Switching careers from video editing to computer science

This is a discussion on Switching careers from video editing to computer science within the General Discussions forums, part of the Community Boards category; Hello everyone, I apologize if this is not an appropriate question for this message board. I have always enjoyed programming ...

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    Switching careers from video editing to computer science

    Hello everyone,

    I apologize if this is not an appropriate question for this message board.

    I have always enjoyed programming and I am very talented in math. However I got burnt out towards the end of high school and decided to major in film at NYU. It has now been three years since I graduated and I can't get any work (big shock, I know). I am seriously considering going back to school to become a software engineer or designer. I want to program and design video games, but I also want the option of falling back on a boring but steady programming job should video games not work out.

    I feel somewhat at a loss as to exactly what I should be doing. I have applied to go to CUNY in Spring 2010 (I live in Brooklyn) with the intention of pursuing a 2nd undergraduate degree in computer science. This will likely take me 1.5 to 2.5 years. This seems like a long time to go back to school, especially considering that I want to go on to a master's program afterwards. However, I see no other option; I took no math or science courses throughout my college career (I placed out of the pre-requisites with AP credits).

    I have several questions. First of all, is pursuing a 2nd bachelors in CS at all logical? Is there a simpler, quicker option, and I'm just wasting my time? I want a B.S. because there is no way I'll get into a masters program with my current background. I figured I ultimately need a master's degree in order to be competitive and successful in the field, but is that really necessary? I have tried to learn programming languages on my own and I feel like I would learn more quickly and more comprehensively if I was in some sort of academic program.

    To anyone reading this; how did you get to where you are now? Do you have a B.S.? M.S.? Do you even have a degree in computer science, or did you just pick up a few books and impress the right people?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have tried contacting people I know about this, as well as academic institutions, but no one has gotten back to me. Thank you very much for taking the time to read this.

    -David

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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solodave View Post
    I have tried to learn programming languages on my own and I feel like I would learn more quickly and more comprehensively if I was in some sort of academic program.
    Maybe someone will correct me if they feel differently, but regardless of how you learn, if you are at a beginner level today, I would be surprised if you are ready to find work "programming and designing video games" for 3-5 years MINIMUM.

    Also, doing a CS degree will probably slow the rate at which you acquire applied programming skills, because you will have a lot of work to do that is at best only tangentially related to programming.

    If all you are concerned about is a piece of paper (makes sense!) I know there is a school in NYC (Drexel) that offers a MSc. in Software Engineering, I think it is a 1-2 year program. I have talked to them about this and they will accept people with an unrelated arts degree (like yours, and mine ) BUT in any case you must demonstrate "an advanced level of proficiency in at least TWO common programming languages" (they have a list of what counts for this).

    As to whether you could pass that qualification just by doing a CS degree in < 3 years, I don't know. Maybe so, and maybe not. You will definitely want to examine how much actual programming you will be doing. I very much doubt a few courses a semester for a few years (presuming most of the curriculum is not applied programming) will get you to "an advanced level of proficiency in at least TWO common programming languages" -- altho for the gaming industry, you probably only need one anyway (C++).

    But that leads to a further complication: if all you do is develop your C++ skills in the hope of getting into the gaming industry, I would not bet on "the option of falling back on a boring but steady programming job", since getting a job outside the gaming industry as a C++ programmer may be at least as competitive/difficult. Especially if you hope to stay in New York, New York.
    Last edited by MK27; 10-09-2009 at 09:13 AM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    Thank you for getting back to me so quickly, MK27. It sounds like you're telling me that practicing actual programming will be a much better use of my time than the more theory-based work I'd be doing in a degree program.

    You mention you have an "unrelated arts degree." If you don't mind me asking, how did you make the switch from being a graduate with an arts degree to a computer programmer?

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    {Jaxom,Imriel,Liam}'s Dad Kennedy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solodave
    I want to program and design video games, but I also want the option of falling back on a boring but steady programming job should video games not work out.
    Probably not for you, then. Programming is fun for me and I'm not doing gaming. The gaming industry is like 0.000000000000001% (probably an exaggeration, but not much) of programming in the world. If you think that you'll get in there without even the ability to learn this stuff by yourself, you're wrong.

    You'd have a better chance of getting on a Hollywood blockbuster film crew than getting a "dream job" as a game programmer.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Kennedy View Post
    Probably not for you, then. Programming is fun for me and I'm not doing gaming. The gaming industry is like 0.000000000000001% (probably an exaggeration, but not much) of programming in the world. If you think that you'll get in there without even the ability to learn this stuff by yourself, you're wrong.

    You'd have a better chance of getting on a Hollywood blockbuster film crew than getting a "dream job" as a game programmer.
    Thank you for your honesty. I didn't mean to offend you. In retrospect, using the term boring was probably inappropriate on a programming message board. I meant to say that I wanted a comprehensive education that would give me options, rather than pursue a narrow career path towards a sub-section of the programming industry that is, as you word it, .000001% percent of what's available.

    Programming is fun, I'm quite fond of it, myself. And your advice is well understood: if you can't learn on your own, you're in the wrong place. I will take that to heart.

    If you don't mind me asking, how did you get to where you are now in the programming industry?

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    spurious conceit MK27's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solodave View Post
    You mention you have an "unrelated arts degree." If you don't mind me asking, how did you make the switch from being a graduate with an arts degree to a computer programmer?
    I haven't Well, I have a open source project that is in distribution by Debian, but I get no money for that. I've been studying programming pretty much full time hours for a few years (before that, it was a casual affair), and I am interested in getting some kind of certification -- I'd love to go back to school for a few more years (hell, I'd love to go back permanently). I'd love to do all the nerdy theory and stuff in a CS degree. However, I am biding my time somewhat on this, as I don't have to work right now anyway. For example, I'd really like to freelance, which means a degree will not mean so much, vs. experience and a "portfolio". And I ain't getting younger either...

    Which is to say I am in a similar boat, but I've been here for a while. You know what I would very very strongly recommend: do dive in RIGHT NOW and put as much time in learning as you can. If you have not done it much before, you really, really should find out in a serious way 1) if you like it 2) how you feel about your potential. Remember, this is typing code and doing arcane research all day, everyday -- that's what it is. Web forums like this one are a tremendous resource (not surprisingly, the net is packed to the nines with stuff by and for programmers on all levels, it's great).

    I love it, and I think I'm good enough, but I now feel that there are a lot of programming jobs I really would not want. Even if that means not being a professional. Mostly, this has to do with work environment (there are a lot of jobs in every profession I would not want) and not the task per se, altho that may not be such an easy boundary. As Kennedy points out, if you really enjoy programming, you will probably enjoy doing it regardless of the genre. If you don't, you are bound for frustration and disappointment. So, to repeat: YOU NEED TO FIGURE THAT OUT, SO IF YOU'RE SERIOUS, GET HUMBLE AND START TRYING. Seriously. Any other course of action will be totally foolhardy.

    Maybe it is like playing guitar: lots of people think they want to, and then find it boring or unrewarding. Beware!
    Last edited by MK27; 10-09-2009 at 10:10 AM.
    C programming resources:
    GNU C Function and Macro Index -- glibc reference manual
    The C Book -- nice online learner guide
    Current ISO draft standard
    CCAN -- new CPAN like open source library repository
    3 (different) GNU debugger tutorials: #1 -- #2 -- #3
    cpwiki -- our wiki on sourceforge

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    l'Anziano DavidP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solodave View Post
    decided to major in film at NYU. It has now been three years since I graduated and I can't get any work (big shock, I know). I am seriously considering going back to school to become a software engineer or designer. I want to program and design video games, but I also want the option of falling back on a boring but steady programming job should video games not work out.

    I feel somewhat at a loss as to exactly what I should be doing. I have applied to go to CUNY in Spring 2010 (I live in Brooklyn) with the intention of pursuing a 2nd undergraduate degree in computer science. This will likely take me 1.5 to 2.5 years.
    I think going back and doing a CS degree in 2 years is an excellent idea. Here's my take on your situation:

    You don't need a Masters degree to get a job in the CS world. In fact, even in the current job market, there are plenty of software development jobs to go around. I think a Bachelors degree in CS would be an excellent way for you to be able to beef up your portfolio and find work. Then, if you ever do get your lucky break into the film industry, you can go for it, but if you don't, you have a nice solid degree in CS to fall back on.

    I currently have a BS degree in CS. I am planning on going on and getting a Masters and/or PhD, but for your situation I don't think you need it.
    Last edited by DavidP; 10-09-2009 at 10:22 AM. Reason: grammar correction
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    {Jaxom,Imriel,Liam}'s Dad Kennedy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by solodave View Post
    Thank you for your honesty. I didn't mean to offend you. In retrospect, using the term boring was probably inappropriate on a programming message board. I meant to say that I wanted a comprehensive education that would give me options, rather than pursue a narrow career path towards a sub-section of the programming industry that is, as you word it, .000001% percent of what's available.

    Programming is fun, I'm quite fond of it, myself. And your advice is well understood: if you can't learn on your own, you're in the wrong place. I will take that to heart.

    If you don't mind me asking, how did you get to where you are now in the programming industry?
    Honestly, I don't remember. I'm one of those geeks that started out on a old TRS80 and I've been dabbling at it ever since. I do recall that I originally went to school with the idea that I would become a radio engineer, but Chemistry kicked my tail and I found that I could actually make money doing what I already was doing -- programming computers -- So, I switched. From there I just got a job and started climbing the ladder.

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