How to Become a

Video Game Programmer

The complete career guide to be a Video Game Programmer: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $84,360
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -8%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Creativity Focused
    Career Attribute
  • Fast Paced Career
    Career Attribute

A video game programmer is a software engineer that writes code for video games.  They are responsible for making the game work properly and helping the graphics look as realistic as possible.

Recommended Schools

What is a Video Game Programmer?

The following responsibilities are common for Video Game Programmers:

  • Creates story lines and character biographies
  • Designs role-play mechanics
  • Conducts design reviews
  • Creates prototypes to show management
  • Documents and records game design processes

A Day In The Life

Video game programmers, also known as video game developers, write code for games for a variety of formats.  They take the video game designers ideas and turn them into an enjoyable and playable game by writing the code to create the visuals and mechanics.  They are considered as the creative technical brains behind video and computer games.  Although, they collaborate closely with video game designers, it is the programmers that actually write and create the code to bring the game to life.

Video game programmers typically specialize in one area, like consoles, PCs or cell phones, and in regards to the game aspect they also typically specialize in things like special effects, artificial intelligence or network performance.  They write the code that assists with the characters of the games movement.  They also determine the actions of the players on each level of the game and the difficulty of each level.  They are also responsible for putting the games audio feedback mechanism in place to signal secret items or that a certain level has be successfully passed.

There are also other specializations among game programmers.  Some may focus on programming using interfaces, while others focus solely on gameplay and others focus on only scripting.  However, many gamers do not specialize at all, and rather focus as generalists and work on all aspects and areas of a game.

Typical Work Schedule

Video game programmers typically work full-time following the regular working schedule of 40 hours per week. The schedule may be altered depending on the size of the company and the crew of their studio to accommodate the requirements of the teamwork. Sometimes game programmers have to put extra working hours to deliver the work before a preset deadline. Normally, you will not have to work extra hours as long as you are keeping your schedule on track. It may still get sometimes stressful if software bugs appeared that interrupted the use of the game after its release. You will also need to consider constant improvement and self-study as a regular part of your schedule to be able to keep up with the continuous advances in technology as well as gaming events.

Projected Job Growth

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for video game programmers and other software developers is expected to increase by about 21% from 2018 to 2028. This is one of the highest growth rates expected for jobs in this period. This indicates that the job market should offer attractive opportunities to graduates from related programs. However, video game program requires having the talent to design amusing and attractive games that can gain popularity. Additionally, video game programmers have experience in other programming fields and may choose to change their programming specialization.

Typical Employers

The value of the video game industry is estimated to be around $18.4 billion which includes more than 2457 companies and more than 220,000 employees. The largest video game companies include Electronic Arts, Nintendo, Namco and Ubisoft. These companies have produced games that gained billions of dollars in revenue. Other employers include many software companies that may need to gamify their products and apps. There is also increasing market for game applications for mobile devices with more than 1 million game on App Store. Another option is freelance work which is highly competitive by nature and would add extra constraints on them. Such field especially in known studios will have higher competitions. Accordingly, you wil need to spend time working on projects, increasing your network connections and building up your portfolio and resume before applying to any of these companies.

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How To Become a Video Game Programmer

A bachelor’s degree in computer science or computer game development is preferred by employers in order to become a video game programmer, along with excellent analytical and reasoning skills.  The knowledge and ability to write code and read programming language are primary requirements.  Although, the most valued skill overall is talent.  If an individual has a talent for programming and a love for gaming, then this is a perfect career choice. Comprehension in of various computer systems is also extremely beneficial for this career as well.  It is important that these individuals are also certified in computer programming language like Java or CC++, Swift, MEL and Python.

Being knowledgeable in C++ is absolutely essential in this career field.  It is the most common computer language for computer games to be written in, and can be a difficult and complicated language to learn.  Java is not as popular, but just as important to learn.  Android devices and games are often written in JavaScript.  Swift and Objective-C programs are used for writing games in Apple iOS.  Python can also be helpful with any tasks that a programmer may encounter during the development process and is the easiest of all the languages to learn.

Video Game Programmer Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

Low Range




High Range


National Hourly Wage

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High Range


How do Video Game Programmer salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Video Game Programmer's can make an average annual salary of $84,360, or $41 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $60,250 or $29 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #123 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Video Game Programmer. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Video Game Programmers

  • 2.5%   Doctorate
  • 19.6%   Masters
  • 49.7%   Bachelors
  • 9.7%   Associates
  • 13.1%   College
  • 4.7%   High School
  • 0.7%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Video Game Programmer job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -26,400 jobs for a total of 302,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -8% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #729 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Video Game Programmers

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Computer systems design and related services 126,100 -26,800 -27%
Software publishers 22,100 3,200 3%
Self-employed workers 18,000 2,600 3%

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