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What skills are required to get a job as a video game tester?

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In this episode of Game Industry Career Guide Podcast, I answer a question from Blake, who asks, “I want to become a game tester, but I am not sure if I have the right qualifications. So I was wondering, are there any special requirements for doing this job? Also, I’m 16 years old. How old do you have to be to get this job, and how much do you get paid for your work?”

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • The basic requirements and pay of a video game tester
  • Which skills are most important to getting a testing job
  • My favorite resource for learning how to test games

If you have a question you'd like to get answered on the podcast, leave a comment below or ask me anything here.

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Hello and welcome to the Game Industry Career Guide podcast. This is episode number 30. I am Jason W. Bay from gameindustrycareerguide.com and this is the podcast where I answer your questions about getting a job and growing your career making video games.

Today’s question is from Blake, who sent in an email to ask this. “I want to become a game tester but I am not sure if I have the right qualifications. So I was wondering, are there any special requirements for doing this job? Also, I am sixteen years old. How old do you have to be to get this job and how much do you get paid for your work?”

Okay, so Blake wants to know about testing video games. How old do you have to be, how much do you get paid and what skills are required. I have a feeling that he’s asking about this for a school project so hopefully he’ll hear this in time to use it in his report.

How old do I have to be to test games, and how much will I make?

Let’s do the easy questions first. Age and pay. Most companies will require you to be at least 18 years old. So unfortunately, Blake will have to wait a couple more years before he can apply for testing jobs.

What about pay? How much do testers earn from their work? Game testers can be paid in one of two ways. Either as an hourly rate or as a salary. When they’re paid hourly the pay starts around $8 per hour and can go as high as $14 per hour, that’s in U.S. dollars. The pay could be quite different depending on where you live. For example, some states have minimum wage laws that could start testers as high as $15 per hour. But the current salary data that’s taken from companies around the U.S. and Canada currently shows an average range of $8 and $14 per hour for hourly testing jobs.

Some companies prefer to pay testers with a fixed salary. In those cases testers can make more or less depending on how much experience they have testing games and whether they take on some management responsibility as lead testers. On average, testers with less than 3 years of experience make around $38,000 a year for salary. And testers with six or more years experience can make as much as $58,000 on average but that’s if they’ve taken on some management responsibility. So that pay isn’t the highest pay in the game industry but it can be a comfortable wage and I have several friends who have been testing games for many years and they’re supporting their families with their testing jobs.

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What skills do I need to be a game tester?

Next let’s talk about requirements. What skills do you need in order to get a job and lead a successful career as a video game tester? Well I’ve all ready discussed in Episode #7 of this podcast that you don’t need a college degree to be a game tester. However you do need some specific soft skills, so let’s talk about those. And by the way, all of the things I’m about to talk about here are from my book, “Land a Job as a Video Game Tester,” in the chapter about soft skills. I’ll summarize them here but consider getting a copy of the book if you want a more in-depth discussion about any of these skills.

First of all, you need to be a gamer and love video games. Since you’ll be spending a ton of time with whatever game you’re testing, companies will expect that you all ready have some gaming skills and a gaming vocabulary. But since you’re listening to this podcast, I’m going to assume that you all ready love video games. So this requirement should be a slam dunk for you.

Next, testers spend a lot of time communicating with their teams through email, chat and in-person so you’ve got to be a good communicator. That means that you can listen carefully when others are speaking, you ask questions to clarify what others are saying when you’re in a conversation and you can express your thoughts and ideas in a clear way that others can understand. If your spelling and grammar aren’t so good, well maybe spend a little time working on that. It will be worth the effort.

Next, a good tester needs to be self-motivated and willing to take ownership of their work. Once you get the job, nobody is going to be hovering over your desk all day to make sure that you stay on task. There aren’t any parents or teachers around to keep you from losing focus and making sure that you’re working. You’re mostly going to be responsible for managing your own work and getting a lot done every day on your own, even when nobody is telling you exactly what to do all the time.

Another skill that you’ll need as a tester is to be very detail-oriented. Testers spend a lot of their time doing things like looking for bugs, writing bug reports, verifying fixes and regressing bugs that they had written previously. So to do a good job at those tasks demands that you can be observant, thorough in your work, organized and patient. As a quick side note, some people think that being detail-oriented is something that you’re just born with. You either have it or you don’t. I don’t agree with that. I think it’s something that you can learn and develop with practice. So start practicing now. I think you’ll see yourself improve quickly once you start paying attention to it.

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Lastly a game tester need to be technically minded because you’ll be working with all types of hardware and software and you’ll often need to talk with technical people like programmers and artists and other people on the game team. So be curious, be systematic and be analytical. Learn about the scientific method and practice applying science based thinking to your daily life at school and at home, both. It will help your testing career but scientific thinking will also just help you in many other aspects of your life. Also learn how to do some technical things.

Rounding it out

If you can learn a little bit about the entire process of game development, like learning how to use a 3D art tool or learning how to do a little computer programming, that will help you become more technical over time. It’s also a lot of fun. That’s a win-win for you and for your testing career.

Okay that’s an introduction to some of the key skills and requirements that you’ll need to become a video game tester. I go into way more depth on those skills and others in my book “Land a Job as a Video Game Tester”. The book also teaches you everything you’ll need to get a job testing. Like how to find and report bugs, where to search for the best game testing jobs, how to write your cover letter and your resume, how to do an interview, why getting a job as a game tester is a good way to start your career in the game industry and a lot more. You can get it from Amazon as a paperback or you can get it as an e-book from any app store that sells books for Kindle, iOS for Nook or just about any e-reader that you might use. So if you’re interested in testing game, this is the book for you.

Thanks to Blake for this week’s question and thank you for hanging out with me today. If you have a question you’d like me to answer on this podcast, stop by the website and leave a comment or just send me an email. And if you liked this podcast, then you will love my book, Land a Job as a Video Game Tester. It’s available right now. For more information and inspiration on getting a job and growing your career making video games, visit me at gameindustrycareerguide.com. I’m Jason W. Bay, I will see you again next week right here on The Game Industry Career Guide podcast.

Read my new book!

Making games for a living is an incredibly rewarding career, but it’s hard to break in unless you have insider knowledge. This book levels the playing field.

READ: Start Your Video Game Career

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