Best Game Design Schools Online & On-Campus
Video games used to be seen as child’s play, but that was never the case. The people behind the scenes of gaming need knowledge, skills, and creativity to produce all video games. Online learning is the wave of the future for learning how to create these games. It is getting easier and easier to take classes online. It is a great way to allow students to create their own schedules and paces. Online game design schools are no exception. They are ideal for students with children, jobs, or anything else that doesn’t allow for the traditional college schedule.
When seeking an online Bachelor’s degree in game design, it is important to look at the different areas of design and decide which one you think will fit your interests the best. There are a plethora of responsibilities and skill sets necessary within the gaming world. Game designers can specialize in gaming apps for PCs or mobile devices. They may need to learn design skills for AAA game franchises that create games for gaming consoles. Game designers may need to specialize in game language translation, game program mechanics, video graphics design, and the list goes on. All these needs in the industry can be fulfilled by online game design schools who offer courses and guidance for students in these areas.
Online game design schools look for students who already have an interest in the blending of creativity, art, and technology. Be sure, before you begin, that the school is accredited by visiting the US Department of Education where you can search by the school name or specialty.
Students can take online classes that build their creative capabilities and earn them a certificate, associate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s level degree. All courses are taught by experienced instructors who can help you on your way to a playful career in game design.
Online Game Design and Career Fast Facts
- Top-paying game design companies = 1. Valve Corporation ($119, 735-$131,205), 2. Microsoft Corporation ($101,078 – $119,525), 3. Naughty Dog Inc ($60,960 – $147,320)
- Best cities for game designers = 1. Montreal, 2. Austin, 3. Toronto
- Salary range (2019) = $37,421 to $100,830
- Tuition and fees range = $7,000 to $40,000 (per year, depending on degree earned)
EDsmart assesses online game design programs based on data that covers four main areas:
- Cost (average net price)
- Academic quality (graduation rate)
- Student satisfaction (retention rate)
- Salary After Attending (the median earnings of former students who received federal financial aid, at 10 years after entering the school)
This ranking aims to help students assess the affordability and value of top online game design schools so they can make informed decisions about which college to attend.
Best Game Design Schools Online & On-Campus
1. University of California-Irvine
Average Net Price: $13,376
Retention Rate: 93%
Graduation Rate: 86%
Salary After Attending: $58,400
The University of California-Irvine offers the highest post-attendance salary and the highest retention and graduation rates in the nation
UC Irvine offers a major of Computer Game Science major with a focus on the areas of understanding, designing and building computer games along with other media. Computer science and information serve as the baseline of academic study, along with physics, media studies, film, math, and statistics. These subjects are necessary before the completion of your degree.
When you finish your study, you will graduate with a bachelor of science in Computer Game Studies via the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences. You will get some hands-on experience as you work your way through the curriculum. UCI ranks No. Three in California and No. 17 nationally alongside other universities that offer similar degree programs. The degrees available through this schooling include Computer Game Science and Computer Science, along with a minor in Digital Arts. Upon graduation, job opportunities open up for you to apply in. These positions include game design, software engineering, and programming.
2. University of Texas-Dallas
Average Net Price: $14,763
Retention Rate: 87%
Graduation Rate: 68%
Salary After Attending: $53,100
The Dallas Campus of the University of Texas offers a comprehensive study via the Game Development and Design Program. It is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program for you to study through the Computer Science and Arts and Entertainment Technologies departments. You will develop skillsets within your chosen degree program. Combined with hands-on experience, you will have time to work with local organizations and game and mobile studios that evaluate student portfolios regularly before hiring graduates.
Students are awarded a bachelor’s of science complete their studies through UT’s GDD/Arts and Technology program. Job opportunities will open up for positions that involve game design. The Princeton Review recently recognized UT Dallas as one of the top 25 schools for game design and ranked at No. 21.
3. California State University-Monterey Bay
Average Net Price: $11,167
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 58%
Salary After Attending: $44,800
CSU offers the second most affordable online game design degree program on our list.
CSU has developed a reputation for generating graduates that are problem solvers. By studying under the university’s Game Research Lab, students do very technical coursework. Courses involve classes such as photography, web design, and visual design as part of the game development process. CSU’s concentrations lie in data science, game development, and software engineering since they are an integral facet of computer science studies. By getting a bachelor’s in Computer Science, you’ll be able to compete with your peers in industries that revolve around computing technology.
Courses such as Calculus I & II and the Computer Science Capstone are part of your degree completion. You’ll be able to choose from electives such as Internet Programming, Database Systems, Data Science, and Graphics Programming as choices during your study. CSU ranks at No. 34 as one of the best regional colleges on the West Coast.
4. Lewis University
Average Net Price: $19,793
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 64%
Salary After Attending: $48,800
A private Lasallian and Catholic university based in Romeoville, IL, Lewis University has a Game and Simulation Program that concentrates on coursework involving specific sciences. Classes include artificial intelligence, computer science, mobile applications development and engineering courses that revolve around networks, software and security. Game and Simulation Programming is one of the seven concentrations under Computer Science where coursework is similar to other game programming studies.
Lewis University ranks at No. 77 for in the Best Catholic Colleges in America category.
5. DePaul University
Average Net Price: $30,502
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 72%
Salary After Attending: $53,300
Like Lewis University, DePaul University is another private Catholic university based in Chicago, IL. DePaul offers students a game design program that teaches the details and fundamentals of game design. This program will help prepare you for work that ties with the interactive media and computer gaming fields. You will also get the opportunity to collaborate with teams of creatives that consist of writers, audio designers, artists, and programmers during your study. You’ll also learn about the entire game development cycle from the initial idea to prototyping, documentation, implementation, and testing.
Some of the classes required as part of your study include animation, game sound design, programming, and scripting for games. The campus offers four gaming labs for you to study at: the gameplay lab, the augmented reality lab, the playtest and usability lab, and the development and research lab.
DePaul University is ranked No. 17 among the Best Catholic Colleges in America as well as No. 10 of the best schools that offer quality information technology programs.
6. Saint Edwards University
Average Net Price: $22,968
Retention Rate: 80%
Graduation Rate: 64%
Salary After Attending: $46,500
Based in Austin, TX, Saint Edwards is a private Catholic university that offers a game design program where students get the chance to learn about video game development. Courses learned from the university leads to a BA in Video Game Development. Major courses include Interactive Storytelling, Introduction to Game Audio and Game Design Studio I are part of the curriculum. Large and indie developers alike such as Electronic Arts, Blizzard Entertainment, NCSoft, and Aspyr Media hire graduates from the university.
The school currently ranks No. 54 in Best Catholic Colleges in America and is the third-largest hub of game development in the country.
7. Fitchburg State University
Average Net Price: $16,009
Retention Rate: 76%
Graduation Rate: 57%
Salary After Attending: $45,700
Located in Massachusetts, Fitchburg State offers prospective students a chance to earn a major in Game Design. It is the first program of its kind of any public institution based in the Northeast US. It is also available to you as a minor program if you are studying a different major on your path to a job in game design. The university offers unique opportunities for students to learn abroad about the gaming industry. In 2018, at least 18 students were chosen to study at specific companies in Japan and learn firsthand how the video game industry makes quality games.
You will learn concepts that pertain to visual art and game design, as well as the foundation of game programming and logic. FSU is known to be one of the best colleges in the nation that delivers value for your money, and as such is ranked at No. 43 for Best Value Colleges.
8. Abilene Christian University
Average Net Price: $26,037
Retention Rate: 76%
Graduation Rate: 62%
Salary After Attending: $43,000
A private Christian university based in Abilene, TX, the institute’s founding dates back to 1906 as the Childers Classical Institute. It offers game design via the Digital Entertainment Technology program. The program places a focus on graduates to create digital content that includes apps, movies, and video games as part of the coursework. The program splits off into three specific tracks: Game Development, Film and Media Production, and Digital Design. The number of hours required for each track will vary based on which one you chose for yourself,
ACU is on the No. 63 position for being one of the best design colleges available to students in America.
9. Lindenwood University
Average Net Price: $17,548
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 50%
Salary After Attending: $41,300
LU Is a private liberal arts institution that centered in Saint Charles, MO. An accelerated online study program students at the university where they will be able to earn credits at a faster pace compared to the conventional 4-year route. The university offers a bachelor of arts degree via the Game Design program. You will get a chance to study subjects via the online environment or a hybrid environment, which combines online and in-person classroom instruction. Some of the significant coursework that is involved include concept design, game development, and 3D animation.
Students that graduate from Lindenwood University typically start with a $58k average salary. You’ll be able to take on different professions such as game artist, game designer, or game programmer. Other jobs such as concept artist, modeler, engine programmer, art director, and audio programmer are also available avenues for you to take when you graduate. Lindenwood ranks at the No. 25 spot as one of the Best Value Colleges in Missouri.
10. University of Baltimore
Average Net Price: $21,329
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 35%
Salary After Attending: $58,000
Centered in downtown Baltimore, MD, the University of Baltimore is a public university that is part of the city’s university system. Like other universities, the school offers a game design program that emphasizes the creative aspect of game development. The program was founded in 2003 and listed as the most significant and oldest game design program available within the state. UB’s hybrid Simulation and Game Design program allows students to take classes online and on-campus. Game development studies at the university split between two specific disciplines: Technical Art and Coding/Development. These two disciplines are similar to other game design programs across the country, where the focus of each area will be on subjects revolving around specific courses. These include coding, mathematics, information technology, and art creation.
The university ranks at No. 6 for top public universities that are available within the state.
11. Savannah College of Art and Design
Average Net Price: $40,694
Retention Rate: 84%
Graduation Rate: 66%
Salary After Attending: $36,400
SCAD is a private, non-profit university that offers a comprehensive course of study through the Interactive Design and Game Development program. You will be able to leverage the experience of the professors that work on the campus grounds. Not only are there degree programs offered in Savannah and Atlanta, they include students who live as far as Hong Kong.
The school gained notoriety where its program won the top prize at the E3 College Game Competition two years in a row. Savannah College also earned college recognition in the Animation Career Review and The Princeton Review.
12. Dakota State University
Average Net Price: $16,940
Retention Rate: 72%
Graduation Rate: 38%
Salary After Attending: $38,700
Madison, South Dakota is home to DSU. The public university’s founding dates back to 1881 as a teacher training school. Today, it offers would-be learners the chance to learn about gaming design through its Game Design program. Students will be learning very extensively about the history of gaming. The course of study revolves around the scientific and technical aspects of game design. One of the cool things that you can do while working as a student at DSU is that you’ll be able to participate in numerous clubs. These clubs include the E-Sports Club, the Gaming Club, and the Game Design Club as part of your learning. Communication and teamwork will be some of the skills you will learn as you develop your competencies before graduating from university.
Quantum Entanglement Entertainment created a video called “Quantum Tunnel” that explained why The Princeton Review recognized the university’s program in 2018.
13. Liberty University
Average Net Price: $27,573
Retention Rate: 83%
Graduation Rate: 49%
Salary After Attending: $36,700
Liberty University is a private university whose home is in Lynchburg, VA. Studying through Liberty’s Game Design program will culminate with a Game Design degree upon completion of the coursework. Like many of its sister universities across the country, Liberty’s mission is to help its students succeed in the courses necessary to start their careers within the gaming industry. Students who manage to complete the essential requirements will graduate with a BS degree in Information Technology – Gaming Design.
Liberty University ranks at the No. 2 spot for Best Online Colleges in America. The university has also gained recognition from AffordableColleges.com as the No. 1 most affordable online bachelor’s degree program for game design and recognized as a top 10 school with one of the best online programs by BestColleges.com.
14. Southwestern College
Average Net Price: $22,291
Retention Rate: 61%
Graduation Rate: 39%
Salary After Attending: $46,400
Situated in Chula Vista in California, Southwestern College services nearly 19,000 students. Gaming design falls under the public university’s Computer Science/Digital Arts program. Its affordable price points lie in its nature as a community college, where it serves as a counterpoint to some of the more dollar-heavy colleges on this listing. The program offers up to a $5k grant for students that are interested in studying one of the three disciplines that are under the program: Digital Arts, Computer Science, and Game Development. Both major and minor degrees are offered through the program and align with elements of the Communications major.
Southwestern University ranks at No. 124 as one of the best colleges in the Midwest region.
15. Southern Arkansas University
Average Net Price: $12,778
Retention Rate: 66%
Graduation Rate: 36%
Salary After Attending: $35,700
SAU ranks as one of the most prestigious public universities in Arkansas. Based in Magnolia, the school offers game design through its Game and Animation Design program. It provides one of the most affordable and competitive avenues to get a quality education in the country. The learning environment is family-like, and students work closely together alongside their professors. SAU’s coursework offers you a conduit in which you will learn game design through examples of development processes and coding languages. The lessons learned from these two subjects culminate into a satisfying experience for all parties involved.
Southern Arkansas University ranks at No. 736 as one of the colleges with the best professors in America.
16. Wilmington University
Average Net Price: $14,600
Retention Rate: 62%
Graduation Rate: 29%
Salary After Attending: $42,500
Wilmington University is primarily a private, non-profit doctoral research school in New Castle, DE. WU gives you a robust program via the Game Design and Development program and is, in fact, one of the only institutions that offer this program in their part of the United States. The curriculum involves extensive study where you will be able to earn a BS degree in Game Design and Development. Throughout the first year, the school teaches students concepts that are available through five paths. These paths then branch off to game design, video and film, graphic design, and other core courses necessary for graduation.
Wilmington University’s study program delivers value to those that learn through it, and as such is recognized as No. 3 for Best Value Colleges in Delaware.
17. Laguna College of Art and Design
Average Net Price: $36,095
Retention Rate: 85%
Graduation Rate: 49%
Salary After Attending: $32,900
The Laguna College of Art and Design’s home lies in Laguna Beach, CA. It is a private college that offers Game Art as part of the school curriculum for game design. The school is a partner with significant industry publishers including Walt Disney Animation Studios, Obsidian Entertainment, and Riot Games.
The school’s Game Art program offers you a chance to team up with professors who have working experience in the game design industry. You will develop your foundation in the program through a series of projects where you’ll gain the necessary skills required to succeed in the game design world.
Laguna College of Art and Design ranks at No. 13 in the category of Best Colleges for Design.
18. University of Advancing Technology
Average Net Price: $19,713
Retention Rate: 57%
Graduation Rate: 21%
Salary After Attending: $46,400
The University of Advancing Technology is a private for-profit institution located in Tempe, AZ. As suggested in the school’s title, technology is a part of UAT’s general education requirements. The university has a Game Design program where prospective students get the opportunity to graduate with a BA degree in Game Design. Other degrees that are available through the program include Game Art and Animation as well as Game Programming. Both disciplines are highly specialized fields of study where you will have to choose carefully as to which one you want to opt for.
The GAA degree focuses on the artistic aspects of game design, while Game Programming teaches students to develop code for PC, console, mobile, and web-based games. C++ programming, DirectX/Open GL development, artificial intelligence, interactive storytelling, and interface design are concepts you’ll be learning through these two programs. Students have been known to graduate with dual degrees based on the prolific nature of the programs taught at this school.
19. Davenport University
Average Net Price: $16,972
Retention Rate: 70%
Graduation Rate: 43%
Salary After Attending: $30,700
DU is another private university with multiple campuses spread across Michigan. Gaming development falls under the Computer Science curriculum, where you’ll be able to study gaming, simulation, and artificial intelligence. The course load engages students with numerous subjects, including game theory, 3D and 2D development, simulation, and modeling. Students learn across multiple projects that involve application specs, prototyping, design, implementation, and documentation before the release of the final product. Davenport offers you course credit for any certifications that you may have. These include Security +, Microsoft Office: Word, Cisco Network Administrator Security, and other industry-level certifications.
Davenport ranks at No. 420 as one of the best business schools in America.
20. Middle Georgia State University
Average Net Price: $9,743
Retention Rate: 67%
Graduation Rate: 18%
Salary After Attending: $31,500
Middle Georgia State University offers the most affordable online game design degree program on our list.
Centered in Macon, GA, Middle Georgia State University is a public university that spread across five campuses within the state. The school offers a game design program via the Integrated Media and Game Design program via MGSU’s School of Computing. This school falls under the purview of the institution’s information technology, where it branches off into multiple disciplines. In addition to the standard mathematics courses that are part of the IT curriculum, the Game Design concentration teaches you about digital media and game design. They also instruct students about development, 3D modeling, and animation as well as graphic imaging. You will also learn about specialized topics in the IT field and computational intelligence as optional electives during your studies. When you graduate from university, you leave with a BS degree in this concentration.
MGSU has a relatively high acceptance rate and ranks at No. 55 as one of the best regional colleges in the country.
21. Academy of Art University
Average Net Price: $33,012
Retention Rate: 73%
Graduation Rate: 38%
Salary After Attending: $38,600
Formerly know as the Academy of Art College, Academy of Art University is a private, for-profit school located in San Francisco, CA. Game Development and Game Programming are offered to you by the university as your choices for game design studies. The coursework between these two specific disciplines open up opportunities for you to study under experienced instructors and avenues to jobs that pay reasonable salaries. Classes involve animation, 3D modeling, programming, and UI/UX design that helps develop skills for your future professions. These professions include concept artist, gameplay or systems programmer, or a game designer. All of these positions offer work that is rewarding for aspiring creatives within the game design world.
Some of the significant gaming development publishers centered within the state include Crystal Dynamics, Blizzard Entertainment, Rockstar Games, Sledgehammer Games, and Electronic Arts.
22. Southern New Hampshire University
Average Net Price: $40,617
Retention Rate: 55%
Graduation Rate: 53%
Salary After Attending: $45,400
SNHU is a private university situated between Hooksett and Manchester, NH and has a high acceptance rate. SNHU offers a comprehensive game design program that branches off between two specific concentrations: Game Programming and Development (BS) and Game Art and Development (BA). The course studies that revolve between the two disciplines include digital painting, 3D mesh topology, 3D modeling, software applications, artificial intelligence, and engineering as part of the coursework.
By choosing one of these two disciplines, you’ll open up a path for yourself to industries that have jobs which support what you’ve studied through your coursework.
23. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Average Net Price: $23,198
Retention Rate: 56%
Graduation Rate: 47%
Salary After Attending: $33,000
The Game Art program at Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design merges artistic and technical coursework that revolves around a combination of functional, computer, and analytical skills. The skills learned from their classes serves as the foundation of game design. You’ll learn much about the artistic side of the house, with level design, copyrights, and business ethics, as well as visual storytelling within the frame of your coursework. The online learning program is perhaps one of the most flexible environments offered in any part of the country. Through this environment, you’ll be able to get a solid grasp of the concepts involved to develop the necessary competencies to succeed.
When you graduate, you’ll get a bachelor of arts degree in Game Design.
24. Franklin University
Average Net Price: $24,692
Retention Rate: 33%
Graduation Rate: 10%
Salary After Attending: $48,500
Based in Columbus, OH, Franklin University is a private institution whose founding dates back to 1902. It has a population who conduct their studies via online programs. The game design studies fall under Franklin University’s Interactive Media program, where you’ll be able to earn a bachelor’s of science degree. You’ll be able to learn about the technical and non-technical aspects of the program through a project-based curriculum. The course of study opens up a path to a variety of artistic, technical and managerial career paths for those who graduate from the university.
Franklin University ranks at No. 10 as one of the most focused school programs across the country.
25. Columbia College Chicago
Average Net Price: $31,597
Retention Rate: 68%
Graduation Rate: 44%
Salary After Attending: $34,400
Chicago is home to Columbia College, where students can come to study for the Game Design major. There are numerous gaming classes offered at Columbia, where you get the opportunity to develop skills. Over time, these skills will help you to create innovative games in terms of the gameplay experience and narrative while advancing it as an art form. The Game Design major allows you to choose one of two specific disciplines: Sound Design or Game Development.
26. Baker College
Average Net Price: $12,871
Retention Rate: 47%
Graduation Rate: 14%
Salary After Attending: $27,200
Headquartered in Flint, MI, Baker College prides itself as a large, non-profit university that offers quality education in the game design world across multiple campuses within the state. Baker College is a private school that provides an online study program with one of the most affordable tuition rates in Michigan. Students will get a chance to study and get a bachelor’s degree in Game Software Development. The coursework involves disciplines that emphasize game development and animation, as well as giving students such as yourself a chance to learn about current programming technologies. You will also learn about the game development process from creation to the final product as it hits the market.
Game design programs offer unique opportunities for students looking to design new interactive games for education and entertainment. This specific listing of colleges is not all-inclusive, so talk to your school counselors to find out which of these schools best suits your needs and interests. There are many financial aid packages offered by the schools to help ease the costs so that you’ll be able to tend to your studies unhindered by expenses.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov)