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The Average Video Game Programmer's Salary

by Forest Time

Programmers code all types of software, such as apps on smartphones; computer programs, from basic word processing applications to complex operating systems; and games for both computers and consoles. Computer programmers usually complete a bachelor's degree in computer science or a closely related discipline, during which they learn how to manipulate coding languages and use them to create video game characters and worlds.

Programmers Are Highly Paid

According to a 2013 salary survey conducted by Game Developer magazine, programmers are among the highest-paid professionals in the video game industry. In 2013, U.S. video game programmers earned an average of $92,151 per year. By comparison, game producers averaged $84,127 per year, animators averaged $75,009 and game designers averaged $75,065. And programmers made nearly twice as much as video game testers, who reported an average annual salary of $48,611.

Pay by Experience and Title

According to Game Developer magazine, programmers earned an average salary of $74,008 during their first 3 years on the job. Those with between 3 and 6 years of programming experience averaged $83,243 per year, and those who had 6 or more years of experience averaged $111,281 per year. And programmers who are promoted can make even more; with 6 years of programming experience, lead programmers brought home an average salary of $112,286, while technical directors averaged $124,833 per year.

Where The Money's At

The video game industry has traditionally been concentrated in the West, and this is reflected in regional salaries for video game programmers. Those employed in the Western states significantly outearned programmers in other parts of the country, reporting an average salary of $101,168. Programmers in the East earned the second-highest average pay, $83,375 per year. By comparison, programmers employed in the South brought home an average salary of $78,777, while those in the Midwest averaged $75,577 per year.

Additional Perks

In addition to high salaries, most computer programmers receive benefits from their employers. For example, Game Developer found that 95 percent of programmers received some form of medical coverage, and 88 percent received dental coverage. In addition, 81 percent received some form of income above and beyond their salary. In fact, programmers reported an average additional income of $15,797 in 2013, whether through stock options, royalties or project bonuses. The most common form of additional income, received by nearly half of programmers, was an annual bonus.

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