I’ve never understood the incessant, unfounded, bashing going to school to receive a degree receives on this site.
It depends on the degree, but if it isn't science-based, then there probably isn't actually much point from an academic perspective. For instance, there are people with degrees in English and History, both of which seem like a massive waste of time to me. What use are those degrees? (and don't start being anal about my spelling :p )
History can be very interesting but why pay to go to an institution to be told what to learn? Such institutions put the onus on the student to teach themselves anyway, so ultimately what are you paying for? You might as well Spend £300 on some good books and read them when you get home from work. This way you don't end up in debt and you learn at a pace that suits you. In addition, subjects such as History rely on memory only, there is no complexity to them.
So now to degrees that are relevant to CGI/VFX. Due to the fact that "CGI-degrees" rely on visual appearances, I argue that such degrees may also be a waste of time; just teach yourself from books/dvds. There is even plenty of learning-material available on the internet for free!
In fact a science-based degree is probably of more use in the CGI industry than a "CGI degree". Such a degree will be MUCH harder, but you will be far more flexible with your career-opportunities. The Maths, Physics and Programming being important tools in acheiving realistic-results. There are a lot of films where the CGI screams out as being fake because no one consulted a physicist/engineer. (In some cases it might be a Director override as there are several childish Directors in hollywood that butcher films).
You can be told how to hold a pencil, you can be told on what to use that pencil, but you can't be taught to draw great pictures, you need to learn that for yourself.
Also the other important thing is to take EVERYTHING said in this channel with a "pinch of salt". Whilst there may be good advice, a lot of it won't be. The reason for this is that a lot of people will have left school and gone to get a "CGI degree", because, thats what you do isn't it? its the accepted normal in order to get a job in the industry. They then will have got a job in the industry and moved up the ranks within the company, BUT THEY KNOW NO DIFFERENT! They CANNOT tell people how to succeed in the industry as if it is the only way, for they have walked only one path! The only advice they can give is for admission into the company for which they work/own.
You only need to see some of the work on CG-talk to know that the self-taught artists are some of, if not the best. Many of which are from poorer countries where the pretentiousness of degrees isn't really an option. Do people ask the Beatles if they have any music qualifications? Is whether they do or not important?
Dude you can't write stuff like this and be taken seriously.
Can you make it in the industry without a degree? First tell me this? Did you have to come to this site to ask that question? If so, then no you will never make it on a scale factor of 99.875% to 1.
99.875%? where the hell did you get the .875% from? Also you can't express odds like that. It is either "99.875% that you won't succeed" or the odds are 99.875 to 1. Although normally integers are used.
I find the following hard to believe.
…every semester I get a few students who come by the department for a tour. They immediately say, “I’m not sure I even need a degree, I’ve been working in Max or Photoshop for 5 years”. Every single time I look at their work, it’s horrific, and they always proclaim after a few lectures that they didn’t know anything.
Why do I find it hard to believe? You say every semester, not every year. So assuming you give two tours a year you would have to remember and over-hear the people say
"i'm not sure I even need a degree" EVERY semester. Moreover, the students shown round would have to give words to that effect EVERY semester. Then those students would have to make it through the admission process. Then you would have to overhear them say how little they knew. If their work was horrific how did they get accepted on the course? I'm sorry but I cannot believe anything that you are saying because you make stuff up to put your point across. You are trying to make what is just your opinion seem like fact.
There is a self-fulfilling prophecy with educational-institutions. It goes something like this;
If an educational institution happens to have an amazing student (such as a student that is self-taught but needs a bit of paper, ie. a degree-certificate in order to get a job with a company that has some ignoramus on admissions) and they advertise the students work, then demand for that institution grows. Now the institution can be choosey about who it accepts on its course because demand is so high. The institution only accepts students with amazing work, it advertises this amazing work. Now every student in the land wants to study there, but only the best are selected. Is the educational-institution good at teaching, or is it just the quality of the students? The self-fulfiling bit being that a "Good" school receives more applicants than the crap schools do. More applicants means that there is either a greater probabilty of talented-students, or that a greater number of talented-students apply. The "good"-school attracting the best students.