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Career Path: How to become a Virtual/Augmented Reality Developer

The demand for virtual and augmented reality developers is exploding. Extended reality technology may have started primarily with gaming companies but has spread into various industries such as education, healthcare and military. This evolution has opened the door to countless opportunities for both virtual and augmented reality developers looking to be responsible for some of the most innovative advancements in modern technology.

Understanding the terms

Many believe virtual reality and augmented reality to be interchangeable terms, but this is not the case. Vir...more

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Career Path: How to become a Virtual/Augmented Reality Developer

The demand for virtual and augmented reality developers is exploding. Extended reality technology may have started primarily with gaming companies but has spread into various industries such as education, healthcare and military. This evolution has opened the door to countless opportunities for both virtual and augmented reality developers looking to be responsible for some of the most innovative advancements in modern technology.

Understanding the terms

Many believe virtual reality and augmented reality to be interchangeable terms, but this is not the case. Virtual reality immerses the user in a computer-generated simulation of reality. Virtual reality typically requires a headset, such as Facebook’s Oculus or the Samsung Gear. It is typically used for gaming purposes or to enhance training for real-life situations. Augmented reality, on the other hand, layers computer-generated images onto the user’s view of the real world. It is typically developed into applications on mobile devices to enhance a user’s interaction with reality. Virtual reality and augmented reality are both considered examples of extended reality.

Getting Started

Virtual reality developers create a virtual world while augmented reality developers blend the real world with a virtual experience. Whichever field you are interested in, your first steps on the road to becoming one of these extended reality developers are the same.

You must have at least a base knowledge of coding and preferably some experience with 3D software design and development. If you are new to coding, start with learning C#, C++, Java or similar languages. You’ll also need a moderate proficiency with Unity or Unreal as they are the two main platforms for extended reality development. You can find tutorials online or take low-cost online courses with platforms such as Udemy.

If you live in a populated area, consider attending tech meetups or conferences where you can network with other developers and learn more about the industry. While you’re at these events, make sure to demo as many examples of current virtual and augmented reality technology as possible. This will enhance your feel for it, keep you up to date and assist you in developing ideas for what can be improved upon.

Educational Requirements

You don’t need to have a formal education in order to land an entry-level position as a virtual or augmented reality developer, but a degree in a related field will certainly give you an advantage over the competition. A degree in computer science or software engineering is often a preferred or required qualification for entry-level virtual and augmented reality positions. Game development courses will also provide you with an excellent base, as would courses in mathematics or simulated physics.

Personal Qualities

In order to be successful as a virtual reality or augmented reality developer, it isn’t enough to have the proper education and skills. You must have a passion for your craft and qualities that will assist you in doing the job well. A virtual and augmented reality developer is:

  • Creative. Developers must come up with brand new ideas for virtual and augmented reality programs.
  • Problem Solving. Developers are responsible for the entire development process and must be able to assess and address any problems that arise.
  • Analytical. Developers must analyze the needs of the user in order to develop a successful program
  • Interpersonal. Developers must be able to work well and communicate with others working alongside them on a project.

Working as an Extended Reality Developer

Virtual reality and augmented reality developers are the creative minds behind extended reality programs. The duties within the first few years in a position in either field typically include the designing, testing and developing of virtual or augmented reality software.

Developers are responsible for the entire development process of a software program. They must first analyze the needs of the users and then design a program that applies. Developers often give instructions to programmers who code and test the program or do the coding themselves. Developers must ensure that a program continues to function normally through consistent documentation, software maintenance and testing.

Advance Your Career: How to become a Senior Virtual/Augmented Reality Developer

A senior virtual reality or augmented reality developer maintains all of the responsibilities of a junior developer but with more oversight and freedom. The distinction between a senior and junior position varies across different working environments but is determined largely by experience and education.

Junior developers typically have less than 2-3 years of experience in their field and qualify for promotion to a senior position after the fact. To qualify for a senior virtual reality or augmented reality development position, a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science is required or equivalent experience.

Senior Responsibilities

Senior developers are considered experts in their field, whether that be virtual or augmented reality development. They are fluent in the relevant coding languages and have extensive experience in delivering a working product. Senior virtual reality or augmented reality developers are responsible for mentoring their junior team members and handling liaise with customers. Depending on the workplace, they can also be considered project leads. Due to their level of experience, senior developers are excellent with troubleshooting. They are expected to be able to implement the appropriate steps towards solving a problem by assessing all options available. Their methods are usually well documented and tested.

Senior Qualities

Senior virtual or augmented reality developers must have the same qualities as those in a junior position but to an advanced degree. They must be able to analyze the needs of the user and of the team. They must have strong management skills along with organization and communication skills. Senior developers are expected to pay close attention to detail and take initiative in recommending alternative approaches in order to enhance performances. They must be able to prioritize, multitask and keep a cool head in a fast-paced environment.

Getting There

Working your way from a junior to a senior virtual or augmented reality developer requires commitment and hard work. Most come into the job through gaining experience in their field and demonstrating growth. You must show initiative, refine your skills and stay up to date with the latest developments in augmented and virtual reality technology. Get involved in multiple projects and build your portfolio. Senior developers are also expected to be excellent coders and like any language, fluency in coding requires constant practice and emersion.

Virtual/Augmented Reality Developer Job Description

We’ve done the research for you. After evaluating numerous job descriptions, we’ve written our own representative job description for a mid-level software engineer with between 2 and 5 years of relevant experience

Some of the greatest VR/AR technology is being worked on here at our company and we need talented developers to create immersive experiences for our growing consumer base. We're looking for a candidate to join our team who is able to build innovative, high-quality and fully performing software in compliance with our coding and technical design standards. The candidate will have an established background in software development, excellent communication and analytical skills, self-motivation to achieve the ultimate results, an initiative towards problem-solving and a strong passion for technology.

What We Need Your Help With

  • Write well-designed, innovative and efficient code
  • Execute ongoing development and refinement of VR/AR programs
  • Maintain documentation for work processes and training
  • Correct errors by reassessing and making the appropriate changes to deliver desired results
  • Conduct trial runs of programs and software applications to ensure their success
  • Be accountable for the revision, repair, or expansion of existing programs to maximize operating efficiency or adjust to new requirements.
  • Communicate effectively with management and fellow personnel on matters of program intent, problems and possible adjustments.
  • Write user and developer guides
  • Consult with and assist system analysts or computer operators to address problems in the functioning of VR/AR programs.

We Look For

  • 3+ years of experience with software programming
  • 3+ years of experience with languages like C#, C++ or Java
  • 2+ years of experience with Unity or Unreal
  • Practical knowledge of 3D programming
  • A working knowledge of Oculus; HTC Vive; Microsoft Mixed Reality Devices
  • Practical understanding of 3D mathematics
  • Strong foundation in computer science
  • Ability to think creatively and produce new concepts or ideas
  • Ability to work and communicate well within a team environment
  • Ability to be proactive with problem-solving through assessment, research and resolve
  • Strong critical thinking and analytical skills
  • Ability to handle and prioritize multiple tasks at once
  • Initiative and ability to expand knowledge and skills to meet new challenges

Senior Virtual/Augmented Reality Career Paths: Where to Go from Here

There is an ever growing demand for virtual and augmented reality software across a vast number of industries. The potential for this technology is just being tapped into and the scope of opportunity has yet to be determined. Employment of software developers is projected to grow much faster than the average for most other occupations.

We have discussed the positions of junior and senior virtual and augmented reality developers, but what’s next? An experienced senior developer eventually becomes a lead developer. A lead developer is looked to for guidance and direction from junior and senior developers. After 7-10 years as either a senior or lead developer, being an architect is your next step if you are interested in remaining on the technical side of things. Architects design advanced systems that will be executed by senior and junior developers. An architect sometimes continues to write code, but largely their responsibility is to use their many years of experience to create the structure for successful software projects.

If you are, in fact, interested in graduating from technical work to a management position, your next step would be a mid-level manager. Mid-level managers are responsible for hiring and firing developers. There are project managers and product managers but the usual path for a developer is to become a developer manager. These managers mediate between the product and project managers and the development team. The position requires a candidate with strong interpersonal and conflict resolution skills.

Above managers are senior leaders. Senior Leaders are the CEOs and have the responsibility of hiring and firing mid-level managers. This is a position which requires advanced leadership skills as the Senior Leader must provide guidance over management and steer the company towards its mission. They make high-level decisions and essentially run the show.

Ultimately, climbing up the ladder of virtual and augmented reality development requires a lot of experience and skill along with a personal evaluation of whether your personality aligns with the foreseeable responsibilities.

Unity is a popular game engine and development environment that allows rapid development of games targeting many platforms, including: PC, Mac, WebGL, Android, iOS, tvOS, XBox 360, XBox One, PS4, 3DS, Wii U, Switch, and others. Developers wrote c...

Swift is a programming language created by Apple Inc. for macOS, iOS, watchOS and tvOS development. It is meant to work well with the large body of existing Objective-C (ObjC) code written for Apple products. Some of the core concepts it supports...

Python is an object-oriented programming language notable for its clarity, power and flexibility. Python is an interpreted language, meaning that an interpreter reads and runs the code directly, rather than compiling down into static lower level c...

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JavaScript is a scripting language, originally implemented in web browsers, but now widely used server-side via the Node.js platform. It supports a runtime system based on numerical, Boolean and string values, with built-in, first-class support f...

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Sports

There are many jobs in the sports industry ranging from professional athlete to physical therapist. Sports medicine is a growing job area within the industry and generated 19 billion dollars in 2016. With so many popular sports in the United St...

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Manufacturing involves creating merchandise through various forms of labor or machinery, including processing and formulation. There are many different types of manufacturing, including agile, flexible, just-in-time and lean manufacturing. Othe...

eCommerce

The retail landscape has changed dramatically over the past few decades. Retail was once a brick-and-mortar industry, comprised of small, independently owned-and-operated businesses and large chain stores with multiple outposts throughout the c...

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