How to Land a Career in Realtime Technology Without The Burden of Student Loans

vfx jobs virtual production Dec 20, 2023
College degree alternatives for artists

Becoming part of the professional world of virtual production or games is an enticing opportunity for both creative and technical minds. It has been one of the fastest growing industries this year, yet, there’s a looming cloud hovering over aspiring artists — the burden of student loans. 


In a recent article by The Street personal finance expert Dave Ramsey made waves by labeling student loans as "The Biggest Scam in History," igniting a discussion that resonates deeply with those navigating these industries.  Even worse, once a student leaves with student loans there is very little support to getting the successful career needed to pay these accruing bills off.


There are complex layers surrounding student loans and their impact on individuals pursuing their passions. For artists who dream of contributing to the evolution of entertainment — the traditional narrative of a four-year university education is being challenged. 


Codie Sanchez points out on Instagram that America 2.0 is being challenged, because “we brainwash kids until they are 18 and tell them they have to go to college and go 100k in debt or they’ll never succeed, make student loan unforgivable, more expensive yearly and yet their parents’ tax dollars go to those same schools.  [Then you] make it illegal to have unpaid internships where you actually learn, rather than just theorize, pressure the top performers to go into two of the most uncreative jobs out there, wall street and consulting, or idealize startups that will require sleeping on floors, racking up massive debt from VCs so 1 out of 10 of them can end up on the cover of Fortune…”  Listen to the full clip here.  

Student Loan Struggles  


Ramsey's skepticism about the government's commitment to forgiving student loans strikes a chord with many professionals in these creative sectors. What is promised is not always fulfilled — and the burden of having to take on student loans can be crippling. 

As an example, here is the cost of going to UCLA per year for an undergraduate program in film.


An undergraduate is likely to pay around $71,000 dollars per academic year. Over a four year period, that equates to around $284,000. This means an individual would be paying interest on that amount for the rest of their lives.


Success in the industry does not always equate to financial stability. 


Some seasoned artists have confided that, even a decade into their well-standing careers, they find themselves locked in a perpetual struggle to pay off student loans, barely making a dent in the principal amount due to the accrual of interest.


Of course, this approach also assumes that people who go through the system will actually find work when they graduate.  


In a Business Insider article, one source states “I'm an almost 25-year-old chick going against corporate ass America … people with so much experience. All I got is my degree. People say get your degree, but then they don't talk about how you need experience. The degree was the experience," she added.


Speaking of which, if you recently acquired a degree and are under the burden of debt, the deadline “to consolidate loans via the federal Direct consolidation program to become eligible for student loan forgiveness under the IDR Account Adjustment should be done by December 31, 2023.”


An Alternative Approach


The emphasis on practical experience cannot be overstated for those passionate about thriving in their careers in these specialized roles. 


Many successful professionals in the field attribute their achievements to learning on the job through internships and hands-on experiences. 


Contrary to the conventional thoughts that a four-year university education is the only path to success, industry insiders argue that individual, targeted classes, certain community colleges, and internships can provide necessary skills without the hefty price tag. 


Thinking Outside the Box


For individuals with a clear vision of their career path — it may be time to reconsider the traditional route of a four-year university. 


Thinking outside the box involves exploring alternative education options that are cost-effective, community oriented, and tailored to the specific needs of the industry. CG Pro has many personalized options for those interested: 


Class Options in Film 


Class Options in Game Design 


The courses that are taught at CG Pro bring you together with the growing school of artists who have taken courses or are teaching courses (world side) and building these relationships is what typically leads to work.


Investing time and resources in targeted courses and real-world experiences might be the key to unlocking a successful career without the added stress of student loan debt. For areas that might need further study community college is a less expensive and more viable option.




As the debate over the value of a traditional university education continues, those with a background in virtual production must navigate the landscape wisely. 


Ramsey's warning about the student loan "scam" serves as a wake-up call for aspiring artists to re-evaluate their educational choices. 


It's time to break free from the weight of student loans and forge a path that aligns with the dynamic nature of this industry.