Firstly, a ‘career in VR’ and how to get a job in VR, is far too vague. It will really help you to narrow your focus on a specialisation within the field of VR - although you may not know exactly where you want that focus to be yet.
It’s okay, and even recommended, to try a few areas out. Finding the best intersection between your skills, your passion and the market always takes time.
There are plenty of jobs within VR. Broadly speaking, there are VR developer jobs, VR engineer jobs and VR designer jobs, but it’s not limited to just those as you can also be a technical artist, UI/UX designer, or a 3D modeler, and this is not an exhaustive list.
It’s also clear that VR is a growth industry. The global VR market is set to grow from less than $5 billion in 2021 to over $12 billion by 2024.
Even before the announcement by Facebook that they were changing their name to Meta Platforms, VR jobs were highly in demand. As of 2019, demand for AR/VR engineers had surged by 1,400%.
To get a better understanding of the sorts of skills you’ll need for a career in VR and how to get a job in VR, we’re going to review some real-world VR job listings, to give you a better idea of what you need to know/be able to do, and what companies are actually looking for in their potential employees.
For these samples, we’ve looked at renown and exciting companies such as Meta Platforms, Reality Labs, Framestore, Osso VR, and Owlchemy Labs.
But first, let’s take a look at the two main skill paths you can choose to go down as a developer.
Which developer path should you choose?
As you will see with every one of the job postings to follow, experience with either Unity or Unreal Engine is an absolute must-have skill on a CV if you want to have a career in VR and how to get a job in VR. Unreal or Unity for VR are considered foundational skills.
Hunter Woodlee, XR development lead at Accenture, is very clear about the foundational nature of Unity and Unreal experience for a career in VR.
Unity is the more widely used of the two engines, and it currently dominates the VR market with 60% of AR/VR content being made with the platform. There are literally more jobs for Unity.
Apart from usage, the biggest difference between the two platforms is the programming languages they use. Unity is constructed in C#, while Unreal Engine is constructed with C++.
No language is ‘better,’ or more useful than the other. If you have more experience with C++ coding, your VR career path is going to be different to the VR career path that someone with C# coding is going to have.
If you are a complete beginner to the world of VR development, then learning C# may be the more practical route to go down. It’s an easier language to learn for a complete novice, and has a larger development community, with 90% of AR/VR companies using C#.
This means that Unity doesn’t just include game development. VR experiences for academic institutions or training programs for high risk jobs are a big part of a Unity for VR career path.
Again, there are more jobs for Unity because more industries than just gaming use Unity for VR.
While it’s no longer true that Unreal engine is just for AAA game titles, Unity’s versatility, larger development community and larger asset library makes it a more popular choice for a wider variety of projects, and it means there are far more jobs for Unity.
However, it’s clear that experience with a 3D engine is absolutely necessary on your CV or in your portfolio (more on that later), and Unity and Unreal are the two engines that the vast majority of companies working in VR will be using.
It isn’t necessary to know both 3D engines, though it’s certainly helpful. However, CTO of Osso VR Matt Newport has said this about knowing programming languages;
Let’s take a look at some of those real world VR jobs, and see what skills they want.
There’s the minimum level skills, without which you can’t do the job at all, and then there are the preferred skills that the employer would find beneficial, though not essential for you to have.
All of these job postings are current and live as of November 19th, 2021.
Founded in 2016, San Francisco based Osso VR is the leading surgical training and assessment platform, training thousands of surgeons a year with their technology in over twenty different countries.
Using cutting edge technology, they aim to democratize access to high level surgical training, democratize global access to the latest surgical techniques, thus improving patient outcomes.
They have around 110+ employees, including the industry's largest team of medical illustrators, and artists from such legendary studios as Industrial Light & Magic, Electronic Arts and Dreamworks.
It’s this expertise that helped Osso VR win the first ever Oscar for a VR experience.
This role requires a familiarity with C# and Unity, 5+ years of game development experience, the ability to take on complex tasks with high level requirements, and the ability to deliver production-ready systems.
Being comfortable with working completely remotely is a non-negotiable skill. Osso VR CTO Matt Newport expanded on this, saying;
VR and Oculus Quest development experience are a plus for this job role, as well as general android 3D game development experience.
Animation and gameplay programming experience, and experience with performance optimization for CPU and GPU are also highly sought after bonuses here.
Because of the importance of optimization in VR careers, XR Bootcamp has an Optimization Checklist created by master trainer Ruben Torres that addresses optimization challenges available as a 15 page pdf entirely for free. This will help for the how to get a job in VR career search.
If applicants have experience working on art tools and pipelines, have multiplayer/networking experience, and experience with complex real-time physics simulation, then this also stands them in good stead.
Reality Labs are part of the newly created Meta Platforms, and they are working across several areas of AR/VR, including the future of connection to others, virtual identities, and the future of work experiences and collaboration among other areas.
Using technologies like Oculus/Meta Quest and Portal, Reality Labs are aiming to remove distance as a barrier to human communication and interaction.
This role requires experience shipping complex software products, experience with real time 3D development such as Unity (C#), and experience collaborating with people in design, engineering and product management.
In the Unboxing XR Dev Careers: From Game to VR/AR Enterprise App Developer event on 10 September 2021, Matt Newport of Osso VR stressed the importance of being able to work in a team, collaborating with many other departments, stating that when hiring;
Experience with solving ambiguous challenges and working in dynamic, fast paced environments is also a must.
Applicants that have a portfolio that demonstrates experience with interaction design built with Unity or another real time 3D engine will be looked at more favourably, as these are skills sought out by the employer.
This employer also favours those with experience with rapid prototyping/fast iteration through feedback and user testing.
Because we recognise the importance of prototyping skills, at XR Bootcamp we have a sixteen week Foundations and Prototyping course that teaches VR foundations, XR prototyping and how to put together a final portfolio consisting of prototypes built with C# and Unity.
Experience of working with researchers, technical proficiency with SDKs, APIs and the ability to dive into the codebase is also desired, as is experience leading a team by defining strategy and vision in ambiguous problem spaces, and experience with Figma.
Experience with UI/interaction development for 3D products, and game development experience across multiple platforms like console, mobile, PC, AR and VR are also preferred skills.
As an arm of Oculus and therefore Meta Quest, Input Explorations are exploring the boundaries of Input in AR/VR, and are exploring new input devices and technologies.
This role requires experience with real time 3D development such as Unity (C#) or Unreal, as well as a portfolio that features examples of prototyping and design implementation.
Experience with partnering in cross-functional environments, working with research and data to drive decision making, and the ability to think at a high level about product strategy and vision are also skills essential to this job posting.
Game development experience is a bonus for this role. Experience with 3D tools like Maya, 3DS Max and Cinema 4D, and a developing knowledge of virtual reality and emerging technologies are also highly desired.
UI development experience, Android Development experience and experience with Unreal engine are also sought after skills for this role.
XR Bootcamp has an Advanced VR Interactions masterclass that covers major parts of the necessary and preferred skills to do this job.
Owlchemy Labs is a game studio based in Austin, Texas that has a particular focus on polished and playful VR games and experiences.
Their main aim is to create funny and immersive experiences, trying to expand their accessibility for everyone.
Founded in 2010, the company was nominated for an Emmy for “Rick and Morty; Virtual Rick-Ality,” and won a Game Developers Choice Award for best VR/AR game, and was the winner of Gamasutra’s Best of 2016 top 10 Game Devs.
Acquired by Google in 2017, they’ve continued sharing their pioneering experiments, knowledge and VR best practices through white papers, blog posts and talks around the world about VR.
They’re also not resting on their laurels, with a planned release of the title “Cosmonious High,” in 2022.
Owlchemy labs are looking for someone who first of all has cross programming expertise, so familiarity with C++, Java and Python etc are a must, as well as a deep expertise of Unity programming (C#), and familiarity with the HLSL.
Deep graphics optimization expertise (such as HL, SL and RenderDoc) is a must for this role.
Less techy, but no less important, attention to detail and particularly, strong communication skills are vital for the role.
Hunter Woodlee at Accenture expands on this point by saying that in an interview situation, lacking communication skills will wash out a candidate.
In terms of formal qualifications, this role is not too stringent, being perfectly happy with a high school diploma or equivalent.
However, 4+ years of programming experience and a general understanding of all the other disciplines that goes with game development can’t be substituted for with a high school diploma.
Owlchemy Labs have a bachelor’s degree and six years worth of game development as their preferred, desirable skills, so having either will stand you in great stead, though these are not necessary to the job role.
As to the ability to enjoy puns, a preferred skill they list here, there’s probably no formal course or education that can help with that.
Framestore describe themselves as a collective of visionaries, working across television, film, advertising and immersive technologies.
They are known globally for their visual effects, and have been creating some of the most extraordinary images and scenes for Hollywood pictures. Some of their work includes the Harry Potter franchise, and the Sci-Fi thriller Gravity.
They’re also known for some of the more eye-catching moments of the small screen via advertising, working on such projects as the 1999 Guinness 'Surfer’ advertisement with director Jonthan Glazer.
Another of their more famous small screen works is the BAFTA award winning BBC series Walking With Dinosaurs, which featured over two hours of photo real CGI animation from Framestore’s artists.
They are clearly a studio with an extremely high pedigree, and this is reflected in the minimum and preferred skills they expect of a candidate.
As with every other job listing we’ve looked at here, there’s the foundational requirement of experience of working with Unreal or Unity, and with an added requirement of familiarity with Unreal’s Blueprint system, this is a more Unreal focused role.
Experience working with shader graphs in either Unity or Unreal is also a necessary skill to have for this job, as is experience with shader programming, and experience with the animation software Maya and Houdini.
On top of the hard technical skills listed above, this role requires a candidate who is comfortable working independently or part of a team, one who’s organized and has a close eye for attention to detail.
Framestore are looking for a problem solver who thinks quickly on their feet and is able to work in a fast paced environment, comfortable with and used to working to deadlines.
On top of those softer skills, they will be expected to have a positive attitude towards learning and sharing. Hunter Woodlee of Accenture has this to say about positive attitudes;
If you’re familiar and have good knowledge of interactive tools such as Touch Designer you’ll be a more favourably viewed candidate, and experience with animation and rigging experience (as well as knowledge of their technical constraints) is also a plus.
Experience with XR platforms (such as Meta Quest and HTC Vive) and working with real time graphics on large format displays are also a highly desirable set of skills for this role.
Finally, some experience with agile development is sought after in this role.
If you’re looking for VR developer jobs, your portfolio needs to have the following things present;
A selection/showreel of VR experiences/games created in a game engine (Unity/Unreal)
Projects that demonstrate your familiarity with a 3D engine are crucial to have in your portfolio if you want to land VR developer jobs. The more projects you have, the more you demonstrate to an employer that you know how these engines work.
Detailed explanations of content created
It’s not enough to show the projects that you’ve been a part of or have created by yourself. Being able to explain in detail your roles and responsibilities in any project you’ve been a part of is also crucial.
You could have a very pretty finished product, but does your prospective employer know exactly how you got from the start to the finish? Do they know exactly what you did to help get that project over the finish line?
Example code in C++ or C#
Related to the above point, being able to demonstrate your familiarity with whatever coding language you were working in on a specific project is crucial, especially if you’re someone looking for VR engineer jobs.
It’s easy enough to say you were part of a project that used Unity for VR, but demonstrating that you can get into the guts of the game by showing you know how to code in C# provides reassurance to an employer that you really know what you’re doing.
A link to the game or experience for download
What’s even more impressive than showing an employer the amazing projects that you’ve been a part of or have created by yourself? Letting them get to grips with the project in a hands on and practical way.
Looking at something you’ve built is great. Letting them experience it, and letting them see your thought process, and the different steps you took to get to the end product is better.
… A bit more advice
Don’t throw away any of your drafts!
Even if the shading isn’t right, or the design is in skeleton stages, showing how something started all the way to the finished product is valuable for an employer to see as long as you can give a detailed walkthrough of your process.
Include any projects in your portfolio. Even unfinished projects in their nascent, beginner stage, or projects where a client decided not to use your work can be included here.
All of it can be useful in showing off what you are capable of doing, again as long as you can give a detailed walkthrough of the process.
If you’re starting from scratch in the world of VR development, it can be intimidating to know where to begin.
One of the first places to start with comprehensive and general overall skill building might be a computer science undergraduate or masters degree. This will give you competence in the basics of coding, programming languages and familiarity with software and hardware. However, you may be spending 5-7 years completing university programs.
In Computer Science, and especially VR Development you want to make sure that the degree focuses on portfolio building (because that's what recruiters will be looking at). In Virtual Reality Development, certificates and degrees don't count so much. What everyone will be looking at is your practical experience showcased by a great portfolio site. That's why you can easily get a successful programmer without a formal education.
However, if you’re on a budget, there are a lot of free resources out there (eg. YouTube) that can teach you programming from scratch. That will also help you decide if you like to program, and if you can imagine spending your life around code and creating exciting software applications or even metaverse and virtual reality worlds.
There are also resources that can teach you the exact pathway to get into a VR career and how to get a job in VR, such as the ones we offer here at XR Bootcamp. Courses run from complete beginner teaching you the basics of C# (free 4 weeks course), all the way up to our advanced master classes. Our curricula are designed by senior level software developers and recruiters with the mission to advance our students VR career pathways as quickly as possible.
As we mentioned earlier, prototyping (and showcasing those skills in a portfolio) is a skill that’s highly sought after when it comes to careers in VR, and how to get a job in VR, with four of those real world job listings asking for it either in the minimum required skills and/or the preferred skills employers are looking for.
This can be an intimidating skill to try and acquire on your own. After all, you’re going to be building prototypes either in Unreal or Unity for VR projects for your portfolio.
Developing projects for yourself doesn’t need to be scary, though. You can download Unity for free, and you can also download Unreal Engine for free, and there are plenty of resources available for a beginner to start working with either.
Game jams are events where people come together and try to create a game from scratch. They’re easy to find, they can be incredibly useful in helping you to build your portfolio, and they have a lot of positives going in their favour.
They can teach you your all important prototyping skills as part of a team of people, so you know what’s involved in building a VR project from scratch, which can then give you the confidence to attempt smaller projects on your own.
They’re also collaborative, and they’ll bring you into contact with a lot of different niches and Virtual Reality careers, such as VR designer jobs, VR developer jobs, VR engineer jobs and those involved in product management.
Cross discipline collaboration is often a skill that causes employers to perk up when they see it on a CV.
If you’re able to explain and demonstrate your role within a team, and demonstrate that you’re able to speak to and understand people from different disciplines within a VR experience, that demonstrates your value to an employer.
Our own Ben Simpson, Master Trainer at XR Bootcamp, sums this up succinctly;
We start with the biggest, and most impactful as of recently. Since Facebook changed its name to Meta Platforms and announced its decision to focus on building the Metaverse, they are going to be investing billions of dollars into this enterprise.
Not only are they attempting to build the metaverse, they’re throwing their lot into the ring in terms of building the hardware, such as Meta Quest headsets.
With Meta Quest sponsoring the nostalgic reboot of classic gaming show ‘Games Master,’ on British television platform E4, it’s clear that they’re really trying to raise their VR profile quite considerably.
Quite obviously, they are going to be hiring on an absolutely massive scale to achieve this ambitious undertaking, so Meta Platforms and Meta Quest are fairly obvious places to start looking for the perfect career in VR and how to get a job in VR
Regardless if they’re VR developer jobs, VR designer jobs or VR engineer jobs, they will be sought after by Meta Platforms to help them build the metaverse and technologies to access it like Meta Quest.
Another huge company that’s investing a lot of money into building or becoming part of the metaverse, Google have already made some early strides with the creation of their Google Glass hardware.
While it was a little ahead of its time, the project is still not entirely dead. And with the expansion of some of its Google Meet virtual backgrounds, hardware is not the only place they intend to expand their XR ambitions.
Continued investment in software like Google Earth VR means that Google is still a major investor in VR tech, and thus they remain a major player in VR job recruitment.
While Apple isn't exactly known for their dabbling within the world of XR, it would be foolish to think that they’re not going to throw their hat into the ring when it comes to the metaverse.
Rumours of an Apple VR headset have been around for a while now, and there’s some rumblings that they could debut such hardware in 2022.
While that’s late to the party, Apple has past form for this. They didn’t enter the Smartphone market until 2007, but their influence and dominance despite their late start is undeniable.
While they may not be the biggest player right now, it is seriously unwise to count out Apple, with leading global investment bank Morgan Stanley saying that;
Much like job websites like Indeed or Talent, ARVR.jobs allows you to search out XR jobs by city, country, and by job type.
The AR/VR specific focus allows you to save a lot of time by filtering out irrelevant job postings that you’d find in other job search sites, and it will allow you to search for jobs specific to your skill set.
Are you looking for VR developer jobs? VR designer jobs? VR engineer jobs? Jobs for Unity? Maybe you’re looking to be a technical artist? You’ll be able to find them here.
When you’re more established in your field, more experienced, and have settled on your niche, this will be an invaluable resource to explore.
The popular work and networking based social media site is a veritable repository of VR jobs, and two of the postings we looked at above were taken directly from LinkedIn.
With the platform literally geared towards social and Virtual Reality career networking, it’s also an ideal place to keep ahead of trends within the industry, keep tabs on the biggest companies within AR/VR, and see which jobs are there for the taking.
As with any field with very specialised industry knowledge, another fantastic way of getting jobs within the VR industry is via networking and building up contacts within it.
You can do this in a number of ways, such as putting yourself out there on sites such as LinkedIn, participating in game jams, and joining relevant discord servers.
Raising your profile and being an active member of your community and industry is a great way to be noticed by employers within it.
Although it’s fairly normal, and almost expected, to wear a few different hats in any VR development team, the best advice we can give you is to first select a niche, first and foremost; do you want to be a programmer or a designer?
Figuring out where you want your focus to be will help in the long run. Do you want to concentrate on getting VR designer jobs, VR engineer jobs, or VR developer jobs? Are you concentrating on jobs that use Unity for VR?
Once you know your niche, the next part is to ensure not to skip the fundamentals. Stick through learning the basics and getting familiar with them - it’s all too easy to get too eager, and become overambitious.
This often leads to burning out fairly quickly when you realize it’s not that easy.
Start small, and slow. And always, ALWAYS, ensure you finish a project - whatever that project is, follow it through until the very end if it’s possible.
A large percentage of new developers who start projects don’t finish them; they just quit, lose interest or burn out when they realize the difficulty.
When this happens, they don’t learn all of the hidden problems and challenges needed to get to the finish line, and the experience it takes to get there - so, when they find themselves in a professional environment and have to finish the game, they’re missing that experience.
It also goes without saying that having a portfolio to show at the end of the day means you’re much more likely to get hired when applying for VR developer jobs.
Matt Newport of Osso VR expands on this;
And, once you know the basics, you can then start going down the rabbit hole, picking and choosing what you want to learn next to add to your skill armoury.
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide on the skills necessary to build a career in VR - hopefully it’s shed some light on what companies are looking for, and what’s required for you to reach that particular level.
One thing that should be clear is that it’s far from impossible to break into a career in VR, and it’s never too late to make a start. We especially recommend you to check our free C# Coding Course for VR, as whatever you are planning to do, knowing how to code C# will help you get further.
Whichever way you want to go in the VR industry, whether or not you're looking for VR developer jobs, VR designer jobs, VR engineer jobs, jobs for Unity or Unreal, or you want to be part of building the next iteration of Meta Quest, it can be done.
The most important, you need to build a network, useful for asking questions, keeping your motivation high, exchanging tips & tricks, being up to date on new releases, happenings and news. To support our community doing exactly that, we are supporting the XR Creators discord server, with over 2500 active XR creators. Looking forward to welcoming you there!
Join the XR Creators discord (forever free).
Browse our VR Classes here at XR Bootcamp - or, if you’d like to speak to an actual human and perhaps discuss which course is right for you, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.