June 21, 2010

How to Be a Video Game Programmer

I know, I know, your mother always told you to put down your video game controls and pick up your text books. I think the refrain went something like this, “Playing those *&%^ games isn’t going to pay the bills, young man!”

Well guess what, Mom? There is actually a whole profession that earns their living from those *&%^ games! And I’m thinking for those of you who are addicted to gaming, working in the video game industry would be a real dream come true!

Video Game Tester Section Photo

Before you rush out to a job interview with your highest score as your only credential, I’m going to walk you through some of the educational expectations that future employers will have.

Bachelors Degree in Computer Science

You can choose from hundreds of schools in America that offer B.A.s or higher in computer science, all the way from your local two-year college to highly ranked four-year programs at prestigious schools like MIT. No matter where you choose to get your degree from, the key is to take courses that will help you develop the knowledge and experience in gaming. This includes courses in graphics, animation and of course, programming. There are even schools such as UC-Santa Cruz, that offer a college major in video game design.

Graduate degree programs in Computer Engineering

If you are looking to take the leap to a senior level programming job, you will likely need a graduate degree. The most common choice is an M.S. in Computer Engineering, although some top-level gaming executives even hold a PhD. If you are more interested in the business and marketing side of the gaming industry, an MBA might be a more appropriate choice for you.

Online degrees in Video Game Design

If you are a game geek, odds are that learning online is a natural comfort zone for you. Online programs are a great option for people looking to make a mid-career change, which will necessitate them going back to school while continuing to work a full-time job.

Video Game Design Certificates & Two Year Degrees

If the traditional college route isn’t for you, there are still some great educational options for you. Video gaming insiders often recommend Full Sail as the ideal “real world education”. The school is located in Orlando, FL and offers Associate’s degrees in game development and computer animation. In less than two years, you can have an in-depth background in artificial intelligence, game networking, structures of game design, physics, and linear algebra. Learn more about gaming degrees and certificates from programs like Full Sail at the JobMonkey.

If you are interested in learning more about video game programming education and careers, check out this interview with gaming veteran, Bill Roper. Oh, and how cool is this? There is a gaming scholarship just for those of you interested in pursuing video game design.

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