How feasible is self learning depending on background?

I’ve been a bit nervous. I’ve been told various paths you can get into tech art, with a art degree and tech classes or CS degree with art classes. I’ve been nervous about the latter because i don’t really know how well online schools work, whereas there seems to be some community around teaching people without CS degrees,although I’m also questioning the reality of these communities, especially with an arts degree.

I feel like going through the art degree + self learning CS path because i feel the academics would be more manageable but moreso some sense of certainty postgrad, I’m hoping that at the very least 4 years to completely dedicate towards becoming industry ready in both technical art and maybe one part of production such as rigging/animation, storyboarding etc will let me enter the industry. Im especially worried since most people say that the art degree is worthless both inside and outside the industry.

However ive been getting mixed messages. Most people in the industry say art school was a scam and that they didn’t need it, but most voices i hear, from behind the scenes studio videos or forums, went to an art school. It would feel more comforting to hear of someone who actually went to an online school and maybe even had a difficult working situation (as i imagine any software dev job i get postgrad would be intensive) and how they still managed to get into the industry.

My fear is getting the more valuable degree, but getting stuck career wise without connections and maybe even the guidance of an art school.

What does the background and path of a self taught tech artist look like, from the perspective of no art school in general?

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I am a tech artist and I have no formal education or training. Everything I’ve learned I learned by myself and then joined an indie team and learned the rest.

I think the benefit of schools and degrees is the networking. A lot of schools will also have some sort of job placement or relationship with a studio for internships and the like.

I think the core is how focused are you and how focused can you stay. The self taught path is certainly an option, but it’s not easy and in general I imagine it would take much longer.

There are lots of options and tutorials out there now to help guide you but it’s going to take a lot of work regardless of the path you choose. There is no substitute for experience.

I’d say about 50% (anecdotally and completely an off the cuff guess) of the people I work with have some sort of a degree, more so on the programming side, but it isn’t unheard of or even all that strange for no degrees people to be killing it or leading a team of people with degrees.

There are a lot of soft skills needed to excel in the industry as well and I think this is where self taught people tend to excel at more. it’s not all just hard skills and portfolio, sometimes the value of a person is how well they can inspire others and keep people on track rather than just 100% output output output.

I also have no student debt so there is that…

If you’re asking if you need a degree to get in to the games industry I’d say the answer is a resounding NO.
Will it make it easier… I don’t know first hand but I think so, just depends.

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Go with the CS degree with art classes. You’ll have more options, including outside of the industry. Unless you find you hate the CS side. In which case the partial degree will still have taught you how to write code. Art is more subjective, so what a lot of schools do is have really high portfolio standards for getting in and then they don’t actually teach you anything. CGMA is great for learning the art side.
Another benefit of school is that you can apply for internships and work on group projects. Prioritize that over classes or graduating on time (or even graduating). When it comes to tech art, a lot of studios want to know if you can actually make stuff other artists will want to use, especially if you go the tools subspecialty. So you fall into the “can’t get studio experience without studio experience” trap.

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I am 100% self taught. Hard to tell what the right path is as the industry and the demands of the role are constantly changing. For me, the main reason why I succeed is the immense drive to figure things out and improve the process. Scouring the internet and working with great talent is key for sure. Good luck!

I am 100% self taught as well, like several of the others above. I worked on the art side first for years and shifted into the technical side later. If you are set on technical direction in visual effects/computer graphics, and want to pursue one of the fields as a degree and learn the other on the side, I strongly recommend CS degree. From my co-workers’ experiences, I’d suggest that art schools focus far too much on “art” and not enough on practical vfx learning. It’s obviously super useful information, but theres a lot more practical vfx learning that would ultimately prepare a person to enter the industry. CGMA and other online schools offer great fast paced practical classes without wasting time. So in my opinion, get a really strong foundation in CS from a college and learn the vfx/art on the side. Hope its helpful!

I didn’t want to bury the lead on accident but as some of the other responses implicitly are saying, self-taught vs school and what degree is not what you should be worring about.

I’d argue “self-taught” is an ambiguous term that isn’t actually helpful. To some it means “do I pay money to learn something or do I learn from online videos/blogs/tutorials etc” but you are always in charge of what you learn, regardless how the info comes to you. The way to learn effectively is called “delibrate practice”. The short summary is practicing with intention, measuring the results and using that to maximize the next session.

Cal Newport has a lot of great books on these ideas, in particular “So Good They Can’t Ignore You” and “Deep Work”.

I’m assuming since you are on this forum asking this question, you already have some relevant interests. I recommend figuring out a project to guide growing your skills and training your ability to focus. Maybe you’ll find you really crave group projects and someone to give feedback so school makes more sense, or maybe you find a great tutorial series or something in between. Identify your learning obstacles so you can actaully solve them instead of throwing money and time at them.

FWIW I’m like many of the other responders; while I did some community and technical college, my actually technical art learning was almost all personal projects on my own time (which lead to jobs where I keep learning).

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