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clusterbomb's avatar

How do I get a job as a computer programmer?

Asked by clusterbomb (7points) August 27th, 2010

Hello, I’m a young highschool student, currently taking a few college classes on the side trying to further my knowledge of computers. About 2 years ago I developed an interest in computers and how they worked. Eventually I found my way into programming, and I’ve loved it ever since.

I would love to become a game programmer in the future, but the more and more about I read about it, it makes me second guess myself. I read a page the other day on how to get a job as a game developer, and it mentioned that before i can even have a CHANCE in the industry, i’d have to take several college courses such as:

assembly level programming,
computer architecture,
computer graphics,
communication networks,
human factors,
and physics (for games, etc..)

Is this all true?? I mean that sounds like a LOT just to develop video games. I really have a passion for this, and I’ll do it if i have to, but come on! I’ve found several other pages that mention similar suggestions. I know a few programmers myself, but none of them are top-notch C++ gurus or java wizzes, so what’s so special about them?

Alright, sorry about my rant, but im VERY confused about how I’m gonna get my foot in the door and land a good job in my field of interest. Not just game programming, even software development or database programming. So here’s my question. As a young kid, who’s really got his hopes up on programming (Yes, i DO have experience programming! + what I’ve taken from a few classes), what do i need to do right now to get myself that much closer to what i want?

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11 Answers

Zyx's avatar

Get on the internet and learn your head off. That is the only way.

lilikoi's avatar

All the courses you listed sound reasonable and relevant to such programming to me. I would think you’ll want to find a university with a good CS program that has a game focus. All programming is heavy on logic so that’s where math comes in. And, the world would be a much better place if everyone took the basic physics classes. I don’t even want to think about how many brilliant pre-med majors I met that had virtually no understanding of basic physics!

clusterbomb's avatar

So would you recommend that I go ahead and just take all the suggested courses? I don’t want to over-do it and then never find a good job, but then again I’ll learn whatever i can. So I’ll start trying to broaden my understanding of general programming, but what else do i need to do? There’s so many great programmers out there, what i can i do to be a step ahead?

frdelrosario's avatar

The key to getting a job anywhere in any field is not what you know, but who you know.

actuallery's avatar

There are not many video games (for PC) being produced at the moment, not like it was back in the 90’s, the games being produced nowadays are more for phones, Xbox, and Playstation. and Nintendo. PC Game reveiwers are complaining about the lack of interest from game developers. You need to consider what platform to best base your education.

wgallios's avatar

I’ve been a programmer for nearly 8 years, and worked for several medium to large companies. The best thing I can say to get your foot in the door, is first start your own project. If you want to be a game programmer, start by creating your own engine in the language you want to work with. Or if you want to be a web programmer for example, start by programming your own website in say Java, or PHP. This will help really get you into the feel of what it is like working on a project from start to some version of finished.

Also get at least your bachelors degree in computer science or software engineering. You can still get a junior development job, but that piece of paper will go along way.

Be prepared for this industry however; it moves fast, and IT jobs don’t have the same long term perks due to the nature of the companies; a lot of start ups etc. Unless you get a government job, planning for retirement you either better save or get rich.

Also the monotony…oh man… Programming is fun, but syntax is syntax, and I always tell people its like writing the same book over, and over, and over again.

But always remember one thing, you get paid for what you know! a good programmer is extremely hard to come by, especially in a language like C++. Many companies act like everyone is expendable, but honestly not the programmer (if its a technology based company of course). Every job I have ever left they have offered me a position to come back..and I mean every job.

But good luck to you, like I said, start your own project. Thats the best way. I started out getting a help desk position, and told them I knew programming so they started having me work on stuff while taking calls. Eventually it lead to becoming the full time programmer. Moving up from there is easy.

actuallery's avatar

I do a bit of VB6 and Excel VBA and @wgalios is right about the monotony. The biggest headache I’ve found is the Error Handling that so many programmers refuse to do or take shortcuts. Though I don’t do games, it’s basicaly still considered programming.

If you feel that all those subjects are way too much to take on then consider something a bit lighter like VB.Net or Java which have much better usage and more opportunites, for the long term. You can always do Game developing as a side-line.

Your resume (or CV) should show examples of your work so creating your own home page would be beneficial. developing simple games like “Hangman” or “Join The Dots” would also show your enthusiasm.

A friend of mine developed his own game using Flash and it got him a job. He is now Head of Development after only a year.

timtrueman's avatar

It’s definitely worth taking all the classes on that list. Game programming is particularly difficult and often requires heavy usage of mathematics and sneaky innovations. In addition to those classes I would recommend doing at least one side project, such as writing a mod that involves significant programming. I haven’t done anything recently but writing a Half-Life mod was a challenging and worthy challenge that I learned a lot from—we modified the weapon and gameplay physics (in C++). I would imagine writing a Half-Life 2 mod would be similar.

Pandora's avatar

My daughter went to Full Sail in Florida to learn programming for gaming. She and several of her friends have their bachelors in programming. Out of 8 of her friends only two have actually succeeded in getting into their field. It is a very tough field to get into. Most of the games are still being manufactured abroad. So in some cases it will help if you also know another language.
But there are more game developers comming out of schools than there are companies that are hirring. You can get a college degree but it doesn’t count unless you happen to develop something. The competition is enormously hard. Some people are lucky.
My daughter actually got in it but like @wgallios said, after a while the repetition can become boring. Plus there are a lot of starter companies that may give you a break to enter but they may take advantage of you. All their work is contract work. So you may have work today and nothing tomorrow.
She finally decided to get out and just go into straight computer programming. Its steadier work and better pay.
Only top game designers from major companies pay well.
As far as the courses, you can look at Full Sails programs. She did have to take a ton of courses.
School course is excellent, but breaking into the business and making it is the equivalent of a muscian becoming a rock star. Someone has to give you a break first.

GeorgeGee's avatar

You might want to reconsider your plans. Plain programming is a low end career these days, with much of it being outsourced to places like India. You’ll have a better career in computing if you specialize in something like game programming, scientific simulation/visualization, IT management, web development/server side applications, or IPhone Apps. Good luck!

drillrr's avatar

Its easy just go on to the internet and find a company, then research your stuff for more info go here:

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