Computer Game Designer: Job Description & Career Info

Learn about what job duties a computer game designer performs. Find out about salary and employment outlook data, as well as training and skills required, in order to make the right career decision.

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Career Definition for a Computer Game Designer

A computer game designer usually works under the direction of a lead designer and may be responsible for drawing a family of alien creatures for a new game, writing the stories for those creatures or giving practical input about how the game plays - determining whether or not it is actually fun to play! Because the nature of the job is usually collaborative, computer game designers may be given a variety of tasks based on their individual talents or on what needs to be accomplished in any specific stage of game development.

Education A bachelor's degree in computer technology or related field is commonly preferred
Job Skills Interest and experience in gaming, artistic and technological ability, collaborative skills, creativity
Median Salary (2015)* $63,970 (all multimedia artists)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)* 6% growth (all multimedia artists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Historically, a computer technology or related degree has not always been required to work in computer game design; as the industry becomes more competitive, however, those with formal training may find more opportunities in the job market. Certificate programs are popular and usually take a year or less to complete. In a certificate program you should expect coursework to cover topics such as C++ programming, game mathematics and storyboard development. Those seeking an associate degree may also study computer-aided drafting and design (CADD), computer animation and creative writing in addition to basic computer science.

Required Skills

Many computer game designers admit they began their careers as avid gamers who were looking for a way to make money doing what they loved, playing computer games. Interest and experience in gaming is a must. Artistic and technological ability, a desire to collaborate with other professionals and imagination are all necessary skills to be successful.

Career and Economic Outlook

The earnings of a computer game designer depend greatly upon their experience and the overall success of the games they design; however, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual salary of a multimedia artist was $63,970 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also projects employment of multimedia artists to grow 6% from 2014-2024. Some computer game designers work in software development, a field expected to grow 17% during the same time period. The BLS listed the median yearly salary of an application software developer at $98,260 in 2015. According to the BLS, the state of California ranks number one both for the highest concentration of jobs in the field and the highest median wages.

Alternative Careers

Similar career options within this field include:

Computer Programmer

For those who are interested in the programming aspect of game design, becoming a computer programmer is a career that may be the right fit. Programmers create the code for computer systems, applications, software and engineering projects. To find employment in the field, a bachelor's degree with a computer related major is usually required, although, some may acquire an entry-level position with only an associate degree. Job seekers can also gain a competitive advantage by pursuing professional certification. According to the BLS, employment in this field is projected to decline 8% during the 2014-2024 decade, and those hired can expect to earn a median salary of $79,530 per year, based on 2015 figures.

Illustrator

Those who enjoy art and like creating images for comic books, magazines or digital mediums should look at becoming an illustrator. Illustrators use both traditional art supplies and computer software to produce works of art that tell a story or sell a product. Although formal education is not required to gain employment in most fields of illustration, post-secondary training is beneficial and can help in the creation of a professional portfolio. Based on data from the BLS, illustrators and other fine artists should expect to see slow employment growth of 2% between 2014 and 2024. In May of 2015, the median salary for these artists was determined by the BLS to be $46,460.

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