Wouldn’t it be nice if all job descriptions did what their name implied, described a job? Alas, it is not so simple. No one is to blame for this, but job descriptions are not often straightforward.
This is for a number of reasons:
1. Job descriptions require the use of a kind of short-form language style that may limit what the author wants to say
2. These descriptions are expected to sound official and are often riddled with jargon specific to that industry or company
3. The job description is worded with the intention of recruiting an ideal candidate, and that doesn’t leave a lot of room for encouraging words for those who may meet some (but not all) requirements
So, with this in mind, as someone looking for your first job in AR or VR development as a software developer, let’s look at some typical sections in this kind of job description, tips to help you read-between-the-lines, ideas on how to get prepared for interviews, and, finally, tips on how to get a job in AR or VR.
Skills & Requirements
Usually related to the essential technical know-how and skills, this section will be a laundry list of all the things an ideal candidate would possess.
A typical example of skills and requirements for an AR or VR job would be:
1. You Have a Computer Science Degree
2. You Know Unity, C#, Object Oriented Programming
3. Know How to Optimize Software for Specific Headsets and Platforms
4. Project Management Skills and Agile Development Experience
5. 3D Modeling and Creating Art Assets
So let’s break it down, and let’s see which of these requirements are must-haves and which you can get by without.
Computer Science Degree
A Computer Science degree is a way for employers to identify candidates with basic development skills and set a baseline for expected competencies. However, while preferred, a degree is not necessary as long as you have the right skills, experience, and a good portfolio to draw from.
Know Unity, C#, Object Oriented Programming
Many postings will state that you need to know a platform/ecosystem like Unity or Unreal Engine to apply. Experience with Unity is a key element in being able to demonstrate your relevance to the job opening. Indeed, having finished Unity/C# projects in your portfolio is a big plus If you know a similar language, however, that would also be seen as a bonus (e.g., Java to C# is an easy transition.).
Know How to Optimize Software for Specific Headsets and Platforms
This is not necessary. While you should read-up about how to optimize applications for the headsets and platforms they list in the description, this will not be a make-or-break requirement. It is a relatively easy workflow and toolset to learn if your other skills are in order.
Project Management Skills and Agile Development Experience
While you might not need a project management certification or prior agile team experience, employers expect developers to have some basic project management skills and be familiar with the basic tenets of agile development. Study-up and get some experience working on teams using a variety of project management systems. Further along in this article, we will have some advice on how to get this experience.
3D Modeling and Creating Art Assets
While companies may list that they want developers to know 3D modeling, the reality on the ground is that very few developers master it. Developers should know the basics of 3D modeling in the game or development engine (like Unity) they are using, and they should have basic knowledge of a 3D modeling program (like Maya). But, keep in mind, most AR/VR teams consist of both developer and 3D modeling professionals that work together on a regular basis to create experiences.
With the skills listed above, you can show that you may know how to create pieces of an AR or VR experience, but nothing speaks louder at a job interview or in a job application than a demonstration of experience. Some typical ways employers will ask for this are:
1. You have built VR applications
2. You know an application specific skill: Firefighting, Physical Therapy, Biotechnology Lab Procedures, etc.
So how do you read between the lines of these simple yet nuanced requirements?
You have built VR applications
While you might not be expected to have fully finished projects, it is critical to be able to showcase your interest in AR and VR applications and your capability to create such experiences.
If you don’t have prior experience, you can showcase personal or school projects that may help make a case for your relevance to the role. Another great way to get this experience is to participate in Hackathons, join school clubs, or attend meetups related to AR and VR development. If you are in or around Boston, Boston VR is a popular meetup group that has regular events focused on AR and VR.
You can also consider XR Terra’s 12 weeks AR & VR Developer Bootcamp if you are looking for a focussed program to help you build your portfolio and get job-ready with the support of our career advisors.
You know an application-specific skill:
Experience relevant to the industry or target market is only a nice-to-have. The bottom line is if you have software development skills and industry experience in AR and VR development, you can quickly become a subject matter expert (SME) in the area they are asking you to learn.
For example, joining a data visualization company and learning some data science to make sure that your AR/VR apps do a good job of serving the end user. For instance, if you have experience cleaning data sets, you know that cleaning data is a pain, so… you could tweak the VR/AR app to make that process as painless as possible by making it fun (letting the user throw bits of data in the trash as virtual crumpled-up pieces of paper).
However, in the case of start-ups that want you to become proficient as fast as possible, having such a skill on top of your AR and VR dev skills can be a big difference-maker to your application, and it will help you get ahead of the candidates who might not have experience in that area.
You know you are looking at wish list items when the section starts with “An Ideal candidates would have…”. These are the things that set candidates apart, and they are the things that help them get to the top of the resume pile. The skills or experiences listed in this section will usually be hard to gain or just in short supply.
A sample list would read as below
1. X Years experience in AR or VR development
2. Knowledge of specific software that this certain company uses, etc.
3. Certification in AR and VR development
Years of Experience in AR or VR development
Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality are young but rapidly-growing spaces, and talent is hard to find. Most companies are still on their first steps into building AR and VR experience and they all want developers who have prior experience. This helps them spend less time on training, and, with trained AR and VR devs, they can get their ideas to the market quicker.
Despite the demand, talent is in short supply and employers are willing to take chances on fresh and recent graduates (as long as you can highlight your skills and experience). So, in other words, while you might not want to apply for a job which asks for developers to have 5+ years of experience, you can make a strong case for jobs that ask for 2-3 years of experience if you have a good portfolio of AR and VR projects that you have done recently.
Many listings suggest that you know some of their proprietary software or some relatively obscure software that their team uses heavily. This is a nice-to-have, but they will be reasonable if you explain that you researched it (and tried it out maybe) before the interview. But, experience beyond that will not be expected in earnest. Note: Also, let them know about the experience you have using similar programs.
Certification in AR and VR development
This is a great-to-have, and they are a good way to prove proficiency in a skill. In the case of most VR and AR roles, you can really set yourself apart in your job hunt with a Unity Certified Programmer Certification and/or going through a bootcamp like ours.
Let’s tie it all together!
So, now that you’ve looked at some typical job post items, let’s review some key things to remember:
1. Build an A-class portfolio
Create a detailed and well-designed portfolio that highlights your strengths, lets your potential employer get a sense of who you are, and shows them what you can do. Whether it’s a personal project or coursework, you can add any project that exhibits your familiarity with tools and grasp on concepts and languages.
2. Get real-world experience
Nothing stands out more than hands-on experience, and you can build a lot of experience even before you start your first XR Developer job. Attend hackathons, join school clubs and meetups, and leverage every opportunity to engage with fellow AR and VR enthusiasts or software developers to get as many quality projects under your belt as you can.
You can also volunteer time with non-profits such as Code for America or Code for Boston to solve problems for local nonprofits and polish your development skills. Along the way, you will also learn invaluable teamwork, problem-solving and project management skills.
3. Highlight your teamwork and communication skills
Your ability to collaborate is key to your success in any organization. Building software requires a substantial amount of coordination and communication. Every team-project and group-assignment helps you become better at these skills, and your resume and portfolio should definitely highlight your ability to work with others and effectively communicate with different stakeholders.
Bonus Tip: Start-Ups vs Enterprises
Smaller companies, like VR and AR dev-shops, have more specific needs, and they need their employees to be able to get up-and-running right out of the box. This is, in part, because they are often constrained by time and budget in a start-up style atmosphere. Medium-to-large size enterprises (that do, or don’t, specialize in VR) can afford to invest more time into their new interns and employees so that they can gain that critical experience. With many of these companies, especially large software companies, you will have to face coding interviews, however, so study-up on these as much as you can or, of course, you can always get these necessary skills from a coding Bootcamp like ours.
Looking for a headstart in your career as an AR & VR developer?
The AR & VR Developer Certificate Program starts in Boston on March 9th.
Apply now to secure your spot in the March cohort.
Merit-based scholarships and special financing options are also available for qualifying students.