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I want to make some informed decisions about an entry level game developer position. Specifically, how can I determine if I'm getting a fair salary. I realize that many different factors can impact pay, especially across different regions. But in general, how do more experienced developers advise new developers in determining if a salary is reasonable?

Optionally, how impactful are subspecializations? For example, for the purposes of evaluating pay, do I need to consider my experience with C++ WinRT differently than if I knew something like Unity?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Your salary may be influenced by a bunch of factors including, but not limited to, schooling level (I suppose in some places it may even depend on the school one went to), past experience, experience in other fields, location, company standards, company ethics, government funding/funding strategies, employee shortage in this field/in other programming related fields, etc. Maybe a strategy for you would be to ask around to game developers in your location. Sometimes getting in game developers groups on social media will give you a hint at what annoys this community the most (is it salary?). \$\endgroup\$
    – Vaillancourt
    Nov 25, 2023 at 12:08

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Start by looking over the most recent Developer Satisfaction Survey (DSS) from the IGDA. The 2021 survey includes salary data: enter image description here

The 2021 survey doesn't subdivide pay based on experience. If you had a job offer that started at $32k USD, the data tells us that that offer is above the bottom 21% of the salaries reported. Generally speaking, most entry level positions are shifted toward the lower end of the pay scale. So that hypothetical offer is at the upper end of the of the lowest quarter.

The 2021 survey also includes other important considerations such as: regular hours of work, crunch, overtime compensation, job security, benefits and career advancement. Some of these are harder to directly compare directly between offers, but they are still important to consider - if they weren't directly disclosed, ask about them.

Some employment sites / platforms have salary information. Start with a web search for "game development careers."

The impact of (sub)specializations and experience is like most other resume traits traits: it varies. In that regard, there's nothing particularly different about the game development aspect of this question. A specialization might be mandatory for a specific role due to time or budget constraints. In other cases, a company might consider a specialization nice to have. Making an informed choice would involve researching:

  • The position. How essential is the skill to that role? If you're missing a skill, do you have one or more skills that help bridge the gap?
  • The job market. How likely is it that other candidates have the skill? How many other employers are seeking that skill?

Again, this isn't unique to game development and varies so much that there's no way to answer for all skills, across all locations, for all time. Again, check a few different employment sites to get information relevant to your particular situation.

It's important to recognize that that evaluating any position depends on your context. Something that's reasonable for one person might be completely unrealistic for another. Ultimately the value of a particular skill or trait is determined by both yourself and what the job market will offer.

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