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GAME CAREER JOB QUESTIONS
This page seeks to provide quick and easy answers to questions about pursuing a job in video game design or development. Answers here are intentionally brief. You can find more detailed general information about preparing for a game design or development job in the corresponding section at right. If you would like information about specific creative career paths inside the game industry, there is a section dedicated to that as well.
• What does a video game developer actually do?
• Is video game development a safe industry for a career?
• Is it difficult to get a job in the video game industry?
• What if I try my best and still can't get a video game industry job?
• Does it matter where I live?
• What are the work hours like?
• What kind of degree is usually required for the game industry?
• How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree?
• Is it possible to earn an entire degree online?
• Where can I find schools offering a degree in video game design?
• I'm anti-college, how can I get a job without a degree?
• I've seen self-taught game artists. Is that common? Do I need training?
• I want to freelance as a concept artist. How do I get recognized?
• What is the salary like for a game developer?
I love playing games. Is a job in the game industry a good idea for me?
I like driving cars, but I sure don't want to build them. It's certainly great to enjoy a subject if it is a potential job prospect, but you need to be sure that enjoyment extends well beyond the user experience. Do you spend hours critiquing games on message boards or discussing how you'd improve them? Are you constantly daydreaming about creating them or coming up with your own stories and characters? Are you the type that writes fan fiction, draws characters, collects game art, or creates remixes of game music? Have you tried writing your own game design ideas, creating mods, or programming small flash games? You will know better than anyone if you are as passionate about making games as you are about playing them.
What does a video game developer actually do?
Game developer tasks are highly specialized. Most fall into the category of designing, drawing / modeling, or programming. The specific roles within each of those areas can be extremely varied as well. Please see our page about video game career paths for an explanation of what each discipline and sub-role does.
Is video game development a safe industry for a career?
For the foreseeable future it is very safe indeed. The US entertainment software industry is continuing to post positive growth numbers. Its annual growth rate from 2005 to 2009 broke 10 percent, compared to less than 2 percent for the entire US economy for the same period. Also for the period of 2005 to 2009, direct employment in the entertainment software industry grew at an annual rate of 8.65% percent [ ESA report ].
Is it difficult to get a job in the video game industry?
It is difficult in that it requires a lot of hard work and patience, and you will face stiff competition. However, if you pursue work that you are passionate about then you should find the hard work to be a motivation rather than a road block. Video game development is full of challenges, and employers are looking for people who can take on such challenges day after day with enthusiasm. If you can't handle four years of work to earn a degree, then you may not fair much better making that kind of work a career. Always stick to your passions.
What if I try my best and still can't get a video game industry job?
If you have all the personal creativity and motivation, and possess an appropriate degree and still can't get a foot into the game industry, you can be certain your training will still have plenty of other real world applications. All types of expertise used in video game design and development have existed long before games did. If you love what you majored in, you can find other jobs that will put it to use. And just because you have had closed doors doesn't mean you should give up on approaching new ones. You can always change jobs further down the road.
Does it matter where I live?
Location is indeed important, as most jobs in video game development will require your physical presence at a development studio. See GameDevMap for a map of game development locations worldwide.
What are the work hours like?
A normal 40-hour work week is common for most of the development time, but extra hours (up to 18-hour days), nights, or weekends is common during "crunch time" when the game nears release. Concept artists may avoid some of the crunch time since their work is often among the earliest to be finished.
What kind of degree is usually required for the game industry?
It is not entirely unheard of to break in with an associate's degree, but if you want a realistic chance you should plan on a bachelor's degree. With the rate that games are advancing and the kind of technology and skill sets they require, a bachelor's is cementing its place as the standard.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor's degree?
Any type of bachelor's degree takes an average of four years to obtain. There are exceptions however, namely in online courses which allow you to study over the summer as well. It's best to ask the school if they allow this.
Is it possible to earn an entire degree online?
There are indeed a number of schools offering just that. Not every school has the same procedures, so it would be wise to confirm with the respective school ahead of time. But yes, most online degrees are specifically designed to not require your physical presence.
Where can I find schools offering a degree in video game design?
You can peruse our own list of game design schools, which includes online and offline courses. Do keep in mind that you don't need a "game design degree". Any bachelor's degree that offers training in the areas important to the job you are pursuing will more than suffice.
I'm anti-college, how can I get a job without a degree?
I never attended college (though I think college is positive in general), that's why I run websites and do stock photography. But working for someone else means you have to play by their rules. Game industry jobs usually require degrees, you can't change that. You may still find rare exceptions, in particular for artist jobs (see below). Those in the industry without degrees got there because they proved themselves through years of self-taught experience making their own games or starting their own companies. You either follow someone else's rules or you create your own. You're on your own for the latter. That's something every entrepreneur faces in their own way.
I've seen self-taught game artists. Is that common? Do I need training?
If you have a jaw-dropping portfolio then you don't need a degree, it's as simple as that. At least as far as skill is concerned. Do keep in mind that job postings still regularly ask for a degree and/or work experience, so you better be prepared to impress with professional examples of your work and a realization that some employers might not even bother to look without the degree. Possible? For sure. But probably not the norm. If you do go it alone, study the tools well that are most often listed in job applications (Photoshop, 3DS Max, etc). Speed and proficiency are as important as the quality of your work.
I want to freelance as a concept artist. How do I get recognized?
The internet will give you the broadest space to advertise yourself. Keep an updated online portfolio, make a website or blog for your work and link it to your portfolio, build a following on places like DeviantArt, and share your work on forums. Hone your skills so that if your work is seen by an employer it will grab their attention. And make sure they know you are available for work as freelance or full-time.
What is the salary like for a game developer?
The average salary for direct employment in the computer and video game industry was $90,000 [ ESA report ] in 2010. This is the average across all job roles and years of experience. The average for positions held for 3 years or less was about $47,000. Averages by job title are available on our game developer salary averages page.