video gamersThe video game industry is seeing significant job growth in spite of the economy and a number of colleges and universities are offering programs to help students enter this industry (which offers an average salary of $80,000). NPR reports that courses or degrees for developing video games are being offered at schools ranging from MIT to DigiPen Institute of Technology.
But here's the question: will attending an often expensive college with a special program in video gaming technology really be necessary to get your foot in the door in the video game industry?

According to Electronic Arts, one of the leading video game publishers in the world, the answer is no. Cindy Nicola, vice president of talent acquisition, told me in an e-mail that, when it comes to students hired for game design straight out of college, "Less than 10% of hires come from courses identified as specific gaming degrees. EA has found that students who pursue traditional degrees and take a variety of coursework in subjects like math, physics, computer science and business studies are well-prepared to have rich careers at EA.

"Our advice to new grads is if gaming is your passion, a broad-based degree can open doors to many types of careers," she added.

Her advice for prospective college students with an interest in video gaming? "Don't limit your choices and look for as broad an education as possible that will open doors in many fields when it comes time to look for that dream job."

For parents of students with an eye toward gaming as a career, this news should be cause for relief. Most video game programs are offered by private institutions. Courses at Washington-based Digipen cost $476 per credit; at the University of Washington, a student taking 5 classes per semester can expect to pay about $250 per credit.

My advice? Don't think that you need some specialized program to get into a career in game design. The vast majority of people who embark on careers in this field have a more generalized background.

Zac Bissonnette's book College on a Dime will be published by Portfolio in the fall.

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