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Students have been awarded for years for their athletic prowess, sent away to colleges on full-ride scholarships for incredible endurance, strength, and teamwork abilities. The modern variant of these educational opportunities is esports education programs.
Skeptics may wonder about the value behind these programs or if they are a scam. Parents and loved ones can rest assured esports education is real and thriving. It promotes competitive and niche skills in a growing industry — potentially worth $5.48 billion by 2029. What could playing video games in college do for learning, and how does that influence the student’s chance at reliable work post-grad?
What Is Esports?
Esports represent competitive electronic sports — sometimes called varsity esports. Not all games are competitive. The ones with a reputation for being so have cult followings, collecting millions of spectators worldwide.
With social media influencing and ad revenue, it’s feasible for prospective college students to enter school to learn the finesse of esports and make a living on it. Schools realized investing in training esports athletes yields specialized, entertaining performers.
Parents rolling their eyes as children spend hours gaming may have a narrow perspective on the potential of dedicated play. Meanwhile, gamers are testing their fine motor, collaboration, communication, and analytical skills more heavily in each match than in most educational settings.
The nonprofit organization NACE, the National Association of Collegiate Esports, pioneered advocacy for the legitimacy of esports. Then, companies like Intel created resources for schools to start their esports and gaming programs, including instruction for inclusive and accessible environments. Traditional athletics that treasure physical capabilities and entertainment are just as valid as esports — these athletes are just trading physical training for mental training.
Can You Get a Degree in Esports?
You can get a degree in esports, though the industry is versatile. Students can find jobs in the sector with business, marketing, IT, and other technology-related degrees. Many schools around the U.S. have esports-specific education programs. These are examples of the more specialized and quality programs in the U.S. making waves in esports education curricula:
- Shenandoah University, Bachelor of Business Administration in Esports Management
- Full Sail University, Bachelor of Science in Game Simulation and Visualization
- Saint Peter’s University, Bachelor of Business in Esports Business
- Lambton College, two-year program in Esports Entrepreneurship
- Esports-specific training from Boise State University, University of California Irvine, Miami University, or University of Pikeville, among others
There are other industry jobs to pursue if you want to engage with esports but not train to be a player, including:
- Social media manager or media coverage
- Content creator
- Videographer or streamer
- Web developer
- Talent agent
- Event or competition organizer or promoter — though this is sometimes exclusive to game developers but may require help from internal teams to execute
- Instructor or referee
- University recruiter
How Normalized Are Esports?
As you can see, there are traditional education routes or intensive training opportunities for gamers. Those training to be a player may not receive a degree, much like a football player wouldn’t acquire a degree in football, but the community environment and coaching is present.
The variety in these games is unmatched. It ranges from learning precision reaction time in the car-powered soccer game Rocket League or strategic, synergetic deck-building mastery in Hearthstone.
Though gamers appear to have tunnel vision, they merely experience a flow state where they exercise mental prowess and social skills to their highest potential. There’s even a market for students with a crossover passion for traditional sports and video games with hits like the FIFA and Madden games.
Technically, no education is required to obtain an esports job. With esports educational programs becoming more popular and available, the competition could become stiffer as time passes. It might make the plunge into formal education more enticing. Experience is vital for esports professionals, as team managers will want to see play times, rankings, and other relevant metrics.
What Is Life Like After an Esports Education Program?
Some students may wonder if esports degrees are worth it, especially as higher education becomes less of a priority for younger generations. Students who prioritize the intrinsic value of education will inevitably gain more from a degree, though many are content with experience and skill alone. The more competitive the industry, the more valuable these degrees and programs could become.
However, applying to esports jobs as a gamer or otherwise will require a robust resume, as with any job. Gamers would encounter similar obstacles as entertainers or athletes attempting to find an agent, sponsors, or team to sign with. However, there are plenty of ways to get noticed nowadays, such as having a sizeable Twitch following, attending competitions, and networking with coaches.
Asking if esports pays well depends on where you are in the industry. Gamers have the potential for the most due to the high rewards from competition prizes. However, those boons may fall into laps inconsistently. However, sponsorships can carry most players’ salaries, which vary depending on their contracts. Here are some of the most popular games with specific training programs at universities with the highest earning potential:
- PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS, also known as PUBG
- StarCraft II
- Dota 2
- Rocket League
- Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, also known as CS:GO
- League of Legends, also known as LoL
- Arena of Valor
Loved ones may be concerned about their students’ abilities to get a practical job in the esports world. Depending on what the student wants, they have as much chance as any other job — potentially more with how much it’s growing. The value of an esports education program could help here, too, as it increases networking opportunities.
Validating Esports Education Programs
Video games have a mixed reputation. Yet, humanity lives in a world where accredited higher education institutions recognize their educational value. Now, there’s a space for gamers wanting to refine their skills and connect with enthusiastic fans of these beloved games. With millions of dollars of potential earnings waiting beside controllers and keyboards, it’s a challenge not to fall into the alluring dream of playing video games for a living.