Got another email that asked the question: "How much does the game industry pay junior developers? There are surveys that talk about this, so I went and found an article link, but I thought it important to explain a little bit about playing the game of moving up the pay scale. Here was my response:
Found this article, skimmed it and it seems to line up with what I encountered: LINK But remember a lot of the pay rate will also depend on where you live. If you are moving to CA for a game dev job, cost of an apartment and taxes are much higher than say NC or IN for that matter. This should dictate whether you are asking for the upper end of Jr salary (or will the lower end be acceptable). Also one thing to keep in mind is that getting your first game gig is super important, so don't be afraid to take a little hit on salary to get your foot in the door, but, BUT Do Not Stay at that salary too long if they don't want to negotiate a better wage each year!!! Work on improving your skills, keep building your portfolio (<--never stop doing this until maybe you are at senior level and even then it is not a bad idea to keep updating your resume, website, linkdin etc). In my experience it is a good idea to work to a mid level artist/programmer/designer and if you are not satisfied with your wages, jump ship and go to another company. I have known people who started as Junior level, and after a number of years and struggling to get paid more, they left, went to a new company and then started at $20,000 more than their first gig (in that case the artist was a junior, and left as a senior artist after more than 7 years). It is just the way it works sometimes with budgets; a company hires you as a junior and their budget revolves around and increases from that initial pay. If you leave for another position, say a mid level position, the initial pay for a mid level developer might be 10-15 G's more than a junior position. Getting 10-15 G's more by annual salary increases can be more difficult than moving to a new position. Now many other factors come into play when making these decisions, like where is my family, and do I want to live in "said place"? And perhaps the biggest barrier I see among young prospective game developers is "do I want to put in the work to get there"? It takes a lot of study and practice to "get there".
I think the key thing to remember in the struggle of working, and this is the same for most every field: you start off at the bottom, pay your dues, put in a bunch of extra work to make yourself valuable to any company you would work at, and then...then the money flows in (hopefully, no guarantees for any walk of life or career!)
Hope that Helps!
Daniel Triplett, is an artist that worked in game development for over 6 years, and now teaches in the Computer Graphics Technology department (CGT) at Purdue University.