Game & Simulation Programming Careers: Salary Info & Job Descriptions

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Are you considering a career in game and simulation programming? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary information to see if a career in game and simulation programming is right for you.
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Game and Simulation Programming Careers

The field of game and simulation programming can deal with recreational activities, such as video games, as well as more serious applications, such as flight instruction. Some of the occupations in this field are multimedia artist or animator, computer programmer and software developer. Below is a table comparing these careers:

Multimedia Artist or Animator Computer Programmer Software Developer
Career Overview Artists and animators create the visual and animation effects for various forms of media. Computer programmers are the individuals who write the code needed to develop software programs. Software developers design and develop applications and systems that allow the computer to perform prescribed functions.
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Program Length Four years full-time Four years full-time Four years full-time
Additional Training May require some studio-specific on-the-job training None None
Certification Voluntary; professional certification may be preferred Voluntary; professional certification may be preferred Voluntary; professional certification may be preferred
Experience Required Employers may require relevant experience Employers may require relevant experience Employers may require relevant experience or a background in programming
Job Outlook (2014-2024) Fast as average (6%)* No growth (-8%)* Much faster than average (17%)*
Mean Annual Salary (2014) $69,410* $82,690* $99,530 (for all software applications developers) and $106,050 (for all systems software developers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Multimedia Artist or Animator

Combining illustration and computer programs, multimedia artists and animators create the characters, background and scenery that make up the actors and visual ambiance of a game, movie or other similar production. They may use traditional manual drawings to help visualize a concept that's then transferred by way of animation software to the game or simulation program. There are primarily three types of 3-D artists, which include character artists and animators, texture specialists and background modelers.

Requirements

Most multimedia artists or animators hold a bachelor's degree in art, computer graphics or a similar area. Employers often require potential hires to have accumulated some qualifying experience. In light of this, you should develop a portfolio that represents your work, accomplishments and capabilities. Though you should be proficient in 3-D modeling, Photoshop, various Adobe systems and computer-aided design (CAD), employers may have their own in-house programs that you'll be required to learn to use. It's also quite common that you'll have to undergo a period of on-the-job training.

Below are examples of some job listings that ran in January 2013:

  • A technical services company in Florida was looking for a full-time lead technical artist to create game engine art. Prospective candidates needed at least six years of experience in a gaming/animation environment, with three years in a supervisory role. A bachelor's degree in a related area, such as computer science, modeling, engineering or multimedia, was also required.
  • A healthcare services provider wanted to add a multimedia artist, specializing in 3-D and video, to its studio team. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree and have accumulated 7-10 years in After Effects and video animation and 3-5 years experience in editing. A portfolio of past and current work was required.
  • An Illinois gaming company sought a senior technical interactive artist for a full-time position. Candidates were to hold a Bachelor of Arts in an area such as art/animation or hold a technical degree with a great deal of artistic experience. Candidates were to have accumulated five years of experience as a digital artist, with considerable technical responsibility.

Standing Out

You may stand a better chance of securing a position if you are able to create animation for applications used on mobile devices. You may distinguish yourself further by increasing your skills in computer graphics, as well as becoming an expert in character art and animation, texture art and background modeling. Pursuing professional certification, such as the Adobe Certified Expert (ACE) credential, can also help you demonstrate your proficiency and stand out with employers.

Computer Programmer

It's the job of game programmers to turn ideas, art, music and other components into a working game. They write the code used to create the software programs that accomplish this mission. Programmers can progress beyond merely writing codes to the point where they're actually designing game software.

Requirements

Most computer programmers hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related area, such as electrical engineering or cognitive science. However, if you hold an associate's degree, some employers may take you on, provided you have a certain amount of qualifying work experience or expertise in a specific area. At any rate, you'll need to be competent in one or more computer programming languages.

Here's what some employers were looking for in January 2013:

  • A game development studio in Utah was looking for a C++ programmer for 3-4 months. Candidates were to have excellent experience with C++ and C#, and candidates with experience Lua, Perl, Action Script, Python and Flash were preferred.
  • A New Jersey gaming laboratory was seeking a full-time programmer. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related discipline. Candidates were to have accumulated at least three years of experience to include XML, SQL and Windows SharePoint Services 3.0, as well as proficiency in JavaScript, HTML and C#.
  • A technical staffing company wanted to hire two instructional programmers to work at a military installation in Georgia. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, graphic arts or a related area. Candidates were to have accumulated at least one year of qualifying work experience, with two years preferred, and knowledge of training processes and interactive multimedia instruction technology.

Standing Out

You can distinguish yourself by developing your skills in multiple programming languages. You should enroll in professional development and continuing education programs to keep up with the constant technological changes in the field. Various company or product certifications can help you stand out from your competition. For example, you may consider the C Programming Language Certified Associate (CLA) credential from the C++ Institute.

Software Developer

Software developers analyze a company's needs and either create the applications necessary to fill that need or develop the operating systems that allow the computer to function in the necessary manner. Working with programmers, or doing their own coding, software developers design, test and produce software that allows the computer to perform certain tasks. They may also be responsible for the maintenance of the quality of software performance.

Requirements

Software developers generally hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, mathematics or software engineering. You should be knowledgeable in writing code and programming. However, you may also look for courses specific to the operations of your desired place of employment, which can help you learn how to develop the software that best fills the company's needs.

Here are some samples of ads that ran in January 2013 for gaming and simulation software developers:

  • An applied research company in Florida that dealt with interactive instructional videos was seeking a full-time software developer. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related area and have accumulated over two years of experience or hold a master's degree. In lieu of a degree, candidates with 8-10 years of qualifying experience were also considered. Candidates were to have strong C++ skills.
  • A computer software staffing organization in Washington was looking for an individual to fill a position as a software developer, specializing in Android development. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related area and/or have accumulated four years of qualifying work experience. Candidates were to be proficient in at least one programming language, such as C#, Java or C++. Candidates were to be familiar with object-oriented design and algorithm design.
  • A Texas information technology recruiting company sought an individual to fill a position as a C++ developer, specializing in gaming software. Candidates were to hold a bachelor's degree in computer science, engineering or a related field. Candidates were to have accumulated at least five years of experience in software engineering or programming, as well as have expert level experience in C and C++ coding.

Standing Out

Some employers may prefer software developer applicants with a master's degree. Rather than limit your options and to mitigate some potential work experience requirements, you may want to consider earning a master's degree in computer science or engineering straight away. This may serve as an indication of your commitment to the field and can help you stand out from your competition. You can also increase your marketability by staying current with emerging programming tools and languages. Credentials like the Certified Software Development Associate (CSDA) are another way to stand out; however, you may need experience in the field before pursuing certification.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
      • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Game Development
      • BS - Game Design (Campus)
      • Bachelor of Science - Software Development
      • BS - Cloud Technologies (Campus)
      • B.S. - Game Design
      • B.S. - Game Art
  • Campus and Online Programs
    2. The Art Institutes

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Game Programming (BS)
      • Visual & Game Programming (BS)
      • Visual & Game Programming (BA)
      • Software Development for Creative Technologies (BS)
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (BFA)
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (BS)
    Associate's
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (AAS)
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (AS)
      • Web Design & Interactive Media (AAA)
      • Graphic & Web Design (AAS)
      • Graphic & Web Design (AA)
      • Graphic & Web Design: Graphic Design (AA)
    Certificate
      • Web Design & Interactive Communications (C)
    High School Diploma
      • Web Design & Development (D)
      • Web Design & Interactive Communications (D)
      • Web Design (D)
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Human Resources and Technology Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
      • B.S. - Software Development: Computer Programming Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Software Development
      • Associate of Science - Technology Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    4. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. in Computer Programming
      • B.S. in Information Technology
      • B.S. in Information Technology with an Emphasis in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    6. City University of Seattle

    Program Options

    Master's
      • M.S. Computer Science
      • M.S. Information Security
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. Applied Computing
      • B.S. Cybersecurity and Information Assurance
      • B.S. Information Systems
      • B.S. Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
      • BS in Cybersecurity
      • BSIT - Information Management
      • BS in Information Technology/Information Security and Assurance
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology
    Associate's
      • Associate: Information Technology
      • AAS in Information Technology - Multiplatform Software Development
      • AASIT: Network Admin
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
    Associate's
      • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Intelligence
    Bachelor's
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Information Assurance
      • BS in Cybersecurity - Network Forensics and Intrusion Investigation
      • Bachelor of Science in Cybersecurity
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of IT: Project Management
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of Science in Information Technology
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Technology: Software Analysis and Development
      • Bachelor of Technology: Information Assurance and Security
      • Bachelor of Science in Information Technology

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
  • B.S. - Game Development
  • BS - Game Design (Campus)

What is your highest level of education?

The Art Institutes

  • Game Programming (BS)
  • Web Design & Interactive Media (AAS)
  • Web Design & Interactive Communications (C)
  • Web Design & Development (D)

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • B.S. - Software Development With No Declared Minor or Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Software Development

What is your highest level of education?

University of Delaware

  • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

What is your highest level of education completed?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • B.S. in Computer Programming
  • B.S. in Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?

City University of Seattle

  • M.S. Computer Science
  • M.S. Information Security
  • B.S. Applied Computing
  • B.S. Cybersecurity and Information Assurance

What is your highest level of education completed?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • BS in Information Technology/Multiplatform Software Development
  • Associate: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

Keiser University

  • Bachelor of Science - Cyber Forensics/Information Security
  • Associate of Sciences - Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?