With global esports revenue from games like Dota 2 and Fortnite surpassing $1 billion in 2019, it is now a fact that gaming is big business.
However, competitive gaming is not the only place it’s at, as from addictive mobile phone games to titles for various home consoles, gaming is everywhere, and where there is attention, there’s almost always money to be earned.
One of the most lucrative ways to position yourself to benefit from the growing gaming industry is to develop the creative and technical skills needed to create these titles. According to reports from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, game designers earn an average salary of $70,530, a figure that can shoot up drastically if you work on one of the significant popular gaming titles.
Furthermore, there is currently a sizable need for video game developers, artists, and designers, and with the rise of virtual reality games, the demand is set to blow up from here.
If you are ready to get started in this niche, an excellent way to position yourself for the best jobs in the space is with educational qualifications from top graduate and undergraduate game design programs.
Here are the 40 best game design colleges in the US, includes traditional university, game development colleges, and smaller specialty schools.
#40: San Francisco Art Institute
Thanks to this school’s heavy focus on creative and applied arts, students here can get one of the best background training in the artistic aspects of game design.
The options for aspiring game designers at this art institute include a bachelor of science in visual and Game programming or another BS in Game Art and Design. The former focuses almost exclusively on the creative aspects of game development, while the latter leans towards the more technical side of things.
#39: Woodbury University, Burbank, California
Woodbury University provides aspiring game designers with the perfect launchpad for their careers with the bachelor of fine arts program in Game Art and Design on offer at its school of design, media, and culture.
With this program, students can choose either a concentration in game design or game art, while receiving instruction in varied aspects of game development, including game narrative development, animation, and sound design.
#38: New York Film Academy, Los Angeles, California
One of the best places to learn animation and other creative aspects of game design is at the New York Film Academy. From their Los Angeles and South Beach campus, the Academy offers several programs in game design, including an AFA, BFA, and MFA.
The school also offers a non-degree program that lasts one year and is one of the best ways to launch into the world of game design swiftly.
#37: The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School, Orlando, Florida
You don’t need an unnecessarily long degree program to get starting in game design, and the 15-month game design program at The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School in Orlando is proof of that.
At this college, students can earn an advanced diploma in Game Production that instructs them in the basics of animation, game engine fundamentals, and other aspects of game production needed to set you on track the course to becoming a game designer.
#36: Otis College of Art and Design, Los Angeles, California
Otis College of Art and Design is one for the creatives, and their game design program echoes that sentiment. At Otis, students can earn a bachelor of art in digital media with a minor in Game and entertainment design that equips them with extensive knowledge on the artistic aspects of game development.
#35: Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York
The department of media studies and production at Marist College offers several game design degrees, including a bachelor of science in computer science with a minor in game design, a bachelor of art in media studies, and another in communication both with minors in game design and interactive media.
Graduate students can also enhance their game design portfolio here with a master of science in computer science or one in software development, both with a strong focus on programming and game design.
These degree programs school students in all aspects of game design, including game art and animation, virtual world development, concept art and illustration, visual effects, and 3D modeling.
#34: Cogswell College, San Jose, California
This promising college in San Jose offers students exciting game design programs that use a hands-on project-based learning system for all courses. At Cogswell, students can take programs in game development, game design, animation, and art.
Here students stay active throughout, with constant work on popular design software like ZBrush, Photoshop, and Maya.
#33: Lawrence Technological University, Southfield, Michigan
At the Lawrence Technological University, students can take either a creative-focus bachelor of arts in Game art or a more technically-minding bachelor of science in computer science with a minor in Game software development.
With over at least 80% of the university’s game design graduates finding relevant jobs by graduation day, every aspiring game designer should have this school on their shortlist.
#32: The Art Center College of Design, Pasadena, California
The Art Center College of Design hosts a bachelor of science program in entertainment design with the choice of entering a Track in concept design and animation. Here, you get a comprehensive curriculum that prides itself on being multidisciplinary and innovative.
A big plus with studying at this college, is the proximity of the school to significant game developers in Los Angeles, Santa Monica, and Orange County, giving students considerable access to network-building opportunities.
#31: George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
The computer game design program at George Mason University is an excellent way for any student to get a deep grounding in both the creative and technical aspects of game development. Here students can earn either a BFA or an MA in game design and development.
The computer game design program is hosted at the university’s college of visual and performing arts.
#30: Laguna College of Art and Design, Laguna Beach, California
One of the best ways to learn anything efficiently is to enter a close-knit environment where you can connect on an intimate level with both your colleagues and the faculty, and that is what you get at the Laguna College of Art and Design.
This tiny design college has a total population of only 500 students and one of the lowest student to faculty ratio of any game design school. Here, students can earn a BFA or MFA in game design with an optional concentration in 3D environments, 3D characters, or art.
#29: Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois
Bradley University’s department of interactive media is one of the top spots in the country for game design education. This college offers a series of degrees in the field, including a bachelor of arts in animation, a Bachelor of Science in interactive media, and a BA in game design.
Here, students can also minor in other aspects of game design that are relevant to their future careers.
#28: Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
The Interactive Media Program at Miami University in Ohio offers participants the chance to snag up degrees in the creative aspect of game design, including an MFA in experience design and a bachelor of art in interactive media.
With these majors, students can also minor in tracks like one in interactive business, game studies, arts interaction, or development.
#27: Gnomon School of Visual Effects, Los Angeles, California
For students who want to dive deep into game design and development, this small specialized school in Hollywood offers certificate programs in all aspects of game design. All programs here come with extensive hands-on experience with all the latest tech in the field, including software like Unreal Engine and Maya.
Programs available at Gnomon range from a 10-week Maya Fast Track course to an exhaustive three-year certificate in digital production and entertainment design.
#26: Academy of Art University, San Francisco, California
The school of game development at the Academy of art university offers some of the best hands-on game design programs in the country. Students at this college can complete either an associate of art, BFA, or an MFA in game development or a bachelor of science in game programming.
The Academy of Art University also has an online program in game development on offer.
#25: Cornell University, Ithaca, New York
Cornell’s Game Design Initiative produced one of the first game design degrees at an ivy league school, providing students with a shot at a game design degree with a heavy-hitting prestigious name on it.
At Cornell, students can take a game design minor as part of traditional majors in computer science, music, and art.
#24: University of California Irvine, Irvine, California
The Bachelor of Science program in computer game science on offer at the University of California Irvine, present aspiring game designers with a great platform to get a much-needed taste of the industry.
At UCI, students get access to coveted internship opportunities at industry makers like Blizzard Entertainment, Obsidian Entertainment, and Ready at Dawn.
#23: Becker College, Worcester, Massachusetts
At Becker College, you can snag a bachelor’s or associate degree in a broad range of fields across the game design industry. Students also get to benefit from the extensive industry partnerships the college has with giants in the space.
One of their most popular degree programs is the Bachelors in interactive media and design with up to five concentration options in game development and programming, game design, game production and management, game audio, and game arts.
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#22: University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
The school of engineering and applied science at the University of Pennsylvania is one of the best in class at training students for careers in Game graphics and animation. At UPenn, you get access to its SIG Center for Computer Graphics, a renowned state of the art lab, as well as some of the most prominent faculty and alumni members of any game design college.
Game design programs on offer at UPenn include several degrees in game development from minors to the doctorate level.
#21: Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Worcester, Massachusetts
At Worcester Polytechnic Institute, you can take either a master’s, Bachelor’s, or minor in interactive media and game development that uses a project-based approach to learning. Here, students can get abreast of the latest in Game design while creating projects for some of the industry giants.
In addition to the focus on game development, game design programs at Worcester also ground the student in the basics of other gaming disciplines like testing, programming, and project management.
#20: Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
If animation is your calling, few schools can do you better than Ringling College of Art and Design. This small Florida college has a reputation in the industry for producing some of the best animators in the business, including significant portions of the production crew for Disney’s Oscar-winning Frozen.
Ringling College offers a BFA in Game Art and Design under the watchful eyes of its award-winning faculty members and with access to state of the art labs, internships, and national competitions.
#19: DePaul University, Chicago, Illinois
At DePaul, their college of computing and digital media offers the perfect platform for aspiring game designers to launch their careers with either a bachelor’s or a master’s in computer game development.
All students get comprehensive practical experience by participating in the DePaul Game Experience competition, and from unlimited access to four gaming labs—a gameplay lab, a playtest and usability lab, an augmented reality lab, and one for research and development, throughout their program.
Furthermore, participants of their Master’s program can further specialize with concentrations like system programming, game design, or gameplay programming.#18: Parsons The New School for Design, New York City, New York
For students who want to major in Game storytelling and game media, one of the best options out there is Parsons The New School for Design. The college offers several programs that equip participants with interactive technologies and comprehensive storytelling techniques while practicing on bleeding edge game programming and computation software.
Degrees on offer here include a BFA and an MFA in design and technology with a focus on game storytelling, interaction technology, design practices, and emerging art.
#18: Edinboro University, Edinboro, Pennsylvania
This small university in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, offers one of the best programs for aspiring game designers in the country.
The department of Mathematics and Computer Science at this college hosts an undergraduate program in computer science with a minor in Game and Virtual World Development. This bachelor of science program instructs students in all aspects of game design, including game art and animation, concept art and illustration, visual effects, and 3D modeling.
#17: Columbia College Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
The school of media arts at Columbia College Chicago has an Interactive Arts and Media Department that is consistently at the bleeding edge of advancements in gaming technologies, from console games to app development, and virtual reality.
Consequently, programs on offer here, including Bachelor’s degrees in game design and programming, offer game design education that is on par with anything you can get elsewhere. These programs also involve opportunities for extensive real-world experiences via the school’s participation in events like the game developers conference and Chicago toy and game fair.
#16: Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio
From tiny Shawnee State University with less than 5,000 new students each year, comes one of the most technically advanced game design programs in the country. Here, students gain access to the best in class game simulation equipment at the school’s Motion Capture Studio Lab.
At Shawnee State, you can enter either the Bachelor of Science program in gaming engineering technology and digital simulation or a bachelor of fine arts in game design and simulation arts.
Shawnee State University game design programs are some of the best-performing programs in the country, with more than 80% of graduates gaining employment in relevant fields within six months.
#15: Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, Georgia
The dual game labs at the Georgia Institute of Technology—the Experimental Game Lab and Synesthetic Game Lab, offers some of the most hi-tech equipment you can get at any game design college in the country. Here, you get comprehensive schooling in practical game design via hands-on experiences throughout your program.
At this institute, students can choose from a range of programs that include a bachelor’s in computation media, and a master’s or doctorate in digital media.
#14: University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
The University of Central Florida’s gaming school, The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), provides students with an interactive, project-based curriculum that offers one of the most hands-on educational experiences you can get in the country.
Throughout their program, students team up into groups of artists, programmers, and producers to create real-world products under the guidance of the school’s renowned faculty members.
The University of Central Florida offers several game design programs, including undergraduate and graduate degrees in digital media and emerging media. With the graduate programs, participants can enter three different tracks: production, programming, or art.
#13: Champlain College, Burlington, Vermont
What sets Champlain College apart from other game design colleges is that you can get into the heat of game development faster than anywhere else. The school incorporates a unique inverted curriculum system that lets you take top-level design courses in your first year if you wish to fast track your game development progress.
If you want to get relevant game design skills as fast as possible, Champlain College is your best bet as you can gain significant progress in game development, narrative design, and level design in your first 12 months.
Champlain College offers four game design degrees, including one in mobile app development and another unique one in Game production management.
#12: University of California, Santa Cruz
Game design is a vast field with tens of sub-niches to choose from, and one of the best ways to increase your market value and prospects is to specialize. The University of California, Santa Cruz, offers one of the best platforms to do just that.
Few schools can match the portfolio of game design-related degrees available at UC Santa Cruz. Degrees on offer include an assortment of Bachelor’s, master’s, and doctorate programs in a handful of concentrations, including computer gaming design, games, and playable media, and game programming.
UCSC’s five game-related research labs also ensure that students get an extensive grounding in practical development work.
#11: Northeastern University, Boston, Massachusetts
At Northeastern University, the college’s prime location near the heart of the nation’s entertainment industry gives students an edge when it comes to entering the game design industry.
Thanks to the university’s partnership with top developers like Zynga, Tapwalk, Microsoft Game Studios, and Tencent Boston, participants of their programs get access to hands-on experiences with state of the art equipment and techniques during their stay here.
Northeastern University offers a wealth of options with six gaming-related programs, including a BS in game design and music, a BFA in Game art and animation, and an MS in Game science and design.
#10: Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
Since its inception in 2005, the game design and development program at Michigan State University has grown year after year, and many now consider it to be one of the premier game design institutions in the country.
Here students can partake in several different game-related programs with options available from undergraduate to doctorate levels. Throughout these programs, students get hands-on experience and active learning in current trends at update facilities in the university’s three gaming labs.
Thanks to its rigorous game design curricula, Michigan State is now extensively represented in the industry, with alumni working at giants like Rockstar San Diego, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Microsoft’s Xbox.
#9: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburg
The game development program at Carnegie Mellon University produces some of the best output in the country thanks to its comprehensive curriculum and the ultramodern facilities in its Entertainment Technology Center.
The ETC was created in 1998 as a joint effort between Carnegie Mellon’s school of computer science and the college of fine arts. At this center, students get instruction on topics like game programming, visual asset creation, character development, and interface design, while creating their active projects.
Game design programs on offer include a Master’s in Entertainment Technology, and a game design undergraduate minor for students from the schools of computer science and fine arts.
#8: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts
If you are more interested in the storytelling and character progression side of game design, MIT offers a killer program that will suit you perfectly. Here, you get to create your multidisciplinary program, drawing from crucial areas of study like psychology, design, programming, and business.
This custom bachelor’s and Master’s programs at MIT Game Lab offers students a great way to enter the gaming industry with a varied knowledge base that can be applied to several areas of game design and production.
#7: New York University, New York City, New York
The Tisch School of the Arts at New York University offers several programs in game design that provides a solid base for students of all levels. Options include a Bachelor’s and Master’s of fine art in game design and game design minor for other fine arts majors.
The curriculum for these programs includes in-depth instruction in game design, game studies, game development, and game history. Consequently, the classes on offer include comprehensive takes on production, design, and industry history.
However, the game design programs at New York University have a strong literary focus and will be ill-suited for students who aim to become active Game designers. The ideal market for these programs are students who aspire to advisory and regulatory roles in the industry.
#6: Drexel University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
To become a competent game designer in today’s fast-changing market, you need to master all of the latest development tools and design languages, and here, Drexel University excels. In their Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in game design, you get access to the bleeding edge game design technology and knowledge needed to start you at an advantage in the industry.
The programs, hosted at Westphal College of media arts and design, draws from both its digital media and computer science departments to give students a comprehensive education in game design, technology, programming, and development.
Consequently, Drexel University has produced prolific alumni that have gone on to win honors at competitions like Microsoft Imagine Cup and Adobe Achievement Awards.
#5: Savannah College of Art and Design, Atlanta, Georgia
Savannah College consistently ranks near the top of any college list thanks to its top tier varied game design programs, its state of the art facilities, extensive connection with top companies and industry professionals, and for it superior production output.
Game titles from Savannah College often rank highly at the E3 College Gaming Competition, and the school’s products have won the competition on several occasions.
At Savannah College, available game design programs include Bachelor and master of fine arts degrees in game development and interactive design, and a bachelor of arts in digital media. Plus, all three degrees have online options for increased convenience.
#4: Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, New York
Few schools can match the rigor of the game design program at the Rochester Institute of Technology. With over 150 classes completed yearly in their bachelor’s and master’s degree programs for game making and development, Rochester Institute offers students some of the most comprehensive schoolings they will get anywhere.
Furthermore, the college boasts a wealth of up to date facilities to enable relevant practical knowledge for all students of their programs. Rochester Institute of Technology is also the host of the Global Game Jam program that fosters game development and industry networking among students.
#3: University of Southern California, Los Angeles, California
USC’s location at the heart of the entertainment industry gives its students a significant practical learning advantage in its game design courses. Here, participants receive unmatched hands-on guidance from active professional game designers, complementing their rigorous curricula to create some of the best game design programs.
The college handles their game design courses through active learning courses at their school of cinematic arts, for students with a focus on design and production, and their school of engineering for participants with a more technical concentration.
Students can choose two bachelor’s or two master’s programs in either Interactive Media and Games or Computer science with a gaming minor.
#2: the University of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah
One way you to ensure you are getting up-to-date practical training in game design is to attend a college with close ties to an active industry leader, and the University of Utah offers precisely that.
The university sits in the same town as prolific game developers EA Sports, and their strong relationship ensures that students of their entertainment arts and engineering degrees get access to relevant knowledge and state of the art game design facilities.
The course at Utah focuses heavily on active learning, with students gaining access to EA studios and crucial internship opportunities, as well as complete a personal game design project before graduation.
The University of Utah offers master’s and bachelor’s programs in entertainment arts and engineering
#1: DigiPen Institute of Technology, Redmond, Washington
There is nowhere better to prepare for a fulfilling game design career than at the DigiPen Institute of Technology, a highly technical college with considerable backing from Nintendo, one of the world’s most prominent game developers.
At DigiPen, their Bachelor’s in computer science and game design instructs students in all of the technical aspects of interactive systems, including game mechanics, 3D and 2D model, and scripting languages.
Furthermore, participants of the program also enjoy comprehensive coverage of other soft aspects of game design like psychology, communications, and user experience, to help them become complete designers that can hold their own anywhere in the industry.