Which Game Dev Job Is Best?

When I was young and deciding what I wanted to be when I grew up, I knew I wanted to work in games. Making games for a living was the dream for me, as it is so many others. This was great as an initial goal, but once it came to start my learning path, I had to start figuring out exactly what area of games I want to work in. While you could create an indie game solo, if you are looking for a steady job or want to work on AAA titles, you’ll need to specialize. So I started to wonder, which game dev job is best?

It’s possible to start out with a generic Games Development course like I did, but you may find it lacking in detail as it tries to cover too many topics. They can be useful for figuring out what exactly you want to do, but if you can figure that out from the get-go then you can spend those early years learning something more relevant to the topic, such as mathematics or physics if you want to get into programming.

Job search page at Aardvark Swift.
Aardvark Swift, a recruiting agency for the games industry.

There’s a huge amount of jobs with increasing levels of specialization, but for this comparison, we’re going to look at different departments as a whole. There will be entry-level jobs, those that you could enter straight out of a university course as your first job, or with some personal experience. These are QA (Game Tester), Art, Programming, and Design. Then there are the leadership roles, which you will either need a lot of experience in the industry to do or relevant experience in other industries, these are producers and directors. This by no means covers every job in games development, but it covers a large majority of them.

Which Game Dev Job Pays The Best?

A good way to think of a job in game development is that you are picking a job that you will hopefully enjoy, rather than one that will make you rich. While some roles, especially senior roles, can make significant incomes, you will most likely be starting on a bare-bones wage while at entry-level, and it will take a time to earn good money. Compared to other ‘skilled labor’ it does not pay well. This is because it’s seen as a highly sought-after job, where there is always someone else willing to do the job for cheaper. This is why you have to build up that skill level and earn some promotions before you can start asking for decent pay.

That being said, money is still important, so which careers pay the best? Unsurprisingly the senior management roles of Producers and Directors earn by far the most. This is due to the responsibility and experience required for the role. Beyond that, Programmers will generally earn the most out of the entry-level roles. Artists and Designers will earn fairly low pay, this is generally due to the desirability of the role and as such the competitive nature of the job. QA will generally have the highest competition as it has the lowest level of entry and has the appeal of people wanting to ‘play games for a living’. Whilst there are too many factors to give an accurate monetary number for all the career paths, it’s possible to break them up into categories.

Job RolePay
QA (Game Tester)Low
Game dev job pay brackets.

Qualifications or Experience Needed

For most jobs in the game industry, you will need some level of experience or skill to get a job. The skillset is highly specialized and very complicated, it’s also a highly competitive space so most people won’t be able to just turn up at the door with their general life experience and get a job. That being said you don’t need a university degree or experience specifically in games to get a job.

In order of the most useful qualifications or experience you need for an entry-level job you should try to get:
– A released title
– Impressive portfolio
– Relevant work experience
– Recognised qualifications

Some roles have higher barriers to entry than others and may vary by role. It may be possible to get a role as a low-level Producer role with no game industry experience, but you will need proven experience in Producer roles in other industries. This is because, although you will need to learn quickly on the job, a lot of your time will be spent organizing and time managing a team, much like other industries. Directors, on the other hand, will need a huge amount of game development experience behind them, as they will need to know the processes in and out. Most of the time a Director will get to that position by being promoted from one of the other career paths, like Programmers or Artists.

Programmers, Artists and, Designers will need some experience or qualifications to get a job, even at entry-level. Experience such as having a game release on your resume, or having an impressive portfolio can carry you to a job, without industry job experience or qualifications, although you will most likely need to do a test or have a background check to make sure you’re telling the truth. In terms of qualifications, games-based qualifications are great, but any relevant courses will not be overlooked. Games Testers are the outlier here, as although previous experience in the role is very useful, it is possible to get a job in the role without experience. This lower barrier to entry also causes it to be much more competitive as many people will use it as an entry into the industry, including people who eventually want to move into another position like Artists or Designers, who will have more credentials than the average Joe.

Job RoleQualifications / Experience Needed
ProducerLeadership experience, other Producer roles.
DirectorA large amount of game industry experience.
ProgrammerSome industry experience, relevant qualifications, or strong portfolio.
ArtistSome industry experience, relevant qualifications, or strong portfolio.
DesignerSome industry experience, relevant qualifications, or strong portfolio.
QA (Game Tester)Some game industry knowledge.
Game dev job requirements.

Competition For Game Dev Jobs

There’s no doubt that the games industry is a competitive place, with hundreds of applications for a single role, it can be hard to stand out. But some jobs are easier to get into than others. As a rule of thumb, the higher the position, the less competition, this makes sense as you will have to get through the entry-level work and keep at it long enough to progress. Given the high turnover rate in the game industry, this isn’t guaranteed. Equally, the lower the requirements to entry are, the more competitive the role will be.

Producers and Directors of high quality are always highly sought after in the industry, as well as good Programmers, particularly specialists such as Graphics Programmers. Having the right skills in these areas could find places scrambling over each other to get to you, which is quite the feat. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for the other roles, which many people want to join, as competition is very high at entry levels.

Job RoleLevel Of Competition
QA (Game Tester)Very High
Game dev competition ratings.