What does a VR Developer do?


Virtual reality is the fastest-growing area of the tech industry. Only a few years ago, VR jobs practically didn’t exist. Nowadays, more and more companies are realizing the potential of virtual reality. Find out how to become a Virtual Reality Developer and what this role is about.

VR programming is a new market with few people who have specialized – it’s a golden moment for freelancers to profit from this trend and specialize themselves in a growing, future-oriented field.

VR developer job overview with responsibilities, background, skills and salary
Job Overview: The role of a VR developer

That’s why in today’s career insights we’ll be taking a look at the job of VR developers. We’ll be looking to answer the questions of what they do, which tools they use to do it, and how you could get into VR yourself.

As per usual, we’ll also be looking at trends in regards to salaries and freelancer suitability for the job.

What does a VR developer do?

Virtual Reality Developer Responsibilities

This question seems tricky to answer, but it really isn’t. Much like iOS developers focus on a specific operating system or game developers on a specific genre, VR developers create for a type of platform in the broadest sense. There are singular platforms within the broad world of virtual reality, but a VR developer can make the jump from, say, Sony’s Oculus to Samsung’s Gear quite easily.

Developing or creating for Virtual Reality still sounds broad though, doesn’t it? Well, that’s because it is.

As the developer, you won’t necessarily have to worry about sound design but will rather get to focus on writing the code for something like a VR app.

Learning to think and create in 3D rather than on a flat screen can take some time to wrap your head around. That’s why Virtual Reality developers are facing a relatively high entry barrier, but the payout can be more than worth it.

What are the responsibilities of a VR Developer?

  • Development of VR and AR applications (UE4, Unity, C++, C#)
  • Development and implementation of prototypes and new functions
  • Agile development planning
  • Running tests and code reviews
  • Identification of risks and opportunities during development
  • Identify opportunities to improve general workflows
  • Write and maintain software system documentation

Looking for a VR Developer?

What you need to get into Virtual Reality

1. The tech – get started by buying a headset

To develop VR, you’ll first have to get to know some VR. That doesn’t mean it’s necessary to go out and spend thousands of dollars on all the different headsets from all companies, but you will have to try some VR out to get a grasp on it. Thankfully, there are very cheap VR headsets such as Google Cardboard. It costs just 15 dollars at the time of this article being written and it’s a low-cost investment that is really worth it.

There is a popular quote going around regarding VR, which unfortunately has lost its source but not it’s meaning: “There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who think VR will change the world, and those who haven’t tried VR.” So, first of all, go try it!

2. Software Development Kits (SDKs)

Software development kits will come in handy when starting out, but can also be quite helpful for development and VR experts. These SDKs contain pretty much anything you will need to build a VR app. That includes things like libraries, API documentation, developer samples, and guidelines. Some even have text and video tutorials to help you along the way. Depending on which device you chose to go with at first, getting that specific SDK is usually as simple as going online and downloading it:

3. Engines – Unity and Unreal

There are two main engines used to develop VR apps. There is the Unity engine which uses C# as its primary programming language and the Unreal Engine which uses C++ and a node-based language called Blueprints Visual Scripting. For both of these engines, there are SDKs for any VR developer out there. They also have tutorials on their websites which are pretty helpful.

Unity is free to use personally and also the more flexible option. Most people seem to opt for it in the beginning because there are more resources available and it’s easier to learn. However, Unity can get really complicated at the high-end and will require an expert coder.

With Unreal, you will get to experience the VR world straight away. The engine just assumes some things and does them for you. If you put a lamp into the Unreal engine, for example, it might add some effects attributed to that light source. In addition, Unreal will give you higher-quality graphics and better looking 3D models. It, like Unity, is free for personal use and suitable for learning.

There are pros and cons to both engines, but the safest bet is to just try both of them out and see which one suits you best.

VR developer skills and knowledge requirements

What are the applications of VR?

There is a clear winner of this question: gaming companies. The potential of Virtual Reality for entertainment is undeniable. This is not just for video games, but also for creating interactive, virtual visits to a museum, a monument, or another city!

But although gaming might be the first thing that comes to our mind when we think of virtual reality, there are many other fields that can benefit from this technology:

  • Healthcare: VR allows professionals to simulate surgeries and learn new skills without causing any danger
  • Businesses: Invite a potential user to check a room before they check-in a hotel or offer them a 360 view of a product so that the final complete the buy

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How much do VR developers earn?

It’s hard to estimate the VR developer’s salary because it’s a relatively new field. According to Indeed, the average yearly salary in the USA is somewhere around 90,000 and 100,000 USD. Paysa highlights that searching “higher-up” sounding job titles can make those numbers jump significantly. A search on AR Engineer on Paysa comes up with 126,000 USD as the average yearly pay.

To get a better idea of what VR developers actually get in your country or city, you should check out those sites for yourself and input your location if possible. Glassdoor and PayScale are two other sites that provide reliable regional figures. They should give you a sense of the pay a VR developer in your area can expect.

How much do freelance VR developers charge?

Freelance VR Developer average hourly rate
Average freelance rate amongst VR freelancers (freelancermap index May 2020)

According to the freelancermap rate index, the average freelance rate for VR developers is $81 per hour. Extrapolated to an 8-hour day, the daily rate is around $97 per day.

Freelance Suitability for Virtual Reality experts

Much like app and game developers, VR developers can work both in-house and on their own. That by itself is a great prerequisite for freelancers getting involved. Companies will be more open to external support if that’s already in the nature of their business.

Furthermore, VR is not only a quickly growing skill but also a rare one. Not many are well-versed in VR, so freelancers have the unique opportunity to become experts as quickly, if not quicker, than anyone else. All of those factors combined means that the field of VR development is perfectly suited for freelancers.

So, are you ready to join this trend?

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Viktor Marinov

Viktor is the voice behind the freelancermap blog. Every week he comes up with helpful hints, checklists, and guides for freelancers and independent workers. If you would like to know how to find remote jobs online or how to niche yourself as a freelancer, don't miss his freelancer tips!

By Viktor Marinov

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