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How important was your college degree to your career path?

Discussion in 'Education and Career Development' started by gafftaper, Jan 8, 2011.

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Read the 1st post FIRST: How important was your college degree to your career path?

  1. I would not have my job without my college degree.

    25.8%
  2. It was the most important factor, but other factors were also helpful.

    15.2%
  3. Education was equally important as other factors.

    22.0%
  4. My college education had very little to do with reaching my career goals.

    17.4%
  5. What degree?

    19.7%
  1. Lextech

    Lextech Active Member

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    Undergrad degree, zero. Job in college, 100%. I got a job freshmen year at the university production company. Worked 30 plus hours a week and learned the business. Fell in love with mixing and made a career out of it. After college, got the assistant manager job in the department and went got a master's in a television because I wanted to add video to my productions. Took the manager's job when it came about, got an IA card and learned lighting. I been doing this for 30 years now, wouldn't trade it for anything.
     
  2. squirt4444

    squirt4444 Member

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    I actually learned a lot of technical knowledge while working under Ice Wolf during my degree. Completely agree with his statement. I would say having experience in professional theatre before or during your degree was some of the most helpful to direct your studies. Without the formal education it can work but requires a lot of drive, patience, and time spent seeking out resources to learn the things you may miss out on by not having that structured learning.
     
  3. JD

    JD Well-Known Member

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    My own opinion on collage:
    If you have a clear idea of what you want to do with your life (Dr., Lawyer, NASA scientist, etc.) then you will benefit greatly by choosing the right collage.
    If you do not have a clear idea of what you want to do, then DON'T GO just for the sake of going!

    I remember a girl I knew that spent a ton of money studding Mayan culture. She was shocked that there was not a long list of employers looking for someone with this skill. Collage is a huge investment and most likely you will spend a lot of your life energy paying back that bill. The "trades" (as it is known) appear to be shunned as some form of inferior education. Apprenticeship is also shunned as a waste of time. Yet, take a look at what a skilled electrician, plumber, or auto mechanic make. CAT is dying to find skilled machinists and offers a 6 digit starting salary. Military service can set you up for life (thinking about the helicopter mechanic I know.) I have a friend who lost his job at a custom auto shop. He was unemployed for 45 minutes! (Drove by another shop on his way home and was hired on the spot.)
    Collage is great for some people, but only if you know you will be able to USE that education as a life skill. People appear to be brainwashed that Collage is the only way to go. I disagree! For 20 years I worked in electronic service (company owner) and I can't tell you how many servicers I hired fresh from their electrical engineering degree, only to find out they could not diagnose there way out of a paper bag when they sat down at the bench.
     
    NevilleLighting likes this.
  4. gafftaper

    gafftaper Senior Team Senior Team Fight Leukemia

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    Well said John. For some careers college is essential, but for tech theater it's much more murky as to how much that degree will help you. While some may think I'm anti-college because of the things I've said above, I think a B.A. paired with a lot of simultaneous work in the real world is the best route. I manage a High School PAC, there was a kid who was a student here three years ago, he was a great tech kid and after graduation became part of the paid staff while attending the local community college. Over the last two years he worked a LOT of hours on probably a couple hundred gigs. Now he's off to the other side of the state to work on his B.A. for two years. Over the summer and on the breaks, I'm putting him to work for me as much as possible. By the time he graduates he will have a B.A. and 4 years of experience working in a very busy High School PAC... and I'm waiting for him to return so I can use him even more if he still wants to work for me. What a great way to start your career.
     
    NevilleLighting likes this.
  5. NevilleLighting

    NevilleLighting Active Member

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    I am a professor so I am confronted with this question often when students are burned out, getting carp jobs and wondering why they should finish the degree and get the paper. That happens most often when those students have taken all of the theatre classes that interest them and are left with the ones they don't want to take and additional general education classes. (I teach at a liberal sorts university). My reply is always the same. A college degree will not, by itself, land you a job. However, not having a college degree can keep you from getting a job. I have a former student that never graduated but is seriously considering coming back because he is finding job opportunities closed to him because he doesn't have the paper, especially in the corporate world. This is a competitive field and you need every advantage you can get.
     
  6. NevilleLighting

    NevilleLighting Active Member

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    And, relating to my post and others I read COLLEGE WILL NOT TEACH YOU EVERYTHING! Get out there and work while you are in college if you possibly can. Even though I teach in a BFA program I consider a tech theatre program to be a weird bastardization between an arts/philosophy degree and votech.
     
  7. burgherandfries

    burgherandfries Member

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    I have a B.F.A. in Stage Management and I know that I wouldn't have gotten to where I am without it; or at least I wouldn't have gotten here as quickly as I did. When I look at resumes for a new-hire technician, I see education in the field as an easy way to quantify their general knowledge. I like to know that my new ME/SM/TD has a foundation in the theory of other departments. Don't get me wrong, industry experience is a huge factor, too. I wouldn't be inclined to hire a new college grad who hasn't done any work outside of school.
     
  8. WayfarerAM

    WayfarerAM Member

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    I'm really not sure how I feel about my degree. Helpful yes, essential not sure. I'm still working at the same job that put me through my final two years of college in the field (Theater Arts/Technical Theater) of my degree. I was working professional in live events/ theater all the way through college to pay for it and graduate without debt. However, I think that if I hadn't gone to school I wouldn't have been exposed to some of the things that I have been. So I helped fill out some areas of knowledge.

    A degree isn't everything and not the soul source of qualifications. I graduated with people whom I would never hire professionally because they just didn't know how to work. There are other ways to get the knowledge, but work ethic is essential and that won't come from a degree.
     
  9. tekgoddess

    tekgoddess Member Premium Member

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    During my undergrad work I was an Acting/Director major. Which shows how long ago this was. I was so interested in All Things Theatre http:/wwwtekgoddess.com that I took every tech course allowed and just lived at the theatre and learned a lot. Much of my lighting knowledge was learned on top of a ladder. BUT with a new theatre built in 2004, I was completely out of the loop for DMX and so-called "intelligent" fixtures I knew I needed more training.

    I attended grad school for three summer intensives as well as some distant learning. BEST THING I EVER DID. Being in Educational Theatre forever was a joy and new technology constantly challenged me. With my MoTS degree (Maters of Theatre Studies) I jumped into a whole new world of lighting theory, DMX, and became more skilled at the other disciplines where I was already pretty competent. I could now not only read a light plot and set design I could competently design to USITT standards.

    I found no Equity houses gave a rat's a__ about a performance degree. They do, however, seem to value a tech degree. Work ethic cannot be denied. My Grad School does not allow you to goof off or you're gone and lose a great deal of money in tuition. So if you can, especially while you're young, DO BOTH. Take a course before you commit to a degree seeking Diploma. Some universities have REALLY BAD professors. I have encountered English teachers who became university tech theatre people because, well, "they know about Shakespeare". My Stagecraft students could run circles around them and have color and gobo changes to show their incompetence.

    Be very careful about Pro Bono work unless it is something you will enjoy and get your name around. Especially you young'uns. I found that working for free once or twice (More fool me) implies you'll always work for free. Make your fees and hours known when you get the job. Many Community Theatres are delighted to have volunteers for tech work. They can be a great place to "make your bones".

    Don't give up and DON'T WORK ON ANYTHING THAT IS NOT SAFE!!! Really, you can die.
     
  10. Henning

    Henning Member

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    So I'm a senior in High School who want's to go into Technical Theater. I love the Long hours, the hard work and I would rather be in a job I love then have a fat paycheck. That being said I have a few concerns.

    For the first two years of High School, I didn't realize how important My GPA was. Now that I'm looking at schools, its starting to bite me in the ass. Right now I've applied and been accepted to a local community college with a well respected theater program.

    The Pro's and Con's of the school are the following:

    PRO'S
    1. Close proximity to Minneapolis/St. Paul. I would have the chance to look for side jobs and calls.

    2. Highly regarded Theater Program (for a community College)

    3. The ability to keep my current Job while going to school.

    CON'S

    1. Only offers a associates Degree.
    2. Community College (I don't know how the industry feels about them)

    Finally, where I want to be in the future:

    Last winter I was given the chance to be board OP at the Guthrie theater (for my schools one act). While I've worked on community theater shows before, Professional theater was a totally different beast, and I fell in love. I knew then and there I wanted to work at the highest level possible and I would work as hard as possible to get there. But is my current options (community college + as much work experience as I can find) get me there?
     
  11. Pie4Weebl

    Pie4Weebl Well-Known Member Fight Leukemia

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    I would say the most important thing in this case would be to ask what level the faculty are working at. Do they have adjunct staff who is active in the scene around MN who could get your foot in the door once you graduate?
     
  12. robartsd

    robartsd Active Member

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    Community college is a great, low-cost way to get started in college. Start researching transfer options for four-year schools you'd like to attend and be sure to choose your community college coarses carefully - not all courses that count towards your two year degree transfer to completing the first two years of a four year degree. With good grades in community college, you should be able to prove to some of the four-year programs you are interested in that you are worth admitting (if you're still interested). I know I wouldn't have been admitted to the university I attended if it weren't for my community college work - absolutely no way my high school transcripts would get me in.
     
  13. Lextech

    Lextech Active Member

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    An associates degree is a great first step. The advantage of it is that many universities will look at your transcript from community college and if there is a significant GPA change they will worry less about your high schools grades and you can transfer into a 4 year program. That being said you may find a job on an associates degree. Or you may take a non theater class and fall in love with a different profession. I think college is very useful in this profession, not just theater classes either. Knowing the math and physics behind how and why we do things like rigging has saved my butt many times. History classes have helped me do period show designs. English classes have helped me communicate me thoughts clearly in production meetings. Go to college, take classes all over the place not just theater and you will have a good start to working in this business.
     
  14. garyvp

    garyvp Active Member

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    I am a mostly an irrelevant outsider to this discussion, but here goes. My degree is in business admin, majors in math and finance. My real job is a financial technologist. The reason I am a TD in theater is that I have superior hands-on technical skills (strong electrical and carpentry skills from my geeky youth and early construction jobs), have always liked theater, and married into one, and have the free time to commit to it. But it is a community theater. However, most of the other folk working at the local community theaters in the NYC have MFAs or other relevant degrees - they studied for this although they have other real jobs outside of theater. A few of our guest lighting techs are academically and professionally trained, but most are not. The only professionally trained TDs I have met are on this blog, and I have never met a professional TD or a union tech. Most of the small theaters around here do not have real TDs and most that do are far less technical then myself.

    I also find it interesting that, aside from two journeyman small theater professional set designer/builders (who make a living out of this), most academically trained set designers that have worked (volunteered) for us have minimal or no technical skills (which is useless in small theaters like ours - a design alone will not get too far unless you bring a crew). Several local colleges sent some students and they knew nothing about implementation. Whereas the scenic designers are more hands on and want to touch the work and know how to mix paint, paint a stone wall, stiple and marbelize a wall. Degreed lighting designers all know how to hang and focus, and program a board (if you can't hang, then you can't design here - it is a package deal).


    I found many of the comments in this thread interesting - I was always curious about this.
     
  15. ruinexplorer

    ruinexplorer Minion CB Mods Premium Member Fight Leukemia

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    It really depends on what you want to do with your career. I have an Associate's degree from a four-year college (they also offered Bachelor's degrees). I work as a technician for a reputable production company. I got to where I am through work experience. However, they have also hired a number of people with more education and less experience. A lot of production companies look for specific skills, which may or may not be learned in an educational setting.

    If you are looking to work in a LORT type company, then you will want more educational experience as that is what they look for. I was a technical director at a theater that had a LORT B theater company that had residence in one of the theaters. I wouldn't have been able to hold as high of a position if I worked directly for the theater company simply due to which degree I obtained. It's good to look and see what position you want to hold and check with HR of that company to see what education is required of that position. That will help you decide if you want to transfer after your two year degree or get out into the work force.
     
  16. burgherandfries

    burgherandfries Member

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    It's all about how you use it. If you make the most of all the experience you can get, you'll go far. As far as an Associate's vs. Bachelor's, of course having the B.A. or the B.F.A. is going to be regarded as better than the A.A., but it may also free you up for more work experience. The way I look at it, if you want to get to the "highest level" possible, the better degree will probably get you there faster. If you want to be a manager of some sort or eventually teach, go for the degree. If you want to be a kick-ass technician. take the experience.
     
  17. Henning

    Henning Member

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    While I haven't been talking with the staff themselves, one of my directors from high school directs shows professionally in the cities and has great praise for their TD.

    I should also mention I have a ton of experience on the high school level. While I've worked all the schools productions, I've also found myself on the theaters facilities staff. Giving me what I feel is a good relationship with a few people professionals in the area. My only question about this is, do most professionals view this experience as credible? Obviously I don't know everything, but I feel this gives me a "competitive edge" against other kids my age trying to get into the industry. Am I wrong? will I get laughed at if I consider this as experience?
     
  18. burgherandfries

    burgherandfries Member

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    No! You're spot on. Experience is experience and it sounds like you have more than most high school grads looking to get into the industry.
     
  19. MadADDer

    MadADDer Member

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    I don't have a degree at all, I have a Community college diploma for electronics technician, specializing in computers. While in college, I landed a role in a community theater production, and caught the bug. It wasn't long before I got backstage talking shop with the Electricians, and not long after that that I was lighting tech for the next show.

    A few years -- and a few cities -- later, I started working as a lighting tech on a contract basis, eventually landing the gig I have now. It's still part-time, but it is a steady paycheck.
     
  20. robartsd

    robartsd Active Member

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    Do you mean that you have a diploma for a certificate program rather than a diploma for an associates degree program. Many colleges (especially community colleges) offer some of their programs with in a degree program as we'll as a certificate program. Usually the certificate program has all the same core major requirements, but very little (if any) general education requirements. A certificate program is great for someone who has limited resources (time and/or money) for school but needs to show potential employers that they have aquired a certain skill. A degree would indicate to employers that the candidate is also capable of general learning/thinking as well as any skills specific to the major.
     

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