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Graphics Programmer Job Description, Career as a Graphics Programmer, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: Bachelor’s degree in computer programming.

Salary: Median— $65,510 annually

Employment Outlook: Very good

Graphics programmers are technical experts who concentrate on developing specialized computer programs exclusively applicable to complicated 2D and 3D graphics. A graphics programmer has in-depth knowledge in advanced mathematics and linear algebra. Computer-aided design, mapmaking, and animation fall within the purview of graphics programming.

Graphics programmers are in high demand in the ever-expanding industry of computer and video games. They are responsible for creating believable graphics characters and realistic animation. Graphics programmers must be proficient with advanced levels of computer languages and sophisticated software. A graphics programmer must possess a strong background in mathematics and a thorough knowledge of the evolving graphics techniques. The programming skills required for 3D animation pertain to advanced use of algebra, calculus, and algorithms.

Graphics programmers may, at times, be required to work together with designers, artists, and producers in order to identify bottlenecks and implement the effects. Those specializing in game development are particularly sought after. In addition to computer games, developers may also create games for game consoles like PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii.

Education and Training Requirements

In order to become a professional graphics programmer, one needs to have at least a bachelor’s degree in computer programming. Advanced certification in various programming tools and languages may prove to be helpful in career advancement.

There are a number of schools and training centers that offer certified graphics programming courses. Some of these academic courses are particularly customized to provide technical skills needed in the video game industry. A 2-year degree or certificate program in computer information system may give one’s candidature an edge over other competitors in the job market. Candidates must also be conversant with all the latest programming language upgradations. Work experience in computer language and related fields of application, along with relevant graphics courses, can come in handy.

A graphics programmer must possess extensive knowledge of databases and operating systems. It is also necessary to be aware of the systems programming and graphics user interfaces needed in 4th and 5th generation languages. The field of graphics programming is such that a programmer needs to constantly update his/ her knowledgebase and skills by attending programming courses and conferences.

Since graphics programmers usually work in groups, they need to have good communication skills. The job also calls for a certain degree of creativity and an artistic vision as programmers often handle abstract concepts.

Getting the Job

Computer and video game industry is the largest recruiter of graphics programmers. With the necessary academic qualifications, a graphics programmer can apply for jobs in government agencies, software companies, and financial institutes. Freshers can start out as junior programmers and work in groups under close supervision. Graphics programmers can also choose to work independently as consultants.

There are a large number of sites on the Internet that advertise openings for the position of graphics programmers. Since it is a very specialized as well as in-demand field, graphics programmers usually have no problems finding employment.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

Graphics programmers usually start out by working under seniors, and with experience, advance to the position of lead programmer. Those with a strong sense of marketing and business can aspire for posts in the managerial strata or can work as programmer-analysts. Candidates with technical specialization in server programming, and those who are conversant with domain-specific languages, will enjoy an advantage in the field of employment.

In spite of the high demand for graphics programmers, employment opportunities in the United States are expected to be just about fair. This is because due to the advancement in packaged software, most companies prefer to outsource their graphics programming needs to countries with lower wage rates. However, the opportunities are extremely favorable for those who have knowledge of data communication and multimedia technology.

Working Conditions

Graphics programmers work in clean, well-lit offices. Those employed in the video game industry need to meet deadlines. Graphics programmers usually enjoy flexible work hours but are often required to spend a lot of time in front of computers. This can prove to be strenuous to the eyes.

Where to Go for More Information

International Game Developers Association
19 Mantua Road
Mt. Royal, New Jersey
USA 08061

Games Graphic Programming
Allen Sherrod
Course Technology
25 Thomson Place, Boston, MA 02210

Selective Guide to the Literature on Computer Graphics
Compiled by: Charles Phelps

Earnings and Benefits

Junior graphics programmers with less than 2 years of experience have an average annual salary of $55,000, while lead programmers with over 6 years of experience earn $85,000 every year. The median yearly salary of graphics programmers in the United States is $62,500. However, some of the highest earners in the industry have reported annual salaries of $300,000.

Graphics programmers may work full-time or on a freelancing basis. Those employed in full-time positions enjoy regular benefits like paid leaves, vacations, health insurance, life insurance, and sometimes, even pension plans.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesComputers, IT & Telecommunications