Game Programmer Salary Guide and Career Outlook

Computer game programming ranks among the best-paid jobs in the industry. The median game programmer salary is $62,844 per year in the US, $50,964 in Canada, $32,136 in the United Kingdom, R30,000 in South Africa, and $55,000 in Australia and New Zealand. They design, write, and implement the entire code infrastructure that makes video games work. It requires expert programming skills and excellent knowledge of gaming principles and practices. A game programmer salary ranks high, even in the IT&C industry due to the complexity of the job. Also, there is a very high demand for better games and always will be. However, it can vary, depending on the country and company they work for.

JOB DESCRIPTION OF A VIDEO GAME PROGRAMMER

A video game programmer is known by many various job titles and leads an exciting career is developing and editing games. Specifically, a video game programmer will write codes for games in an array of formats, including PC, web browsers, mobile phones, portable consoles, and more. This ensures that every user gets the opportunity to play a game. In fact, this part of the job is a big part of your role. A video game programmer turns a designer’s drawings, ideas and conceptions to life by adding visuals and sound through code. As writing code is a big part of your daily duties, you’ll use specific programs and software.  

HOW TO ENTER THIS FIELD OF WORK

If you like the sound of developing and producing games on a daily basis, you’ll be intrigued to know what skills and education it takes to make a living in this field of work. The main skill set you’ll need to become a video game programmer is mathematics. A huge chunk of this job is creating equations that correspond with the activity to make the game perform how you planned. Having a Mathematics degree demonstrates that you’re educated to complete such tasks. You should have at least a basic knowledge of algorithms and linear algebra, and although this doesn’t always have to be to the level of a college degree, we highly recommend doing so.

Aside from skills in math, you’ll need to demonstrate a substantial background working or studying in computer science. Degrees in computer engineering or computer science will help you to comprehend computer graphics and turn ideas and pictures to life.

As you build your education, you’ll need to present that you can put your skills to real-life and build a healthy portfolio to demonstrate your abilities. Your portfolio should highlight links to software for games you’ve been working on and images of scenes from games. We also recommend showing the source code for the games you used within your portfolio and provide any credit to game designers, too.

REASONS TO GET A JOB IN THIS FIELD

If you feel like you have the education, passion, and motivation to enter this field, let’s discuss some of the beneficial reasons to enter this field.

WORK IN A CASUAL ENVIRONMENT

If you can’t picture yourself working in customer service or for a stressful company with high demands, you’ll appreciate the casual work environment as a video game programmer. Everyone working in this field is passionate about designing and creating so you’ll be a part of an enthusiastic and positive workplace. There’s also a great sense of freedom because your responsibility is to complete a project so you’re not being monitored on a daily basis. 

GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE CREATIVE

Getting creative and feeling inspired is a great way to live. Many game programmers are responsible for using their creative and analytical skills to produce exceptional games that users will love. Depending on the company you work for or the department you’re a part of, you may even get to expand your skillset to writing scripts and tweaking the game mechanics. Either way, you’ll get to use your creative flair to customize how a player earns scores and completes levels. Plus, there’s something satisfying about knowing you’re earning a career helping others to have fun and let off some steam. Your hard work and efforts are going toward making someone happier and feel entertained, and that gives you a great purpose to work even harder.

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN WORKING IN THIS FIELD

This is an exciting and thrilling career, but there are also some important factors to consider before you jump straight in. Let’s take a look at the most essential things to bear in mind.

UNHEALTHY LIFESTYLE

Most of your time working will be spent sitting down and staring at a screen. Repeatedly performing the same actions for 40 hours every week can put a strain on your eyes. Plus, as you won’t spend much time walking around, this can lead to some health conditions and even cause obesity. Therefore, it’s important that you consider how you spend your time outside of work to ensure you’re living a healthy lifestyle. 

LONG HOURS

Becoming a game programmer is a fun job and you’ll become a part of many exciting projects. However, getting to the end result requires a lot of hard work and long hours. Prepare yourself for working 12-hour days leading up to the launch date. This is a regular occurrence in the game industry and you can even spend around three months part of a tight schedule, which can have an impact on your personal life.

WELCOME CHANGE AND NEW LEARNING

Working in the technology world, nothing remains the same so you’ll need to be comfortable with change. Along with change, that also means you’ll need to be willing to learn new codes and skills that have evolved since you were last educated. This could even involve enrolling in night courses to learn more about the gaming world if you truly want to grow in this industry.

GAME PROGRAMMER INDUSTRY

The gaming industry is highly competitive and sometimes stressful to work in. Everything you’re working on has to be to a high standard in order for the company to receive a substantial profit. The most important personal skills to have is passion and commitment. If your heart isn’t in the job, you will quickly become bored and lose your way.

Experience is just as important as education, if not more so. Many people question how they can gain work experience if they don’t have a professional qualification. But, there should be nothing stopping you from creating your own position. Start a gaming website, learn to code on the side and begin to put your skills into practice so you can demonstrate to companies that you’re comfortable working in this field. Finally, consider working in the gaming industry, even if it’s as customer service operator for a gaming company. This is a great way to demonstrate that you love this industry as well as develop your network and make important connections.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE PER YEAR BY COUNTRY?

Game Programmer SalaryUSCanadaUKAustraliaNew Zealand*IndiaSouth Africa
Hourly Pay$20.00C$19.00*E16.73*AU$28.64NZ$ 28.64Rs 261,56R 15.62
Annual Pay$62,843C$50,964E32,136AU$55,000NZ$ 55,000Rs 502,200R 30,000

*These figures are estimated based on the other pay information given. This assumes a 40-hour workweek.

make a game programmer salary

GAME PROGRAMMER SALARY INFLUENCING FACTORS

The average salary varies in accordance with three main influencing factors: location, industry, and experience. Even more, the company they work for can highly affect their pay.

1. LOCATION

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN THE US? HOW MUCH DO GAME PROGRAMMERS MAKE PER HOUR?

The United States is arguably the most popular destination. Annually, the game programmer salary ranges between $42,253 to an impressive $100,385. In addition, they can receive high bonuses between $1,1014 and $29, 590. Their hourly earning goes between $7.06 and $40.27, with the potential of overtime pay of $50.00.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN CANADA?

In Canada, the average salary goes between C$38,804 to C$89,384 per year and a bonus of $1,965. However, the hourly pay rate stays at an average of C$19.65 with overtime pay of C$21.80.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN THE UK?

Annually, a game programmer in the UK makes between E19,309 to E47,010. Additionally, they can earn a bonus of $1,024. Their hourly profit has a median of 16.73, though the overtime pay may be strictly dependent on the company.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN AUSTRALIA?

Programmer salaries range between AU$32,241 and AU$74,497 in Australia, with a potential bonus of AU$2,069. The hourly rate pay estimates at around 28.64 with overtime pay depending on the company.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN NEW ZEALAND?

In New Zealand, programmer salaries range between NZ$49,000 and NZ$80,000. Their hourly pay is estimated at NZ$28.64 as well, with potential for overtime.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN INDIA?

Game programmer salaries go between Rs 193,785 and Rs 1,154,053 in India. However, they have a potential bonus of Rs 6,500 with an hourly rate estimated at Rs 261,56.

HOW MUCH DOES A GAME PROGRAMMER MAKE IN SOUTH AFRICA?

In South Africa, their pay ranges between R8,000 and a high R35,000 per year. It depends strictly on whether the company is established or not.

2. EXPERIENCE

Experience matters a great deal in computer video game programming. Salaries can rise by as much as 70% between an entry-level position and a senior programmer position. Special design skills and additional programming languages are also an important plus. As a computer game programmer, you will be asked to work in a team. It’s crucial to constantly communicate with fellow developers, like computer programmers, and other team members. Experience in working on gaming projects can, thus, be a major advantage for starting with a higher salary.

Previous experience as a game designer will also play a major role. As in other industries, game design companies prefer to keep skilled individuals inside, rather than hire somebody new. So, be mindful of the competition. Make sure that you have first maximized your chances before moving on to a top job in the sector.

3. INDUSTRY

How much do game programmers make mostly depends on the company they work for. World-class gaming and game design companies like Blizzard Entertainment and EA will pay their game programmers with at least the high median game programmer salary. In addition, they will certainly offer more if they are particularly skilled and proficient.

The gaming market, however, also includes many smaller companies, such as Telltale Games. They have dedicated fan bases and also pay their programmers very well. As programming is an essential part of the game design process, you can expect to find a good wage in many such companies.

Overall, the gaming industry is still booming in the world — a large number of jobs available in the sector at any given time.

SCHEDULE AND WORKING HOURS

Usually, a game programmer works standard 40-hour weeks, with a normal 8-hour day schedule. However, longer hours might be required in some conditions. This is especially when the company works on an important game or a new release. In order to meet game release deadlines, game developers sometimes work very long hours and even weekends, to make sure that the product is perfect, without bugs and glitches.

Depending on the scale of the project and on the company’s policy, some can work from home. However, due to the constant need to communicate with other team members, game programmers usually work at the company offices.

GAME PROGRAMMER SALARY BY STATE

Below, we have prepared a table containing the game programmer salaries across the US:

StateAnnual Mean Wage
Alabama$99,000
Alaska$72,000
Arizona$80,000
Arkansas$99,000
California$104,000
Colorado$86,000
Connecticut$101,000
Delaware$85,000
District of Columbia$95,000
Florida$95,000
Georgia$98,000
Hawaii$70,000
Idaho$68,000
Illinois$96,000
Indiana$93,000
Iowa$95,000
Kansas$89,000
Kentucky$84,000
Louisiana$87,000
Maine$86,000
Maryland$100,000
Massachusetts$100,000
Michigan$98,000
Minnesota$85,000
Mississippi$102,000
Missouri$96,000
Montana$81,000
Nebraska$71,000
Nevada$78,000
New Hampshire$96,000
New Jersey$103,000
New Mexico$85,000
New York$102,000
North Carolina$93,000
North Dakota$86,000
Ohio$93,000
Oklahoma$90,000
Oregon$94,000
Pennsylvania$94,000
Puerto Rico$94,000
Rhode Island$89,000
South Carolina$96,000
South Dakota$73,000
Tennessee$90,000
Texas$94,000
Utah$78,000
Vermont$86,000
Virginia$98,000
Washington$101,000
West Virginia$92,000
Wisconsin$87,000
Wyoming$85,000
US$90,137
Average Hourly Wage$25

CAREER OUTLOOK

The video game programmer salary is expected to grow slowly but steadily for the foreseeable future, with an overall 6% increase expected until 2024. This is owed to increasing demand for more performant computer games. It can match the newest hardware on the market, but also due to a growing general interest in computer games.

However, this means that competition will be strong. Only good programmers will get jobs in high-ranking companies such as Blizzard or Activision. However, a game programmer school can help. You can improve your chances in this sector by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in game design. This will have a great positive impact on your chances of actually landing a job in the sector and start getting experience.

Once hired, you can expect your salary to grow, based on your performance and accumulated experience. If you are lucky to work on a major game or an important project,  you might get generous bonuses.

WOULD YOU CONSIDER THIS JOB?

Becoming a game developer can be a very smart career choice if you are good at programming and passionate this field. The median video game programmer wage is very attractive, and career development options abound. This industry isn’t going anywhere soon so it’s a comfortable line of work to keep your feet comfortable. Finally, computer programming is also highly rewarding, especially when your company manages to create an exquisite game.

After reading the average salary, benefits, and qualifications required to enter this line of work, would you consider becoming a game programmer? Alternatively, if you’re a game programmer and have some professional advice for others, we’d love to hear your feedback. Share your thoughts in the comments to keep this conversation going.

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