Best Game Design Degrees

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Earn a Bachelors Degree in Game Design

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Gaming design schools are growing in popularity.

From the addictive apps we play on our smartphones, to the hobbyist user with one at-home game console, to those who play and compete in professional eSports circles, it takes advanced technical and creative skill to develop and create these programs. Working behind the scenes of your favorite video games can prove a lucrative career move.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, multimedia artists such as game designers make a median annual salary of $70,530. Professional game designers work in all stages of game development, ensuring a place for your talents whether you excel in concept creation, art, mechanics, or code. Earning an undergraduate game design degree prepares you to pursue full-time work at a game studio or for contract employment. Learn more about 25 of the best video game designer degrees in our ranking below.

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Top 10 Best Game Design Degrees

Rank School Location
1 University of Southern California Los Angeles, CA
2 Rochester Institute of Technology Rochester , NY
3 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA
4 University of Utah Salt Lake City, UT
5 Digipen Institute of Technology Redmond, WA
6 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Troy, NY
7 Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah , GA
8 New York University New York, NY
9 Michigan State University East Lansing, MI
10 Full Sail University Winter Park, FL

What kind of Game Design degree should you get?

As the demand for game designers rises, more and more programs are continuing to pop up. It can be difficult to figure out what kind of degree you should get–should you attend online? Or on-campus? If you’re already working and flexibility is key for you, an online program may be your best bet.

If you’re considering a game design degree but want an online degree option, have a look at College Choice’s ranking of the Best Online Game Design Degrees.

How much money do people make with a Game Design degree?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a multimedia artist/animator is $65,300 per year per year. Of course, the more advanced training and experience you have in the field, the higher earning potential you’ll have going forward. Luckily, the employment outlook is very strong for game designers; in fact, employment is expected to grow 10% from now to 2026.

Salaries will also vary depending on if you have an area of specialty, the type of medium you work with (television, movies, video games), etc.

What can you do with a Bachelor’s in Game Design?

With a bachelor’s in game design, you will have plenty of opportunities. Game designers work on a game’s vision, including the background story and plot, characters, environment, special effects, sound, and more! Not only will you be working with various technologies, but you’ll also be working in an extremely creative environment. You’ll be working with others to create one magically cohesive and exciting game!

Another great perk for game designers? Many of them can work from home! With a job that relies heavily on computers, you can essentially set up an office anywhere.

What are the requirements for a obtaining a Bachelor’s in Game Design?

Many college programs require prospective students to submit design portfolios. These portfolios may include still life, figurative drawing, perspective, and objects found in everyday life. It’s also helpful to have a strong background in mathematics and science, as well as art and design. Of course, each program is unique and has their own sets of requirements.

Once enrolled in a game design program, you can expect to take courses like the history of gaming, intro to design thinking, and digital content creation. Undergraduate programs typically require students to complete a capstone project as well.

Rankings

See our rankings methodology page.

  1. University of Southern California
    Location

    Los Angeles, CA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1880, the University of Southern California is the oldest private research university in the state. Home to 19,000 undergraduate students, USC is a top pick for talented students worldwide. In fact, The Wall Street Journal and Times Higher Education ranked USC 15th among over 1,000 public and private universities. Now, the university offers an excellent B.S. in Computer Science, with a concentration in games!

    Program Features

    The game design program at USC is great because it gives students a strong foundation in computer science. From there, students will learn more about the science of game development– and that’s where the creative juices can really start to flow! All students will have to complete 128 credits, and courses including:

    • Programming Game Engines
    • Introduction to Artificial Intelligence
    • Pipelines for Games and Interactives

    Students can also choose to pursue a B.A. in Interactive Entertainment rather than a B.S. in Computer Science (Games). The B.A. combines a broad liberal arts background with hands-on specialization in the design of games and interactive entertainment.

    Notables

    USC Games is recognized as one of the top game design programs in North America by The Princeton Review. Students graduating from these programs will be capable of engineering next-generation games and simulations, and their technologies in the entertainment and serious game fields.

  2. Rochester Institute of Technology
    Location

    Rochester , NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    This private university located in Rochester, NY is consistently ranked among the top technical universities in the world. With international locations in China, Croatia, Dubai, and more, RIT is home to over 15,000 undergraduates who are actively looking to change the world. Now, RIT offers a rigorous  Bachelors of Science in Game Design and Development.

    Program Features

    The game design program at RIT places a strong emphasis on programming. In fact, the program exposes students to all the intricate inner workings of the development and design processes. Students can specialize in a variety of areas, including:

    • Web
    • Audio
    • Mobile
    • Production
    • Game design
    • Engines & systems
    • Graphics programming and animation

    Not only does this degree prepare students for careers within the professional games industry but it also provides them with a solid computing background. Over four years, students will take courses like 3D Animation, Interactive Media Development, and Mathematics of Graphical Simulation.

    Notables

    The Bachelor of Science degree in Game Design & Development requires two co-op blocks. During their paid co-op experience, students will gain real life career experience in a full-time position. Since 2012, RIT students have worked at GSN Games, Muse Games, Warner Bros, Amazon, and many more prestigious companies!

  3. Drexel University
    Location

    Philadelphia, PA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1891, this private research university located in Philadelphia is one of America’s 15 largest private universities. The university is ranked among the top 100 in the country and offers endless degree opportunities. Noteworthy is Drexel’s B.S. in Game Design & Production through the College of Media Arts and Design and the B.S./B.A. in Computer Science with a a concentration  in Game Programming and Development (GMPD). 

    Program Features

    Drexel’s GMPD major or concentration within the computer science degree may be a perfect fit for you. Both options will provide you not only with a conceptual understanding of game design, but practical experience as well. Courses in this concentration include:

    • Large-scale game development
    • Fundamentals of game design and development
    • Special topics in educational and experimental game design

    Students can also participate in Drexel’s renowned co-op program. Students in the BSCS program can participate in a four-year, one co-op program, a five-year three co-op program, or a five-year two co-op program (with a combined BS/MS degree).

    Notables

    Students and faculty at Drexel are always pushing the envelope on research and new technologies. The school is a hub of knowledge and innovation. In fact, Drexel’s degree program in computer science is ranked in the top 40 computer science programs in the country.

  4. University of Utah
    Location

    Salt Lake City, UT

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1850, the University of Utah is based in Salt Lake City and is home to over 32,000 students. Dreamers, innovators, and researchers come together at the University of Utah to make big things happen. The school’s programs continue to evolve; in fact, starting in Spring 2018 the school will offer a B.S.​ ​in​ ​Games​ for those interested!

    Program Features

    The Bachelor’s of Science in Games degree will include a core curriculum in game design and development courses. Courses may include:

    • Ethics in Games
    • Intro to Design Thinking
    • Digital Content Creation
    • Traditional Game Development

    Students can pick classes to suit their specific areas of interest. From game design and game arts, to technical art and game production, you’ll have the flexibility to create a course schedule that reflects your career goals. Since the program is so new, students will really have an impact on how the department organizes this major going forward.

    Notables

    The Princeton Review has ranked the University of Utah as having the #3 Undergrad Gaming Program in the nation. The university also offers a B.S. in Computer Science with an emphasis in Entertainment Arts & Engineering. The EAE specialization allows students to take courses covering video game design and development, 3D animation, and computer-generated special effects.

  5. Digipen Institute of Technology
    Location

    Redmond, WA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Located in Redmond, Washington, DigiPen Institute is a private school that was originally founded in 1988 as a computer simulation and animation company. Now, a leader in game development education, DigiPen offers students a variety of degrees fit for a career in game design.

    Program Features

    DigiPen offers undergraduate degrees in the areas of computer science, game design, animation, engineering, and music and sound design. Degree options include:

    • BS in Computer Science in Real-Time Interactive Simulation
    • BS in Computer Science and Game Design
    • BS in Computer Science and Digital Audio
    • BA in Music and Sound Design
    • MS in Computer Science
    • BS in Computer Science
    • BA in Game Design

    Where to begin?! The BA in Game Design requires students to complete 139 semester credits. With courses like Game History and Analysis, Game Mechanics, and Scripting Languages, it’s the perfect degree for those interested in diving into game design.

    Notables

    One of the primary reasons to choose DigiPen over other institutions is the opportunity to work on a wide range of both personal and collaborative projects. These project courses will challenge you to create original software, games, animations, hardware devices, and more — often using custom-built software tools and do-it-yourself technology. By the time you graduate, you’ll have an impressive portfolio of creative projects to show potential employers.

  6. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
    Location

    Troy, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1824 and located in Troy, NY, RPI is the nation’s oldest technological research university. With more than 145 degree programs and 34 research centers, RPI is well-known for its talented, dedicated, and forward-thinking staff and students. RPI is also home to a fantastic BS Degree in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences.

    Program Features

    All students will have to complete 128 credits to earn a degree. Courses may include:

    • Experimental Game Design
    • Introduction to Game Design
    • Character and Story for Games

    Students can also choose from a variety of concentrations within the major: Electronic Arts,

    Human Computer Interaction, Computer Science, Writing for Games, and more. If you’re interested in this program, you should note that all applicants must submit a portfolio with up to 10 examples representing their best work in any medium. Students should also have a basic foundation in mathematics and the physical, biological, and social sciences.

    Notables

    Every year, Rensselaer’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences hosts a GameFest Symposium and Exhibition. The event introduces students to philosophers, computer scientists, artists and cognitive scientists who actively conduct research in game design, development and production. It’s a great way for students to network and learn more about the gaming industry!

  7. Savannah College of Art and Design
    Location

    Savannah , GA

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Home to mascot Art the Bee, SCAD is a private university with locations in Savannah, Georgia, Atlanta, Georgia, Hong Kong, and France. With over 10,500 students, SCAD is a hub of innovation and offers more than 40 majors and over 60 minors. Now, the school offers a B.A. in Digital Media with a concentration in Game Development.

    Program Features

    All students must complete at least 180 credit hours. You can expect to take unique courses, including:

    • Digital Design Aesthetics
    • Applied Principles: Game Art
    • Core Principles: Interactive Design

    Looking for a program that will open up tons of potential career opportunities? Professionals visit with SCAD students every quarter, interviewing for positions and reviewing their portfolios. Meet with folks from Zynga, Blizzard Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Crystal Dynamics and more! Looking for a flexible game design degree? SCAD also offers this degree online as part of their eLearning program.

    Notables

    SCAD’s interactive design and game development program has won the top prize in the E3 College Game Competition for two years running, along with receiving praise from The Princeton Review and Animation Career Review. It’s no wonder students choose this school to pursue their dreams– becoming a game designer, mobile app designer, technical artist, etc., has never been more exciting!

  8. New York University
    Location

    New York, NY

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Based in the Empire State, NYU is a private research university that is always nearing the top of the rankings for best universities in both the United States and in the world. With over 50,000 students, the school is a hub of innovation, research, and forward-thinking academics. While NYU is known for its many prestigious degree programs, the Game Design BFA is one of the most unique.

    Program Features

    Students in NYU’s BFA program will learn about game design, game development, and game scholarship, preparing them for careers as game designers, developers, and more. Courses may include:

    • Toy Design
    • Beyond the Joystick
    • Minimalist Game Design
    • European Videogames of the 1980s
    • Breaking the Mold: Idiosyncratic Games

    Aside from the cool course selection, all students will complete a senior project, which can be a group or solo endeavor. This project might be making a game on or off the computer, or it could be a research paper, curated exhibition, etc.

    Notables

    NYU launched the Game Center Incubator in 2014 which provides space, funding, and expertise for graduating students. Through a competitive application process, the incubator selects projects that have commercial potential and sees them through to a public launch. Students have gone on to work for prestigious gaming companies including Riot, Arkadium, Disney, and Avalanche Studio.

  9. Michigan State University
    Location

    East Lansing, MI

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Founded in 1855, this public research university is based in East Lansing, Michigan and is consistently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world. With students from all 50 states and over 130 countries, MSU is a pioneer in research and innovation. In fact, the school’s Media and Information department now offers an undergraduate specialization in game design and development for those looking to build the next great game!

    Program Features

    The game design and development specialization at MSU is available as an elective to students who are enrolled in the BA or BS Degree in Media and Information, the BS in Computer Science, or the BA/BFA in Studio Art. The specialization contains the following four courses:

    • Digital Game Design
    • Client-based Game Design
    • Collaborative Game Design
    • 3D Game and Simulation Design

    All students will also have access to the school’s Games for Entertainment and Learning (GEL) Lab. You can work to design innovative prototypes, techniques, and complete games for entertainment and learning purposes alongside professors and graduate students.

    Notables

    Founded in 2005, the Game Design and Development Program at MSU has grown leaps and bounds. In fact, it’s now a Top 10 Ranked program by The Princeton Review.

  10. Full Sail University
    Location

    Winter Park, FL

    Tuition

    $$$$$

    Overview

    Full Sail University offers both on-campus and online game design degrees, which take 20 months and 29 months to complete, respectively. Course highlights include game mechanics, game balancing, and prototyping, which cover key industry concepts and skill development. Students explore an understanding of the entire game development pipeline, from the initial idea to the final execution, in preparation for employment in a game studio environment. All students, online and on-campus, participate in seven portfolio projects throughout degree completion, culminating in a digital project eligible for submission to festivals and release to the general public.

    Program Features

    • Psychology of Play
    • Discrete Mathematics
    • Game Design Preproduction
    • Technology in the Entertainment and Media Industries
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