Jobs in Computer Game Design: Careers and Salary Facts

Research what it takes to become a computer game designer. Learn about job duties, job outlook, and salary information to find out if this is the career for you. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Computer Game Designer?

When board games went digital an entirely new field of career study was created. To bring games to life on a computer you need to be a little bit artist, something of a creator, some part writer, and all parts developer. As a computer game designer you would be in charge of entire worlds from fantasy/sci-fi first person shooters to history based role play games. You take ideas and work with a team to create characters, develop a plot, design backgrounds and storyboards. Everyone has his assignment and spends hours at computer screens coding the vision of the team.

As a computer game designer you will design and create the characters or settings that populate computer games. Take a look at the table below to get some quick facts about careers in this field.

Animator Background Artist Software Engineers Sound Designers
Degree Required B.F.A B.F.A B.S. A.A.S
Field of Study Animation Painting, drawing, illustration Computer Science Audio Engineering
Key Skills Figure drawing, computer animation, 3D modeling Drawing environments, computer skills Computer programming Writing/recording music, recording voices, creating sounds to match a particular mood or setting
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%* 6%* 17%* 7% for sound engineering technicians*
Median Salary (2015) $63,970* $63,970* $100,690* $41,780*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Kinds of Jobs Are Available in Computer Game Design?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, some of the most common job titles in computer game design are animator, background artist, software engineer and sound designer (www.bls.gov). As an animator, you could sketch characters and use modeling software programs to bring animated characters to life. Software programs help animators give characters natural movements, expressions and the ability to interact with one another. A background artist is responsible for creating the environment seen behind the characters. Background artists begin this process with drawings and then input them into a computer program.

As a software engineer, you'd use codes to give a computer a set of instructions. Codes basically tell a computer game how to behave, including the speed with which characters and objects move. As a sound designer, you could write music and create sound effects for computer games. You could use audio engineering equipment to write and record music, record character voices and create sounds for actions that occur in the game. A sound designer also ensures that the music in a game complements the game's plot, action and mood.

What Degree Programs Are Available?

If you want to be an animator, you could enroll in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) program with a concentration in animation. A bachelor's degree in painting and drawing or illustration could be helpful if you're interested in becoming a background artist. In a B.F.A. program, you'd sketch human figures and animated characters and use computer software programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Autodesk Maya.

If you're interested in software engineering, you could enroll in a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science, which includes coursework that teaches programming languages. You would learn about computer architecture, natural language processing and machine learning. If you're thinking about being a sound designer, you could enroll in an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Audio Engineering, which offers hands-on training in a recording studio.

How Much Could I Earn?

In 2015, the BLS reported that the middle-half salary range of those with jobs in multimedia arts and animation was about $47,660-$88,190. Payscale.com reports a median salary in October 2016 of $58,894 for all video game designers and the median salary for animators to be $49,952. Software engineers earned an average of $93,251, while audio engineers made around $43,826.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Computer game designers can work in alternative careers related to computer software. A bachelor's degree you could bring you work as a computer and information systems manager, or maybe a computer network architect, or even a computer hardware engineer. A computer and information manager plans, coordinates and directs computer related projects for organizations and corporations. Computer network architects research a company's needs and then creates and builds local area networks (LANs) or data communication networks. Computer components and systems need hardware engineers to research, develop and design their products. You would find plenty of work with processors, circuit boards, servers, and networks.

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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