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The Value of Degrees?

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The Value of Degrees?

I read a on-line article today, with some interest:

Now, I have expressed a critical viewpoint regarding degrees in animation forums like this for years, and I want to make clear the following is not a bash against degrees, or degree holders. Degrees have their uses in certain fields and occupations, and they can establish a criteria for qualification in those fields.

But not in animation, in my view.
The article above cites people buying fake degrees from degree mills, a practise which obviously calls into question the value of the degree and the qualifications of the holder.
Obviously the degree mills have no accreditation, so holding a degree from them is a "title" only.

But isn't that the same with legitimate schools too?
Many smaller schools become accredited and offer degree programs in animation, they follow government guidelines and protocols to attain this status and they advertise the degree programs as if they mean something.

But do they?
There is no common standard from government to government, at a state, national, or international level regarding animation studies--and its the same with many other disciplines too.
With that being the case, how does one qualify a school that offers a degree programme?
You can't really, can you?
Some have a prominent reputation, like Cal Arts and Sheridan--but does prominence discount the degrees offered from smaller schools? Or even failed schools?

Lemme give you all an example:

About 8 years ago now. I went to teach at a school called the Saskatchewan Centre for Emerging Technologies or SCETCH as it was called.
The place had been in operations for 2 years prior, I arrived at the start of the 3rd year.
Long story short: the place when tits up in a messy fashion over the course of that year.
When it had failed after the school year ended, the students had one common question: Would their degrees mean anything?

The answer was......."yes"........and no.
They'd still undergone the training, still been taught by competent teachers, and still had the exposure to doing the craft first hand.
In counselling those students, emphasis was made that the degree they held was a large their abilities.
If they could show they had the skills to do the job at a professional level, they would STILL be hired, regardless if their degree came from a school that was still in business or not.
The degree itself was still there, still "valid" as a paper pedigree......but that is all it was.
Their ability to demonstrate they could do the work was their "degree".

Which is how it should sensibly be right?
SCETCH no longer exists in any form--save memories--but its students have, in quite a few cases, gone on and successfully gained employment in the animation industry, and quite a few remain in the field to this day.
I doubt that any recruiters gave their degrees or certificates a second look when they were being hired.

So it begs the question: did they even need a degree to begin with??

I argue: no.
SCETCH is ONE example of dozens of small schools that offer degrees, and yet may no longer exist as schools. Does their lack of current operations disqualify their degrees?
SCETCH had a staff of pros teaching the material--instructors that knew their stuff and had a lot of man-hours of industry experience amongst them. Just being exposed to the staff was probably an education in itself.

There was another school not too far away that offered much the same thing, but their training staff were all inbred. That is to say they hired former students as instructors to teach classes that they themselves had enrolled in only a year before. No industry experience at all ( or very negligible experience) for most of them. And , iirc, they offered degrees as well.
I had a chance to look over their curriculum first hand, and it was pretty bad.
From what I understand, very few of the students that graduated from this other school ever successfully gained employment in the industry.
So what was the value of the degree from them???
I imagine that if any of hose students did get work, it'd have been on the merits of their talent, rather than their schooling.

If any Tom, Dick and Harry can BUY a degree from a degree mill......then a degree in animation is worthless.
If the hiring process concerns itself with talent, rather than a paper pedigree....then a degree is worthless.
If the hiring process DOES concern itself with degrees as a condition of hiring, then how do they qualify degrees from smaller or failed schools--especially when those schools can STILL turn out viable talent??
If they discriminate the degree holder based on where they went to school--they are holding to standards that are NOT universally applied in all areas--and overlooking otherwise potentially viable talent. A degree then becomes essentially worthless as a gauge of talent.

I could probably find a degree mill that would offer a degree in animation, or could generate one if asked.
I have sufficient background and experience in the industry to "qualify" the degree myself--regardless of where its supposedly from.
If I held such a document, and sought a job that asks for the applicant to hold a degree AND demonstrate skills to be hired......does the origin of the document matter??
Think about this: how do they even qualify a legitimate degree, if the school has gone out of business, for example--much less a degree from a degree mill??

Therefore, does a degree matter at all??

So where this all settles is upon the question to students and newcomers being seduced by the siren call of schools offering degrees. Some of these schools ask a LOT of money for the "experience" and some have even questionable reputations. Students get caught up in the whole degree bullshit--thinking that school A is better than school B--even though school A is on the other side of the country and costs $50,000 more.

I think degrees should not even be in the equation, as far as deciding upon animation studies. It's the quality of the instruction and the curriculum that determines the value of the school and the education. If you can find a school that is turning out viable talent for the industry, it doesn't matter if they give you a handshake at the end or gild the degree in gold braid.

IMO, your talent is your degree.

Ken Davis's picture

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

I have a degree in animation. I've worked in animation and VFX for about 12 years. Never ONCE have I ever been asked for my degree. I've never even been asked if I had one.

Which is good, because while I did graduate, I don't have a physical copy of my diploma. Ironically, I was working on a professional animation project that day and couldn't be at the ceremony to pick it up. ;)