How important is a Degree?



I have recently completed a 2 year foundation degree in animation.

I am now left with two options. Do I get transferred onto the 3rd year of a BA (Hons) Degree or do I simply pursue my career and begin applying for jobs?

What I am keen to find out is, how valuable is a BA (Hons) Degree in the animation/game/vis effects industry?? and do employers take qualifications into consideration in this way?

I have also attended an intensive 3D animation course in British Columbia Canada when I lived there for a couple of years. Over the years that I have been studying CG I feel that I have built up a strong skill set and now I feel like I am just chasing qualifications because I am told they are important.

Does anybody have any opinions on this? or has anyone got any experiences that they can share? Or maybe an employer or someone who works in the industry can give me their perspective?

Another thing I am conscious of is…what if demand in changes in the future and I find that I am unable to get work because I don’t have a degree.

I would greatly appreciate your advice…

Kind Regards



The short answer is no, employers (or at least, the vast majority of them) don’t care whether or not you have a degree.

However, there is no telling how this may change in the future, but why are you concerned? You already have a degree. I’d personally say that right now the only real advantage a degree has is that it can make it easier to apply for a working permit in some countries, should you have a desire to move around at all.

In the end, it’s up to you. If your current skillset is good enough to make you competitive, then go for it. Otherwise, stick with your education if you still need to improve.

Incidentally, this question has come up countless times in the past. Do a search here in the Courses forum, or in the General Discussions forum, if you want to lots of discussions about it. Although you’ll find that the end result of any such discussion is the same as I am saying.


I agree with Leigh - at present employers do not care whether an applicant has a degree or not, they only care about the quality of the work in the showreel. Having said that, for most people a full degree is the only way to get the time to create artwork that can reach professional standards, and even more importantly gain access to people who can teach the relevant art and software skills.

It’s very hard to give full advice without seeing your work, you may well have achieved a quality level that will get you work. On the other hand it’s rare (in my experience) to find people who have done Foundation Degrees that have achieved that level of quality in only two years, especially as the quality level required to pass foundation degrees is lower than normal degrees. One hard way to discover this is to send your work out to companies… another way that can be less painful would be to post your work on forums such as CGTalk for advice and opinions from professionals so that you can improve your work to the level that can get you employment.

You may not need a full degree (although you may require qualifications in the future if you wish to work outside the EU zone), you might only need some professional advice, some training DVDs and some time to work on your artwork at home. It all comes down to how motivated you are.


i think a degree is very important specially to start up a job, you will need at least a degree, then you can move through your work


No, you really don’t. In the nearly 10 years that I’ve been working in this industry, not once have I been asked about whether or not I have a degree (and I don’t have one). Ninety nine percent of employers care about your work, not your qualifications. This is a fact.

Studying is a great way to learn from others and to network, but it is not important in terms of getting a job, the vast, vast majority of the time. The only way it’s likely to affect you in terms of your professional career is that a degree, as I said before, can help with immigration if you decide to move to another country.


While I agree with Leigh that the work is the proof, not the qualifications, I can vouch for this part of her reply purely on the basis that if you do the right course it can help you get a job through networking.

For example, the only reason I did my degree is because it had a year of paid internship as part of the course, and they ended up employing me after I graduated.

If you’re going to do a degree make sure it works just as hard for you as you work for it, and by that I mean make sure it offers you practical, real-world experience, rather than just theory and academic qualification.


While having a degree in animation hasn’t helped me find CG work, I would still say its a good thing to have. I was offered a job on leaving university, which was fortunate - but after spending 2 - 3 yrs working freelance and for various VFX houses, I realised actually, doing CG as a full-time job wasn’t what I wanted. So having a degree level qualification has helped open a few doors in other areas, which I wouldn’t have been considered for otherwise.


Not very.



I’m not sure about CG, but a degree in the IT field is mostly a moot point. Where CG has their portfolios and perhaps certificates from Gnomon or whoever, IT has a massive amount of certifications that mean more than an actual bachelor’s degree.

I know this because I am having problem finding a job as a Network Administrator despite graduating an internationally recognized school at the top of my major (in IT management). Their (the interviewers) biggest complaint is that I have no professional certifications.

From what I’ve come to understand, a bachelor’s or even a master’s is just to prove you aren’t a snot nosed punk. You need to prove your understanding with certifications/extensively diverse portfolio.


Aren’t there certain studios that flat out wont hire you without a degree? I thought I heard Pixar and ILM we’re two of them. Wouldn’t be surprised if I was wrong though.


And indeed you are. A quick look through some of their current openings suggests that a degree is not essential. Some of the job postings don’t even list a degree, while others state “a degree, or equivalent experience”. Considering these are two high level studios, it’s unlikely that you’d be applying there unless you already had experience anyway.


I really really like this statement. The cliche ‘it doesn’t really matter where you go because you’ll do it on your own’ is tossed around quite a bit on here, but it’s not completely correct. As has been bludgeoned to death, everybody knows the cg degree is an enigma of sorts and is not needed to get into the industry. However…dum dum duuuummmm, a good program should serve one purpose and one purpose alone…speed up the process exponentially. Contacts you make in school, are a bit harder to develop in your dungeon at home. One former student has hired three more students from our program, because in his words, “he trusts them”. Shrug. Fantastic instructors can help you understand sticking points with programs and technology, increase your artistic vision, and help you expand your thought processes, along with building enthusiasm for the subject matter. Programs usually have better equipment (along with CG DVD libraries, 3D World mags, etc) and the newest upgrades that are crazy expensive for what an individual could afford in their wildest dreams. We have an entire widescreen Cintiq lab now with all the goodies and cherry on top for students. There is no better example than the students who succeed through schooling as proof to it’s effectiveness for some. I’ll be the first to stand up and say, if you can do it on your own, then obviously save your money, duh. But in my experience, I’ve found that we are all different, with a myriad of learning personalities.


a lot of places like to see degrees especially degrees from certain schools ala Ringling, but do ALL places care? Probably not if you’re THAT good, but you’d have to be like REALLY good with experience to waltz on in somewhere with no degree.

There are places that won’t hire anyone without a degree because you know having a great portfolio is awesome, but if you are generally an unintelligent person… those are the worst to work with. Now, that’s not to say everyone with a degree is intelligent.

Portfolio is still key and most important, but having a degree won’t hurt. Degrees also show you have dedication to start and finish something.


quote “but if you are generally an unintelligent person”

then more often than not you are going to be the only one who thinks your portfolio “Rawk’s”

anyone who is able and willing to write you a paycheck can see a “dud” a mile off…
Degree or not.

if your talented no degree is needed.
if you have no talent then you wasted your money anyways and a fist full of fancy paper makes no difference whatsoever.

money cant buy everything and it sure cant turn a moron into a michelangelo.

some things arent for sale and cant be bought for any price.
artistic capability is one of them.

cold hard facts.


Not yet! Muahahhahahaaaaa!
-Goes back down to genetical enginering lab-


I see alot of folks noting that a degree isn’t necessary for an animaition position. Since, I am not in animation, I accept what everyone said about this. BUT!!! Let me present a different point of view.

There are some very good reasons to get a degree among which are:

  1. As Leigh noted, in foreign countries, it might be necessary to get a job there.

  2. More importantly, it opens up many doors that might not be available otherwise: I have found that folks never know where their life will take them or what changes will ocurr in their life. What happens if suddenly studios start wanting degrees or want those with degrees and experience for higher level positions?

More to the point, what happens if you want to leave the field of computer graphics? This could happen due to outsourcing, problems with the industry ,or simply changed objectives by you. Having a degree opens up more options.

I know someone who switched from animation to eventually going to law school and specializing in intellectual property law. Having a degree will open up other doors.

Personally, I STRONGLY recommend that you get a degree. Now once you have one, you don’t need a second degree unless you want to teach. You can attend a trade school to get the skills needed or even study books or take online programs for the skills. However, having a degree can’t hurt you. It can only help!


There are places that won’t hire anyone without a degree because you know having a great portfolio is awesome, but if you are generally an unintelligent person… those are the worst to work with. Now, that’s not to say everyone with a degree is intelligent.

Why do you think they have interviews?


What my professors would say frequently was “College is not so much about learning a particular skill or knowledge base, as it is about learning to go out there and learn for yourself.” Employers want to know that you have the ability to go out and learn what you need to as efficiently as possible. If all you have is a great portfolio, that’s great, but all they have is a singly voiced example of your work/learn ethic. If you graduate and have a degree, you have a certifiable and (hopefully) accredited school/program that can insure confidence in the employer.


what about attending good trade schools with good networking opportunities like Gnomon or VFS but its not officially a “degree”. Could be a better and faster route with intensive work that will prepare you better than some degree programs isn’t it?


My daughter is attending the fast track Maya program at Gnomon and RAVES about it. Do I think that Gnomon is a great place to learn the skills needed to get a good job in a studio? Yes> However, with that said, I still think that getting a degree is the better course of action and then going to Gnomon afterwards for the reasons that I gave in a prior post found in this thread.