The Education vs. Experience Debate: Do You Need a Degree to Work in Entertainment?

Since the birth of higher education, students’ plans have followed a linear path. Get a degree within the field of interest and use the degree to get a job. Straight forward, simple, happily ever after -- if you want a traditional desk job.

 

When it comes to job seeking within creative industries such as entertainment, the plan of attack is not always so clear cut. Internships, portfolios, references and demo reels are often just as important (if not more so) than a diploma. So how do you strike a balance between the education and experience you need to land your dream job in the entertainment industry?

 

First of all, you need to evaluate the necessities. Check job listings that interest you and see what the requirements are. If a bachelor’s degree in a specific field is non-negotiable for your dream job, it’s worth the investment to go through school and get it. In many cases in the entertainment industry, however, a degree is placed under the “nice to have” column if mentioned at all.

 

Most employers would agree that on-the-job training provides the best skills for aspiring entertainment industry workers. Internships give you the kind of real life experience that the classroom never can. In an ideal world, formal education would provide workers with the foundational knowledge needed to land an internship, where they will learn the ins and outs of the business.

 

If you don’t have a degree at all, start in a program that is most likely to open the right doors for you. If you’re already in school but haven’t completed your degree, take the time to pick up a few specialized classes in your chosen field. Even if your diploma lists a major outside of the entertainment industry, specific classes that interest you will help you hone your skills and provide work to add to your portfolio.

 

If you already have a degree completely unrelated to entertainment and are debating going back to school, weigh your options carefully. College comes with a high price tag, and the first few years in a new industry can be financially unsure. Make sure you know where you’re headed if you decide to take out more loans for a new major. 

 

In many industries, enrollment in college is required to get an internship. For example, most news stations won’t allow aspiring broadcasters to intern with them unless it’s for college credit. In these cases, college is partly about the education and partly about the opportunities it opens up outside of the classroom.

 

Ultimately, it comes down to your unique goals and situation. Everyone’s path will be a little different. Some production assistants have master’s degrees and some entertainment managers have a GED. Like most things in life, your education and experience are worth what you put into them. 

 

Regardless of where you fall on the entertainment and education spectrum, there’s always a new opportunity for you to flex your creative muscle. Search for entertainment internships, entertainment jobs, production jobs and more on our extensive database.

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