Best Game Design Bachelor's Degree Programs

Apr 01, 2021

Game Design Degrees

Students who decide to work towards a degree in game design will discover that many programs encompass a wide range of topics, such as programming, storytelling, and more. Learners who explore this avenue will have an opportunity to find out about the complexities of game creation as they hone their skills before entering the workforce.

What Kinds of Game Design Degrees Are There?

Anyone interested in pursuing a degree in video game design will discover that there are a variety of avenues that they can explore. Whether learners are hobbyists or are hoping to enter the field professionally, there are several available paths when it comes to furthering their education. Below is a list of the various degrees and certificates that can be obtained which range in both time required and title.

Associate Degrees in Game Design

An associate degree in game design can usually be obtained after completing 60 to 80 credit hours. In many cases, students can achieve this within two years if they commit to taking 15 credit hours per semester. However, increasing coursework or exploring remote learning could affect the timeframe.

Going this route will present a range of titles including Associate of Applied Science in Game Technology (AAS) and Associate in Applied Science in Video Game Production degree. An Associate of Applied Science in Game Technology (AAS) is an academic plan that will give students an appropriate background in the field, which can help them if they aspire to work with studios, corporations, advertising agencies, or other organizations. Learners may also consider embarking on a path to completing an Associate in Applied Science in Video Game Production degree, which may include focusing on animation, sound design, and game technology.

According to Payscale.com, students who complete an Associate of Applied Science (AAS) that focuses on game simulation and programming can earn an average annual income of $47,547. As for learners who pursue a path that focuses on video game design, Payscale.com states that designers can expect to make around $65,302 each year.

Bachelor's Degrees in Game Design

On average, a bachelor's degree will take four years. After completing 120 credit hours, students will then be able to officially enter the field of game design. Leading up to graduation, this path will include both general education courses and specialized classes that focus on game design. Obtaining a four-year degree could result in earning a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Computer Science with a computer game design concentration, B.S. in Game Design and Development, Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design and Technology with a focus on game design, or B.S. in Computer Science with a concentration in game design.

After going through the preferred program, students will be able to consider a variety of occupations, such as game tester, designer, and technical artist. According to Payscale.com, earning a Bachelor of Science that focuses on game design and development will result in an average salary of $66,396.

Master's Degrees in Game Design

After learners earn a degree, they may decide to extend their education by completing a master's. Typically, these programs can range from between one to three years. Various factors, such as college or university and enrollment status, can play a part in the length of time needed to complete the goal.

Earning a master's could come in the form of completing a Master of Science in Interactive Entertainment, which could center around tech design, project management, and animation. A Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering (MEAE) program could also offer specialized tracks of study, such as technical art and game arts. Another option to think about is obtaining a Master of Fine Arts degree (MFA), which focuses on the creative aspects of a game.

Doctoral Degrees in Game Design

A doctorate, which takes at least four years, is the highest designation that can be obtained in the field. This may involve a range of projects, including a thesis or dissertation.

After completing a master's, students may decide that they would like to continue their education. As a result, learners may then begin pursuing a Ph.D. in Critical Game Design. Exploring this avenue exposes enrollees to a range of topics, such as game design principles, game studies literature, and more. Graduating from this program will provide a solid foundation if students are hoping to teach, conduct research at the university level down the road, or apply their skills in other ways within the industry.

Certificates in Game Design

Earning a computer programming certificate can be a helpful steppingstone when it comes to advancing professional goals. As there are both graduate and undergraduate certificates, it will be important for students to decide which is most appropriate or their needs as they could differ in both required coursework, time needed for completion, and cost. Some schools may prefer that learners complete their certificate while enrolled in an undergraduate program or shortly after finishing their bachelor's. Certain certificates may require 19 credit hours and will provide students with the ability to create games independently.

After completion, enrollees will have a better grasp on creating, testing, and designing meaningful video games. While a certificate is not a necessity when applying for jobs, it is an effective way to quickly demonstrate your competence in the field. As a result, it could be what sets you apart from others if you are vying for one of the highest-paying jobs in the industry.

Best Game Design Bachelor's Degrees

1. Fitchburg State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10,505 88% 58% 91% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

2. California State University-Chico

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7,806 72% 67% 76% Yes Yes AP Credits

3. University of Wisconsin-Stout

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$9,463 91% 60% 83% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

4. Indiana University-Bloomington

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$10,947 78% 79% 84% Yes Yes AP Credits

5. The University of Texas at Dallas

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$13,442 79% 70% 78% Yes Yes AP Credits

6. Boise State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,068 77% 51% 84% Yes Yes AP / ACE Credits

7. Arkansas Tech University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$7,668 95% 38% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

8. Kennesaw State University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$6,456 75% 46% 92% Yes Yes AP Credits

9. Columbia College Chicago

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$2,756 90% 50% 93% Yes Yes AP Credits

10. University of California-Santa Cruz

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$13,991 51% 75% 70% Yes Yes AP Credits

11. Southern Arkansas University Main Campus

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$8,980 65% 44% 99% Yes Yes AP Credits

12. Webster University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$28,700 57% 58% 96% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

13. New England Institute of Technology

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$30,841 63% 51% 94% Yes Yes AP / NCCRS Credits

14. Utah Valley University

Tuition Acceptance Rate Graduation Rate Financial Aid % Placement Services Career Services Accepts
$5,820 No Available Data (2019-2020) 32% 74% Yes Yes AP Credits

To get a more in-depth look at our school ranking methodology, please visit Study.com's ranking methodology page.

Tuition information is based on published tuition and required fees, per data by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Game Design Bachelor's Degree Concentrations

Some colleges and universities offer a concentration in game development to computer science majors. This route may be helpful to learners who are hoping to utilize their skills in various job settings after graduation due to the fact that this may be a multidisciplinary program. While concentrations within the game design major are not common at many institutions, certain schools may offer concentrations specific to the program for interested learners.

Curriculum for a Bachelor's Degree in Game Design

While the specific curriculum for a bachelor's degree in game design varies, working towards obtaining a Bachelor of Science in Game Design could offer students the chance to focus on topics such as storyboarding, creative writing, animation, and more. A bachelor's in this area may also include courses that help students tighten their grasp on subjects such as the inner workings of the game business and intricacies of audio design.

Among various bachelor's degree programs in video game design, specific courses may include:

  • Game Design and Development
  • 3D Animation
  • Ethics
  • Advanced Game Design

Prerequisites for a Bachelor's In Game Design Degree

As the field of video game design encompasses both creativity and technicalities, strengthening your background prior to enrolling at a college or university may prove to be worthwhile. Some schools may look for a design portfolio or completion of high school computer science courses prior to admission. This will likely vary from institution to institution, so checking the site for your desired school will provide a concrete answer as you formulate your individual path.

Additionally, many schools and universities will pay attention to the ACT or SAT scores of potential enrollees when reviewing applications as well. Contacting your desired college or university may be helpful when it comes to determining what will be needed for admission.

How Long Does it Take to Get a Bachelor's in Game Design?

Earning a bachelor's degree in game design typically takes four years if students stay on the expected path. However, part-time students and those who enroll in online programs could experience different outcomes. At many colleges and universities, this degree requires 120 credit hours.

Accreditation for Bachelor's in Game Design Degrees

Students who attend an accredited college or university will have the peace of mind that they are receiving a quality education which can be a useful tool to use down the road when entering the job market. Four-year institutions that offer bachelor's and master's degree programs can apply to receive accreditation. The process may include an assessment of their current curriculum, self-study, and annual review.

When it comes to accreditation, both regional and national affect financial aid. Regional accreditation is offered to two-year and four-year institutions in certain geographic areas, while national is typically extended to vocational and trade schools that are career oriented. In order to receive funding, Title IV of the Higher Education Act requires institutions to be regionally or nationally accredited.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is one place where learners can find out more about the standing of their preferred college or university, as they are the only nationally recognized organization that exclusively focuses on higher education. Additionally, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) can also provide helpful information about various colleges and universities.

Game Design Licensure & Certification

While certification is not a requirement to begin working in the field of game design, it can help job seekers stand out from others vying for the same position down the road. Becoming certified in a programming language, which may include lectures and hands-on labs, will provide an easy way for employers to see that you are capable of fulfilling the desired role. This pathway may introduce students to programming languages such as Java, Python, or C++.

Leaning into this option will likely feature coursework that centers around critical thinking and analysis. Earning a certificate will likely include paying a fee and passing an exam. Some certification programs may also require experience in the field.

Should I Get a Bachelor's Degree in Game Design?

Obtaining a bachelor's degree in game design may be a good fit for students who are creative and enjoy the art of storytelling. From content designers, who develop the plot and characters, to lead designers, who focus on the overall environment inside the game, there are many ways that learners can use their degree after graduation. This may also be a good path for students who enjoy communication and collaboration, as those within the aforementioned roles could find themselves working with programmers, artists, and producers.

According to BLS, multimedia artists can expect to see an increase of 4% within the industry leading up to 2029. This projected growth will be due in part to the high demand for visual effects and animation within video games and other forms of entertainment. Additionally, consumers are likely to expect more realistic games, which, in turn, could drive demand.

Earning a bachelor's can not only be a useful springboard for students who are hoping to further their education by completing a master's but may help them stand out in the crowded job market. Leaning into a specialization could also work to students' advantage after graduation.

What Can I Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Game Design?

After completing a Bachelor's Degree in Game Design, students will be able to pursue a multitude of interesting and engaging occupations. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the field includes roles such as programmer, art director, quality assurance tester, and more. These roles may occur within a group or on an individual basis, as the field is known to be highly collaborative.

Within the aforementioned areas, there is room for even more nuance. Those who become video game designers could find themselves obtaining titles such as a content designer or game mechanic designer. Writing may also come into play for students who pursue a bachelor's, as many games include dialogue that draws players in. Video game programmers, who focus on coding, will also be presented with various career options, such as artificial intelligence programmer and graphics programmer.

Exploring this world could help learners grasp a working knowledge of computer languages as well, such as C+, C++, and Java. Thanks to the assortment of roles, there are a considerable amount of career advancement opportunities in the field of video game design.

How to Become a Video Game Engineer

Designing software programs for video games is a big component of what makes a project successful. Learners who are specifically interested in delving deeper into this realm can apply their skills in the workforce after becoming a video game engineer.

After completing a bachelor's degree program, which may include classes on design history and artificial intelligence, students can use their knowledge to navigate the industry. Becoming an engineer can be a great segue for those hoping to become developers as well. Those who pursue this career path may be able to do so without completing a degree but having a strong background knowledge is encouraged for anyone who wants to enter the professional workforce. However, earning a degree could increase the likelihood of employment as students look for opportunities upon graduation.

According to Salary.com, video game engineers can expect to make between $84,519 and $103,455. Various factors, such as years in the field and education, could ultimately be influential factors.

How to Become a Game Developer

As previously mentioned, becoming a game developer is an option for any interested parties looking to enter the world of video game creation in a meaningful way. Typically, these individuals work to move a game from a concept to a playable piece of content. Therefore, students may find themselves writing out ideas, designing layouts, and researching projects, rather than working with code, which is the job of video game programmers. Developers may be able to utilize their skillset across a range of specialties as they work to create each game, as stated by BLS.

Learners who hope to enter this profession will likely need to complete a bachelor's degree and gain real-world experience in the specific field in order to have a competitive edge in the job market. According to Payscale.com, the average salary for a video game developer is $60,000. Earning a master's or becoming certified in certain programming languages can also help anyone who wants to advance their career even further.

Financial Aid & Scholarship Information for Bachelor's in Game Design Degrees

The overall cost will likely play a role throughout the selection process for many students who have started thinking about their futures. Submitting a FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) application is an easy way to begin assessing potential assistance. Learners who are looking into federal financial aid will have to meet several requirements in order to qualify for help, such as possessing a valid Social Security Number and enrolling in an eligible program.

Throughout the process, both merit-based and need-based scholarships may arise, so seeking help or guidance from outside parties may prove to be beneficial. Counselors and officials working in your college or university's financial aid office could offer sound advice while making your final decisions. Additionally, seeking out various organizations in your chosen field may also provide unique opportunities and tailored assistance.

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