Video Game Programmer Jobs: Career & Salary Facts

Video game programmers write the software that transforms the ideas and concepts of game designers into languages that can be comprehended by computers. Continue reading to learn more about working on the technical side of the video game world, including common education requirements, related job titles and earning potential. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Video Game Programmer?

If you are into coding and video games you could become a video game programmer. Video game programmers are experts with code. These professionals speak the various computer languages and help create programs for successful video games. Game designers need video game programmers so their fantasies can come to life. Programmers take the creations of animators and render them with sound, music, and dialogue to make a successful video game.

Video game programmers use the skills and training of a software engineer, apply these skills in the video game industry. Read the chart below for more information.

Degree Required Bachelor's Degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, video game development, mathematics, software programming or related field
Key Responsibilities Create and implement original video games, code complicated algorithms to adapt to video game software, build and test various video game software, participate in the design and development of games
Job Growth (2014-2024) 17% for applications software developers*
Median Salary (2017) $99,452 for Sr. software engineers and developers**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Education Will I Need to Obtain a Job as a Video Game Programmer?

To prepare for a career as a video game programmer, you should obtain a bachelor's degree in computer science. Similar fields, such as electrical engineering and cognitive science, might also give you the necessary preparation. A typical computer science bachelor's degree program might consist of such courses as software engineering, general science, software techniques and tools, electronic digital circuitry, electrical engineering, compiler construction and physics.

Computer science programs with a game design specialization may offer classes such as game design studio, assembly language laboratory, data structures, applied mathematics, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, database systems and computer animation. You might also study classes such as applied networking, simulation methods, introduction to motion pictures, game programming, visual art and interactive graphics.

What Skills Will I Need?

Video game programmers should be familiar with the application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK). Extensive math knowledge will also be required, so you should take high school and college-level algebra, trigonometry and geometry courses. You will need to gain knowledge of scripting languages, including Ruby, Perl, Python and Lua. Additionally, programming language courses such as Assembly, Java, C and C++ will be necessary.

What are Some Video Game Programmer Jobs?

There are several areas of video game programming in which you could specialize. As a graphics programmer, you could collaborate with artists to hone animation playback. If you become an artificial intelligence programmer, it would be your job to write the rules and codes which govern the movement of video game characters, making them appear realistic. Another option is to become a tool programmer, who writes and develops software and creates scripting and game-conversion tools which facilitate specific game functions. You might even become an engine programmer, responsible for creating the codes and software which determine how a video game is played.

How Much Money Could I Earn?

According to PayScale.com, software developers in the game software industry earned median annual salaries of $61,932 as of January, 2017 (www.payscale.com). Senior software engineers, developers and programmers were paid a median of $99,452 per year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) didn't have salary data for video game programmers. However, it was indicated that computer software engineers (the category which encompasses video game programmers) in the computer design services industry earned $100,690 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Careers related to video game programming could be as a professional in computer network architecture. A bachelor's degree in computer programming helps also in finding work as a computer hardware engineer, or in computer and information systems management. A hardware engineer creates and develops computer products and systems like processors, networks, wireless devices, servers, and circuit boards. You might consider a career path as a computer and information manager - planning, designing and directing projects for various organizations to meet their network needs. Another related job field be working as a computer network architect who builds network communications systems or local area networks. This career will need you to earn a bachelor's degree in the field.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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