Video Game Programmer: Career Info for Becoming a Video Game Programmer

Jul 27, 2018

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a video game programmer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about course information, job duties, and valued skills to find out if this is the career for you.

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94% college-bound high school students
…said it was important to communicate with colleges during the search process. (Source: Noel-Levitz 2012 trend study)
  • 0:02 Essential Information
  • 0:23 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:08 Pursue an Internship
  • 1:42 Consider an Advanced Degree
  • 2:12 Find a Job

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Essential Information

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's may be preferred
Degree Field(s) Computer science, software engineering, or a related field
Licensure/Certification Voluntary certifications available
Required Skills Knowledge of programming languages
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 19% (software developers, applications)*
Median Salary (2015) $102,160 (software developers, applications)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Video game programmers are software engineers who work on games for console or hand-held video gaming systems. In addition to understanding computer languages and structures, they must also be familiar with the specific target systems on which their games will be played, as well as the development platforms used to create games.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Becoming a video game programmer begins with earning a bachelor's degree in computer science, software engineering, or a related field. Although requirements for these majors differ, most students will complete core courses in mathematics, computer science, and data analysis. Students accepted into the major will then cover advanced topics, such as using algorithms to create software interfaces. Additionally, programs might mandate that students take lab courses in which they develop their own software or game.

Students also typically learn several computer languages, such as C+, C++, and Java. Some programs allow students to take graphic design and animation courses to supplement their education in programming.

Pursue an Internship

It's typically difficult to enter the video gaming industry, but internship opportunities from companies like Sony and EA Games can provide valuable experience and connections to help aspiring video game programmers secure a job after graduating. Most colleges and universities post internship listings, so students should consider visiting the career center and consulting with a counselor. Aside from knowledge of C++, being skilled in other programming languages such as Python or Lua, could help college students get an internship.

Consider an Advanced Degree

While a bachelor's degree may be enough for some jobs, some employers may prefer candidates who have completed a postgraduate certificate or master's degree program in computer games technologies or a similar course of study. Courses typically cover topics ranging from animation to interactive design. After learning to develop computer interfaces and simulations, aspiring programmers might be required to complete a final project, such as creating a functional video game.

Find a Job

Video game programmers process the work of designers, developers, and other specialists to create an application that provides a full, rich entertainment experience. During a typical day, video game programmers may be responsible for reviewing systems and debugging applications. Other duties might include analyzing previously written computer codes and looking for ways to increase processing speeds.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, (BLS) predicted that from 2014-2024, job prospects would grow 19% for software developers who worked on applications and 13% for software developers who worked on systems software. Additionally, the BLS reported that the mean annual salary for developers who worked on applications was $102,160 in May 2015, while those who worked on system software earned an average of $108,760.

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