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Thread: College Degree vs. Learn on your own??

  1. #1
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    College Degree vs. Learn on your own??

    I have a major decision to make... and I'm standing on the fence right now about it...

    I've been without a steady job for around 2 years now because of Crohn's Disease... it sucks because I'm kinda forced to stay indoors most of the time... like 90% of the time...

    Well... in that time away from "life"... I taught myself how to use Flash. (among other programs...)

    In that time I've really taught myself a lot... but I still don't feel confident that it's going to be enough for an employer once I do get healthy once again....

    Which brings me to my dilemma...

    I've already been through 2 years of college pursing god knows what career... and then changed my career and school... and recieved a certificate of completion from a Broadcasting School... I had 2 decent jobs right out of the Broadcasting school... but then I got sick in December of 2003... Now I'm not so sure Broadcasting is going to work for me in my future...

    So... learning flash has become a hobby... as well as a small income from time to time... and I thought I might be able to make this into a career... but with my limited options... the only thing I could possibly do is apply for the Art Institute of Pittsburgh's online program. So I asked for information to be sent to me about the Interactive Media Design Degree...

    Well... I recieved my info... as well as a phone call... and of course the admissions representative was all gung-ho about his awesome college... but from the information he presented... it seems like its very challenging... which I want it to be... therfore whatever effort I put in... I will get out...

    However... it's online... and that is what really sucks. (I never feel like i'm actually taking REAL classes online...)

    So... all that to say this... this site and people on here have helped me out in flash before... lets see if they can help me out with life... I want to know...

    "Would it be better for me to save the countless dollars of student loans and just freelance until my portfolio is good enough... and then try to get a job based just on what I can teach myself... or is it worth it to get a college degree for Interactive media design???"

    Also... "is freelancing in flash a good career choice... or is it more a side job??" Sure... you can land a HUGE company like nike and make some crazy cash... but only one person/company out of millions is going to get that job...

    I know this is going to be a pretty even debate... I just would love feedback... I kinda need it...

    Thanks...

  2. #2
    Retired SCORM Guru PAlexC's Avatar
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    First off, Crohn's sucks something awful, so more power to you if you can live with it.

    Freelancing full-time is hard, and leaves you without health benefits, which, it sounds like you'd need.

    Most companies will probably not consider you without a college education or a vast amount of experience. Smaller companies are more likely to judge you on your work if you have an impressive portfolio. Even then, without a decent amount of experience it's going to be tough.

    You could also look at associates degree programs and certifications if you don't feel you're up for a Bachelor's degree yet.

    Just be wary of those trade schools and degree programs you see advertised on TV, a lot of them are scams.
    Last edited by PAlexC; 12-15-2005 at 01:39 AM.
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  3. #3
    2008 Man of the Year JWin's Avatar
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    college degree is the safe bet I think. Find a school that is going to let you explore and be creative and give you time to develop as well as guided study.

    For better or worse I am at school for Music technology which is very work intensive giving not enough time to work on the skills that are going to actually end up paying the bills later.

    But I will have a degree

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  4. #4
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    Freelancing is damn hard enough when fully healthy, and real tough unless you have something "special" to offer (which maybe you do, but you'll be the judge of that). As someone who's just finished 6 years part-time degree while working fulltime, it's an extremely tough ask... however if you can get by working part-time or similar then would definitely recommend studying fulltime if you can.

    But research a lot to work out which course is right for what you want to achieve, and which course is going to be valued by potential employers. Even though the initial reason I went into my degree has changed (I guess changing from advertising to humanitarian work is about as extreme a shift as one can make), the degree I chose is actually quite relevant across any field that uses communication... which is obviously just about every field, and the University I went to is very well regarded both professionally and academically. And while on it's own much of a degree may be dismissed as "useless theory" by some, in reality when you can combine theory with hands on practical work then you have the makings of the perfect learning combination. Or so I found.

    I know I now have the education and training to refine the years of practical experience I have gained working, and even though it was a pain and in many ways I would have preferred not to have dropped out twice in my younger days when I had the time to study fulltime, it has been advantageous to go back with the level of work and life experience I now have.

    Anyway, short advice: work out exactly where you want to go, and then find out the best way to get there. If that involves some area of training/study then go for it. You're never too old, too young, and there's far more important things in life than earning big bucks or owning the latest toys.
    Last edited by TheOriginalFlashDavo; 12-15-2005 at 01:56 AM.
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  5. #5
    Tim (Super Moderator) Northcode's Avatar
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    Are you interested in the creative/media based aspects of Flash or are you interested in developing some programming muscles? There are programs out there for both sides of the force.

    A full blown university/college degree program sounds like a good idea until they start shoving things like economics and other useless electives down your throat and making you pay for the pleasure. Been there, done that, and choke one your supply/demand curves you useless goat-herding econ profs!

    If I had it to do all over again I would have chosen a more self-directed study program where I chose the courses I wanted to take. You don't get a degree at the end, but you don't waste your time cramming your brain with knowledge you will never use again either. "Well rounded education" my hairy white a**!

    Don't even limit yourself to a single school. Look at what's out there and sign up for (or audit) the courses that further YOUR interests instead of the schools interest of taking your dough and cranking out sheets of paper with little gold embossed stamps on them.

    If you ever think you might need an econ course, shove your head in the toilet and flush until the thought is completely erased from your mind.

  6. #6
    Flashkit historian Frets's Avatar
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    I learned from the school of hard knocks.

    Regardless of how dated the information you recieve from a school it's still a faster learning curve then self taught. There are certain things you attain in a college environment that can never be attained learning on your own and it gives you leverage when negotiationg salaries.

    It's true what they say
    Interviewers look twice at your experience and once at your education. However
    If you don't have an education that's one less time that they will look and it's the first
    thing they look for. You'll have to have awfully impressive credentials for someone to look past your education. Or know people who will back you.

    Electives are good. When in doubt choose sales electives. I used to be a stern believer in tell me what I want to know not what I don't care about. However Electives Help to expand your realm so you can relate to others outside your field. In this life everyone is a salesman and everyone is an economist. One sells every day. You sell your workmanship you sell your product to your employer.

    All the people who visit these forums have stories. Most of the professionals will tell
    you they've switched careers. Having a broad base of knowledge makes these types
    of lateral or upward moves possible. Versatitily is the key to long term gainful employment. .

  7. #7
    curmudgeon swampy's Avatar
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    My employer sent me on a flash training course. I have been employed as a flash designer for 6 years now and I finally get training.
    "They're very much like scruffy pigs to look at, and they've got big, knobbly warts and lumps all over their long, hairy faces. They are very, very ugly indeed..."

  8. #8
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    Awesome...

    Thanks for the responses...

    I'm just at the point in life where I know anything I go to school for... I have the self motivation needed to study it and do good at it... I just don't know yet if THIS is what I'm going to want to have in 2-3 years from now...

    I'm leaning more 70-30 now towards going for the degree... but i'm still not sold yet...

    More research is required...

    But thanks again for the responses...

  9. #9
    Banned indivision's Avatar
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    how difficult the freelance industry is, from what ive gathered by peoples varying responses, varies by location. im completely self taught and have been freelancing for a couple years now. i would be compelled to say that the degree would be a waste of time (and money) if you are the type that can learn on your own (which it sounds like you are). but, it may be different in some other areas where work is harder to come by and the degree could be like a pass in the door somewhere. the bad news is that you cant just 'start' freelancing. generally, clients are picky about hiring contractors because finding out they have a dud half-way through a project can be very costly. so, its necessary to network, have references, etc. and the best way to establish that quickly is to put time in as a full-time worker at a design house or in-house staff somewhere.

    where are you located?

    regarding landing a high profile job like nike; again, that is going to be location dependent. in some places, you may only be able to find billy-bobs auto shop or larry's bistro that needs a web-site. But, if you're in an area with a thriving web industry, you would be suprised how much work is generated by big companies like nike, microsoft, sony, universal, etc and how much they spread their workload around town. its not like there is one lucky guy somewhere that handles all of nike's flash matters. they probably have 50 departments in the company, each with their own ad team that is constantly on the shop for different design houses or individual contractors to do this or that campaign for them.

  10. #10
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    I'm in Michigan near detroit... I know pretty little about "this" industry as a whole... and I do understand that nike has tons of people that work on their flash stuff... (it was just a quick example)...

    I can learn on my own up to a point... but I think i really want to know more than just what I can teach myself...

    I have the time to do the school... and the motivation... what I don't have is the money... or the ability to see into the future to see if this is worth it... The broadcasting school was definately NOT worth it...

    I'm still weighing it out... student loans are an option... I just dont want to have tons of student loan debt and then still not get the job I want...

    I sound kinda negative right now... but I'm really not trying to be...

    What are some of the degrees and jobs the people here of flash kit have? I'm trying to research different media degrees and am kinda running on empty with finding things...

    If anyone has heard of or went to a good school with good programs worth getting a degree from... lemme know...

    Thanks again...

  11. #11
    Banned indivision's Avatar
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    I wouldnt worry so much about taking out loans for school. They give you something like 30 years to pay them off with all kinds of options to delay payment if you cant afford to, etc. Despite what I said before, its almost always a good investment. I just think that, at least in regard to flash, 90% of what you will need to learn to be effective in a professional environment you will learn just as well or better actually working in that environment.

    I don't know much about the industry in michigan either. but, if its a possibility to move to New York, I know there are many flash opportunities there.
    Last edited by indivision; 12-16-2005 at 02:12 AM.

  12. #12
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    It also depends what your long term goals are. If it's simply in the area of being a hands on designer/developer/programmer, then as indivision alluds to, it's the work that counts and what you can do means FAR more than any piece of paper you have.

    HOWEVER, if your goal is a little more in the area of management or something other than hands on doing, then a degree or a professionally recognised eqivalent is important. Hence why I chose that over learning more hands on practical skills.

    So I guess that's the first consideration for you.
    Michezo Youth Initiative - donate | Into Kenya | Naked Chronicles | Mark Bingham - my friend, America's hero

    To help new members fit into Flashkit, three rules they forgot to tell you on signup: Rule #1: Learn Group Think, and behave accordingly | Rule #2: Do as certain Mods say, not as they do. | Rule #3: If you're from outside the US, don't at any time criticise, allude or hyperlink to criticism of the US or any of their laws, policies or practices. | Enjoy your time at Flashkit!

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