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How Important Is A Degree In The VFX Industry?

How Important Is A Degree In The VFX Industry?

Do you need a VFX degree to break into the industry? See what path is right for you. 


Degrees are expensive. Degrees are time-consuming and can add a lot of stress to your (probably) already stressful life. For many careers, degrees are necessary, particularly in the legal and medical fields. 

But what if you’re looking for a career in the VFX industry? Is a VFX degree worth the mountain of student loan debt and years of your life spent studying in a classroom?

Undoubtedly, you’ll find a lot of strong opinions on either side of the argument, but today we’d like to shine some light on both the pros and cons of having a degree versus no degree in the VFX industry. This will help you decide which path is right for you.

Why It’s a Good Idea to Get a Degree in VFX

The benefits of possessing a degree are obvious. You’ll have the credibility on paper to demonstrate your commitment to your education, and if your degree is from a well-known VFX school, that’s even better. 

As the industry gets more and more crowded, competition is drastically increasing. A degree from the right school can set you apart from other candidates and make an interview possible. It can also equip you with other skills that can radically help you in your career like color theory, design, game development, programming, and more.

These skills can help you be more flexible in your career, as well as opening the door for more possibilities in the future.  

Where Can I Earn a Degree in VFX?

If you decide you want to pursue higher education for VFX, the school you choose can bring a massive amount of credibility to your degree. Don’t just settle for the nearest university out of convenience, and make sure you carefully research several institutions before you make the commitment on one.

To help you out, we’ve shared five great schools for learning VFX, along with what each one can offer you.
If moving to attend a physical university is out of the question for you, you’re in luck!  We’ve also discussed online VFX academies that are well worth your consideration.  

Online academies tend to be cheaper overall and you don’t have to worry about all the costs for relocating, but if you’re really interested in attending a physical university, be sure to talk to them about financial aid and scholarship programs to accurately weigh your options.

Why a Degree in VFX Isn’t Always Necessary

So, we’ve looked at just a few reasons why a VFX degree can be beneficial, but let’s take a look at why you might not need one to excel in the industry. For one thing, you may be limited in learning the absolute latest software and processes. 

A degree isn’t worth nearly as much if you’ve only been trained on antiquated programs and procedures. While most VFX schools will adequately prepare you, this is just something to keep in mind if you’re looking at schools. Find out what programs you’ll be learning, how often they update the curriculum, and how experienced the instructors are.

Joe Garth, the creator of Brushify.io, has some inspiring words for those who are on the fence about whether or not to pursue a degree in VFX art for game development. They really apply to virtually any VFX position. Make sure to check out his video below.
You also have to consider the fact that you’re going to possibly be limiting yourself from accepting potential VFX job opportunities for several years by pursuing a degree. There could be some great experience gleaned from any kind of VFX work if you are committed to jumping into the industry without a degree.

In the VFX industry, even more impactful than a degree is a demonstration of your competency and skills in an amazing demo reel. If you can showcase the extent of your work on places like LinkedIn with a polite post that lets others know you’re available, you will greatly increase your chances of landing the job you want (or at least making strides to get there).

Be sure to check out our tips for how to create a great sizzle reel, and also make a regular habit of sharing engaging work-in-progress videos and VFX breakdowns of your work.

VFX Supervisor Allan McKay shared an incredibly insightful video that addresses the issue of whether or not to get a VFX degree, so be sure to give it a watch and a lot of careful consideration.

Where Can I Learn VFX On My Own?

If you decide you’d like to learn VFX on your own, we’ve got some great resources to get you started!  First, there’s the ActionVFX blog, where we’re constantly sharing the latest VFX tutorials, tips, and tricks to help VFX artists of all skill levels grow.


Define Your Career Goals

Instead of just thinking about a career in VFX, find out what specific positions you’d be interested in, as well as what the income range can be. Do you want to be a CG Generalist or a CG Specialist? Are you more interested in producing VFX for game development or the film industry?

Ultimately, you’ll need to decide what’s right for your situation. If a degree is financially within reach for you and you have the time, perhaps it’s worth your consideration. A degree can be a tremendous asset, give you skills you didn’t realize you could possess, and open the door for future opportunities even in other careers should you decide to shift your focus later on in life.

However, if finances are a bit tight, you have a full-time job and are already becoming adept at using VFX software (and you’ve got some impressive work already under your belt), consider focusing on honing your skills in cutting edge software and developing a stellar reel that will set you apart. 
The great thing about the VFX industry today is that most anyone can break into it if you’ve got the drive, talent, flexibility, and dedication that it requires, but don’t take those requirements lightly. It is a difficult and demanding industry that’s not for the faint of heart, but it can also be incredibly rewarding and a great fit for those who are truly passionate about producing top-notch visual effects.

The decision of whether or not to pursue a degree in VFX is a tremendous one, so if you have questions and need advice or feedback, connect with other VFX artists on LinkedIn or the ActionVFX Facebook group!  

Best of luck, and regardless of which decision you make, the ActionVFX blog is committed to strengthening your skills and setting you up for success!

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