<QUOTE>She's mentioned a few times having an interest in possibly pursuing a career that combines those interests, and I'd love to encourage her to do that. </QUOTE>
That sounds like a great idea! And go you for supporting her, you rock.
My personal opinion - I've known excellent artists with a variety of degrees (or lack of 'em) - I'm not sure there's a perfect path. The things I'd suggest aren't just about getting a position, but also doing everything you can to be a better artist:
Know what you love!
Is it drawing, making 3D models, texturing, animation, or a combo? Some of these specializations are easier to be hired at than others in the industry - some (concept art for instance) are hard to break into since there are a lot of folks doing it! So find the area you're likely to go into and focus on that as you...
Make things for fun - always!
Practice makes perfect, and more than any degree a portfolio that wows will open more doors than anywhere else - so that IMO is the best bet.
It's hard to attract attention in the early stages
- it is the toughest bit to find a path through. That will be a tricky stage to get through, and proving that you're good at what you do is the best way to do it - but do realize even then it isn't easy to break in! When we started Turbine, in part it was so we could get a game on our resumes so we could go get "real jobs" later because it was hard to stand out in the flood of folks trying to get into the industry.
Watch folks you respect in the industry
- I follow a friend of mine who is an amazing animator. Oddly enough, almost all of HIS buddies are amazing animators - and I started following them too,until my twitter feed is full of people doing animations at Riot, Blizzard, etc. who completely knock my socks off. It's not even about the networking aspect; it's about seeing in real time folks who love what they do and are constantly improving and challenging themselves, and using that as inspiration and learning. Works great in the art and design side in particular (I write a bit of server code and it's tough to show off on twitter)
Being at that stage is a wonderful time to learn lots, absorb everything, and try your hand at everything.
A question - where does she WANT to be?
- If she wants to get on a big team someday, then focusing to be GREAT in one area is key - after all, if you were hiring a big team, would you rather have two folks "pretty good" at animating and texturing who might be the weakest on their respective teams, or one fantastic animator and one fantastic texturer who could each only do the one thang?
- Alternatively, small teams love generalists! After all, you might not be able to hire or need 5 fulltime specialists - but if you could hire one really skilled person who can handle a bunch of modeling, VFX, etc. and then get some assistance occasionally in the area they are weakest in, that'd be tremendous.
- Another argument to branch out early before specializing - it's a great time to find what you enjoy/are good at! We were always really stoked to find artists who knew the whole process enough so that they could make a new character from concept to model to texture to animation to VFX - knowing the pipeline meant that they could make a smartly vertexed model with efficient U/Ving even if they weren't doing the texturing itself (or many other variants). And those kinds of folks who know a bit about it all a) are showing they're the folks with a love of learning and curiosity that are fun to work with and b) are the ones who might be managing an art team someday.
Anyways, my TL;DR:
Make stuff! Learn lots! Have fun! Grab friends and do little projects, and be proud of successes and happily seek out the bits that turned out funny/bad/weird/not as you expected, because finding that out is a key part of it all to tackle on the next thang. And keep an eye on what folks are doing in the industry and use that to challenge yourself while realizing they were just like you not too long ago.
Worst case, you'll end up becoming a better artist with lots of little projects under your belt, a better understanding of yourself, and an eye on what folks are doing in the industry - not so bad!