Originally posted by keithlango
I'm very familiar with the Ringling program. I know the faculty and have been involved as a visiting artist and guest lecturer on several occasions over the last several years.
In my opinion, the quality of the education in the Ringling Computer Animation department is top notch. There's a strong emphasis on traditional art throughout, as well as for developing the ability to tell a story. The faculty are constantly inviting working professional artists to review and critique student work in progress. Every year the faculty also hires working pros to come and do faculty training so that they stay current with the industry. Not to mention that the faculty also do a fair amount of actual professional freelance work during the off months of the year. So there's no basis for implying the Ringling program is not among the best in the world from a quality of education standpoint.
Having said that, going to Ringling is not a guarantee that you'll get a high paying job in the CG industry right out of school. I'd say a good 50% of each graduating class isn't ready for the job market upon graduation. They need more work on their own time after graduation to get up to par. I make that judgement based on a simple question: Would I hire this person right now as a junior artist in my studio? To more than half the graduates I'd say that answer would be "No, not yet."
Is that a fault of the program? I don't think it is. Those are actually pretty good averages for hire-able people from a given pool of graduates. I've seen entire classes of students coming from other programs that I wouldn't hire if you held a gun to my head.
Every year there's 1 or 2 Ringling graduates who are so good they have multiple offers awaiting them upon graduaton. Then there's the next level, perhaps the top 5-8 graduates who will get a job offer within 2 months of graduation. There's the next level of students (perhaps 10-15 of the 35 or so who graduate) will need to work on their reels on their own time for a period of 6-12 months after graduation, occasionally getting a spot assignment here or there until they can catch on with more consistent work. They have training and ability, they just need to get more practice and grow in their skills. Even so, that's not bad. Again I've seen whole classes of graduates from other schools that I would say would need years of additional work on their own in order to be good enough to get in as a junior level artist.
Sadly, just as every graduating class from Ringling produces some super stars, it also produces it's share of duds. People who never took the program seriously, rebelled against the faculty's instruction because they thought they knew it all already or were so talented that they didn't need to listen, folks who goofed off or didn't feel a burning need to improve their craft and take advantage of the opportunities they'd been given. Almost universally the people who fall into this category have their schooling paid for by their parents. Such folks likely will never work in the CG industry without a significant change of attitude, but they won't have any loans either. They'll just have taken their parents for a $100,000 joy ride on the sunny beaches along the Gulf Coast of Florida.
When calculating the costs of the education, you need to weigh what it's worth to you to have access to knowledgeable, well trained faculty, industry pro reviews and a competitive class environment which will push you artistically. The typical pay for a graduating Cg artist from Ringling may be a bit higher than from your usual Art Institute, but not much. After all this is a merit driven business that judges the artist by their work, not by their class ring. The hire-able Ringling graduates have offers that are typically in the $30-40,000 range. Maybe $45k if it's the right studio or game company. But not typically. Still, $30-40k is quite good for a first job right out of school. The top guys will get a bit more (maybe $50-65k, but VERY rarely). The folks who have to work on their reels for a few months will get less to start because they won't be walking into the top studios right away. Overall the payoff is not bad for a typical graduate. But you'd better not be dreaming for a 6 figure income right out of school because that just doesn't happen anymore. That pay scale is reserved for high end TD's, senior level artists with many years of experience and supervisors. The occasional production artist may hit that mark in a very few select studios if they work a ton of paid overtime (key word here is "paid"). But fresh graduates won't get a sniff of anything near 6 figures, not even superstar Ringling graduates.
The way to ensure that you get an offer for employment when graduating from Ringling is to be in that top 5-10 students in your class. Those are the folks who will get work. The rest have to do it the way the rest of us mere mortals do and work their way up from the bottom over a longer period of time. You need to HONESTLY assess your abilities right now. If you cannot say with confidence that you are capable of producing work that is on par with the SIGGRAPH Electronic Theater or Animation Theater shorts coming out of Ringling each year, then you're best served not spending your money to go there. You're better served keeping your overall debt load low and taking the longer, slower path to a job in this business because that's the way you'll have to go if you can't do stuff that is on the same level as something like Poor Bogo.
That's just my opinion.