What is the Average Video Game Tester Salary?

If you love video games or hope to get into the potentially lucrative video game industry, then a job as a game tester – also known as Quality Assurance (QA), could be the right job for you. For some gamers, being a video game tester sounds like a dream job, but does it earn a lot of money? The answer is, it depends.

The perks of being a quality assurance game tester are obvious. You get the first crack at games; you can sometimes work from home, get paid to do something you’re already doing, and you don’t need the same level of education that other game development jobs require, like programming or animation. That said, the amount you’ll get paid depends on the game company, location, and experience level.

Most game companies consider experience a significant component of your pay rate; often games testers earn more money after about three years of experience.

What Does the Average Game Testers Make?

A 2011 survey conducted by Game Developer Magazine shows a worldwide average annual pay of $36,136 for workers with less than three years of experience. For workers with over four to six years of experience, the average is $45,769.

Interestingly, and contrary to pay trends in other industries, women comprise approximately 5% of QA workers but command a significantly higher salary. Male workers earned $48,000 per year on average, whereas females earned an annual average of $62,500.

If you look at an average salary based on education level, you’ll probably be surprised; according to the Game Developer Magazine survey, workers with high school diplomas, GEDs, and associate’s degrees earned more on average than those with bachelor’s degrees.

Pay also depends on the company you work for. Some companies treat their QA team as part of game development and are often treated with better salaries and benefits. Other companies are known to treat QA testers poorly with low pay, or even as temporary or contract employees.

According to data from Indeed.com the 2016 annual pay for a “game tester” is $22,000. Other related job titles show higher in lower averages. In short, you could make on average as little as $17,000 or as much as $56,000 per year.

Location Matters for Video Game Testers…

Your salary as a video game tester may also vary based on where you live.

Often tech-industries earn more on the west coast than in other areas, but according to the survey, East Coasters out-earned those out west by about $2,000 on average.

You may also expect some bonuses, depending on the game company you work for. Some workers report bonuses in the form of an annual bonus or employer-based contributions to retirement funds.

The Game Developer survey indicates that 93% of QA testers polled get some type of benefit from their employer like medical, dental, or 401K.

Conclusion

Game testing can be an excellent way to get a foot in the door if you want to work in the game industry.

Expect your rate of pay to vary dramatically based on your experience and the company you’re working for. Many of these jobs will put you in the direct employment of the company, but others may only hire independent contractors, meaning you’ll probably make a little less, in addition to not receiving benefits. A new tester may not make much to start, but expect better pay as you get faster at finding those bugs.