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Why This Matters


    Through 2031, job opportunities in multimedia arts and animation are expected to increase 5%, adding 3,200 new positions. They include full-time, salaried, and self-employed spots.


    The median salary for those in the multimedia arts and animation field is $78,790, while the average salary for all art and design workers is just $48,220.


    From inception to distribution, the lifespan of a game opens dozens of opportunities for someone interested in game development, such as story writing, lead programming, audio techniques, and concept artistry.

Our Research

This list features some of the best game design degree programs at top colleges across the country. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for post-secondary institutions.

We evaluated each school’s program on tuition costs, admission, retention and graduation rates, faculty, and reputation as well as the student resources provided for on-campus students. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of game design degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like the U.S. News & World Report among others to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

The Top 49 Game Design Degree Programs

Best Game Design Degree Programs 2023
Intelligent Pick
University of Southern California
Best Student Support Services
NYU Game Center
Most Collaborative Program
Carnegie Mellon University
Best Fieldwork
Rochester Institute of Technology
Best for Graduate Students
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Most Versatile Program
Northeastern University
Best Alumni Network
Michigan State University
Best Technical Coursework
NC State Digital Games Initiative
Best Private Institution
Cornell University College of Arts & Sciences
Most Innovative Curriculum
University of Texas at Austin

Indiana University Bloomington

University of California at Irvine

Bradley University

University of California at Santa Cruz

Quinnipiac University

Marist College

DePaul University

American University

Drexel University

Laguna College of Art and Design

University of Wisconsin at Stout

University of Denver

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What You Should Know About This Degree

Though there are various roles in the field of game design, it’s important to consider that most of them require some sort of artistry background. Many people working in game development also have firsthand experience with games and illustration or drawing. One similar career path is a degree in craft and fine arts. This program focuses on physical materials and techniques for art. In contrast, a degree in a game design field, such as simulation or multimedia animation, adds a 3-D element to artistry.

The technical element of a degree in graphic design can slightly bridge the gap between fine arts and animation degrees. The median pay for a graphic designer in 2021 was $50,710 — this is roughly $25,000 less than the salary for graduates of a multimedia arts program such as game design.

For many positions in this career, an associate or bachelor’s degree is sufficient, with only top-level developers and directors choosing to pursue a master’s degree. Experience and a robust portfolio are much more valuable than a graduate degree. Internships and entry-level jobs might help. Additional skill sets, such as computer programming or drawing, can also give applicants an edge.

What’s Next?

The following are some questions to ask when researching game design degree programs:

  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? All programs on this list are offered on campus for individuals who prefer face-to-face instructions. Some institutions, however, such as Full Sail University, offer degrees entirely online. The online format allows students to submit assignments on a deadline instead of having to attend class at a specific time. That option might be ideal for students with other responsibilities, such as families or full-time jobs.
  • How long does it take to complete this online degree? Programs on this list range from 30 to 180 credit hours. The majority hover around 120 credit hours. This typically equates to about four academic years for a bachelor’s degree.

When researching programs, make sure to ask about which application materials you need to submit, such as proof of high school completion. Also ask about relevant deadlines for your chosen start date and potential tests or assessments that some art-based degrees may require.

Securing funding for your degree might seem daunting, but most schools offer financial aid to those who qualify. Look into state or federal grants, as well as private or public scholarships, to help offset costs.

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