graduated and tried to find myself job overseas for animation was told i get placement but tat relly was a trick, i never got any job after tat so i 'm carefull to of that from now on. i dun think you want to deal with burden of how much loan you want to pay back, but if you want to study vfx, i kind of agree wit wat leigh said, other than online course and focus on your reel.
  11 November 2012
I would say I fall in the middle of that spectrum. I enjoy adventuring off on my own and would like to think I can problem solve well, but I also don't feel like I have the luxury of time to go searching for "answers". Some sort of structure and/or dialogue would accelerate the process I would assume.

Right now I am rebooting in a sense. I came out of a fine arts education thinking I was to move forward with more and more complex material. It was not until fairly recently that I realized that I was lacking in a thorough understanding of core industry concepts like lighting and perspective principles. I was never introduced to that way of thinking, so I have decided to take a step back to re evaluate my foundation skills and strengthening them considerably. Beyond that I am a little lost as to where to go, like at what point will I be attractive to employers? I suppose CGS could help me with that I don't know, I have little to no contacts with like minded individuals.
  11 November 2012
Well I think the first step you need to take is to post your work on some forums and start getting some feedback from people.
  11 November 2012
Definitely, at this point I will be putting much more effort into communication with forums. I'm guessing that's about as good as it gets as far as resources go isn't it?
  11 November 2012
Well, kinda. I mean, you could always email people whose work you like and ask them for critique on your own work. Of course, not everyone will reply and I wouldn't advise emailing people out of the blue and spamming their inbox with 20mb worth of images, but it's definitely something to consider.
  11 November 2012
You should take a look at I am currently enrolled in their animation program and it is outstanding. The prices are more than reasonable for what you get. If you have any questions then let me know.
  11 November 2012
CG Spectrum

I think it all comes down to the basics of real life, which makes me agree with leigh that going to school doesnt secure a job. Look at it this way:

A studio needs people capable of doing the job, whatever it is; animation, vfx, modelling, rigging, cleaning, anything. They don't care if you can write a response to a Roland Barthes essay, which of course would be nice to have culturally and intellectually prepared people, but the core of what they look for is 'skills to complete and compete in the industry they are in'

Taking that in consideration look into your options. A school, no matter how much you pay will be as good as their instructors plus the students they accept, because in the end its a two way contract: you get what you put in, and what the people around you can offer.
I think your situation is actually pretty good, you already have the academic training, which puts you in a good curriculum position, now you just need to get the right skills to get that job you want. You can definitely learn by yourself, but it will always be way better to have somebody by your side who knows what they are talking about. Take a look at different schools who offer focused skill sets, don't go for a generalist school since you already have an arts degree, find what you really want.
One of my top recommendations would be CG Spectrum, it's an online CG school with a new philosophy and method that I think is very amazing. I'm an animation student there myself, and I honestly have learned more in 6 months with them than in three years of art school (talking about industry skills). They assign you a mentor per semester, with classes no bigger than 5 people, so you get space and time to have personalized training while at the same time you are constantly being reviewed by your peers, and also critiquing other people's work. Plus it's a great networking experience because you are talking live with people from all around the world, right from your home.
The program is very focused and taken seriously. I'm animating pretty much every day, and whenever I need some input I either get it from my classmates or I email my mentor directly who will take a look at my software file and give me a critique and advice on how he would attack the problem. The great side about this is that they are all industry professionals, who have worked on projects like Avatar, Rango, Tin Tin, The Hobbit, etc. and you have all of this people constantly reviewing your work and feeding you with industry oriented tips and workflow. The program is very focused on industry standards, but the artistic side of things is always on top, since this is an art, they also encourage personal expression a lot; they never try to force you to work the way the do.

The program is just one year, and you finish with a high level demo reel and a set of industry contacts to start connecting with studios around the world. Plus friends from different places that will also become your contacts and colleages for life.

Take a look at their programs:

They offer full time programs and scholarships, and have different cool other categories like Rent-A-Mentor which is basically a pay-as-you-go program where you pay for a one time lesson with any mentor, you check the lesson, do the assignment and get a critique from your mentor when you are done, after that you decide when you want to continue with the next lesson.
From what you say I would go for the full program though, since it will get you ready faster and you can take advantage of your art background to make it a better experience.

About the placement rate, this goes back to what I said first. No matter what school you go to it will always come down to whatever you put in. High level students will do great anywhere, although it is a huge advantage to also have instructors that can take your talent and motivation to the next level.

Hope it helps, and good luck on your career!

Last edited by nkr10 : 11 November 2012 at 12:52 AM.
  11 November 2012
I'm currently pursuing my bachelors degree in animation in a university in Vancouver and couldn't be more frustrated. You waste a LOT of time on academic courses and papers and the animation becomes secondary. It's sad. After a year and a half I noticed I would never get a job as an animator after university for the simple reason: I wasn't learning animation! So I looked up for online education and am now taking the animation program at CG Spectrum. Couldn't be happier.
And I'll tell you more: about a month ago i was trying to put a reel together and only ONE out of the 7 or 8 pieces I chose for the reel was done at the university. As someone wrote above: no one cares what school I attended, they care about my reel and that's it. And I wouldn't even have a reel if I hadn't look for hands on training.
  11 November 2012
I don't want to sound overly cynical, but I'm mildly suspicious about the fact that two people have posted within a short space of time essentially promoting the same course, especially since both of you have previous posts promoting this particular school. Please note that we do not allow course advertising in this particular forum. If someone asks about a specific school that's fine, but when students or staff come along and suggest courses or schools out of the blue, it looks rather suspiciously like advertising.
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