Game Design and Development Degree and Certificate Programs

Oct 13, 2019

Essential Information

For game designers and developers, courses at the certificate and associate degree levels can provide basics in programming, 3D modeling, animation and digital imaging. Bachelor's degree students will take more advanced courses in prototype development, testing and user interfaces. Many programs combine instruction with hands-on labs wherein students work directly with software and applications. Courses in mathematics are typically included in general education coursework. A certificate can usually be earned in one year or less, while a degree takes two or four years. Students must have a high school diploma or equivalent, and some programs require prerequisite coursework in mathematics.

Certificate in Game Design and Development

This certificate program can range from 15-18 credit hours and prepares students for entry-level positions in the game design industry. The curriculum covers technical areas in programming languages, animation, computer graphics and computer science. Students learn about all facets of game design and development, from the beginning to the final stages of production. Throughout the program, students learn to create 3-dimensional graphics, special effects and interactive environments. Admittance to the program requires a high school diploma or GED certificate, computer knowledge and high school coursework in advanced mathematics.

The curriculum includes coursework in game mathematics, which consists of studies in trigonometry, polynomials and algebra. Typical coursework includes:

  • Algorithms
  • Artificial intelligence
  • 2-Dimensional graphics
  • Java programming
  • Special effects

Associate of Science in Game Design and Development

The game design and development curriculum explores subjects like game modeling, operating systems and animation. Students work in groups, attend lectures and work in computer labs investigating computer graphics and the fundamentals of computer architecture. The program also has a mathematics focus, which teaches engineering, programming and software design skills. Other areas of focus are script writing, character development and interactivity. Applicants are required to hold a high school diploma or GED certificate.

Students learn to create audio and video effects, graphic user interfaces and animated characters. Additional coursework examines the role of a game developer and career paths for graduates of the program. Other topics include:

  • Digital imaging
  • Multiplayer games
  • Game physics
  • Electronic music
  • 3-Dimensional models

Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development

Game design and development programs are offered with concentration areas in audio and visual design, interactive storytelling and game production. The program includes a survey of information technology, the gaming business and studies in the utilization of information systems and tools in game creation. Students learn to create storyboards, animated characters and produce projects for multimedia distribution. Other areas of focus are software design and development, as well as mathematics for game design. Admission requires a high school diploma or GED certificate and prerequisite coursework in algebra and geometry.

Students complete traditional classroom coursework and work in student labs gaining hands-on experience with various computers, operating systems and software. Classes include:

  • Game testing
  • Graphical user interfaces
  • Object-oriented programming
  • Prototypes
  • Pre-production

Popular Career Options

Graduates have the entry-level technical expertise and theoretical knowledge to enter careers in game design and software development companies, or as an indie developer. Common job titles may include:

  • Storyboard artist
  • Character artist
  • Programmer

Associate graduates find production and distribution positions in software and game development industries. Popular job titles for graduates are:

  • Game animator
  • Level designer
  • Texture artist

Continuing Education

Certificate programs in game design and development may be taken alongside a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field. Certificate credits may also transfer into an associate degree or bachelor's degree program.

Graduates with a bachelor's degree may elect to continue their game design and development education with a master's degree. Graduate degrees like the master's degree prepare programmers and developers for advanced careers in simulation programming and game development.

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

Applications software developers, including game designers and developers, held over 903,160 jobs in the U.S. in 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and earned a median annual salary of $103,620 in May 2018 ( Jobs in this profession are expected to grow by 26% from 2018-2028, states the BLS.

Those interested in entry into a game design and development program should have a strong background in mathematics in order to prepare them for the coursework. While there are multiple levels of degrees available, students should also gain hands-on experience.

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