Everyone has heard by now that the metaverse is set to be a multi-trillion dollar business opportunity -widely seen by many brands and corporations as the next evolution of the internet.
But beyond it being a term for the digital, persistent, and highly immersive virtual worlds we will become used to, what it actually is – or will be – is up for debate!
This is simply because the idea and concepts are still emerging. Huge companies like Facebook and Microsoft are throwing vast sums of money at their attempts to build, and therefore define, the metaverse. Basically, if the metaverse is the new internet, then everyone wants to be the new Google – holding the keys to the huge amounts of money to be made from selling advertising there.
This means that there is undoubtedly a mountain of opportunities for the rest of us, too. Ultimately, the future of the metaverse will be defined by the people that create it. This means the coders, designers, artists, writers, and pioneers who do everything from building the fundamental structure to populating it with content that will attract users.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways for you to stake your claim for a place in this new-age gold rush. Although it’s very new, many of the basic skills needed to take part relate to fields of technology, business, or design that are already well established. These include skills and knowledge that can be learned at colleges and universities all over the world. If you’re studying (or considering studying) one of these subjects, it’s possible that, although the course may not have the word “metaverse” in the title, course leaders will be very aware of their subjects’ relevance.
So, here’s a look at some of the courses that will be valuable if you’re interested in a career involving the metaverse and where you will get the chance to learn them in a formal educational environment.
Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Computer Science
At the most fundamental level, the metaverse will be built by software engineers. A bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in the subject is still likely to give you the best all-round grounding in the skills and toolsets needed to get involved. A computer science degree will teach you programming, as well as the fundamentals of data and database management, how hardware works, and networking. Today, a computer science degree is also likely to be your best opportunity to learn newer metaverse-related technologies such as blockchain and web3 decentralized platforms in a formal educational environment, too. There are more glamorous subjects you could study that will be just as likely to land you a place creating the future of the metaverse, but if you are technically inclined, then this is possibly the option that will open the most doors. Starting salaries for metaverse roles that require computer science skills – such as software engineers, network engineers, or DevOps engineers – are great too. Good high school level or equivalent grades in mathematics and science subjects will be useful in securing a place in one of the best computer science undergraduate or graduate-level degree courses, such as those offered by Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the U.S., Tsinghua University in Beijing, China, The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, or Oxford University in the U.K.
Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in UX Design
This is a new field, and the relevant skills are often taught in more generalized degree programs such as design or computer science. However, a few degree programs specifically for people wanting to learn user experience design are starting to emerge. UX design focuses on creating computer programs that offer a great experience to the user. Generally speaking, this involves creating intuitive interfaces that allow users to quickly and easily achieve their goals while reducing friction that can be caused by bad design. It incorporates aspects of traditional disciplines, including design, communication studies, and even psychology. Some university courses that you might consider would be the Master of Human-Computer Interaction degree offered by Carnegie Mellon University or the M.S. in Human Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington, in the U.S., the Master of Interaction Design degree at the University of Queensland, Australia, the Postgraduate Diploma of Information and Interface Design at the National Institute of Design, Bangalore, India, or the MSc in Human Computer Interactions at UCL, London, UK.
BSc or M.A. in Game Design
The metaverse concept emerged from the world of computer and video gaming, which has been creating vast, interactive, multi-user environments for decades. Game development engines such as Unity and Unreal Engine were first created in order to make virtual worlds where we can compete in sports, puzzles, or just blow each other up with futuristic weapons. Many of the emergent metaverse experiences – such as Roblox, Fortnite, and The Sandbox – came about due to gaming and game-related technology. Gaming may be just one element of the broader vision of what the metaverse will eventually become. Today, however, it’s the creative and business field that perhaps gives us the best opportunity to develop experiences that tick all the metaverse boxes – persistent, avatar-driven, experiential, and multi-user. A game design-related degree is likely to give you the opportunity to formally study graphic design, environment design, U.I. design, mixed reality (M.R.), elements of web3 such as decentralized and blockchain gaming, and the challenges around creating immersive multi-user experiences. Among the university courses considered to be the best in the world are the MFA in Interactive Media at the University of Southern California, U.S., B.A., BSc, and even Ph.D. courses at Michigan State University, U.S., or the BSc in Computer Games Design at Staffordshire University, U.K.
Degree in Virtual/ Augmented/ Extended Reality
Virtual reality (V.R.) and augmented reality (A.R.) – sometimes discussed together as extended reality (X.R.) or combined to create mixed reality (M.R.), are just some of the ways users will experience the 3D, immersive worlds of the metaverse. If you’re interested in a formal degree that will teach you to build these worlds, then it’s likely to be an option in many computer science or design-related degrees. If you study a computer science degree (B.S., MS, or Ph.D.) at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, for example, you can take advantage of the opportunity to learn at the U.W. Reality Lab, which undertakes advanced VR/AR research. Similarly, computer science students at MIT can take advantage of the faculties offered by the MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality. However, as with other metaverse-aligned fields of study such as U.I. design, it’s quickly becoming so popular that it’s recognized as a discipline in its own right, with dedicated degree courses. The University of the Arts, London’s College of Communication, offers a B.A. (Hons) course in virtual reality, while The University of West England has an M.A. course in Virtual and Extended Realities.
To stay on top of the latest on the metaverse and wider business and tech trends, make sure to subscribe to my newsletter and have a look at my new book, Extended Reality in Practice, which just won the Business Book of the Year 2022 in the Specialist Book category.
You can also follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube. And don’t forget to check out my website.