The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Economists Incorporated report that the game industry is growing four times faster than the U.S. economy. In addition, annual job growth in this field increased more than 13 times the rate of the U.S. labor market between 2009 and 2012. The industry shows no signs of slowing down, which is great news for aspiring game programmers across the U.S. This is especially true in the top five metro areas for programmers and developers including Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, WA.; New York-White Plains-Wayne, NY-NJ; Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV; San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA., and Chicago-Joliet-Naperville, IL.
The Chicago-Joliet-Naperville area made the list for several reasons. The area is home to a variety of major gaming conventions such as Wizard World Comic Con, Chicago Comic and Entertainment EXPO (C2E2), and Winter War, to name a few. Chicago is also home to a number of gaming studios such as the Iron Galaxy Studios, WB Games/NetherRealm Studios, Zynga Games and more. In addition, the technology industry here is growing. Chicago made Forbes' list of “5 Cities Poised To Be The Next Silicon Valley Tech Hub.” According to Forbes, “Chicago ranks second in growth of Tech jobs among the country’s most populous cities (19.3 percent), slightly behind Silicon Valley, but ahead of Seattle.”
In addition to growth in Tech jobs (an assuring trend for aspiring programmers), and having a very active gaming scene, Illinois is a leader when it comes to providing high-quality training programs for programmers and developers of all kinds. Just a few top schools for programmers are the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, DePaul University, and Bradley University.
Illinois Game Programming Schools
Illinois is home to 181 Title IV degree-granting colleges and universities with more than 900,000 students enrolled. Aspiring game programmers and software engineers in Illinois can find majors suited to their career goals at many of the state’s best schools. Take a look at the list below to find out which schools are tops for aspiring game programmers and what they have to offer.
Columbia College - Degrees Offered:BA/BFA in Interactive Arts and Media (IAM) with a Game Design or Game Programming Major. Concentrations include Game Art, Development and Sound.
DePaul University - Degrees Offered: BS Computer Game Development, MS Software Engineering with a Gaming & Entertainment Technologies Concentration, MS Computer Game Development, Minor Game Design, Minor Game Programming
Tribeca Flashpoint College – Degrees Offered: AAS Game + Interactive Media
University of Illinois at Chicago – Degrees Offered: BS Computer Science with a Human-Centered Computing Concentration + Game Design and Development Coursework, BS in Computer Science with a Software Engineering Concentration + Game Design and Development Electives
Western Illinois University - Degrees Offered: BS Instructional Simulation and Gaming
Bradley University - Degrees Offered: BA, BS Interactive Media with a Concentration in Game Design, Minor Game Design
More Illinois Schools with Studio Art related programs:
- Savannah, Atlanta, Hong Kong, France, and Online via SCAD eLearning
Employment and Salary Trends for Illinois Game Programmers
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. is home to more than 1 million software developers. Average salaries range from $90,060 to $99,000 per year. The lowest 10 percent earn less than $55,190 per year, and the top 10 percent earn more than $138,880. Illinois is home to 39,380 software developers averaging from $85,740 to $99,030 per year.
Several other sources offer salary information for game designers and developers. According to Gamasutra’s latest Game Developer Salary Survey (2014), game developers nationwide averaged $83,060 in 2013. It is important to note that salaries for Game designers and developers vary based on location (city), company, experience, employer, and more. For example, according to Indeed, Chicago-based game designers and developers average around $123,000 per year, while Aurora-based designers average $98,000 per year and Rockford-based designers average $111,000 per year. According to the site, Illinois-based game designers and developers average $116,000 per year, overall.
As mentioned, a variety of game design and development studios can be found in and around Chicago. In addition to the Iron Galaxy Studios, WB Games/NetherRealm Studios and Zynga Games, options include:
- Babaroga, Chicago
- Day 1 Studios, Chicago
- High Voltage Software, Hoffman Estates
- Incredible Technologies, Arlington Heights
- Jackbox Games, Chicago
- Robomodo, Chicago
Because Chicago is the state’s largest city, aspiring game developers can expect to find the most job opportunities there. However, other larger cities such as Aurora, Rockford, Joliet, and Naperville are worth exploring as well.
Awesome Animation Fact: Filming just one minute of Tim Burton's masterpiece “The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993) required an entire week of filming. As such, the movie took more than three years to complete. -Buzzfeed