Game Art and Design Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Oct 17, 2019

Undergraduate game art and design degree or certificate programs and related graduate-level programs blend creativity with technical skills in order to prepare graduates for several careers in the gaming industry.

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Essential Information

Game art designers translate characters and concepts into digitally based representations, manipulating the images to insert them into a story.

Students interested in these career opportunities may pursue a certificate program, which has no prerequisites, or a bachelor's program in game art and design. The latter option, available to high school graduates, often necessitates a portfolio of relevant work. Though game artists and designers may need a bachelor's degree for employment, many employers place a higher importance on a candidate's body of work rather than educational background.

Graduate training is also possible for interested students via a master's degree in interactive entertainment and technology design. Prerequisites for admission into these programs often encompass a portfolio, a statement of purpose, and letters of recommendation. Within all levels of education, limited online courses or programs may be offered.

Certificate in Game Art and Design

For these average 6- to 12-month programs, students prepare for entry-level jobs in game art and design by learning the basics of 3D modeling, character development and writing in programming languages. Prospective game designers learn the basics of how to sculpt, light and populate digital worlds. In addition, students are introduced to industry-standard applications such as Maya and Photoshop. Common course topics include:

  • Character animation
  • Game analysis
  • Game development
  • Interactive scripting

Bachelor's Degree in Game Art and Design

Bachelor's students learn about design aesthetics in computer animation, digital model creation and programming. Guidance is given in how to create interactive environments, develop internally consistent game rules and ensure that game play elements work together to improve end-user experience.

Several multimedia, art and technical majors may also include game design and development instruction. Some common course topics are:

  • 3D animation
  • Digital design aesthetics
  • Game storytelling
  • Animation and imaging software
  • Motion design

Master's Degree in Interactive Entertainment Technology Design

Master's degree programs combine art, business and computer science to teach students team communication skills, technological applications and how to produce a game.

In addition to extensive and sophisticated topics in programming, students learn how to coordinate and produce video games through comprehensive business and organizational training. Graduate students must often complete a complex project in the field of game design and/or an internship as well. Common course topics include:

  • Interactive game design and development
  • Fuzzy state logic
  • Motion capture technology
  • Special effects
  • Visual storytelling
  • Pre-production and modeling

Popular Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 28,560 multimedia artists and animators were employed across various industries in 2018. Entry-level work in the video game field included:

  • Video game testing
  • Technical writing
  • Programming assistance

Master's degree programs offer comprehensive education in game design, though graduates are typically prepared to advance a career into management and production. Possible job options open to master's degree-holders include:

  • Artificial intelligence programmer
  • Graphics programmer
  • Special effects programmer
  • Video game producer
  • Film and animation coordinator

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS anticipates a 4% employment growth for multimedia artists and animators (which include game designers) for the years 2018 through 2028, a rate of growth on par with the national average. In May 2018, the BLS reported that multimedia artists and animators earned a median annual wage of $72,520.

The field of game art and design has several academic options for individuals pursuing further understanding of its concepts and applications, including certificate, bachelor's and master's programs.

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