Are Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Jobs Actually in Demand?

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is making a big bet that billions of people will want to work and play in a virtual reality “metaverse.” Not only is he pouring billions of dollars into VR-related projects—he’s changed the name of his company from “Facebook” to “Meta.” But will all that attention translate into more VR-related jobs?

Much of that depends, of course, on whether Facebook’s engineers can transform the metaverse into a reality that consumers and workers can actually enter. Although Zuckerberg and company created a flashy 90-minute presentation with lots of cool-looking virtual environments, we still have precious little idea about the metaverse’s practicalities. Will it resemble a collection of largely disconnected VR apps? Or does Zuckerberg envision a massive, interconnected virtual world—an immersive environment along the lines of what you might find in a video game like “Grand Theft Auto” or “Cyberpunk 2077”? 

The answers to those questions will determine whether technologists want to actually build apps and services for the metaverse—which, in turn, will determine its long-term viability. In addition, how will other tech giants respond? Will companies such as Apple and Microsoft decide to launch their own “metaverses,” or opt to play in Facebook’s sandbox in some fashion? 

It may take many years for these answers to become clear. In the meantime, an analysis via Emsi Burning Glass (which collects and analyzes millions of job postings from across the country) shows there isn’t a massive level of demand for technologists skilled in building virtual reality and augmented reality (AR) apps and services.

For example, Emsi Burning Glass notes only 10,232 open VR-related jobs in the past 12 months, and it projects such jobs will only grow 4.5 percent over the next two years. Median salary for VR-related positions is $81,000, which is relatively low by technology-industry standards. 

Things aren’t much better for augmented reality, in which holographic images are projected onto real-world environments via a headset or a mobile-device screen. Emsi Burning Glass says only 8,796 jobs needing AR skills popped up over the past year, although it predicts that AR-related jobs will grow 64.4 percent over the next two years. The median salary for AR-related positions if $84,000—a little better than VR jobs, but not much.

If the VR/AR market does explode, though, many technologists already have the skills in place to take full advantage. Skills vital to VR development include Python and C++; if Facebook sticks with its current tech stack, third-party developers might be able to build VR apps and services with the SDK for the Oculus platform. And if other tech companies rush into the space, they’ll no doubt issue SDKs based on popular languages and tools. If the metaverse actually becomes a reality, chances are good you already have the foundation for building for it.