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Simulation Programming Degree Programs

Simulation programming focuses on emulating real-world scenarios of various industries for training, analysis and research purposes. Read more about the field in general, available programs, and common undergraduate and graduate courses.

What is Simulation Programming?

Simulations are used in a variety of fields, including medicine, aerospace, the military and criminal justice, to train employees in tasks and situations that could not otherwise be easily replicated. For instance, in flight school, you might learn to pilot a plane using a simulator. This training might include simulated severe weather conditions or other emergency situations.

Degree programs in this field can prepare you to create 2-D and 3-D simulation software. Simulation programming often is paired with game design and development because many of the subjects overlap.

Field Focus Real-time simulation of relevant scenarios in the medical, aerospace and military fields
Degree Levels Associate's, bachelor's, master's
Online Options Yes, but mostly through for-profit schools
Undergraduate Courses Computer programming, graphics, game design, project planning
Graduate Courses Artificial intelligence, real-time rendering, design methodologies
Median Salary (2018) $84,280 (for all computer programmers
Job Outlook (2016-2026) -7% decline (for all computer programmers

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

What Degrees Can I Pursue?

Associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs in simulation programming are available through a number of nonprofit colleges and universities. However, most online programs in the field are offered through for-profit schools.

Fields of study typically include game and simulation development or modeling and simulation engineering. The former is more common and focuses primarily on creating computer simulations. Both types of programs embody similar subjects and theories.

What Might I Study in an Undergraduate Program?

In a game and simulation associate's degree program, you'll gain skills in computer programming, graphics, software production, game design and Web development. You'll likely learn C++ and Java programming languages, in addition to exploring artificial intelligence and information security programming. You also might study gaming architecture, operating systems, 3-D modeling, marketing, animation, ethics and multi-user games.

While an associate's degree program can teach you essential skills for working in entry-level simulation design, a bachelor's degree program can instruct you in project planning, systems administration and problem solving. You'll typically study management skills, technical writing, human-computer relations, game development, programming languages, organizational management and simulation software design. On both levels, you're likely to put together a portfolio of designs demonstrating your knowledge.

What Could a Master's Program Teach Me?

In a graduate program, you'll look at simulation design as a combination of software design, art and engineering. Through hands-on practice, you'll learn to design a product, plan its production and sell it to consumers. You'll also examine essential design methodologies that can help you build interactive entertainment. Some of the subjects you're likely to encounter include real-time rendering, artificial intelligence, event-driven scenarios, sensors, entrepreneurship and application programming interfaces.