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Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Developer

Person standing in virtual environment of Roman temples

Virtual reality (VR) and Augmented reality (AR) developers write and develop code for virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) software. Users interact with virtual reality environments by wearing ocular headsets or goggles where they feel immersed in an imaginary environment. Users can use augmented reality environments through their mobile devices where they can visualise and interact with virtual images (for example Pokemon Go). 

VR and AR experiences are utilised across many sectors, such as gaming, heritage, tourism, healthcare, and education.

They may also be called Extended reality (XR) programmer, Mixed reality (MR) programmer or VR engineers. 

The Work

You could be: 

  • meeting with designers to discuss a new project, such as its look, features and structures, and planning how you can write the code to achieve this 
  • writing code in programming languages such as java, C++, C# or Python for 3D game engines such as Unreal Engine or Unity 
  • developing concepts and code for augmented reality applications to work on smart phones or tablets, like ARKit for iOS devices or ARCore for Android devices 
  • working with designers and 3D artists to create environments, graphics and structures 
  • troubleshooting the application for bugs, and making sure it doesn’t cause motion sickness in users 
  • testing and adjusting the product so it works properly with controllers or headsets 
  • once the product is released, writing updates or bug fixes for specific platforms 
  • writing and producing the software documentation 
  • keeping up to date with the latest technology trends or practices in the industry. 

Pay

The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates vary, depending on: 

  • where you work 
  • the size of the company or organisation you work for 
  • the demand for the job. 

Starting salaries tend to be around £30,000 a year rising to £45,000 a year. With experience this could rise to between £50,000 and £60,000 a year or more. 

Salaries for freelance developers may vary considerably, but the latest reported average daily rate according to IT Jobs Watch was £350 per day (February 2024). 

Conditions

Workforce Employment Status

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Useful Subjects

Getting In

  • Most entrants have degrees (SCQF Levels 9-11) in subjects such as computer science, computer programming, 3D animation or games development. 
  • Many will already have experience working beforehand as a games programmer or similar. 
  • Glasgow School of Art offers a relevant BSc Hons degree (SCQF Level 10) in Games and Virtual Reality. 
  • The universities of Abertay, Edinburgh Napier, Glasgow Caledonian, Heriot-Watt and the West of Scotland universities offer degrees in computer games subjects. 
  • Entry requirements for most of these courses is 4-5 Highers usually including Maths plus National 5 English. Check with individual institutions for more details. 
  • Graduates in other subjects can take a postgraduate qualification (SCQF Level 11) in a relevant subject. 
  • You should build a strong portfolio of work showcasing any VR or AR applications you have developed - particularly if you have not worked in a relevant role before. You can find free courses online to get you started understanding how it works.  

Skilled VR and AR developers are in demand for this rapidly growing technology, so job prospects are excellent. You could work in technology or gaming companies, design and creative agencies, educational companies, VE/AR start-up companies or tourist organisations. You will find jobs advertised on the internet on sites such as UK Gamesmap

Workforce Education Levels (UK)

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Job Outlook Scotland

Employment

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Job Outlook Scotland and UK

  Scotland
2024
24889
3.2 %
RISE
2029
25676
  United Kingdom
2024
409980
4.5 %
RISE
2029
428347

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What Does it Take?

You need to have: 

  • a creative imagination to visualise gameplay in a virtual environment 
  • attention to detail 
  • strong problem-solving skills 
  • good communication skills for liaising with designers and other developers 
  • project management skills. 

You need to be able to: 

  • understand 3D modelling for creating and developing virtual objects and their workflow 
  • work alone and as part of a team 
  • understand how different game platforms work such as mobile devices or game consoles 
  • manage multiple tasks and prioritise workload effectively. 

Training

Getting On

More Information

VR, AR and MR (mixed reality - a mix of virtual and augmented realities) are collectively known as extended reality, or XR technology. This use with various tools and technologies is sometimes called immersive technologies. 

Many industries are increasingly using this technology including education, gaming, finance, tourism, healthcare and retail. For example, the heritage sector can use both augmented and virtual reality, to recreate a destroyed venue or building and re-enact scenes with virtually created characters. Virtual reality can be used in medicine and all areas of healthcare from patient experience to medical training: medical students can learn about surgical procedures, or patients can use it in therapy, for example to overcome phobias. 

Because of the wide range of applications and possibilities, Creative Scotland reported in January 2024 that £6 million is being funded into a 3-year cross-UK ‘Immersive Arts’ project to explore the potential of virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies. It will give UK artists the opportunity to access training and facilities to help them put their ideas into action.  

Video

Courtesy of HTC Vive

Contacts

The following organisations may be able to provide further information.

ScreenSkills
Tel: 020 7713 9800
E-mail: info@screenskills.com
Website: https://www.screenskills.com
Twitter: @UKScreenSkills
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/UKScreenSkills

ScreenSkills works with the UK’s screen-based creative media industries to develop skills and talent from classroom to boardroom.

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Career Area

Computing and ICT