Game Programmer: Education Requirements and Career Information

Jan 15, 2020

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a game programmer. Get a quick view of the requirements and details about degree programs, job duties and skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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Essential Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree preferred
Degree Field(s) Information systems, computer science, or mathematics
License/Certification Voluntary certifications available
Experience Complete one or more demo projects
Key Skills Understanding of gaming and programming languages; strong background in math and science
Job Outlook (2018-2028)* 21% growth for software developers
26% growth for software application developers
Median Annual Salary (2018)* $103,620 (for software applications developers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A video game programmer is a software engineer who creates the code that makes a video game run. Due to the complexity of today's video games, most programmers specialize in one area of game programming, such as audio or graphics. Typically, employers look for candidates with a bachelor's degree in information systems or a similar field. A strong background in math and science and an understanding of gaming can help make a game programmer successful.

Education Requirements

Becoming a game programmer means finding a balance between the right education and the ability to demonstrate real-world skills, such as proficiency in programming languages. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), formal education is often required by employers because, with the rate that computer technologies change, a firm foundation in the basics allows programmers to keep up with an industry innovation. The BLS also noted that bachelor's degrees in information systems, computer science or mathematics are commonly held by game programmers. These degrees give students the option to learn programming languages, operating systems, and advanced math, among other subjects.

Video game publishers need to make sure that their job candidates are able to accomplish the tasks necessary for the job. Because of this, many prospective game programmers find it helpful to complete one or more demo game projects. A satisfactory demo shows employers a competence with C++ and advanced algebra, skills that are used daily by programmers.

Career Information

Many programmers begin their careers in a junior programming position. As they learn about programming, they can choose a specific area of video game programming to specialize in. Each aspect of a video game requires a very detailed set of code, so a programmer may work on audio, physics, artificial intelligence, graphics, or any other single area required to make a video game function. Once programmers become experienced, they may consider pursuing a lead programmer position, which involves leadership and management duties in addition to programming.

The BLS predicted that job growth for software developers in general would increase by 21% between 2018 and 2028. This included 26% growth for developers who worked on applications. In 2018, software applications developers earned a median annual salary of $103,620, according to the BLS.

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