How to Become a Game Developer: Salary, Education Requirements, and Job Growth
IIf you are a technology professional pursuing a career in the gaming industry, you might consider becoming a video game developer. These game experts create the framework for creating video games on various platforms including mobile, computer and gaming devices.
The following sections take a closer look at how to become a video game developer.
Video Game Developer Job Outlook
Since the appearance of the first video game, the industry has grown exponentially. As such, video game developers can expect rapid career growth in the years to come.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide data specific to video game developers, but the BLS predicts faster-than-average growth of 22% for software developers, quality assurance analysts, and the testers. Video game developers partner with these professionals.
What is a video game developer?
Video game developers play a crucial role in the success of any video game. They are responsible for taking a video game from concept to reality. To do this, video game developers must code and program visual elements and other features. They also run tests to make sure the game works well.
Video game development vs video game design
You may hear the titles “video game developer” and “video game designer” used interchangeably, but the two jobs are different. Video game designers focus on the creative aspects of creating video games. Developers, on the other hand, focus on the coding and other technical aspects of this process.
What are the main responsibilities of a video game developer?
Video game developer roles vary depending on the workplace. In smaller organizations, for example, these professionals may work on multiple projects, such as coding and testing, at the same time throughout the game development process.
In large video game companies, on the other hand, each developer can take on a more specific set of tasks.
Typical responsibilities of a video game developer include:
- Coding of visual elements
- Game design ideation
- Make sure the game is running smoothly
- Game performance monitoring
- Review and improve existing code
- Work with producers, designers and other professionals to bring the game to life
video game developer salary
Factors such as experience and location affect video game developer salaries. Developers in the entertainment or video game software industry earn an average annual salary of around $87,000, according to Payscale data as of July 2022.
Steps to Become a Video Game Developer
Several educational paths can lead to a career as a video game developer. Some developers attend college. Others opt for immersive bootcamps, where they learn crucial skills like coding and solving technical problems. Below, we take a look at the most important steps you need to take to land a job as a video game developer.
earn a degree
When it comes to the hiring process, many video game companies are looking for graduate developers. A degree is not an absolute requirement, but employers may prefer candidates who have completed an undergraduate degree in computer science or related fields.
Given the growing popularity of the gaming industry, several colleges now offer bachelor’s degrees specifically in video game design and development.
Obtain a certificate
Certificates offer another option for students who want to forgo college or complete their current degree. Earning a certificate in video game development allows students to hone their skills through intensive, project-based programs.
Entities like the University of Washington, Harvard University, and Full Sail University offer professional certificate programs in game development. Since these certificate programs typically take less than a year, they can provide a faster path to a career in the gaming industry than traditional four-year degrees.
Certificates cannot completely replace work experience, but they do offer several benefits. For example, holders of a video game development certificate can:
- Build a solid foundation in game development and design.
- Connect with groups of creative colleagues.
- Meet teachers and mentors who can help introduce you to industry professionals.
Gain work experience
Professional experience is just as important as education when it comes to building a solid foundation in video game development. Before gaining work experience or earning a degree, you might find entry-level work as a game tester. Game tester positions rarely require specialized training or a degree, so this could be a good way to gain experience while completing your education.
Many game developers also start their careers with internships. Consider interning at a game studio to start building professional relationships and gaining hands-on experience. You can also apply for non-development roles at game studios to get your foot in the door and start learning the ropes.
Video game development bootcamps
Bootcamps can offer a solid alternative to traditional degrees for aspiring video game developers. Bootcamps are short-term, intensive programs that provide specialized training for specific jobs. Although many employers prefer applicants with a full degree, bootcamps can also provide you with a high-quality education.
Here are some examples of game development and design bootcamps:
- General Assembly. Based in San Francisco, California, this game design bootcamp focuses on the mechanics of gamification and how to engage users.
- Vertex School. This 16-week fully online program trains potential developers to work in the gaming industry.
- Udemy. This intensive 11-hour course claims to teach “everything you need to become a game developer from scratch.”
Frequently asked questions about video game development
How to get into video game development?
Start with education. You can pursue a degree in computer science or game development, or you can take a coding or game development bootcamp. You could then pursue an internship or an entry-level position at a game studio.
How long does it take to become a game developer?
If you go the traditional route, it takes at least four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and gain some work experience before you can become a game developer.
What does a video game developer do?
Game developers take video games from concept to reality. This job involves a lot of coding, programming, testing, and maintenance.
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