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Game App Software Development Career

Do you love computer games: not just playing them, but understanding how they work? Do you like to design your own? Game software development and game app development are areas where it is possible and realistic to go from avocation to vocation. Games for smartphones and PC are both popular, and many companies hire developers to write free games that help them build their brand and online presence. The games demographic is also widening, as more women and middle-aged consumers have gotten in on the action. A recent article profiling game apps developed by Zynga found that numerous middle-aged social media gamers have spent as much as 55,000 to 75,000 dollars to complete Zynga’s most popular social media games. What this means is that game app development companies are hiring and developing like mad.

Game programmers (online and console) had an average salary of $85,733. ~ Game Developer Magazine

Degree Options

To get a game development position with a major company, you’ll generally need at least a bachelor’s degree. Game development companies often specify a degree in either computer science or a related field as a requirement. This gives you some choices! One of the things you’ll want to consider is whether you want to design games for decades or explore different types of software development as you progress in your career. [Learn more about Computer Science degree programs in your state]

Computer science is a versatile degree. Computer science programs often include a solid introduction to virtual reality. The advanced math is also an advantage for some games; employers may ask for a background in 3-D math, for example. A computer science related degree that game development companies often consider is software engineering. A software engineering degree will give you a solid math background and a good introduction to software life cycle models that are used in large scale development projects. In addition to giving you flexibility, however, this type of degree shows academic aptitude – important in a field where old systems become obsolete and you have to keep on learning to stay on the game. Like some fields of engineering, you don’t actually need an engineering license to work on gaming software.

Some students enroll in baccalaureate degree programs in software development or game software development. Software development programs are typically a little less rigorous when it comes to math and engineering. They do, however, include a lot of programming. They also include some extras; they may introduce you to both the design and business aspects of the industry. There may be an emphasis on building a portfolio – something future employers will want to see. Another benefit is that you’ll be surrounded by students with similar goals. Some software development programs give a solid introduction to both games and business applications. [Find additional information on Software Development degree programs]

If you already have a degree in a science or technology field, you don’t necessarily have to start over again. Companies sometimes list electrical engineering or even physics among the acceptable degrees for the game developer positions they are hiring for. You will, however, need quite a bit of experience – and a particular skill set – to break into the market.

Getting Noticed: Other Qualifications

Whatever their educational background, game software developers are expected to have passion and at least a little real world experience. Employers may specify very specific skills like knowledge of the Unreal Engine and fluency with various languages and environments (Linux, Cygwin).

Game companies also want to know that candidates can handle pressure and that they have realistic expectations of the job. Some note, as a requirement, that game developers must have seen a product through to the shipping stage.

As in many other professions, it can seem difficult to get experience without experience. Gaming companies, including giants like Nickelodeon, offer internships to promising college students. At the intern level, companies may be impressed that you’ve worked on projects and solved problems on your own. If you have experience writing freeware, you’ll want to mention it. (Hint: working on freeware is a nice resume builder)

Out in the Job World: Salary and Job Expectations

Gaming may be associated with youth, but game developers make decidedly grownup salaries. According to a 2010 survey by Game Developer magazine, game programmers (online and console) had an average salary of $85,733. Producers earned $88,544. Game developers earn more than many people with similar educational levels who are employed in other industries. The down side is that it often takes well over 40 hours of work to make these figures.

Some developers work outside of traditional employee relationships; salaries are generally lower, but there may be other perks. Independent contractors averaged $55,493 and indies $26,780, according to the 2010 survey. For those who are drawn to startups and entrepreneurialism, game software development has an advantage – startup costs are lower than in many businesses.

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Syracuse MSCS

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