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Programming as a career... Worth it?

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As I read countless threads saying "Pay-cuts" and "Salary Declining" I wonder if I'd be better of choosing some other career other than that of a programmer. My goal (money wise) is to make around 60-70k a year so I can live comfortably. I know until I build up some years of experience I wont see it.

I love sciences, and I love programming, especially the though of games. When I play a game I always think of how if i made it what I'd change, and how I'd do it. I am a Senior in High School and have taken Pre-AP Computer Science and i am currently enrolled in AP Computer science where we focus on Java and creating some pretty fundamental things, I have no doubt I will pass the AP Test.

I love video games. I love making video games, creating little retro games (like pong) that i have changed around to make a little more modern. I use mainly Basic, but I have a great working knowledge of Java, C++ , and C#.

So that is basically me. I am curious if my goal is unreasonable, but I can see myself programming for a living.

Also do the larger game companies want you to have more experience in game programming, rather than just general programming (i.e. tools developer for a business)?

I want to know, because I am set on UNT to go to school, but I need to work on my application and decide a major I wish to take.

Thank you to anyone who can help me out :) I appreciate any input.

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As I don't live in USA I can't be of much help, but nobody else answered yet so...
I must say that getting a computer science degree was not what I used to dream. Here where I live, companies require knowledge of italian, german and english, but salaries are quite low in average. Don't get me wrong, you can live with it, but if you consider the 3 languages requirement and the technical skills they expect from a programmer, I really think it might not woth it. Currently my salary is among 10-20% more than what I would get working in a shop.

Of course, if you love programming and you don't mind the high pressure of deadlines and do on, you can do it.
I love programming, but I'm seriously considering moving to something else and leaving development to my spare time.

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As a business programmer, you can generally earn a higher salary than in games.

Games salaries aren't necessarily that bad though - the average US game programmer's salary is about $80k IIRC. $60k for a decently skilled individual shouldn't be a problem.

Though yes, "decently skilled" definitely does mean "experience in game programming, rather than just general programming".

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I think you should do what you love for a living. If what you love to do is devoting yourself to the study of 14th century Occitan poetry, I can see why you would want to be cautious about the job prospects, but I don't think you should worry too much about it in the case of programming.

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Thanks everyone :). I think if I keep up with direct X, open gl, etc. I will be able to find a game job after I build up some experience. Who knows, maybe i'm a real genius one day and make something that sets me for life... :)

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I'm surprised Sloper didn't hit you with his "worth it" FAQ, but...

If you're considering programming solely because you 'think' you can make a lot of money doing it, stop. About 80% of the students in my CS department are setting themselves up for failure based on that fact alone. You should consider programming as a career because you *know* you will make money doing it because it is what you love to do and you do it better than anyone else you know. If you know someone that is better than you start competing.

Hard fact of life is that you are choosing a competitive market. If you are interested in programming start doing it now and learn as much as you can, and don't dick around at the University.

Quote:
maybe I'm a real genius

No, don't hope you're a genius. Make yourself one.

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I've got a summer internship as a Facebook programmer and they're willing to pay me 5.4k per month. If your a decent programmer I think its a good field to make a relatively good living.

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I program now 0_0 if you read my post.

Also i know i must be competitive, i understand i wont make a ton of money, i dont think 60-70k is too much to ask, it will allow me to live comfortably in the area i'm in.

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I am currently working at a large chip manufacturing company based out of San Jose, figure it out. I started working for this company in 2008 as an intern and started at $50k, 6 months later I was hired on at $65k, 1 year later I was given a raise to $75k, mind you much more than most others received, in this "economy". I am expecting a large raise coming soon as well, why because I am good at developing applications and figuring things out. I am not a game programmer but that does not matter.

If you want to be successful in this industry learn your problem solving skills first, the languages and API (Application Programming Interface) knowledge will come as you need it, although having it already will look better on a resume.

I have been successful so far because for one, I got lucky and got into a position that no one else wanted but was desparately needed, for two, I made myself invaluable. Without me the company would be out millions because no one can easily take my place. I worked hard and fixed issues quickly, showed that I can handle creating new applications that many hundreds of people require in their everyday jobs and have been showing that I can lead a team successfully.

This "economy" is bad because people are not taking advantage of it and making themselves invaluable while others are being pushed out the door.

Also, once you get in the door there is not much competition. Most people are basically monkeys plucking away at the keyboard. They are idiots who don't have the drive to be great merely passing by.

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If you're going into programming only for the money, pick another field. It's a job where you get blamed for everything, thanked for nothing and live under constant pressure from unrealistic deadlines. You also get a "Socially Awkward" tattoo on your forehead once you start working in the field, deserved or not. As a bonus, it's worse if you work for a video game company.

If you're fine with the above, then yes you can make a decent living out of it. Just keep in mind salaries are in direct relation with demand. I don't know about the USA, but demand around here is much higher than the offer, so salaries are above average at the moment. If the market crashes like it did in 2001, that decent living wage will be gone.

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IMHO, money is a terrible life goal. Obviously you want enough to be comfortable, but you should want to do something you enjoy doing. If you really enjoy programming then obviously that's a good career choice. If you super love games and care less about money then game programming is a good choice (you make about 30% less programming games than you do programming in any other context).

-me

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Forget the money. Do what you like, and should that be to program and do problem solving then so be it. Do not even waste time on thinking about money. Spend time improving your skills and have fun while doing it. It is your passion that shall push you forward and not the cash.

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One good reason for me to go to engineering school was to open up more possibilities for myself.

I figured out I could have a reasonable salary as a factory worker where I used to work as a mechanic assembling new mobile machines. I was pretty damn good at it after only a few years in the job. But that was actually part of the problem - I noticed I was running out of challenge in my job. And I looked at the older guys doing the same job and asked myself "do I want to end up like them, bitter and whining about the job pretty much every day and being jealous towards anyone who worked to get into a better position?" No, I didn't want to be one of those guys... so I left the job I enjoyed doing a lot and went studying.

It was actually hard to walk away from that job as I had become pretty damn good in it and I enjoyed it a lot! But I saw I would quickly run out of challenges in that position and that's the main reason I felt I need to get out - the main reason was not money! Many people who have continued in that job surely have made more money than I have as I've lost of lot because of the studies. But I have more options open for me as I go hunt for a job - the guys without any education are pretty much stuck at the factory and are whining about it and being very jealous and bitter towards anyone who tries to improve his or her position - that's dumb but that's what they do.

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You really do just have to love programming. You need to have an infinite stamina with regard to debugging code. I would never recommend this career just for the money. I know many people who quit CS early on simply because they discovered early on that they could not stand coding for so long.

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Thank you everyone for your input, but i keep seeing "Going into programming for money is stupid" when i already said i love programming, but i really just want to know if i should make it a hobby or a career. If i can make 70k a year in other fields that i still love, but not as much as programming, and i can still keep programming as a hobby, well i'd probably choose it if i though maybe programming was a dying field. I understand game programmers make a bit less, but i also know that game programmers get more of a interactive feel of their work. Whereas a application programmer would make something, and get little response other than "Good job" rather than "The physics in this game is so realistic! I love you and want to have your babies!" (maybe not THAT much, but you get what i mean)

I love games. I love designing games, but as i can tell a game designer is a broad term, whereas i believe a programmer can pitch an idea and have the design team run with it. I have no idea exactly how the bureaucracy of the industry works, I assume that anyone can give ideas. I am currently going to stretch away from DarkGDK and move to SDL and OpenGL since i currently am running a linux machine, and i think having multiplatform experience can only help in the long run. I am learning JAVA pretty well in school, but nothing advanced other than some basic coding techniques, of which i mostly know. What really makes me upset is next year the school is adding a tech center where they have a game programming and development class >< might wanna fail this year eh? :P

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You can make good money programing how much will depend mainly on job market where you are and the company you get in with. To get the best paying job means moving to where the work is, and sometimes moving jobs every couple of years. The other thing to remember is that games industry is notorious for high burn out and overworking its staff.

The amount of praise and benefits you get will depend a lot on the corporate culture where you work. For instance a number of people have been rewarded for going above and beyond where I work with an ipad, and at another company I’ve worked with they sent a team of 20 to Dubai for 10 days as thanks for delivering a big project on time.

To be honest I suggest you ignore learning Java. If you want to get a job IT you’ll want .net and MVC and as part of your core skill set. If you’re set on the games industry you’ll want to C++ and OpenGL.

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Quote:
Original post by Tiblanc
If you're going into programming only for the money, pick another field. It's a job where you get blamed for everything, thanked for nothing and live under constant pressure from unrealistic deadlines. You also get a "Socially Awkward" tattoo on your forehead once you start working in the field, deserved or not. As a bonus, it's worse if you work for a video game company.


Yes it's funny to have to be almost einsteinian to do well but then you are bound to be disparaged by some secretary or data entry monkey of a client for how idiotic you are for some minor problem dismayingly often.

The social problem is real because you will mostly work with all guys at most companies, mostly stereotypical nerds and spend most of your time staring at a computer and likely work long hours.

It's great in some ways but definitely has drawbacks.

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Not trying to be a downer or anything, but if you have to ask this question then I would say it probably isn't for you. :) Im a senior in college about to graduate with my CS degree and I am going to continue into this field whether I have to take a job making 30k or 80k. I love coding, though it can definitely be a chore when its not something I want to code, so maybe you might just want to stick with it as a hobby? Or you could go with something more general such as a math degree, that way if you dont like programming as a career, you still have a lot of options open to you.

Hope that helps!

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Quote:
Original post by Azh321
Not trying to be a downer or anything, but if you have to ask this question then I would say it probably isn't for you.


That is offensive. It's basically asking "Is this a good career to get into?" I've already said i can program, i just was asking some salary and availability of jobs questions.

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Quote:
Original post by cmk112
Quote:
Original post by Azh321
Not trying to be a downer or anything, but if you have to ask this question then I would say it probably isn't for you.


That is offensive. It's basically asking "Is this a good career to get into?" I've already said i can program, i just was asking some salary and availability of jobs questions.


While I mildly disagree with the tone, and am mildly sad to take the stance, azh321 has a point. I've done a pile of coding before I could do it professionally. I continue to code in my spare time because I enjoy it. This isn't a profession you can (usually) excel at working 9 to 5.

In my years interviewing programming candidates "what personal projects have you worked on?" is the best indicator of performance. You rarely expand knowledge and skills on production problems. And the vast majority of programming gigs are the Office Space-ian "15 minutes of real, actual work" a week. Personal projects are where you can get the experience designing and implementing programs that is the foundation for programming skill.

Personal happiness with your career involves a lot more than salary. The salary is there for programmers, who are often in the upper middle or lower upper class. $50k is pretty reasonable for most intro-level positions outside of high cost-of-living areas (the coasts basically). salary.com can provide more details there for your location.

The jobs are there (or are going to be there). During the dotCom days, there were a ton of terrible programmers who got into things because that's where the money was. Who knows if they were happy then, or if they're happy now. What has happened is many of them are leaving the industry. Combine that with the number of old programmers retiring and the low amount of CS students graduating (due to the dotcom blowover?) and many projections show a shortfall of programmers coming.

Still, just because you could do a job doesn't mean that you'd be happy doing it, or better off doing other things. Nobody can likely answer that, but you're probably the one who can make the best guess.

It's totally worth it to me.

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You have already told us that you love programming. I read it as you have the passion. Just do it, as that is the only way you will ever find out. Remember this, for each minute you use to think about all your doubts you spend a minute not doing wonderful codes or math. Act upon your passion and go grab some wonderful books, make yourself a good cop of coffee/tea/etc and have fun. That is all that matters :)

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Yes you can make good money. 70k was what I started at right out of grad school (defense industry).

From what I've seen, the tech/software industry was only barely hit by the last recession. I easily got a real job during the height of the recession. I still get multiple unsolicited job offers every month ranging in salary from 50k-90k. I'm not even actively looking for a job, so I'm not sure how these recruiters find my resume. Not complaining though...

Biggest advice imho: during college get an internship with a big tech company. Your resume will get noticed if you have something like ATT, Lockheed, Raytheon, etc. on your resume, even if only an internship. So make sure you go to school in a tech town. And yes, you must get a CS or Engineering degree, preferably MS, because the vast majority of employers won't even look at you without one.

One thing about CS/Engineering - it is a skilled profession that is (mostly) not replaceable by automation or outsourcing. While all the unskilled workers in the US are being replaced by machines or cheap overseas labor, programmers will always be in need to create the machines and consumer tech.

If you are interested in "real-world games" like military weapon systems, I'd suggest getting a job in something related to UAVs (umanned aerial vehicles). The worldwide market for them is booming right now. Every government will have fleets of them soon.

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Quote:
Original post by EJH
If you are interested in "real-world games" like military weapon systems, I'd suggest getting a job in something related to UAVs (umanned aerial vehicles). The worldwide market for them is booming right now. Every government will have fleets of them soon.


Well, and if blood in your hands doesn't particularly bother you.

There are "real-world games" in finance, where programmers that are good at Math are in huge demand, and it's a lot less obvious if you are killing anyone. :)

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