Back to School
An alternative to finding an alternate position at SoftwareCompany (or, AnotherSoftwareCompany, for that matter) was to look into a career change.
Career changes usually meant more school, and school meant money, so I wanted to look carefully before I leapt.
Still, there was one career I thought I wouldn’t mind getting into: Video Games.
Gaming was half of the reason I became a computer science major in the first place. And more than a couple of my college projects involved the creation of simple digital diversions. I programmed a card game, a pac man clone, and a basic 3D engine from the ground-up.
But I didn’t want to program engines and rules. Nope, what I really wanted to do was draw and model, and then map those characters and shapes into games. I called a few companies and poked around job listings. Sega was based right in San Francisco, and Electronic Arts was close by. Turned out that they preferred graduates from one particular university: The San Francisco Art Institute.
I took a tour and was blown away. The professors seemed fun and engaging, and they taught all sorts of neat classes like wire-framing, pixel art, polygon reduction techniques, as well as basics like drawing, shading, lighting. It seemed perfect for a guy like me who appreciates the intersection of computing and artistic design.
Then I looked at the cost: 25K a year for tuition. Another 11 for board.
I spoke to a few people in the financial aid office. They said that most people qualified for something, and given some ballpark figures I provided, I’d probably get down to about 24K a year total for a 3 year program.
So we were talking 75K for the duration.
I ran some additional numbers. I was making 70K a year, keeping perhaps 48K after taxes. 48×3 = 144K.
I’d pay 75K and miss out on earning 144K, making the total cost of going to school a staggering 219 thousand dollars after factoring in that opportunity cost. It’s even more (much, much more!) when you consider the compound growth of that dollar amount over time, had I been able to save it instead of spend.
For a pile of money that large, I’d better be absolutely ecstatic in my new job as a video game developer. I’d better be jumping out of bed every morning with a smile permanently affixed to my face, joker-style. I’d better be drenched in liquid awesome from my helium-filled head to my constantly tapping toes.
Would I be? In order to answer that question, I had to do some additional investigation.