How to Get a Job in Virtual or Augmented Reality
Virtual reality is usually accessed by the user wearing a headset or helmet to interact with the virtual world. Augmented reality, on other hand, allows you to experience a virtual experience that seamlessly blends in with real life by augmenting what you hear, see and feel. The Oculus Rift headsets and Vive headsets, for example, are both well-known VR technology for gaming. The first down line that you see in televised football matches was an early example of augmented reality. Next-generation AR will include the military’s Tactical Augmented Reality eyepiece (TAR) for situational awareness. This will eventually replace night vision goggles and MIT SixthSense.
While AR and VR are distinct entities, they often come up in the same conversations. We’ll refer to them all as “XR”, shorthand for “extended reality” in order to follow a new industry trend.
The market for XR is growing rapidly. According to Statista the market was worth approximately $6.1 billion in 2016, but it is projected to rise to $215 billion by 2021. Although this technology has been developed and refined over many years, there is a significant increase in demand for XR professionals as more technologies enter the market.
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Different types of jobs and their salaries
You might have guessed that development is a prominent role in the XR jobs market. There are many other roles available in the XR biz that are in demand. Developers often work closely with 3D artists and software designers, as well design architects and engineers, who plan and build the hardware that runs XR software. These engineers help to resolve technical problems and work with developers to make sure applications are modified as needed.
If projects aren’t internal, project managers can coordinate and supervise entire development teams and interface with other business units. There’s also a marketing, sales, and distribution arm that brings XR products into the marketplace and ultimately puts them in customers’ hands or around their heads.
What does an XR professional make each year? According to several sources, the average U.S. salary of XR professionals is $75,000-$80,000. The top end is around $200,000. This does not cover all job titles. According to Indeed.com, the average salary for technical jobs is broken down by most popular roles such as developer, $106,673 mobile developer, and solution engineer at $91,865.
Skills and background essential
There are many XR roles available. Let’s concentrate on management and development. Employers seek XR developers who have two to three years experience in developing responsive applications. This includes animation and 3D development. These positions are often found within Agile Scrum engineering teams. Employers may also seek developers who have design skills.
A minimum of one XR platform such as Unity or new products will be required. Also, you will need to be proficient in C#, C++ or Java, as well as other similar languages. You may need to have a background in math, network, motion capture, gesture recognition, network engineering, and simulated physics, depending on the project. A bachelor’s degree or equivalent in computer science, software engineering, or another relevant field will often be required for these positions.
The XR manager (also known as project lead, innovation leader or computer vision manager) must have extensive experience in XR projects. This may be from being a developer or engineer, or someone who has decided to move into management. Employers are looking for someone with strong experience in managing technology projects throughout their development lifecycle. This includes from conception to the final product. Employers also seek people who are knowledgeable about emerging technologies, trends, and best practices in the industry.
A bachelor’s degree is required in engineering, computer science, or another related field. You also need at least five years professional experience. Strong leadership skills and written communication skills are required for all positions in project management.
No matter what job you are interested in, you will need to have a security clearance if you wish to work for the U.S. government, U.S. Military, or contractors.
Are you a programmer but don’t know where to begin? Consider learning Unity. You can access the company’s documentation free of charge, as well as live training online. Although you will likely need to purchase some equipment such as a headset or training software, if you are passionate about XR you may already have that.
Continue practicing until you are comfortable with XR and then create a portfolio that highlights your work.
Snap (Snapchat), NVIDIA, HTC, Google and Facebook are all top XR players. There are hundreds of jobs available on Indeed.com and LinkedIn Jobs, which are the most popular sites for XR jobs. The majority of these jobs are either on the East Coast or in California. However, you don’t have to work for a big corporation.
Look out for a local meetup group that focuses on XR (or Artificial Intelligence). These groups can provide valuable networking opportunities, job openings, and a way to improve your skills.