Game Programmer: Career and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a game programmer. Learn about education requirements, job duties, areas of specialization, career outlook and projected salary to find out if this is the right career is for you. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Video Game Programmer?

Video game programmers use their skills in computer science and software programming to create code that can be easily adapted to video games. They work closely with game designers to implement the vision for a specific game, and they typically test their code for bugs and other performance issues. In some cases, they may also suggest design elements to improve gameplay. Read the below chart for more information.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Computer science, video game development, 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) 19% for applications software developers*
Median Salary (2016) $64,705**

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

What Do Video Programmers Do?

As a video game programmer, you are in charge of planning and coding the software for video games. You do not have the same job duties as a video game designer, who designs levels, characters and storylines for a particular game. Your job is to develop the codebase that makes those designs come to life.

Can I Specialize in the Field?

Technology has broadened the field of video game programming, and created specializations from which you can choose. For example, you can focus on graphics engine programming, and specialize in programming 3-D graphics. You may also be a gameplay programmer, and focus on the logic and mechanics particular to a specific game. You may choose to become a lead game programmer, and take on the responsibility and management of all programming that goes into a particular game.

What Should I Study?

Many game development companies prefer to hire programmers who have at least a bachelor's degree. Several degree programs might prepare you for the field, including those more general programs in computer programming and mathematics. However some schools do offer specialized degree programs, such as a Bachelor of Science in Game Programming.

A 4-year degree program in game programming teaches you how to design, program and test new software. Such programs often require you to create your own video game program before graduation. Some specific courses covered include visual design, programming, game development, computer graphics and game modification. A bachelor's degree program in software engineering will also provide you with the basic building blocks necessary to work in the video game programming field.

What Is The Job Outlook?

Although there is no data available for the job outlook specific to video game programmers, the general field of software developers is projected to grow faster than average. Between 2014 and 2024, applications software developer jobs are projected to grow 19%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A large increase in demand for computer software is the primary reason for this rapid employment growth.

How Much Might I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report data related to game programmers. However, the BLS did report that software developers held more than 1,114,000 jobs in the United States in 2014. According to PayScale.com, in October 2016 the median annual salary for software developers of games was $64,705.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other computing careers that require only a bachelor's degree include computer hardware engineering, computer network architecture, and computer and information systems management. Hardware engineers create and develop computer products and systems. They work with processors, memory devices, servers, networks, and circuit boards. As a computer network architect, you'd build and maintain network communication systems, such as LANs (local area networks). As a computer and information manager, you'd plan, design and direct projects to meet the computing needs of organizations. It's important to note that managerial positions typically require significant work experience.

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