Game Engineer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

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What are the pros and cons of a game engineer career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if following this career path is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Game Engineer Career

Game engineers are software engineers who design video games. Review the pros and cons to find out if you might enjoy this career choice.

Pros of a Game Engineer Career
Fun and creative career*
Collaborative work environment (engineers work in teams with other game programmers, designers and artists)*
High job growth (expected 22% growth from 2012-2022 for software developers)*
Flexible work options allow for telecommuting and travel*
High pay ($95,510 median annual wages in 2014 for software developers, applications)*

Cons of a Game Engineer Career
High pressure to create successful games*
Highly competitive for entry-level positions, especially in large companies*
Can require additional training to learn newest trends and programming languages*
Limited resources can prevent games from turning out as planned*
May require long hours to meet deadlines*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Working as contractors or employees of a company, game engineers collaborate with programmers, designers and artists to complete game projects. In addition to developing games and making modifications to existing components, they test games for problems, correct any found issues and create documentation. The job encourages creativity and requires strong problem-solving skills to turn game ideas into reality. Additional education may be necessary to keep up with the latest trends in gaming as well as to learn additional programming languages.

Game designers work in a fast-paced environment and need to be comfortable keeping up with deadlines and high-pressure projects. When deadlines are approaching, you may be expected to work longer hours or more days per week. There's also pressure involved because a game's failure could cause a company financial harm.

Job Growth and Salary

Although the BLS does not keep track of earnings and job growth specifically for those who engineer games, it does group them with other computer software engineers. With a projected employment increase of 22% from 2012-2022, there could be much faster-than-average job growth in the field. While game engineers are employed throughout the country, the highest percentage of jobs is in well-known metropolitan areas, particularly on the West and East coasts.

Similar to employment prospects, annual salary varies by industry. According to the BLS, the median annual wage for software application developers in general was $95,510 in May 2014. In the top-five industries that employed the most software engineers, the computer equipment manufacturing and software publishing were among the best paying: median annual wage of $94,120 and $106,750 respectively in May 2013. Education and experience also can affect your expected salary.

What Are the Requirements?

The main requirements for becoming a game engineer include a bachelor's degree, proficiency in software design and skills in graphics programming. A bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field is the minimum educational requirement for most entry-level positions, and there are some companies that prefer applicants with master's degrees. High-level math skills typically are necessary to get accepted to and complete a computer science degree program. During your program, you'll gain an understanding of computer operating systems, data organization, logic, networking and programming languages, such as C, C++ and Java.

Although programming is the main technical emphasis of these degree programs, you'll also take several courses in mathematics and science, including chemistry, physics, calculus, probability and linear algebra. In addition to the skills learned from your degree program, attention to detail, good communication skills and the ability to work as part of a team are needed to succeed in this job.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Game engineer job postings tend to specify the programming languages they want applicants to be familiar with, as well as the development software used. Game design experience is also highly desired. The following are some real game engineering job listings from March 2012:

  • A California technical recruiting firm was looking for a mid-level gaming developer with skills in graphics programming, 3-D math and object-oriented design. The posting specified programming experience in C++ or C#.
  • A software development contracting company in Washington was seeking a game engineer with experience in client/server services, web programming and software engineering. The position required a bachelor's or master's degree in computer science, as well as five years of experience.
  • An online retailer in California was looking for a senior software engineer with at least seven years of experience in Java or C++ application development and a bachelor's degree in computer science. The company preferred candidates with mobile game development experience.
  • A Reno electronic gaming company was looking for a senior Java game developer with experience in client/server and object-oriented software development. The posting specified that applicants should have experience in Java platforms, XML and social gaming. Six years of experience, along with a computer science bachelor's degree, were required.

How to Get an Edge in the Field

Gain Experience and Further Education

Since companies hiring game designers look for experience, consider completing an internship during your undergraduate program or shortly after graduating. While gaining work experience, and throughout your education, you can work on a portfolio of games to show potential employers. You can also join online development groups to find other game designers to collaborate with on projects.

Another option is to take additional game programming classes during your bachelor's degree program, if available, or to seek specific courses in game development from another school after graduation. Possible courses include 3-D modeling, console design and graphics programming. There are also certifications available for proving your competence in programming languages, including the Sun Certified Java Programmer and Sun Certified Java Developer credentials from Sun Microsystems.

Develop Related Skills

Although employers expect you to be a competent programmer who knows at least one computer language well and has a grasp of the software development process, they also look for other skills. For example, if you've only worked on desktop games, consider expanding into mobile application development. Project management is another skill that's important because of the teamwork required in the gaming field. With many games featuring online connectivity, consider learning web technologies and languages, such as HTML5, ASP.NET and SQL.

Other Career Paths

Quality Assurance Testing

If you like video games but decide that game engineering is not for you, you have other options. One related career is quality assurance testing, in which you would test video games before they're released to the public. Quality assurance testers spend a majority of their time playing games to find and report bugs in a game's graphics and software. Some employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's degree, but a high school diploma can be enough for entry-level positions.

Game Artist

If you like the creative aspect of game development but aren't particularly interested in application programming, you might consider becoming a game artist. Game artists design the graphics that appear during game play, on the game's promotional materials and on the packaging. Subfields include animation, concept art and 3-D modeling. This career can require art school and proficiency in graphic design and modeling software. The BLS reported in 2010 that the median annual wage for multimedia artists and animators, including those who worked in the computer gaming industry, was $59,000.

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Kaplan University

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Regent University

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  • Bachelor of Arts in Leadership Studies - Information Technology
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Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security

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Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

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Altierus

  • Computer Information Technology

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CDI College

  • Diploma in 3D Modeling Animation & Design (Conception, Modlisation et Animation 3D - NTL.0Z)
  • Diploma in Programmer Analyst / Internet Solutions Developer LEA.9C (Programmeur-Analyste Orient Internet LEA.9C)
  • Diploma in Computerized Accounting and Bookkeeping

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Tulane University

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Penn Foster High School

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