The computer gaming industry presents attractive opportunities for individuals with a passion for arts and technology and specific interests in computer game development. In order to take advantage of the exciting career options in computer gaming, consider the pursuit of computer game programming and design training. Here are some things to know about getting a degree in this field and what to expect after graduation.
Overview of a computer game degree
A career in the computer game programming and design field requires a unique blend of skills ranging from the creative and artistic to the technical and functional. Because of this, individuals looking to pursue a career in the computer gaming industry should incorporate a range of coursework in their degree plan.
Elements of software engineering, computer programming, graphic design, and multimedia art should be an integral part, with both classroom and practical experience involved. Depending on whether an individual is more interested in the art aspects of computer game design or the technology of game engineering and programming, one might pursue additional electives in one area or the other. But to become a true game developer, it is wise to become proficient in both the art and technology of computer game development.
Depending on the emphasis for artistic versus technical training, computer game programming and design training will typically lead to one of two degrees. A Bachelor of Fine Arts with focus on computer game design is appropriate for those with a strong interest in the design of computer games. This degree would focus more on the dramatization and storytelling components of a computer game. On the other hand, for those with stronger technical interests, a typical degree program would culminate in a B.S. in Computer Science with a focus on computer game engineering and programming. Either degree will contain coursework in the following subject areas:
- Computer Programming and Software Engineering
- Game Design and Development
- Data and Computer Systems
- Electives in the liberal arts and other core courses
Most computer game programming and design degree programs will also include a supervised studio component where students build on their practical skills of game design. Here, students have a chance to try new techniques and turn their classroom-learned skills into reality. Students will often complete a capstone project during their senior year which is a critical piece of a graduate's portfolio to show potential employers.
Both online and traditional campus programs are available for this type of training. If students are pursuing computer game development training while working other jobs, or fulfilling other significant personal or career obligations, an online degree program might be the more flexible option.
Career options for those with a computer game programming and design degree
Because a computer game programming and design degree provides a broad base of training in both the arts and technology, graduates of this type of degree program will be well-positioned to pursue jobs not only in the computer gaming industry, but at many organizations with information technology positions available. If students decide to pursue more traditional software engineering jobs, this would be a possibility as well, allowing for greater job security to this type of graduate.
From an employment perspective, computer game programmers and designers will often choose to work independently as freelance developers. Others will pursue salaried careers at entertainment firms like Sony and Nintendo.
Job outlook for computer game developers
In its Fall 2008 Career Guide, Game Developer Magazine reported that entry level game developers--those with less than three years of experience--earned an average salary of $57,665. For those pursuing more traditional software engineering positions, job prospects are equally positive. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, computer software engineering occupations are projected to grow faster than average over the 2008-2018 decade, indicating excellent job prospects for those with a computer game programming and design degree. In May 2010, the BLS reports, applications software developers earned mean annual wages of $90,410.
Those that pursue careers with more focus on the artistic aspects of computer gaming may find expanded opportunities in graphic design. The BLS reports that graphic designers that work in computer systems design make mean annual wages of $56,000.