Career Information for a Degree in Computer Game Programming

Computer game programming is generally an undergraduate degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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A degree in computer game programming can lead to a career as a digital artist, software engineer, game designer or computer programmer. Job growth from 2014 to 2024 varies by industry, with some seeing decline and some seeing faster than average growth.

Essential Information

Some schools offer computer game programming as a specialization or concentration inside another degree program, such as computer science. Most computer game programming careers require a bachelor's degree in the field, though an associate's degree is sufficient for some positions. Since work experience is important for computer game programmers, internships are a common component of degree programs. Voluntary certifications are available in this field.

Career Titles Computer Programmer Software Developer Multimedia Artist Video Game Designer
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree is common; associate's degree for some jobs Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Certification Voluntary Voluntary Voluntary Voluntary
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) -8%* 17% (all software developers)* 6%* Between 2% and 4%**
Median Salary $79,530 (2015)* $98,260 (2015)* (software developer, applications) $63,970 (2015)* $58,253 (January 2016)***

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*NET Online, ***PayScale.com

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Career Options

Graduates with degrees in computer game programming might find work as computer game designers, digital artists, software engineers or related workers. Although computer game programming degree programs are real common in institutions of higher learning, many schools offer programs in computer engineering or computer science with an emphasis in gaming or game design.

Students learn about subjects such as graphics-oriented simulations, TCP/IP, analytic geometry, motion dynamics and data structures. Graduates of computer game programming or similar programs are qualified for careers as computer game designers, digital artists or software engineers, among many other possibilities.

Computer Programmer

Programmers write the code that runs software programs, including games. They typically know different programming languages, and test and fix programs as necessary. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that positions for computer programmers will decrease by 8% between 2014 and 2024, slower than most other computer occupations. This is due to programming being done cheaper outside the country. The median annual salary for computer programmers, as of May 2015, was $79,530.

Software Developer

Software developers design systems and applications to match users' needs. They work with computer programmers, who do the actual coding. Developers then see if the finished program works as necessary for the client and make fixes as necessary. The BLS divides software developers into two categories: applications and systems software. Application developers are predicted to see a 19% increase between 2014 and 2024, while systems software developers are predicted to see a 13% increase. The median annual salary for applications developers, in May 2015, was $98,260. Those working as computer systems designer and related services software developers were paid a mean salary of $98,810 in that same year.

Multimedia Artist

Multimedia artists and animators create the art and animation that is used in several forms of media, including video games. Most multimedia artists and animators are self-employed and work at home. Multimedia artists will need a portfolio of their work when looking for employers. The BLS predicts that job opportunities for multimedia artists and animators will increase by 6% between 2014 and 2024. The low growth rate is due to many companies seeking cheaper labor overseas. As of May 2015, multimedia artists and animators made a median annual salary of $63,970.

Video Game Designer

Video game designers design essential game components such as story line, game mechanics and characters. They work with the production team to make sure that the game is made as designed, and that the end result is playable and engaging. Video game designers often already have experience in the field, perhaps as part of a design team. O*NET Online predicts that job positions for video game designers will increase between 2% and 4% between 2014 and 2024. According to PayScale.com as of January 2016, video game designers made a median salary of $58,253.

Educational Requirements

Although a bachelor's degree is typically required for computer game programmers, some are hired with an associate's degree and sufficient experience. Through lectures and coursework, students learn about games programming, artificial intelligence, computer graphics, programming logic and design, mathematical applications for game design, simulation programming and 3-D modeling and animation.

They also gain hands-on experience by working with other students to create a video game. Students may wish to participate in internships to gain experience that may be beneficial for employment.

Certifications

Certification may not be required for computer game programmers, but it demonstrates knowledge and skill in the field and acts as a bonus to potential employers. Individuals can obtain certification through professional certifying and computing organizations. Software companies and product vendors often offer certification when their product is purchased or being used.

There are a number of different fields that graduates with a degree in computer game programming can enter. Job prospects tend to be stronger for those with a bachelor's degree, though there are some options for those with an associate's. Professional certification is optional but can also increase chances for employment.

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