For anyone interested in becoming a game tester – someone who gets paid real cash to sit around and play video games all day – the big question is how much cash will you really come home with every week. You’ve probably seen the claims that you can make $60,000 a year as a game tester and work only a handful of hours each week, but realistically, that probably won’t apply to you. Most numbers like that apply to the top paid testers – the lead testers who oversee teams of newbies like you.
You will likely be paid on an hourly scale and will work hours accordingly to the development team’s needs. That can mean 20 hours one week and then 80 hours the next depending on where the game is at in the development cycle.
Entry Level Expectations
At the entry level for game testers, pay is usually around $10-$15 an hour. This applies to black box testers who don’t have any experience and will likely work part time playing through the content as a normal player would.
However, there are certain ways to improve your prospects coming into the industry. For example, if you want to get a lot more pay out of the gate, you can get a college degree in something like programming or technical writing.
Having a degree can almost double your entry level pay and set you up for a path to advancement in the company. Many game developers will hire game testers with 2 or 4 year degrees in programming and let them prove their way up the ladder to a position with higher pay.
Chances for Advancement
While some game testers can make a lot of money to start (comparatively), most will enjoy only a healthy hourly rate. It’s not bad, but it’s also not the big money you’ve been dreaming of. The real bonus in game testing comes from the chance to move your way up to new positions that can pay a lot more money.
Specifically, you can work your way into lead testing positions. These testers will have access to the bug database, write up test cases, and act as a liaison between the testers and programmers to make sure all bugs are properly communicated. You can also make the leap to the programming team if you have the coding skills needed. Game testing may not be the super glamorous job many people think it is, but it is a very good career option with lots of opportunities to move up for those prepared.