November 17, 2008

Wanna Be a Video Game Programmer? Put Down the Remote Control & Pick Up a Text Book

As promised, Mondays at JobMonkey are now going to be about education and your career. Don’t worry: You probably do not need a Ph.D. to land the job of your dreams; but most professions do require a certain level of education and/or training. 

At some jobs, this can take the form of on-the-job training; but for other professions, you will need to show up with a resume that includes coursework, a major or even an advanced degree in a specialized field.

What all of this means is that no matter where you are at in your career path — from the high school student trying to figure out college plans to the mid-level professional looking to make a career change — you need to think long and hard about what role education can play in reaching your professional goals.

This week, we are going to look at the profession of video game programmers.  Believe it or not, there is a whole field of people dedicated to creating video games (ha, and my mom always told me no one was going to pay me to play Nintendo!). It’s one of those dream job scenarios, I’m guessing, for a lot of the people employed in this growing industry.

But you can’t just walk into Wii and get a job based on your own gaming mastery.  Companies are going to be looking for solid work experience AND an educational background that lends itself to the field.  What does that mean exactly?  Here are some ideas:

>> B.A. or higher in computer science, possibly with an emphasis in video game design
There are hundreds of schools in America with computer science degrees, ranging from local community schools to top-rated programs like Cal Tech and MIT. 

The key is your coursework; some schools, like UC-Santa Cruz, have concentrations or even a major in video game design.  But even if yours doesn’t, you should choose classes that emphasize gaming systems, graphics and animation.

>> Online degrees in Video Game Design
There are a growing number of online programs in video game design, which make particular sense for those of you looking to switch tracks mid-career or to attend school while working full-time.

>> Graduate degree programs in Computer Engineering
Senior level game programmer jobs often require or prefer graduate degrees.  If this is your aim, then you should know that the most common degree is an M.S. in Computer Engineering.  To learn more, check out the U.S. News and World Report‘s list of the top ten graduate schools for Computer Engineering.

Is there are a career path you are interested in pursuing, but you don’t know where to start in terms of schooling and training?  Leave me a comment and I will be sure to offer some educational resources and suggestions next Monday.

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