The Paycheck: How Much to Expect as an Entry-Level Game Developer (Game Developer Salary Survey)

By Jill Duffy [09.26.08]

 Game Developer Salary Survey 2008, for the tax year ending 2007. 

As an entry-level game developer, how much money can you really expect to make?

Game Developer magazine has been collecting data annually from professional game-makers for seven years, and the editors (myself among them) have shared much of that information exclusively with GameCareerGuide.com for the past three years.

It is the stated goal of GameCareerGuide to equip you with knowledge about what to expect when considering a career in video game development. This site makes no bones about how competitive the industry can be to break into, and likewise, won't fudge the numbers to make the salaries seem more attractive. This is the real deal.

If you saw the salary survey report from the 2008 Game Career Guide magazine (which reported on the salaries for the year ending 2007, see page 11), the base numbers reported here are the same -- but here they are reported alongside the average salaries from 2006 and 2005 as well, originally published in 2007 and 2006, respectively.

Also new to this year's report is a table showing highest level of education attained alongside the average salary for each, by discipline (e.g., programmer, artist).

As in the two previous salary survey reports provided on this site, the focus is on game developers with three or fewer years of experience, as those salaries are likely to be inline with entry-level ones.

The methodology for collecting the most recent figures can be found here (see page 16).

And to answer that one big, burning question so many aspiring game developers seem to have: As to where there is the greatest need to hire in the game industry this year -- programming. I have heard again and again that companies have a very hard time finding programmers. The catch is, they want experienced game programmers. As you'll see from the numbers, programmers are generally paid better, too.

Programmers

Average Salaries for Programmers with Three or Fewer Years Experience
Year Ending Average Salary
2005 $52,989
2006 $57,913
2007 $57,665
Data for Programmers Across Various Levels of Experience (U.S.)

 

 


Artists and Animators

Average Salaries for Artists with Three or Fewer Years Experience
Year Ending Average Salary
2005 $45,675
2006 $42,672
2007 $43,657
Data for Artists and Animators Across Various Levels of Experience (U.S.)



Game Designers

Average Salaries for Game Designers (excluding Writers)
with Three or Fewer Years Experience

Year Ending Average Salary
2005 $43,486
2006 $44,432
2007 $46,208
Data for Game Designers Across Various Levels of Experience (U.S.)

 


 

 

 


Producers
Average Salaries for Producers with Three or Fewer Years Experience
Year Ending Assoc./Assist.
Salary
2005 (not avail.)
2006 $44,167
2007 $46,667

Year Ending Including Leads
Salary
2005 (not avail.)
2006 $52,885
2007 $52,763
Data for Producers Across Various Levels of Experience (U.S.)

 

 

 

 


Quality Assurance Testers

Average Salaries for QA Testers with Three or Fewer Years Experience (excluding Leads)
Year Ending Average Salary
2005 $24,797
2006 $24,559
2007 $25,142
Data for QA Testers Across Various Levels of Experience (U.S.)

 


 

 


 


One of the newest sets of data collected by Game Developer magazine for the Game Developer Salary Survey is the average salary of different types of game developers sorted by their highest level of education attained.

For our readers who are considering obtaining a higher degree or who are just out of high school, the numbers might help you understand just how much (or how little) a degree does to boost one's income in the game industry. Note: The data in this table is for all levels of experience.


Finally, it is important to note that the cost of living varies dramatically across the U.S. The table provided here illustrates just how drastically different the salaries can be, too. (For overall European and Canadian salaries, see the free 2008 Game Career Guide magazine online, page 11. Entry-level salary information by discipline in Europe and Canada is not available due to low sample size.)

 

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