Are Esports Degrees Worthwhile?

As the esports industry becomes increasingly popular, educational institutions are attempting to prepare young people for the future. At the forefront of this push are the many esports degrees offered by colleges and universities around the world. From player-based degrees to esports organizational management qualifications, and from physiotherapy to psychology, esports degrees can be quite diverse. However, we’re here today to discuss whether they’re even worthwhile and to address whether they’re being done properly.

For those looking to boost their chances of landing a top-tier esports career, a degree might be the right way to go. However, for the most part, the esports industry is fueled by experience and transferable skills, with many professionals transitioning over from other, more traditional career paths. It seems that we’re yet to raise a generation of esports professionals that are learning and training specifically for entry into the industry.

Let’s take a look at the esports degrees on offer today, determine how well defined they are, and ultimately, whether it’s even worthwhile gaining one.

esports-degrees

Esports degrees aren’t just certificates for playing games.

Esports Degrees: A Multi-Sided Concept

For several years, the concept of securing an ‘esports degree’ has been growing in popularity. However, when we talk about the degrees offered by traditional colleges and universities, a potential concern starts to surface. Are these institutions offering these degrees simply to stay connected to emerging industries and ‘the youth of today’, or are they meaningful, worthwhile, and above all else, relevant?

If you’re looking into picking up an esports-related degree, you’ll notice that, for the most part, they tend to be remarkably broad. For instance, at Falmouth University in the UK, an Esports BA(Hons) degree will see you pick up the following skills:

  • How to set up livestreams and mediate esports matches.
  • Build a working knowledge of media production methods.
  • Evaluate the production of livestreamed content.
  • Develop an understanding of brand management.
  • Work in teams to run esports events.

With a full-time study plan, this course will take a minimum of three years to complete. Now, arguably, in the same period of time, a content creator or an esports professional could simply learn many of these skills in the real world. While you can really say that about many career choices, the chief concern here is that almost every esports professional out there today has cut their teeth in the business and hasn’t bothered with picking up an esports degree.

In the United Kingdom, esports degrees remain considerably diverse, covering a wide range of areas. If we look at the United States, we see insights into the more business-focused areas, such as in the BoS Esports and Gaming degree offered by the University of New Haven:

  • Intro to business analytics.
  • Intro to financial accounting.
  • Operations management.
  • Esports business.
  • Sports marketing.

At Shenandoah University, these areas are expanded with the inclusion of health care management, and entrepreneurship modules.

Esports Degrees: Certification to Compete

If you’re going to become an esports competitor, there’s absolutely no reason to pick up an esports degree. While many US-based universities and colleges offer ‘varsity esports‘ programs, they’re less about the esports education and more about the inter-university competitive systems. In the United Kingdom, there’s almost no platform in place to support a similar system.

Ultimately, from the ESL Pro League to the Call of Duty League, and from the Overwatch League to The International, almost every single player has got to where they are based on individual merit and simply playing the game. Therefore, it stands to reason that if you’re simply desiring to become a competitor, no, an esports degree is by no means worthwhile.

Let’s assume that you’re interested in one of the many career paths that are opening up within esports that are outside of simply competing. For instance, in recent years, the following options have begun surfacing:

  • Esports Coach (fitness, nutrition, psychology)
  • PR/Marketing
  • Business Management
  • Product Manager
  • Event Manager
  • Community Manager
  • Journalist

If you’ve got your sights set on one of these professional career paths, then all of a sudden, an esports degree becomes much more worthwhile. For instance, if you’re aiming to become a healthcare professional specialising in esports, you’ll need extensive training and an intense education plan. If you’re eager to manage a high-functioning esports business, then a degree in esports business management would be integral to succeeding.

However, it’s important to stress that an ‘esports degree’ doesn’t necessarily mean much in the bigger picture. For instance, there’s the fact that experience often trumps education, and a business manager of twenty years is still more likely to land a role than a freshly educated individual with an esports degree. That doesn’t make an esports degree immediately worthless, but it is a great indicator of the value of an esports degree in the current industry.

The Working Example

drdisrespect-esports-degrees

DrDisrespect is one of the most successful esports professionals in the world.

Let’s put it like this, as the majority of those looking to enter the esports industry are either competitors or streamers:

  • Pokimane – studied Chemical Engineering, dropped out
  • Dr Disrespect – played basketball in college
  • Shroud – began gaming out of high school
  • PewDiePie – studied Industrial Economics, dropped out
  • TimTheTatman – studied social working
  • Ninja – dropped out of college, started gaming

If we look across the board, almost every single competitor and big industry name has an unrelated degree or never pursued higher education. On the other end of the spectrum, on the management side, we see a similar story.

  • Lee Trink (CEO FaZe Clan) – BA Psychology, Business
  • Hector Rodriguez (CEO OpTic Gaming) – Mortgage Advisor
  • Clayton Raines (Esports Presenter) – Pol Science, Criminal Justice

On that last note, Clayton ‘CaptainFlowers’ Raines made a joking comment about how disconnected his education is from his career:

Ultimately, while there’s definitely value in a business, financial, physiological, or management degree, they’re by no means needed to break into the esports industry. If you’re aiming to be a competitor or a content creator, you’d be better off simply diving in and learning as you go. There are many esports degrees out there, but you’ll be spending three or four years of your life learning theoretically what you could learn practically by just getting involved.

As time goes on and more young people become interested in breaking into the esports industry, we may see an uptick in esports degree accumulation. It’s already a competitive industry and the number of jobs versus the number of applicants is tightening as the popularity of the industry grows immeasurably. For now, these courses and certifications remain relatively niche, with most professionals merging across from other, more traditional career paths.

Are esports degrees worthwhile right now? Probably not.

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