Best Game Design Degrees 2021

Earn one of the best game design degrees in 2022 and get educated for a growing field with a wide variety of specializations.

Updated August 31, 2022

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Best Game Design Degrees 2021

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Creative students with a passion for strategic thinking often succeed in game design degree programs. With the increasing popularity of video games, most game designers work with electronic media. Some game designers focus on developing story arcs, while others create games' visual elements.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), multimedia artists and animators earned a median salary of $75,270 in 2019. The BLS projects employment for these professionals to increase 4% between 2019 and 2029. Game designers typically collaborate with programmers and other artists. They create engaging games that inspire players to complete challenging yet enjoyable tasks.

This guide explores game design degree requirements and highlights the best programs for aspiring game designers. The following sections also cover career options and scholarships for game design students.

FAQ on Game Design Degrees

What is game design?

Game design refers to the creation of recreational programs. Most modern game designers help produce video games, but some game designers create physical board games.

How long does it take to earn a degree in game design?

A bachelor's degree in game design takes about four years to complete, and learners typically earn a master's degree in two additional years. However, degree completion time varies based on program requirements and enrollment status.

What is the difference between game design and animation?

Game design refers to the entire process of producing a game, including writing the story theme, coding the effects, and producing the sounds and music scores. Animation professionals create the visual elements of a game or motion picture.

Career and Salary Outlook for Game Design

Graduates with a degree in game design can pursue a variety of roles related to the field. Game design curricula explore topics including visual arts, programming, and creative writing. The list below highlights four potential careers for graduates with game design degrees. Additionally, the following chart features the projected growth rate and median salary for each occupation.

  • Multimedia Artists and Animators

    These professionals create two- and three-dimensional designs, which may appear in video games, televisions shows, and moveis. These individuals need strong interpersonal communication skills to coordinate with clients and collaborate with art directors and fellow artists. They apply feedback to produce high-quality, entertaining animated designs.
  • Software Developers

    Software development professionals create applications for video games, computer programs, and phone apps. Software developers usually do not write code, but they may communicate with programmers to create products. These professionals perform maintenance checks and software tests to ensure a positive user experience.
  • Graphic Designers

    Graphic designers arrange layouts and designs for digital and print media. They choose fonts, colors, and images that communicate desired messages and evoke certain feelings. These designers can work for video gaming companies, publishing companies, news companies, private corporations, and advertising agencies.
  • Art Directors

    Art directors oversee a team of creative professionals. Directors provide feedback, delegate tasks, and help employees meet goals. Typically, these professionals provide final approval before releasing a product to a client or the public. Professionals usually gain experience as entry-level graphic designers or animators before becoming art directors.
Career and Salary Potential
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2019-2029)
Multimedia Artists and Animators $75,270 4%
Software Developers $107,510 22%
Graphic Designers $52,110 -4%
Art Directors $94,220 -2%

Source: BLS

Accreditation for Game Design Degrees

Before committing to a school or program, learners should research its accreditation status. To earn and maintain accreditation, an institution must pass regular quality assessments from a third-party agency. The U.S. Department of Higher Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee these accrediting bodies.

Educational institutions can earn regional or national accreditation, and employers typically view degrees from regionally accredited schools as more prestigious. Each regional accrediting agency evaluates schools in a certain geographic area.

Programs that confer game design degrees can also earn programmatic accreditation. The National Association of Schools of Art and Design is one of the top accrediting agencies for game design degrees.

Courses in a Game Design Bachelor's Program

Game design students learn how to develop pixel art and to creatively communicate storylines. They also explore the tasks necessary to create a game. Game design curricula generally cover software engineering basics and methods for using computer programs to create digital art.

Before enrolling in a program, learners should review course descriptions to ensure the curriculum aligns with their career goals. Exact courses vary by game design bachelor's program. However, most programs in the field include the following classes.

  • Multimedia Storytelling

    Students in this class learn how to use visual and audio effects to create a compelling game. Degree-seekers practice writing creatively and developing supporting visuals. Learners discuss common themes and their origins, and they prepare to use images, sounds, and written words in game applications.
  • Application Development

    Most game design degrees require at least one application development course. Learners in this class gain an understanding of development foundations and prepare to communicate with experienced software developers. Course topics include common client-server architectures, user-interface design, and the differences between web-based and mobile-based applications.
  • Foundations of Game Development Course

    This foundational course provides an overview of game development components. Learners explore game genres, principles of successful game designs, and the roles of various creative professionals in the game production process. Students typically complete a 2D game development group project.

Scholarships for Game Design

Learners can apply for scholarships to minimize student debt. The following list features three scholarships for digital art and video game design students. Scholarship applicants must typically submit recommendation letters, essays, and official transcripts. To improve their chance of receiving an award, students should allow enough time to complete multiple scholarship applications.

Adobe Design Achievement Awards

Who Can Apply: Art students who utilize Adobe products can enter an original project in this annual scholarship competition. Applicants can submit a digital game or a general interactive experience. Candidates must also provide a 100-word artist statement.
Amount: Up to $5,000

Microsoft Imagine Cup Global Competition

Who Can Apply: This scholarship competition requires candidates to design innovative software with Microsoft technology. Applicants must be at least 16 years old and enrolled in high school or college.
Amount: Varies

Worldstudio American Institute of Graphic Arts Scholarship

Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports students pursuing an art degree. Applicants must demonstrate financial need, submit a portfolio, and possess U.S. citizenship or a green card.
Amount: Up to $5,000

Best Game Design Degrees 2022

Choosing the best game design program for your goals requires time and research. To aid in the process, we created and frequently update this ranking of the best programs for game design. The ranking considers factors including graduate success rates, cost, and accreditation status.

#1 Best Game Design Degrees 2021

Northeastern University

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

A private institution, Northeastern University enrolls learners in a top-ranked game design program. Degree-seekers take classes in person on the Boston campus and online. Undergraduates benefit from flexible course options and rigorous academic standards.

Majors earn a bachelor's degree after completing courses in the bachelor of fine arts in game design program, along with general education requirements. The general education curriculum includes classes in the humanities, mathematics, and communication. Within the program, learners gain a theoretical and practical understanding of game design, preparing graduates for the workforce.

Northeastern University at a Glance:

Admissions Rate: 18%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 14-to-1

Total Bachelor's Programs: 77

Undergrad Tuition In State: $52,420

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $52,420

Graduation Rate: 89%

Average Graduate Earnings After Six Years: $57,800

Average Tuition
In-state
$52,420
Out-of-state
$52,420
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
18%
Students Enrolled
22,207
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

#2 Best Game Design Degrees 2021

The University of California, Santa Cruz

  • Santa Cruz, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The game design bachelor's degree at the University of California, Santa Cruz, a public institution, prioritizes flexibility. The school offers both in-person and online enrollment options. Undergraduates benefit from flexible course options and comprehensive college support services.

Majors earn a bachelor's degree after completing courses in the bachelor of arts in art and design: games and playable media program, along with general education requirements. The general education curriculum strengthens communication and critical thinking skills through coursework in diverse academic fields. The major curriculum covers theoretical and practical approaches to the game design field, preparing graduates for entry-level roles.

The University of California, Santa Cruz at a Glance:

Admissions Rate: 51%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 25-to-1

Total Bachelor's Programs: 68

Undergrad Tuition In State: $11,442

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $41,196

Average Amount of Aid Awarded: $17,880

Graduation Rate: 75%

Average Graduate Earnings After Six Years: $38,400

Average Tuition
In-state
$11,442
Out-of-state
$41,196
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
51%
Students Enrolled
19,494
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
4% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission

#3 Best Game Design Degrees 2021

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott

  • Prescott, FL
  • 4 years
  • Campus

A private college, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University offers a top-rated bachelor's in game design. Degree-seekers take in-person classes offered on the Prescott, Arizona, campus. Undergraduates benefit from rigorous academic standards and comprehensive college support services.

Majors earn a bachelor's degree from the bachelor of science in simulation science, games, and animation program after taking game design and general education courses. Students meet general education requirements by taking classes in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Game design major courses introduce major theoretical and practical approaches to the field, preparing program graduates to enter the workforce or pursue further education.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University-Prescott at a Glance:

Admissions Rate: 61%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 17-to-1

Total Bachelor's Programs: 23

Undergrad Tuition In State: $35,424

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $35,424

Graduation Rate: 62%

Average Graduate Earnings After Six Years: $51,400

Average Tuition
In-state
$35,424
Out-of-state
$35,424
Retention Rate
78%
Admission Rate
61%
Students Enrolled
7,056
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
1% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#4 Best Game Design Degrees 2021

Ringling College of Art and Design

  • Sarasota, FL
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The bachelor of arts in game art program at Ringling College of Art and Design, a private institution, earns top marks. From its campus in Sarasota, Florida, the school offers flexible enrollment options, including online classes. Undergraduates participate in rigorous academic programs and benefit from comprehensive support services.

Students earn a bachelor's degree after completing courses in the game design program, along with general education requirements. Humanities, math, and natural sciences courses, which make up the general education curriculum, strengthen critical thinking and communication skills. Advanced courses cover theoretical and practical game design subjects, training graduates for entry-level careers or further education.

Ringling College of Art and Design at a Glance:

Admissions Rate: 64%

Student-Faculty Ratio: 12-to-1

Total Bachelor's Programs: 11

Undergrad Tuition In State: $43,710

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $43,710

Graduation Rate: 67%

Average Graduate Earnings After Six Years: $36,000

Average Tuition
In-state
$43,710
Out-of-state
$43,710
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
64%
Students Enrolled
1,658
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

#5 Best Game Design Degrees 2021

Pratt Institute-Main Campus

  • Brooklyn, NY
  • 4 years
  • Campus

The bachelor of fine arts in game arts program at Pratt Institute is one of 23 total bachelor's programs. Students pursue many career paths after earning their game design degree. Bachelor's degree graduates can also apply to master's programs to continue their education.

The bachelor's curriculum introduces core topics and methods in game design. Undergraduates also practice research, writing, and communication skills through general education requirements. Students gain interdisciplinary skills by declaring a minor or second major.

Incoming degree candidates benefit from strong college support when they enroll at the school. For example, academic advisors work with students to transfer credits into the school and select courses.

Pratt Institute at a Glance:

Location: Brooklyn, New York

Type of School: Private

Admissions Rate: 56%

Undergrad Tuition In State: $51,754

Undergrad Tuition Out of State: $51,754

Average Tuition
In-state
$51,754
Out-of-state
$51,754
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
56%
Students Enrolled
5,069
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
Not provided
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

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