Programming career


What does a highly educated programmer/or graphics programmer earn per year?

I mean… If you got a master degree in math and programming. Maybe some enginering master…

Is this worth focusing on?

A degree in maths is highly desirable in my opinion, because the potential for its use is enormous. Of course I didnt know that when I chose my biochemistry degree

Programmers in US make anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 in your typical boring computer job.
If you are a contracter you might make more like $50 -> $150 per hour, so you do much better, but you get moved around.

As far as education goes, it doesn’t matter. Very, very few programming jobs use anything more than arithmetic (unfortunately, which is why I want to get out of the field). A masters will help you get a job, but don’t expect to use your advanced knowledge unless you are unusually lucky.
If you really like programming, study programming, not math. Programming will just frustrate you if you get a master’s in math, because you will be bored tearless.
Which is why I am preparing to get the Ph.D…

Of course, this is just my experience. Others may vary.

There are a number of variables that could greatly affect what kind of salary you would get. Location, field, company, etc.

Getting a Masters isn’t necesarily going to increase the starting salary you get, though it may help you get a foot in the door.

Thanks alot for the replys.

My father got a higher education (150$> ) Though, he has a an more “economics” education.

Any way…
I will go for a higher education… I was just wondering in what field, since computer is my primary interest, i thought id focus on programming/developing.

I think you’re better off focusing on actually programming than focusing on your education. Some of the best/highest paid engineers I know are college or even high-school dropouts. To make big money, it’s more important to demonstrate your abilities than to have a fancy degree.

Let me ammend this to say that money won’t make you happy!

[This message has been edited by deshfrudu (edited 04-17-2002).]

I would pursue a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science if I were you. For one thing, the degree will make it easier to get a job, and for another, you’ll get a broader idea of the topics in the field.

One thing that does help to get a job, though, is if you do independent programming work on the side. That will set you above your classmates.


For a graphics programmer in the game industry, a Bachelors degree is a pretty standard prerequisite for todays job market. Anything above that level is almost considered to much education for the job it seems.

A really great graphics programmer can typically earn from 75K to 110K + bonuses.

i dont know if this is a game related question if it is
goto they have a survey on developer payrates

Thanks alot for your replys.

Well… I hope im not setting my goals to high… I really want to get good at what i am interested in, but, i am absolutely no genius.

The math for example, at this age(16) i do not consider myself as a person who can just “cruise” thru an math class. Im mostly an average kid.

Though… I will gladely use alot of efforts to improve my abilities. But as i said, i sometimes get so frustrated about certain math related stuff, that i am near to give up.

I was just wondering… Do you really have to be a entry level genius to handle this kind of education?

Again, im thankfull for your informative replys.

Also, I do apologize if topics like this do not belong on such a forum. I just thought this website dealed with a advanced subject, therefore i could get some competent replys on my questions.

I encourage you to look at some conferences for graphics such as game development conference, siggraph etc.
There are conference speakers with PhD degrees while some speakers may not even have college degree.
I do think college can be a place to open youe eyes.

No, you definately don’t have to be a genius to get a Computer Science degree. Well, maybe if you go to Stanford or something, but if you’re not a genius you won’t get in anyway

All it really takes is being persistent in dealing with programming assignments, because you probably will spend a lot of time coding in college. To me, that’s fun. To someone who didn’t enjoy it, well, I could see how computer science could be kinda painful.

Good luck,

The higher degrees will help you get in the door, but your talents will keep you there.

I have a BS degree in Math and Computer Science and I know someone that had his Masters but he did not know the insides of a program if his life depended on it.

During college I would write the programs that the professor would give us. When they were finished, I would write other programs that reviewed what I have learned and also would teach me more about the language than the professor(s) would explain in class or the book. (Online context-sensitive help is a wonderful tool). The other programs included an Othello clone, Tetris clone, a card game, etc.

Did you know that you can store the Othello board in 16bytes. I know that we have PCs with Gigs of disk space and plenty of RAM to go around, but when you have to calculate the best next move for the computer, creating an object with only 16 bytes is a little faster than creating a 64 byte datatype.

Now I have a high paying job, where my supervisors are astonished at my programing ability. Darn I just gave away my secret.

Good luck in your studies.


You are definately on the right track. Your first correct move is that you asked for help. Ask questions, lots and lots of questions. Someone out there has the answer, and chances are lots more people out there have the same question you do.

Don’t worry so much about the math. Speaking from experience, you don’t need to be a math genius as much as you need to simply understand important concepts. In the end, the computer will be doing the math - you just need to be able to keep track for debugging purposes.

As far as education goes, a Bachelors Degree is a must! It is true that some drop-outs made it big, but that is because they were either (a. true geniuses as you call them (why’d they drop out?) or (b. lived next door to someone like Carmack (id Software guy).
Don’t worry so much about a Masters now. It will help down the road, but if you get your Bachelors and go straight for a Masters, you will have lots of education with little experience. No one will want to pay you a Master’s salary when you have no experience.

That brings me to my last point, independent projects. You learn a lot in the classroom or out of books, but nothing beats trial and error. This will provide you the experience you need. I’ll be a college junior next fall (Majoring in Computer Science) and on the side I program in OpenGL. By the time I have my degree, I want to have also completed a computer game similiar in quality to something a company spends lots of money on to create.

The degree gets you in the door, the experience gets you the job. Like I said, you’re on the right track. Keep up the good work.
If you have any questions, you can e-mail me at:

Sorry, I’m long winded … lol


I think I went about my education slightly differently from most people here. I did a BA in computer animation in which I specialised in game coding. Being good at maths has never really been a pre-requisit, although it wont do any harm.

I have had the oportunity over the years to get a masters, phd, mphil etc; but I’ve always said no. The problem when working as a coder is that you can become over qualified. At the last place I worked, we had some guy who came for an interview who had a PHD, couple of degrees etc. Liked the guy, but would have rather spent the same amount of money on 3 less experianced coders. IMO a phd makes you un-employable. Experiance is what really counts.

Originally posted by Rob The Bloke:
Experiance is what really counts.

Thats the vicious circle I am in at the moment. Cant get a job without experience, cant get experience without a job

Ain’t life a bitch!!

If you are trying to break in there are plenty of people looking for good programmers. What you need to do is make sure you stand out. If you can program opengl/d3d then make a load of demos. If you get an interview that instantly makes you look less of a risk. Show them what you can do! Another good idea is to get in contact with people who are already there. In the games industry there are certainly a great deal of jobs attained through word of mouth and reputation. You should also be up to date with what is happening in the industry, what games do you like? Why? Ultimately, those who are giving out the jobs are looking for people they can work with and are genuinely interested in games.
Of course, if you have no experience or relevant skills/knowledge you could always try to get in as a tester. Start off in a lowly position and gain your abilities within a games company.
It is worth mentioning that the games industry is generally thought of as a vocation - the effort you put in will not necessarily lead to huge financial reward (after all not everyone is called Carmack or Molineaux). For programmers there are far easier ways of getting rich quick (the words dot and com come to mind).
Finally, if people are looking for relevant qualifications look very carefully at the courses offered. Java will not get you into a games programming job (except maybe for those little pong applets you see all over the place). Ideally you are looking for C/C++ experience (a bit of assembler wouldn’t hurt). A few degrees do some graphics programming, which will be of obvious benefit. A good way of finding these would be to look for the graphics research groups in your country/area who will generally run a couple of lecture courses.
Hope this helps,


p.s. I hope Rob The Bloke is wrong about the PhD - otherwise I’m screwed

The talk about experience reminds me of something. It is CRITICAL that you take an internship or co-op while you’re in college. If you’re not familiar with what that is, it’s where companies hire students for a semester or a summer. They usually pay far better than a summer job at McDonalds (like 3x as much), and it really helps when you’re looking for a full-time job, because you have experience.


For a boring db programming and an italian “diploma” a poor idiot like me gets only 900 € at month…


I am truly amazed of how helpful you guys have been, i definitely ow you guys a huuuge “Thanks”.
I do feel i have a better understanding of what kind of education i shall seek.

Im of to the bookshop now, getting some books on simple geometry. Vectors… etc. We don`t begin with this at school untill next year(maybe even later)

Do you have any recommanddations on books introducing this kind of math to a “total newbie”?

By the way… I live in Norway. We do not have the same educational system here. But i am totally aware of what you are meaning.

I am though, quite tempted to move my studies to USA.

Again, Thanks.