2020 Most Affordable Online Game Design Degrees

Why Get a Degree in Game Design?

Game designers work in teams to create concepts and design visuals for video games and mobile games. The gaming industry hires professionals who specialize in areas like game storytelling, animation, graphic design, and programming.

In the fast-paced world of gaming, professionals must bring several key skills to their roles. Game designers think creatively and develop innovative solutions to problems. Game design blends art and technology, so game designers must bring strong artistic and technical skills to their role. Most career paths require a bachelor’s degree and training in game design.

Earning an online game design degree prepares graduates for careers in many areas of the gaming industry, from the designers who develop games to the programmers who turn a concept into code. The gaming industry also offers opportunities for artists who specialize in modeling, animation, and concept art.

FAQ

What is the difference between game design and game development?

Game designers create the concept and look for a game, while game developers create the code. While game designers often hold a BA or BFA, game developers typically earn a BS.

What are some specializations in game design?

Within game design, majors specialize in areas like animation, level design, or programming. Some online schools for game design also offer a specialization in mobile games.

Do you need a bachelor’s degree to be a game designer?

Yes. Most entry-level game design jobs require a bachelor’s degree.

Can you learn game design at home?

Yes. Online schools for game design let students study at home through a flexible online learning environment.

How Much Do Game Design Majors Make?

An online game design degree leads to high-paying careers, including as game designers and game developers. Within the gaming industry, professionals with a BA or BFA in game design work in animation, graphic design, and as art directors. These titles also offer opportunities outside of the gaming industry.

  • Multimedia Artists and Animators: Multimedia artists and animators create graphics and animals in both 2D and 3D environments. They make visual effects for video games, create games with a team of animators, and edit animation based on feedback from game designers. The position requires strong artistic, programming, and creative skills.
  • Graphic Designers: Graphic designers create visual materials, often relying on software programs or programming knowledge. They create layouts and designs for video games and mobile games, often coordinating with the art director on the overall look. They may also create original images and illustrations for games.
  • Art Directors: In the gaming industry, art directors create the visual style for a mobile or video game. They determine how to represent a concept visually, develop the overall look of the game, and direct production specialists to develop artwork based on their design. Art directors also approve artwork and graphics created by their staff.
Career Median Annual
Salary
Projected Growth Rate
(2018-2028)
Multimedia Artists and Animators $75,270 4%
Graphic Designers $52,110 3%
Art Directors $94,220 1%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

A BS in game design prepares graduates for careers in the gaming industry, including as software developers. Thanks to the strong programming skills gained during a BS in game design, graduates can also pursue opportunities outside of the field of game development, like computer network architecture.

  • Software Developers: Software developers create applications and computer systems. They must analyze user needs, design software to meet those needs, and test software. Software developers also create models for programmers, conduct maintenance, and collaborate with other specialists to improve software. They typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field like game design.
  • Computer Network Architects: Computer network architects design data communication networks. They help organizations determine their networking needs, set up local area networks, and create custom networks to meet business goals. Computer network architects present plans to executives and research network technologies to improve current networks.
Career Median Annual Salary Projected Growth Rate (2018-2028)
Software Developers $105,590 21%
Computer Network Architects $112,690 5%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

2020 Most Affordable Online Game Design Degrees

A growing number of game design schools offer online programs. Our rankings consider several factors — including affordability, accreditation, and quality — to rank the top online game design degrees. Read on to learn more about top programs.

See our rankings methodology page.

1

Southern New Hampshire University

Location: Manchester, NH

Students Awarded Financial Aid: 75%

Program Website

SNHU is a private, nonprofit institution that strives to expand access to quality academic programs. Established in 1932, SNHU now serves nearly 100,000 learners each year from its main campus in Manchester and online. The university focuses on instruction in engineering, education, business, and technology. 

SNHU offers two affordable online game design degrees: a bachelor of arts in game art and development and a bachelor of science in game programming and development. Both programs require 120 credits and prepare graduates for entry-level work as game developers, graphic designers, animators, and simulation specialists. SNHU delivers these two programs asynchronously through eight-week sessions.

Learners can transfer up to 90 credits to SNHU. The university accepts applications on a rolling basis. Admission requirements include official transcripts and one letter of recommendation.

2

Lindenwood University

Location: Saint Charles, MO

Students Awarded Financial Aid: 99%

Program Website

A private, nonprofit university located in St. Charles, Missouri, Lindenwood offers a comprehensive education rooted in the liberal arts. Founded in 1827, Lindenwood now operates seven schools and colleges and offers over 100 programs. 

Learners at Lindenwood can earn an online game design degree that focuses on industry concepts and innovation applications. The 54-credit curriculum includes foundational courses in programming logic, visual storytelling, and art history. Learners can also enroll in free electives that advance their interests, including game scripting, 3D animation, concept design, and critical theories of gaming. 

To apply for this game design degree online, students need a high school or GED diploma. They must submit official transcripts and recent ACT or SAT scores. Transfer applicants with less than 24 transferable credits must also submit ACT or SAT scores.

3

Baker College

Location: Flint, MI

Students Awarded Financial Aid: 97%

Program Website

Established as a business school in 1911, Baker offers rigorous instruction in a diverse array of disciplines. Headquartered in Flint, Michigan, the school operates 12 different campuses throughout the Great Lakes State. 

Baker’s College of Engineering and Information Technology offers a bachelor of science in game software development to qualified learners. Most students complete the program in four years. The curriculum focuses on the skills and knowledge needed to design, test, and implement scalable gaming projects. Learners complete courses in programming principles, gaming analysis, and database management. 

Applicants must have a high school diploma or its equivalent. They must also provide official transcripts. ACT and SAT scores are recommended, but not required. Baker welcomes transfer applicants with up to 12 credits.

4

Liberty University

Location: Lynchburg, VA

Students Awarded Financial Aid: 90%

Program Website

Located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty is a private, nonprofit institution affiliated with evangelical Christianity. Founded in 1971, the university now serves 50,000 learners each year, administering over 500 different programs. 

Liberty offers an online bachelor of science in information technology with an emphasis in gaming design. The program helps learners develop the design and programming skills needed for work in a thriving and competitive industry. The 120-credit curriculum includes courses in graphic design, digital imaging, and 3D modeling. The program delivers coursework both synchronously and asynchronously, and each course lasts eight weeks. 

The program accepts up to 90 transfer credits. Prospective students must provide high school transcripts. Additional requirements for this online game design degree include an application fee and proof of English language proficiency.

5

Savannah College of Art and Design

Location: Savannah, GA

Students Awarded Financial Aid: 97%

Program Website

SCAD has prepared graduates for creative endeavors since 1978. A private, nonprofit art school based in Savannah, Georgia, SCAD values collaboration, innovation, and strategic problem-solving. The college advances its mission through eight different divisions in design, fashion, fine arts, and digital media. 

SCAD offers a bachelor of arts in interactive design and game development. The program requires 180 credits and includes courses in color theory, digital communication, visual culture, and applied programming. Learners also develop core skills in critical thinking and creative expression. SCAD delivers all program coursework asynchronously. 

Applicants to this online game design degree need a high school or GED diploma. They must also submit ACT or SAT scores and official transcripts indicating a competitive GPA. Admission requirements also include recommendation letters, a resume or portfolio, and a statement of purpose.

Accreditation for Online Bachelor’s in Game Design

Accreditation matters when choosing game design schools online. An accredited school meets the highest standards for academic excellence. Students at accredited schools also qualify for federal financial aid. During the accreditation process, independent accrediting agencies review a school’s student learning outcomes, graduation requirements, and faculty qualifications. Colleges and universities that pass that evaluation earn accreditation.

Regional accreditation remains the gold standard for liberal arts and research institutions, including online game design schools. The Distance Education Accrediting Commission also grants accreditation to online schools that meet high standards for distance education.

Learn more about why accreditation matters.

What Kind of Game Design Degree Should You Get?

Prospective students considering game design schools online have the option of earning a bachelor of fine arts (BFA), a bachelor of arts (BA), or a bachelor of science (BS).

A BS in game design or game development emphasizes computer science skills like programming. During the degree, students take courses in mathematics and computer science in addition to game design courses. A BA in game design emphasizes animation, writing, and drawing skills. Students complete fewer technical classes and take more general education courses. A BFA in game design focuses on the fine arts side of the field, with fewer general education requirements.

By considering their interests, career goals, and strengths, prospective students can find the right online game design degree.

Courses in Game Design

Online game design schools offer courses that build the knowledge and skills needed for careers in the field. Many programs offer specialized courses that prepare graduates for focused career paths, including options like mobile game design.

In addition to game design courses, undergraduates also complete general education requirements that strengthen the critical thinking and analytical skills needed for game design professionals. The following list introduces common courses in a game design program.

Introduction to Game Design

Introductory courses provide an overview on the field of game design and game development, including core areas like game art, level design, and coding. Students learn about the requirements of game information systems, platform selection, and player engagement. The course prepares majors for advanced courses in game design.

Game Theory

In game theory courses, students learn about the principles behind games in both analog and digital formats. The class analyzes popular games, explores the risk/reward principle, and looks at different theories behind the appeal of different game types. Students also examine video games from different eras to understand the relationship between game theory and the finished product.

Programming

Online game design schools often include courses in programming to prepare learners to create code. In programming courses, students learn about different programming languages and techniques, including C++, C#, and Java. The course also introduces students to data types, functions, 2D and 3D software programs, and game-related techniques.

Mobile Game Design

Mobile game design courses explore the design and creation of games for wireless and handheld game devices, including smartphones. Students learn about the growing mobile game sector, the market for adapted rich platform games, and the requirements for successful mobile games. During the course, students may design a mobile game concept.

Project Development

Courses on project development train students to work in teams to create games. During the course, students apply their knowledge of project management, game design, and programming to complete a project. This course helps students build a portfolio of work while gaining hands-on experience in game development.

Scholarships for Game Design

Online game design students qualify for multiple scholarship opportunities. Unlike loans, which students must repay, scholarships permanently lower the cost of earning an online game design degree. Accredited online programs meet the requirements for many scholarship opportunities, including those listed below.

ESA Foundation Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants should be women or minorities pursuing a career in computer and video game arts. Requirements include full-time enrollment and a minimum 2.75 GPA.
Amount: $3,000

Eric Dybsand Memorial AI Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Granted by the IGDA Foundation, the scholarship supports students interested in artificial intelligence. Recipients attend the Games Developer Conference and receive a scholarship.
Amount: $1,000

AIAS Foundation Scholarships
Who Can Apply: Full-time students at accredited institutions meet the qualifications for the AIAS foundation scholarship. Applicants should plan a career related to game development and demonstrate a minimum 3.3 GPA.
Amount: $2,500

WomenIn Scholarship
Who Can Apply: Applicants should be women planning on pursuing a career in the field of video games, including game design. Requirements include full-time status at an accredited institution and a minimum 3.3 GPA.
Amount: $2,500

AIGA Worldstudio Scholarship
Who Can Apply: AIGA grants multiple scholarships to students earning an undergraduate or graduate degree in graphic design, illustration, or photography. Applicants must hold a minimum 2.0 GPA.
Amount: $500-$5,000

Learn More…

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