Top Game Design
Careers: 2021 List

If you have a knack for design, programming, and creating interesting storylines, then game design might be the career for you. As the number of mobile phones, gaming consoles, and gaming websites increases, the video game production industry grows.

So, why not pursue a career in the multifaceted field of game design and secure a spot in the in-demand and lucrative field of gaming? Continue reading to discover the best game design careers of 2021 and what each job entails.

Why Pursue a Game Design Career?

A career in video game design involves the overall design process of a video game, everything from the storyline to the programming to the gameplay. Your game design job duties differ depending on the specific position.

If you work as a game writer, for instance, your responsibilities will be in the creative field, but if you work as a system designer, they will revolve around technical design. By investing in a video game career path, you not only guarantee yourself a variety of professions but also a promising future.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) classifies game designers under special effects artists and animators. According to BLS, jobs for special effects artists and animators are projected to grow by four percent between 2019 and 2029. In addition to a promising future, video game design careers also come with high salaries.

According to PayScale, the average salary for a video game designer is $66,282 in the United States. Meanwhile, senior video game designers make an average of $92,888 per year. These figures are subject to change depending on your experience, location, and company.

Professionals with a career in game design also report a satisfactory work-life balance. According to PayScale, video game designers have rated their job satisfaction at 4.1 out of five. If you’re looking for a job full of creativity, innovative tech, great prospects, and job diversity, you should pursue a game design career.

What Industries Are Hiring Game Design Professionals?

Professionals in game design are hired across a span of industries, including entertainment, business, and tech. If you’re interested in a video game career, you’ll want to choose an area to specialize in. Specializations include computer animation, system analysis and evaluation, programming, game mechanics, and game writing.

Your specialization will likely determine the scope of your career options. For example, if you work as a lead designer, big names in gaming such as PlayStation and Xbox will be more likely to desire your services. On the other hand, if you work as a developer, you will be more likely to land a job with less specialized tech companies like Microsoft and IBM.

Highest-Paying Game Design Careers at a Glance

The table below shows the top 10 game design careers. We have collected the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics and ZipRecruiter. The projected job outlook statistics refer to growth between 2019 and 2029.

Job Title Min. Education Job Outlook Median Pay
Senior Game Developer Bachelor’s Degree 22%* $113,296
Game Engineer Bachelor’s Degree 22%* $112,320
Lead Game Designer Bachelor’s Degree 4%** $94,085
User Interface Designer Associate Degree 8% $89,780
Video Game Software Engineer Bachelor’s Degree 22%* $85,752
Video Game Programmer Bachelor’s Degree -9% $83,479
Video Game Director Bachelor’s Degree 6% $78,479
Senior Animator Bachelor’s Degree 4%** $74,753
Video Game Producer Bachelor’s Degree 10% $69,226
Level Designer Bachelor’s Degree 4%** $61,718

*Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook for Software Developers
**Based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics job outlook for Special Effects Artists and Animators

The Best Game Design Careers in 2021

The Best Game Design Careers in 2021

Fields as diverse as animation, software development, digital design, and software engineering can support game design careers. Read below to find a detailed description of the best game design careers in 2021.

Senior Game Developer

As a senior game developer, you are in charge of developing a game that aligns with the lead designer and the creative director’s game vision. This position is heavily reliant on software development and requires programming skills and industry understanding.
This career is related to software development, which is projected to enjoy 22 percent job growth over the next decade, according to BLS.

Senior Game Developer Responsibilities

  • Develops a game’s interface and system, combining design with game mechanics
  • Supervises junior game developers and assigns coding tasks
  • Conducts regular quality assurance testing
  • Works with designers to create a balanced gameplay experience for users

Game Engineer

Game engineers work with the game design and development teams to engineer game software that’s compatible with the game hardware. You can become a game engineer with a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, Software Engineering, or Game Development.

The industry hires game engineers with an in-depth understanding of the gaming industry as well as software development skills.

Game Engineer Responsibilities

  • Develops game software that works well with the hardware
  • Engineers games for mobile phones, gaming consoles, computers, and websites
  • Collaborates with the design and programming teams
  • Performs regular quality assurance tests to find areas for improvement

Lead Game Designer

A lead game designer supervises the design team and creates the design standards. To qualify for this position, you must have plenty of industry experience, leadership training, and digital design skills. You can get a Bachelor’s in Game Design to kickstart your career.

Lead Game Designer Responsibilities

  • Sets standards for game design according to the game director’s instructions
  • Manages junior game designers and keeps them on deadline
  • Creates the final executable design idea for the game
  • Works with game programmers and game engineers to understand the design scope

User Interface Designer

A user interface (UI) designer is tasked with making the game’s visual components friendly, easy to access, and attractive for game players. You can become a UI designer with an Associate Degree in UI Design, User Experience Design, or Graphic Design.

The industry hires UI designers with great interpersonal skills such as empathy, audience understanding, and flexibility, along with design skills. According to BLS, jobs for digital interface designers are expected to grow by eight percent between 2019 and 2029.

User Interface Designer Responsibilities

  • Creates designs for spatial, meta, diegetic, and non-diegetic user interfaces
  • Works with designers and engineers to design optimal user flows and interfaces
  • Changes user interface design depending on audience interaction data
  • Creates the head-up display (HUD), score display, and level design of the game

Video Game Software Engineer

A video game software engineer, like a game engineer, is responsible for creating optimal game software for computers. This position requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering or Game Development, which can be used to get other software jobs. You must have an excellent understanding of gaming software and game testing skills.

Video Game Software Engineer Responsibilities

  • Builds software that represents the game’s design and vision
  • Works with audio engineers and visual animators to meet software needs
  • Conducts regular game testing to improve overall software performance
  • Builds software that produces a fully functional game

Video Game Programmer

As a video game programmer, your job is to code the game. You must learn JavaScript, Python, C++, and other programming languages. In addition to these technical skills, you need to also have an understanding of the gaming industry and trends.

You can become a video game programmer with a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Development, Game Development, or Computer Science. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a nine percent decline in computer programming jobs over the next decade, programming skills are useful throughout the tech industry.

Video Game Programmer Responsibilities

  • Writes the code to create a functional game
  • Works with designers and artists to fulfill the vision for the game
  • Tests the code and ensures all the game design elements are integrated correctly
  • Uses game engines to expedite the programming process

Video Game Director

A video game director is a kind of general manager who oversees the technical and artistic departments during game development. As a director’s position isn’t an entry-level one, you must have excellent delegating and leadership skills. Furthermore, you need to have a background in game development and understand game industry trends.

Along with a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design or Game Development, you need many years of industry experience to qualify for a video game director position. BLS anticipates a six percent increase in the number of general and operations managers from 2019 to 2029.

Video Game Director Responsibilities

  • Oversees the entire game development process from start to finish
  • Brainstorms and approves the ideas that go into the overall game vision
  • Meets with leaders of the animation, design, and development teams to get updates
  • Works with investors and game creators to meet deadlines and stay on budget

Senior Animator

A senior animator in the video game industry is expected to produce 2D and 3D graphics. As an animator, you can work in an array of industries including film, anime, motion graphics, and plenty more. To become a senior animator in the gaming industry, you need to have ample video game creation understanding along with animation skills.

Most senior animators get a Bachelor’s Degree in Animation or Graphic Design, then work to gain relevant industry experience.

Senior Animator Responsibilities

  • Creates 2D sketches and 3D iterations of convincing characters and objects
  • Tests and corrects the junior animators’ work
  • Works with designers and artists to animate the story and plot of the video game
  • Collaborates with other animators along the animation pipeline

Video Game Producer

A senior video game producer is responsible for ensuring the entire game development process is high quality. To qualify for this senior position, you need a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Development, Video Game Design, Business Management, or Information Technology, with four to five years of management and industry experience.

A producer is required to have extensive knowledge of gaming industry trends, budget management, game design, game development, and project management. According to BLS, there will be 10 percent more producer and director jobs in 2029 than there were in 2019.

Video Game Producer Responsibilities

  • Supervises the game design, animation, and game engineering teams’ tasks
  • Ensures that the tasks are done within a set budget and on a strict deadline
  • Tests the design and software quality of the game
  • Conducts regular meetings with studio managers and game directors

Level Designer

A level designer is a designer specific to the gaming world, where they only design portions of the game. To be a successful level designer, you need excellent gameplay understanding, design skills, and creative skills such as storytelling.

You can attain these in-demand industry skills by getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design, Computer Science, or Game Development.

Level Designer Responsibilities

  • Creates entry and exit points in the game levels for users
  • Works with engineers and designers to create designs that match the overall strategy
  • Sketches a 2D iteration based on the storyboard and concept art for the game
  • Takes character growth and story progression into account
What Role Does Location Play in Game Design Salaries?

What Role Does Location Play in Game Design Salaries?

Location plays a big role in determining the salaries of most game design careers. According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary for a game designer in San Mateo, CA is $155,759, whereas it’s $145,116 in Springfield, MA. ZipRecruiter also reports that a game programmer earns an average of $97,430 in New York City but $90,731 in Richmond, CA.

Depending on your experience and state, your salary might be higher or lower.

Common Entry-Level Jobs in Game Design

In the above list, we mentioned all the highest-paid game design careers. Read below to find the most common entry-level jobs in game design.

Job Title Min. Education Entry-Level Pay
Junior Game Designer Bachelor’s Degree $55,963
Digital Designer Bachelor’s Degree $47,635
Video Game Artist Bachelor’s Degree $45,000
Audio Engineer Associate Degree $43,325
Game Tester High School Diploma $40,000

What Education Is Required for a Career in Game Design?

The educational route to build a career in game design will differ depending on your choice of profession. For example, a user interface designer position requires an Associate Degree in User Interface Design or Graphic Design. A video game engineer requires a minimum of a Bachelor’s Degree in Software Engineering or Game Development.

Can I Study Game Design Online?

Yes, you can study game design online and learn essential industry skills like programming languages, game design, and animation. You can enroll in online universities that offer game design degree programs, attend coding bootcamps, or enroll in online courses that teach specific game design concepts.

Studying game design via online courses or online coding bootcamps is a great alternative to traditional university education, as they are cheaper and shorter. You can learn game design subjects within a matter of weeks.

Common Personality Traits in Game Design Professionals

The personality traits most common in game design professionals are adaptability and a team-oriented mentaility. It is important to always stay aware of the changing gaming industry and be ready to collaborate.

If you plan to pursue a career in game design, we also recommend mastering the necessary tech skills. You need patience, determination, and problem-solving ability to persevere through the inevitable rough patches in your training.

Is a Game Design Job Good for Me?

Yes, a game design job is good for those interested in the video game creation and development process. The recent boom in the gaming industry has created a number of exciting career opportunities. The industry is wide open for those with skills in software engineering, animation, project management, and yes, even data science.

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