5 Big Reasons to Skip Private Art School

There are a lot of opinions out there about whether or not one should attend art school.

I should know, because I researched the crap out of all of them right after graduating high school.

As much as I wanted the full college experience, I just couldn’t justify it after I had looked into all the possibilities. Here are the five reasons I decided to skip private art and film schools, and what I did instead.

1. It’s expensive

Like really, really expensive. The average cost of tuition is over three times that of the average in-state tuition ($42,000 vs $13,600), and in some extreme cases, more expensive than any Ivy League school. You could easily rent your own equipment and apartment for less than that. Is it really worth a lifetime of debt? Let’s find out…

2. It’s all up to you

True fact: passing art school does not mean that you are a good artist. The piece of paper or grade that you receive at the end tells how good at art school you are, not at art itself. If you have enough internal motivation to go well above and beyond your assignments, then you should have enough self-discipline to learn the same subjects without grades or due dates. If you don’t, then the art and film industry probably aren’t for you in the first place.

3. No guaranteed jobs

Sure, no degree comes with a guarantee, but it’s no secret that the entertainment industry is one of the most competitive out there.

According to Stephen Ujlaki, a Dean at Loyola Marymount’s School of Film and Television, the “majority of students majoring in film and television will not be having careers in those professions.”

Here’s the reality: the more people that want a particular job in the industry (concept artist, animator, etc…), the less it is going to pay or the more impossible that job is to get. It’s the simple effect of supply and demand, with a flooded market.

4. You’ll learn more outside of school

Since art is taught so differently than medicine or law (although it shouldn’t be!), it’s understandable that industry employers don’t have the same respect for a degree. What you’ll actually want to get is experience.

If you don’t have experience, how do you get a job to gain some? It’s the depressing age-old cycle. The only two ways to break this that I know of are:

  • Work for yourself
  • Work for free

By working on your own, you can build up skills and a portfolio while entering contests, finding freelance work, or completing personal projects. Focus on giving value by doing something you’re passionate about and don’t worry about making lots of money quite yet.

Working for a local small game company for free is a bit more painful, but it is much more valuable if you want to work for a large company in the future. Think of it as school, except you aren’t paying quite so much. At the end you’ll at least have something to put on your resume, and industry contacts who could recommend you for future jobs. If you become great at what you do, people will notice and you will have opportunities to move up the ladder.

5. Because the internet

We really are in the information age! You can learn quite a bit online, and some tutorial sites could almost be considered a replacement to art school minus the degree. You can learn directly from professionals if you have the drive to complete courses on your own. Some sites that I’ve found particularly helpful are:

With all these resources available, I realized that the thing most holding me back from being an incredible artist and getting my dream job is not money or luck. It’s me. I need to better manage my time and resources. It’s all there and it’s all available. I just need to take advantage of them without making excuses.

But!

There’s always a big but. As much as it sounds like I am against art school, I do recognize that they have particular advantages.

One benefit of going to school is getting a well-rounded education. You’ll learn things that you may have never discovered before, and it will make you a better artist because of it.

Another is community. Where do you think all the other hopeful and passionate young artists are? Not sitting at home playing video games. You’ll likely find like minded people with which you can collaborate and make awesome projects with.

*edit*A degree can also be a safety net if you ever decide to switch careers later. It’s easier to land a job if you have some degree, even if it’s in an unrelated field. There are a lot of great things that come from continuing education, it’s just that you have the weigh the benefits vs. the cost and decide where to draw the line between helping and hurting your future.

So here’s what I did instead:

Since I still wanted to go to school and get a degree in case I needed to switch careers later on, I found a compromise: vocational school. They are much less expensive, and focus entirely on hands on learning.

I was fortunate enough to have one nearby called LWIT that has a decent animation/game design program. Am I getting a top-notch education? Not quite. But I am learning a lot that I would not have otherwise, and I am able to get a full degree for less than $7,000 per year. Worth it? Absolutely! I can easily fill in the gaps with online education and skip the crippling load of debt.

Check to see if you have a local vocational school or public college that offers a degree in what you’re interested in. Just be prepared to work hard on your own outside of that!

I realize that this may not be the perfect solution for everyone, but I wanted to share my thought process and conclusion in hopes that it helps somebody else out there still trying to figure it all out.

Cheers!

Header image by Seth Sawyers, CC-2.0

Where do you think the future of art education is going? Let me know below!

  • Charlie George

    I was entering my 3rd year of a degree in Animation when my son was born so I never finished uni but I do not regret that decision because as soon as I came home I instantly landed some part-time in-house work for a local company. I got that work purely based on my natural talent/passion and networking and the fact that people had heard I was making pragmatic steps towards progressing with my career as an Artist. The work is never guaranteed but it is there if you’re willing to make yourself present in the real world and get people talking!