Is Going to a 3D School the Right Choice for You?
Deciding whether or not to attend a 3D school is one of the most important choices you make if you want to work in the Games or Visual Effects (VFX) industry. It's a huge financial choice to make, can impact where in the world you end up living, and has a huge impact on your career. Let's explore if this is the right choice for you!
Harsh Truths About Attending a 3D School
- No matter how good the 3D school is, you need to work extremely hard. If you only do the assigned work school work, you won't get a job.
- Going to school does not guarantee you a job, no matter what the school might tell you.
- If you pick a bad school, the teachers may not teach you anything useful, or worst case, teach you outdated or bad techniques.
- The financial cost of going to school can be free, Acceptable, Expensive and Beyond-Insane.
- Getting a Bachelor or Masters can be very useful when it comes to getting a visa in a foreign country. In terms of actually getting the job however, the degree is useless.
What's the Perfect 3D School for You?
Before choosing a school, it's important to have an idea of the direction you want to take. If you want to pursue animation, a specialist school focusing solely on animation may be the best choice. On the other hand, if you want to be a concept artist, a school that focuses on technical 3D probably isn't the best fit. One of the most important deciding factors is the financial burden that comes with attending school. It's not clever to get into debt without knowing whether you'll enjoy what you're studying or not.
Character from Realistic Character Portrait Masterclass
Tuition Can be Insanely Expensive
Schools can be incredibly expensive, and even public universities in the UK cost over £9,000 ($11,000) per year, totaling almost £30,000 ($33,000) for a three-year degree, without adding the cost of living. A lot of schools are even more expensive, costing over $150,000 for 3 years. Unless you come from a wealthy family, it's unlikely that the cost of attending the more expensive 3D schools will be worth it, as you could end up paying off student loans for decades.
Attending a mediocre school is also probably a waste of time and money, as you could end up with a large amount of debt and no actual skills. It's important to do research and choose a school carefully, as blindly trusting that a university will prepare you for a job can be disastrous for your career and personal life.
Senior modeller at ILM, Maximilian Vogt, has this to say about attending an expensive school. Max attended Vancouver Film School, which is around $40,000 a year.
"It is worth it - but only if you bust your ass 14 hours a day. You pay a lot of money, but beeing surrounded by driven people, decent teachers and a whole lot of time dedicated to honeing your skills can be a worthwhile experience.
If you are super disciplined and know exactly what you want, do online courses instead."
Your Own Effort is King
It’s easy to assume that getting a job doing 3D is similar to getting a job in any other field. There are fields out there where going to university, attending the course, and getting good grades will leave you with a pretty good chance of getting a job.
This is not one of those fields.
If you want to get a job after your studies, you’ll simply have to put in a lot of work outside of school hours. What's great about this is that if you're disciplined you could skip 3D school altogether by learning and building a portfolio on your own. I truly believe that with $1,000 you could buy tutorials online which would surpass the lectures of any school in the world.
Texturing in Realistic Character Portrait Masterclass
Grades & Degrees
No good studio will care about your grades or degree. A strong showreel and portfolio is the most important thing to getting a job. A degree is however very useful if you need a visa to work as some countries require a degree for a working permit. Be careful of schools that only offer one-year courses with a diploma, as they won't help you get a working permit.
When choosing a 3D school, be aware of red flags, as they could indicate that the school is more interested in making money than providing quality education:
A claim of an unrealistically high job placement rate.
No school has a 90% placement rate. If they do, they are lying or stretching the truth to the point where the metric is meaningless.
Students have gone on to work at well-known studios.
Given that most big 3D schools have been running for 10+ years, with hundreds or even thousands of graduates, it's statistically unlikely that some of their students haven't started working at well-known studios.
No or poor quality student work displayed.
Try to find portfolios of actual students and don't trust the work on their websites. Sometimes the work shown has been at least in part by the instructors, or by top students who already knew 3D before attending. If no work is displayed online, there's usually a reason for that.
Negative comments about the school on forums or social media.
Always research the school properly before attending. Find current and past students and ask them about the school.
Claims of becoming a professional 3D artist in a few months.
Learning 3D takes years and it's highly unlikely that you can go from a complete beginner to a junior artist in 3 months.
Networking is a crucial skill for getting a job in any creative field. Attending a good school with creative and inspiring students can help you build an amazing network of contacts, which can be very useful when job hunting.
Even if your classmates aren't immediately helpful in terms of networking, they may become valuable contacts after graduation once they enter the industry. Building a network can also give you amazing friendships and connections around the world. Ultimately, networking is about building friendships and connections that can help you achieve your career goals.
3D Schools - Are they worth it?
With all this said, do we recommend attending a 3D school? If you can afford it, absolutely. It's an amazing time of your life when you can learn 3D for 12 hours a day, make new friends, party until dawn and have fun
There is more to life than leveling up your skills. Having fun, making friends and creating yourself as a person is important.
Find a 3D school, research it thoroughly, talk to teachers and students, make sure it's affordable - then spend the next years having a great time.