Game Design Universities and Colleges in the U.S.

Students interested in studying game design can learn about the technical and artistic concepts under pinning the creation of characters, animation, graphics and storyline for video and computer games. Programs award both undergraduate and graduate degrees.

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Game design programs combine studies in computer science and information technology with artistic concepts needed to design graphics and create animations. Students can earn an associate's, bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree in the field; certificate programs are also available.

10 Schools with Game Design Programs

These schools offer programs in video and computer game design or a closely relate field:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
University of Southern California Los, Angeles, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $50,277
University of Texas at Dallas Richardson, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral $10,864 in-state, $26,894 out-of-state
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $34,970
California College of the Arts San Francisco, CA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $43,708
University of California - Irvine Irvine, CA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $13,252 in-state, $37,960 out-of-state
Dakota State University Madison, SD 4-year, Public Bachelor's $7,974 in-state, $10,556 out-of-state
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $47,750
Southern Arkansas University Magnolia, AR 4-year, Public Bachelor's $7,961 in-state, $11,531 out-of-state
Christian Brothers University Memphis, TN 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $30,166
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $50,665

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics

College Selection Criteria

Students may want to keep these considerations in mind when choosing a program:

  • Students seeking an entry-level game design position might wish to consider degree programs that offer project-based classes so they can develop their portfolio.
  • Because game design is a competitive field that values practical experience, students should consider colleges and universities that offer game design internship and job placement programs.
  • Prospective students may want to look into the school's computer lab facilities, in order to ensure that they will gain experience with the most current game design technology.
  • When considering research-based PhD programs, prospective graduate students should make sure that there are faculty members at the school with research interests in game design who may act as dissertation advisors.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs in game design prepare students for entry-level jobs by introducing students to gaming programming and 2D and 3D animation. Students must also fulfill general education requirements. Over the course of these two-year programs, students develop a portfolio of work that can be presented to potential employers to demonstrate their skills.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs build on the introductory coursework included within associate's degree programs to provide more advanced coursework in both the technical underpinnings of game design, as well as the social, cultural and artistic aspects of the field. Some schools provide collaborative courses that prepare future game developers to work effectively in teams. Graduates are ready for jobs as game designers, or they may pursue careers in closely related areas of information technology, such as mobile software development or education software creation.

Master's Degree Programs

At the graduate level, there are Master of Science (MS) and Master of Fine Arts (MFA) programs in game design. In these programs, students take advanced programming courses and hone their artistic design skills. Prior to graduation from one of these two-year programs, students may be required to submit a final thesis project.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Even though it is not possible to earn a PhD specifically in game design, doctoral candidates may pursue studies in the subject through PhD programs in broader fields, such as Information and Media. These programs allow students to tailor their coursework based on their interests and conduct high-level research in a particular topic of interest, including the theoretical and technical aspects of game design.

Certificate Programs

Certificates in game design are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Undergraduate certificate programs typically provide a short series of introductory courses in the field, similar to associate's degree programs, but without the general education courses. Graduate certificate programs give experienced professionals the chance to boost their expertise in the field through advanced coursework in the field. At some schools, students can earn a certificate alongside a master's degree in a different field, such as computer science.

Game design careers need educated and experienced employees to work in this ever-growing field. Many private and public universities offer relevant programs.

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