Game Software Developer Careers: Salary Info & Job Description

About this article
A game software developer's median annual salary is around $93,350. Is it worth the education requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about career prospects to find out if becoming a game software developer is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Becoming a Game Software Developer

A game software developer is responsible for creating or programming interactive games for the Web, mobile devices and video game consoles. Read the pros and cons of becoming a game software developer below.

Pros of Becoming a Game Software Developer
High income potential (mean salary of about $99,530 per year)*
Growing job field (22% increase from 2012-2022)*
Many platforms to choose from (game software can be found on cell-phones, computers and video game consoles)**
Variety of duties (designing, troubleshooting and programming)*

CONS of Becoming a Game Software Developer
Experience is required for most entry-level positions***
Highly competitive field****
Long hours may be required (about 25% of developers worked over 40 hours a week)*
Some risk linked to long periods in front of a computer (such as back problems and carpal tunnel syndrome)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. ** Princeton Review. ***O*NET OnLine. ****International Game Developers Association.

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Software games are not only designed for amusement, but for educational purposes, healthcare and military training use. As a game software developer, you're usually focused on creating and designing games. Sometimes your job may involve quality assurance, so you'll need to be prepared to communicate with all kinds of people. The development of a game may take a few months, or it could take over two years. Some software developers oversee a team of programmers, while others may do a significant amount of the programming themselves. Games usually consist of many different components, which could lead you to be in charge of everything from developing the mechanics of the game to modifying key aspects of the storyline. You may also be responsible for documenting the progress of the game and presenting goals to staff members.

Salary and Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for software application developers were expected to increase by 22% from 2012-2022. The BLS mentioned that the best prospects would be found by software developers who have up-to-date knowledge of programming languages. In 2014, applications software developers earned a mean annual salary of approximately $99,530.

Education and Other Requirements

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to become a game software developer, preferably in computer science or a field with significant programming training. Some schools may offer a game development concentration, which could include courses in 2-D and 3-D animation, storyboarding and level design. Various programming courses, such as Flash, C++, scripting and artificial intelligence may also be included. Since you could be responsible for many different aspects of a game, taking a variety of courses focused on the different parts of a game (level design, storyboards, etc.) can help you prepare for a game development career.

Having experience in game design is often a requirement to become a game developer. You may not be able to just jump right into a lead development position right out of school. Since experience is important for most game development jobs, you may want to start off as a level designer, an animator or a programmer. Once you have experience in the development process, your prospects for game development positions should increase.

Useful Skills

It's critical that you have strong artistic and computer skills for this career. You'll use various programming languages, such as C++ or Java, as well as applications like Photoshop or Illustrator. It's important that you're able to listen and communicate effectively with your clients, coworkers and supervisors. Below are some skills that employers could look for when hiring game developers:

  • Technical writing skills
  • Exceptional creativity
  • An for aptitude math concepts
  • Expertise in specific art design applications
  • Extensive programming knowledge

Job Postings from Real Employers

According to current job postings, many different employers were looking for game developers, including entertainment companies, social gaming enterprises, educational game companies and mobile application companies. Most organizations want to hire someone with user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) knowledge. Here are some examples of game software development jobs posted in March 2012:

  • A social gaming company in California was looking to hire someone who can manage 2-D art production for mobile applications. You should have at least five years of 2-D illustration experience, familiarity with Android or iOS operating systems, and managerial experience. Knowledge of social gaming is a plus.
  • A sports event gaming company in New Jersey wants to hire an UX designer with good problem-solving skills and a sense of humor. You don't need sports gaming experience, but an interest in learning it is required.
  • A UI/UX designer is needed to create online and in-game entertainment gaming solutions in New York. You should have a strong portfolio, a passion for games, and strong skills in art and visual communication. Photoshop, Illustrator, CSS and HTML proficiency are required.
  • An educational gaming company in California is seeking a Flash developer with 3-5 years of experience. You should know how to use Flash, Illustrator and Photoshop. Candidates who are familiar with educational toys or child entertainment are preferred.

Standing Out from the Crowd

Programming skills are almost always required by employers, so taking additional programming courses while pursuing you bachelor's degree could give you an edge over other applicants. Having a personality fit with a company is critical in this profession. For many organizations, the creative process is a team event, so you should be able to work well with others. Employers will often indicate that they're looking for someone with an enthusiasm for games, and possibly a passion for the games that the particular company designs. A strong portfolio showing extensive work on previous projects is highly desired by many employers.

Get Specialized

Large companies will look for specific skills, so it could be beneficial if you concentrate your skills in a particular area of expertise. For example, some software development positions may require someone who has expertise in using specific software packages, and other positions may require someone who has experience with leading large development teams. If you figure out what part of game development you're most interested in, you can tailor your skills to fit the requirements of employers who want developers with those specific skills.

Other Careers to Consider

Computer Programmer

The programming languages used in game software development are the same ones computer programmers use to write other kinds of software. If you're looking for a career with fewer leadership responsibilities, then you may want to look into programming. However, since many computer programming jobs have been outsourced, opportunities for this career were predicted to see an increase of 8% from 2012-2022 (about the same as the average of all occupations), according to the BLS. In January 2014, the BLS reported that computer programmers earned a mean annual salary of approximately $74,280.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers illustrate design concepts, often with the use of computer applications. If you'd rather focus on visual concepts, then you may want to check out graphic design. Employers generally prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree in graphic design. Graphic designers received a median annual wage of about $44,150 in 2012, as reported by the BLS. The BLS predicted that job openings were expected to increase 7% from 2012-2022.

Animator

If you still want to be involved in the creative side of game development, but you rather perfect your skills for one specific task, you might be interested in becoming an animator. Animators create illustration and graphics. You're usually able to specialize in a particular type of animation, such as CGI, level design or background design. This career generally requires more artistic ability than game software development careers, so you'll want to pursue a bachelor's degree in art, animation or a related field. The BLS noted that animators and artists had solid earning potential, with a median salary of $61,370 in 2012. However, you may face competition for jobs, since the BLS projected that jobs for animators would only see six percent growth between 2012 and 2022.

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
  • Online Programs Available
    2. 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
    3. 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 Cyber Security
  • Online Programs Available
    4. 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
    5. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Certificate - Cyber Security
  • Campus Locations:
    6. Lincoln Tech

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Technology and Skilled Trades
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Indiana Wesleyan University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology
      • B.S. Digital Communication
    Associate's
      • A.S. Computer Information Technology
      • A.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology
    Certificate
      • Graduate Technology Certificate
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctorate: Computer Science
      • Doctorate - Computer Science: Information Assurance (Executive Format)
      • Doctor of Management - Technology Management (Executive Format)
    Master's
      • Master of Science in Computer Science
      • MS - Computer Science - Software Engineering
      • M.S. - Information Technology
      • MS - Management - Information Systems Security
      • M.S. - Management: IT and Project Management
      • M.S. - Information Technology - Project Management
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Information Technology: Software Application Programming
      • BS - IT - Web Development
      • Bachelor: Information Technology
      • BS - Business Administration - IT
      • BS - IT - Security
      • BS - Management - Cybersecurity Management
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Penn Foster Career School

    Program Options

    Certificate
      • Certificate - Computer Programming Languages

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?

Kaplan University

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

Which subject are you interested in?

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?

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?

Colorado State University Global

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

What is your highest level of education?

Lincoln Tech

  • Technology and Skilled Trades

What year did you graduate High School / Receive GED?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • B.S. General Studies - Computer Information Technology
  • A.S. Computer Information Technology
  • Graduate Technology Certificate

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?