You'll need a combination of creative and technical skills, and the ability to work as part of a team, in the role of multimedia programmer
As a multimedia programmer, you'll work with different multimedia features such as text, sound, graphics, digital photography, 2D/3D modelling, animation and video, to create products such as websites or computer programmes.
You'll usually work to a designer's specification on multimedia products for the internet, but you may work on products for interactive television, information kiosks, DVDs, CD-ROMs, computer games consoles and mobile phones.
Multimedia is often also described as new media, interactive media, digital media and online/internet services.
As a multimedia programmer, you'll need to:
- work with the designer and other creative specialists (such as animators, video producers and 3D modellers) to understand the design concept, and advise on how it can be implemented technically within constraints
- sort out operational logic and business rules, necessary for the feature to be reproduced correctly according to the designer's specification
- write efficient computer code or script to make the various features work, ensuring that sound, graphics, animations and timings work as intended and making good use of processing and data storage capacity
- create and link databases to the user interface so that information can be retrieved, stored and processed interactively via the application
- write HTML or similar input and use authoring packages where appropriate to create content and effects
- run tests of the application to identify bugs that need to be dealt with
- solve problems by rewriting the code or adding new code that works around the problem
- provide technical support to an application once it's running and make further adaptations, patches or rewrites to the code
- research and keep abreast of emerging technologies, in order to be able to deliver the most up to date solutions, including learning new programming languages or technologies
- take on other roles, such as design and animation - although this applies mostly to smaller projects and depends on your level of expertise.
- Junior salaries start at around £18,000 to £20,000.
- With more experience, and responsibility, you can expect to earn in the region of £25,000 to £50,000.
- With greater experience and expertise in niche areas, you can earn £55,000+.
The title of multimedia programmer can cover multimedia developer, designer and engineer and as a result salaries can differ greatly depending on the actual role.
If training is involved, salaries are generally lower during the initial training period.
There are many opportunities for contract and freelance work in the industry. These can pay well but are balanced by fewer benefits, such as paid leave and job security.
Income figures are intended as a guide only.
Working hours are often slightly later than most office-based work, typically from 9.30am to 6pm. It's also likely you'll work longer hours when assignments are nearing completion, to ensure you stay on schedule.
What to expect
- You'll usually work as part of a team, in an open-plan environment.
- There is some client contact, but you won't need to travel much as most of the work is electronic.
- Jobs are quite widely available, but entry-level positions may be more difficult to find. Locations tend to be in major urban areas, particularly London and the South East, and are concentrated where there are clusters of other creative industries, such as broadcast media, film-making and animation.
- Women are currently underrepresented in the IT profession. Organisations such as BCSWomen provide information and advice to women interested in a career in the industry. Visit Women in Technology for job information.
- With experience, it's possible to set up your own small company.
Although this area of work is open to all graduates, a degree/HND in the following relevant subject areas may increase your chances:
- computer science/software engineering
- engineering or electronics
- fine/visual art
- graphic design/illustration
- interactive/multimedia technology or design/animation
- mathematics or physics
- spatial design
- 3D design or digital art.
It's essential to build up a good personal multimedia portfolio to demonstrate your skills and creativity. This portfolio can include an interactive website or an animated computer game or presentation incorporating a variety of media, supplied via a flash drive or CD-ROM.
Many university courses in multimedia and computer sciences have a placement year in industry, which can be helpful for building up your portfolio and gaining hands-on experience.
Employers will want to be sure that you have a strong programming background, so courses in mathematics, engineering, art and design may be a good entry route if you can also demonstrate aptitude and skills in multimedia applications.
Entry without a degree or HND is difficult as there is intense competition, but having a strong portfolio or experience in designing personal web pages will help. Some employers may also stipulate a degree rather than an HND.
A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not necessary, though an MSc in multimedia or similar may compensate for a non-relevant first degree.
You will need to show evidence of the following:
- interactive design skills, such as user/task analysis and interface design/evaluation
- programming skills, such as authoring, engineering and quality testing
- understanding of layout, design and graphics
- endless enthusiasm
- ability to work effectively in a small project team
- good communication skills
- logical approach to problem-solving
- ability to manage a complex range of tasks to meet deadlines.
Employers also usually look for knowledge and experience in:
- relevant software, such as Flash and Photoshop
- programming languages, such as C++, Java and .NET
- markup languages, such HTML.
Specific employer requirements vary depending on the sector and the platform being used.
An employer is unlikely to hire you without seeing examples of your work. Pre-entry experience is desirable and having completed relevant vacation work, voluntary work, projects or placements will work to your advantage.
Multimedia programmers are typically employed in specialist multimedia companies, as well as other organisations that use or create multimedia products.
Opportunities in multimedia programming have expanded as broadband has made more facilities possible via the internet.
You can find work as a multimedia programmer within the following industry sectors:
- advertising and marketing
- IT and games
- publishing and media
- telecommunications - particularly mobile phone suppliers and networks.
Typical employers include:
- construction developers
- DVD authoring companies
- educational institutions and e-learning suppliers
- facilities houses, offering support services such as post production and special physical effects for the creative industries
- games publishers
- independent production companies and broadcasting companies
- interactive design agencies
- interactive museums and visitor attractions
- internet service providers (ISPs) and web hosting services
- marketing/advertising agencies
- organisations with in-house websites and/or new media or multimedia departments.
Look for job vacancies at:
As IT job titles and descriptions aren't standardised, the work of a multimedia programmer may overlap with the role of a web developer, games developer, systems developer or software engineer.
With experience, contracting may be an attractive option. While most job sites cover contractor roles, you can also try sites such as:
Skills and knowledge requirements move on very quickly in multimedia and, consequently, the most important training consideration for programmers is to keep up to date with new developments. In most cases, this means adapting existing skills to a new package, learning a new programming language or working with a new platform.
You may learn from other members of a team, attend short courses, keep up to date via newsgroups, follow websites that showcase the newest ideas, and read specialist journals. It's possible that you'll have to take responsibility for your own development. Check out these useful sources of development training:
- Lists of courses, conferences and qualifications in media and multimedia are published at British Film Institute (BFI) and Creative Skillset: The Sector Skills Council for the Creative Industries.
- BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) provides professional qualifications, IT-related courses, information and guidance.
- Further education (FE) and higher education (HE) institutions run a variety of courses.
It may increase your chances of movement or progression if you specialise in particular output formats, such as web applications, mobile technologies or interactive television.
You may choose to remain focused on the production of multimedia, in the area you started in, or moving into new skill area, such as:
- the internet
- interactive television
- games development
Or, with experience, you could move into middle or senior management roles, such as that of:
- team leader
- project manager
- production manager.
You could also find work as a project manager, coordinating the input of a group of skilled professionals. With the ultimate responsibility of ensuring the project is completed satisfactorily, to deadline. The role of project manager requires an all-round skill set, covering business, content, design and technical competencies.
As the multimedia industry evolves, digital security and online services are becoming major growth areas, with the opportunity for skilled professionals to work with larger and more diverse audiences in new markets such as China. The majority of companies will be small, focusing on specialist services and niche markets.