If you are interested in graphics programming in the computer and video game industry, take classes that satisfy the admission requirements of the college or university that you plan to attend. Most major universities have requirements for English, mathematics, science, and foreign languages. Other classes that are useful include physics, statistics, logic, computer science, and, if available, drafting. Since graphics programmers have to have an artistic sense of layout and design, art and photography courses can also be helpful.
A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is highly recommended for anyone wishing to enter the field of graphics programming. In fact, as programming for computer and video games becomes more complex, some employers prefer employees with graduate degrees. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that about 65 percent of computer programmers held a bachelor’s degree or higher in 2002.
It is not a good idea, however, to major in graphics programming exclusively, unless you plan to go on to earn a master’s degree or doctorate in the field. According to the Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics, a division of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM SIGGRAPH), it is better for you to concentrate on the area in which you plan to use computer graphics skills, such as art or engineering, rather than focusing on graphics classes (source).
Because there are many specialties within the field of computer graphics, such as art, mapmaking, animation, and computer-aided design, you should examine the courses of study offered in several schools before choosing the one you wish to attend. As more and more schools tailor programs specifically to the computer and video game industry, you may have the opportunity to earn a degree or certificate in this field. Graduate degrees with an emphasis in areas such as 3D graphics programming are very relevant to the rapidly evolving technology of the computer and video game industry. Competition for all types of programming jobs is increasing and will limit the opportunities of those people with less than a bachelor’s degree.
No specific certification is available for graphics programmers. General computer-related certifications are available from the Institute for Certification of Computing Professionals. Although it is not required, certification may boost your attractiveness to employers during the job search.
Successful graphics programmers need a high degree of reasoning ability, patience, and persistence, as well as an aptitude for mathematics and an artistic eye. They should also have strong writing and speaking skills, so that they can communicate effectively with coworkers and supervisors.
In the computer and video game industry, the work can be stressful, unpredictable, and demanding, so flexibility, enthusiasm, and a love for computer and video games are especially important.