The video game industry isn’t just booming; it’s expanding in all directions, beyond entertainment into education, therapy, medicine, employment training, and even warfare. With game design and development touching so many industries, professionals and aspiring professionals alike are forced to up their game on the job market. Because many people begin their game development careers without a lot of formal schools – with associate’s degrees and certifications, for instance – for many looking to take their career to the next level, the first step is a bachelor’s degree.
An online game development degree could be the best choice for people already working in some area of the video game industry – low-level programmers or designers who want a bachelor’s degree to increase their skills or advance in their career, for instance. That’s what makes a bachelor’s completion program attractive for someone with just an associate’s in computer science, or certifications in some game design skill. To find the best online degree in game design and development is often a career investment, look no further than Bachelor’s Degree Center.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Game Design Degree Online
To rank the Bachelor’s Degree Center 15 Best Online Game Design Degree Bachelor’s Programs, BDC editors made a thorough sweep of all accredited fully online and hybrid game design programs out there. From there, we subjected all of the available programs to our five criteria points: Cost, Graduation Rate, Job Placement, Reputation, and Return on Investment (using average alumni salary). Data was drawn from College Scorecard, IPEDS, and Niche.
1. George Mason University
George Mason University’s online BFA in Computer Game Design is an offering from the College of Visual and Performing Arts. George Mason’s game development degree requires the completion of 120 credit units that cover the school’s core curriculum plus related fields of art, computer science, imaging, game design, humanities, and music. The school hosts a Serious Game Institute (the only in the US) that encourages new game innovation and game theory applied research. George Mason requires
George Mason University was established in 1949 as a branch of the University of Virginia. The founder, George Mason, authored the Virginia Declaration of Rights – a prelude to the United States’ Constitution’s Bill of Rights. The school operates with four campuses in Arlington, Prince William and Front Royal VA, and South Korea. George Mason’s student enrollment exceeds 24,000.
Degree: BFA in Computer Game Design
2. University of Cincinnati
The University of Cincinnati’s BS in Information Technology-Game Development & Simulation degree program provides students a broad foundation of knowledge in networks, software development, database management, audio/video support, and cybersecurity, among others. The Game Development/Simulation design degree online prepares students for the many facets of game design — visualization, storytelling, testing, debugging and distribution. The University of Cincinnati requires each degree candidate to complete a Senior Project for the game development degree in the form of a completely new game ready for publishing.
The University of Cincinnati was established in 1819 and is the oldest school in the city of Cincinnati. UC is a member school of the University of Ohio system. Its main campus covers more than 200 acres. With more than 44,000 students, the University of Cincinnati is the next to the largest institution of higher learning in the state.
Degree: BS in Information Technology – Game Development and Simulation
3. University of Baltimore
The Yale Gordon College of Arts & Sciences offers the University of Baltimore’s BS in Simulation & Game Design. Coursework includes computer programming, usability design, and testing, multiplayer game options, 3D animation game theory, and strategy. Each student explores the University of Baltimore’s Game-Lab and ultimately creates is a capstone project to graduate. UB awards numerous scholarship each year; students are encouraged to apply for eligibility.
The University of Baltimore was established in 1925. UB is a member school of the University System of Maryland. This institution of higher learning operates with several colleges and schools – the College of Public Affairs, the School of Law, the Merrick School of Business, and the Yale Gordon College of Arts and Sciences. The University of Baltimore’s midtown Baltimore campus is home to nearly 4,900 graduate and undergraduate students.
Degree: BS in Simulation & Game Design
4. Lewis University
Lewis University’s online Bachelor of Computer Science degree program in Game and Simulation Programming is one of the top programs available online. Students graduating from Lewis’ game development degree program are prepared for rewarding careers designing and developing exceptional simulations and games for entertainment and education purposes. Coursework includes Operating Systems, Digital Forensics, Cloud Computing, Encryption, and Machine Learning, among many more.
The Archdiocese of Chicago established Lewis University in 1932. Lew University is affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church and offers more than 100 programs at the undergraduate, graduate and work adult levels. Regularly ranked one of the top regional colleges in the Midwest, Lewis is making its name with top-ranked online programs as well. The school is organized into five schools/colleges — the School of Professional/Continuing Education, Arts & Sciences, Business, Education, and Health Professionals & Nursing.
Degree: BS in Computer Science – Game and Simulation Programming
5. Lindenwood University
The BA in Game Design program at Lindenwood University’s School of Arts, Media & Communication has been recognized among the best online baccalaureate programs in video game design. Students at Lindenwood University can opt to complete the game development degree using a hybrid format. Students graduate prepared for rewarding careers in the game studio environment. Coursework includes aesthetics, usability, storytelling, and character growth. The degree program is a great step towards a career as an art director, writer, programmer, or an audio engineer/programmer.
Lindenwood University was established in 1827 and holds the distinction of being the 2nd oldest school built west of the Mississippi River. Lindenwood University is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church. The school’s 500+-acre main urban campus is home to more than 8,500 students and about 25 miles from downtown St. Louis.
Degree: BA in Game Design
6. University of Advancing Technology
The University of Advancing Technology’s online Bachelor of Arts in Game Design program is regularly recognized as among the top game design schools, offering Higher Learning Commission accredited online game design degree programs. UAT’s game design degree online offers three specialties in Online Game Programming, Online Game Design, and Online Game Art & Animation. UAT’s game development degree requires the completion of 120 credit hours and courses are offered on an ongoing basis online.
The University of Advancing Technology was established in 1983 and initially known as CAD Institute. The school was created to educate engineers and architects in what was then an emerging field of computer-aided design. UAT and DeMontfort University in the United Kingdom partner in a student exchange program. The schools Network Security coursework has been certified by the US Security Agency’s IACE program.
Degree: BA in Game Design
7. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University’s game development degree programs include a BA in Game Art & Development and a BS in Game Programming & Development degree program available entirely online. Each game development degree prepares students for careers in game development, software design, simulation and animation, and video game development. Southern New Hampshire University offers income students a generous transfer policy – up to 90 credits. SNHU’s game design program prepares graduates to identify, create and implement complete a variety of game projects. Each program’s coursework, accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering & Technology) requires the completion of 120 credit units.
Southern New Hampshire University was established in 1932 as a business school. The school’s current 300-acre suburban campus runs alongside the Merrimack River in northern Manchester, NH. SNHU acquired the human services program in 1978 when Fraconia College closed. While SNHU has a huge online presence, they also have several campuses in New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maine.
Degree: BS in Game Programming & Development or BA in Game Art & Development
8. Davenport University
The Maine College of Business/College of Technology offers Davenport University’s BS in Computer Science degree program in Gaming and Simulation. Davenport University’s game development degree requires degree candidates to select from among three specialty tracks – Computer Architecture & Algorithms, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Gaming & Simulation. Each specialty path requires the completion of 120 credit hours. Coursework includes Programming, C#, Computer Development, Discrete Math/Structures, and Project Management, among others. Davenport University’s game design degree program is available online and on-campus.
Davenport University was established in 1866. The school operates throughout the state of Michigan as with several campuses and an online presence. The main campus in Grand Rapids covers nearly 70 acres and is home to nearly 7,300 students. Davenport University is organized with the following colleges – Business, Urban Education, Arts & Sciences, Technology, and Health Professions.
Degree: BS in Computer Science – Gaming and Simulation
9. Franklin University
Franklin University offers a BS in Interactive Media Design (IMC) with a project-based curriculum. Franklin University’s game development degree requires the completion of a capstone project and 120 credit hours. Franklin University offers incoming students a generous transfer credit policy. Franklin’s game design degree online explores both the technical and non-technical facets of game design and development. Degree graduates explore the world of interactive game design — using new & existing software, and programming languages. Students graduate ready for a rewarding career in the game design industry – delivering interactive, mobile game solutions.
Franklin University was established in 1902 as an educational facility with a primary focus on the adult student. The first classes at Franklin University were held at a YMCA in Columbus, OH. In addition to its online presence, Franklin University’s 25 campuses are located throughout the country’s mid-western section in the states of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.
Degree: BS in Interactive Media Design
10. Liberty University
Liberty University’s BS in Information Technology-Gaming Design can be completed entirely online. LU’s game development degree requires the completion of 120 credit units, which on average, is completed in 30 months. Liberty University offers income students a generous transfer policy, which allows for up to 75 credits to be transferred. Liberty University’s game design degree online has been recognized as one of the top programs of its kind.
Liberty University is a nonprofit institution of higher learning affiliated with the Evangelical Christian Faith. By enrollment size, Liberty University is recognized as one of the country’s largest, nonprofit schools. LU’s 7,000-acre suburban campus is home to about 15,000 studying at the Lynchburg campus and another 90,000+ students enrolled in distance learning, making Liberty one of the most prolific online educators in the world.
Degree: BS in Information Technology – Gaming Design
11. Savannah College of Art and Design
The Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) BS in Digital Media or BFA in Interactive Design & Game Development can be completed entirely online. Each game development degree requires the completion of 180 credit units. Coursework prepares graduates for rewarding careers as an interactive designer, a textural artist, Mobile game designer, and Environment artist, among others. The Savannah College of Art and Design’s elearning platform is available every day, all day — with technical support always available.
The Savannah College of Art and Design was established in 1978. SCAD is a private, accredited institution of higher learning with two locations in Georgia and two others in France and Hong Kong. The school’s numerous campuses are home to more than 12,900 students and nearly 2,000 staff and faculty. SCAD is organized among eight schools, Communication Arts, Building Arts, Fashion, Design, Fine Arts, Liberal Arts, Foundation Studies, Digital Arts and Entertainment Arts.
Degree: BA in Digital Media or BFA in Interactive Design and Game Development
12. Rasmussen College
Rasmussen College’s BA in Graphic Design – Animation & Motion Graphics prepares students to integrate technological skills with creativity in the realm of game design and development. Graduates enter the gaming industry with an existing portfolio, ready for the certification pursuit. Rasmussen College’s game development degree coursework also readies students to sit for an Adobe Certification examination. Applicants are not required to submit any standardized testing scores for acceptance to the program.
Rasmussen College was established in 1900, initially as a school dedicated to business education. Rasmussen College is an accredited for-profit institution of higher learning with campuses in Kansas, Florida, Minnesota, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Rasmussen’s student enrollment exceeds 13,500 students across the school’s multi-state campuses. The school’s 7 colleges/schools offer degree programs in more than 70 topics and subjects.
Degree: BA in Graphic Design – Animation and Motion Graphics
13. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design offers a BFA in Game Art degree that is available entirely online. RMCAD’s game design degree online program requires the completion of 123 credit hours. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design’s curriculum intuitively integrates the disciplines of technology and mechanics with artistry and design. RMCAD’s distance learning platform offers a flexible learning experience, including a seamless communication platform between each student and the school faculty. The game design program prepares students for careers as animators, lighting specialists, Modelers, and Concept Artists.
Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design was established in 1963 in Lakewood, Co, a suburban location in the Denver metropolitan area. The school has an established online presence and a 20+ acre urban campus offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in fine arts, game arts, fashion design, animation, illustration, and photography, among others.
Degree: BFA in Game Art
14. Middle Georgia State University
Middle Georgia State University’s BS in Information Technology degree program in Integrated Digital Media and Gaming Design that requires the completion of 120 credit hours from the School of Information Technology. The Middle Georgia State University game design degree online program has received accreditation from ABET. This is important because many graduate programs will only consider applicants with ABET-approved degree programs.
Middle Georgia State University was established in 1884 and is a member school of the University System of Georgia. Middle Georgia State University offers undergraduate, graduate, doctorate, and certificate level coursework across its five campuses (and six schools/colleges) in the middle of the state of Georgia. Middle Georgia State University’s student enrollment nears 8,000.
Degree: BS in Information Technology – Integrated Digital Media and Gaming Design
15. Baker College
Baker College’s BS in Game Software Development (GSD), offered by the College of Engineering & Information Technology, can be completed entirely online. The game development degree requires the completion of 120 credit hours, 90 hours following the GSD curriculum specifically. Students gain comprehensive knowledge regarding both the creative and technical sides of a gameplay experience. Coursework includes classes in C++, Java, Data Structures, Visual Basic, Systems Methods, and Database Management, among many others.
Baker College was established in Flint Township as a private, nonprofit school in 1911 focused on business education. The school operates 14 campus locations throughout Michigan’s Lower Peninsula region. Baker College is considered a career college offering programs in technology, education, healthcare, business, and human services.
Degree: BS in Game Software Development
Will Employers Trust an Online Game Design Degree?
Yes, as long as the degree program is accredited. For an online game development degree in the computer science realm, the top standard is ABET accredited. Employers want to know that the graduate’s education was earned from a reliable organization; that is where ABET comes in. The ABET accreditation process ensures that schools and programs meet a quality level of standards. The ABET accreditation process is extensive, ensuring that computer engineering programs are up to date and delivering on what they promise.
Game design tends to be a lucrative field, especially for those working at the top. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, multimedia artists and animators make an average salary of $70,530 per year. Software publishers make the most at $80,850 per year. Payscale.com estimates that the average video game designer makes $62,034, while ZipRecruiter estimates annual salary of around $161,000.
The multimedia artist industry is a growing one, so its job market is expected to grow with it. The job market in this field will increase by 8 percent by 2026.
What Can I Do with a Game Design Degree?
Game designers typically work a part of a team to create video games. Depending on the designer’s specialty, you could work on game concepts, story, characters, setting, and gameplay. Sometimes a designer works on the artistic side, while others focus on technical aspects like scripting language.
Game design is unique because of the varied ways a designer can contribute. The game design industry hires the following jobs: game designer, game developer, computer animator, graphic designer, programmer, software engineer, concept artist, applications developer, script writer, production designer, videographer, music composer, sound designer, and more.
Video game design has exploded in popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Video gaming continues to grow in gameplay development, storytelling, character building, and environment. Since video games need a unique combination of technological and artistic skill, the gaming industry is hiring video game designers in order to fulfill a specific vision.
Do you have a passion for animation or artistry? Do you have decent computer skills? Are you interested in learning code programming for games? Are you a gamer? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the field of game design would make a great career path for you. Great game design takes an interesting blend of creativity, artistic talent, computer competency, and technical skill to pull off. If you feel you are up to the task of working in one of these areas, then go for it!
Can I Learn to Be a Video Game Designers Online?
Yes. There are various schools and degree programs offered through virtual platforms. For aspiring game designers seeking an online degree, make sure your online degree program meets ABET accreditation requirements. The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology offers a list of ABET-accredited online schools on its website. Also, make sure that the school you choose has a reputable reputation with a good track record of graduating students.
To be honest, there are not that many fully online degree programs in game development; even though online education would seem like a perfect fit for game design, the technical requirements of modern game development are difficult to do without access to a cutting-edge computer lab. Plus, internships are key to getting a job in the game industry – companies want people they know can do the job. That’s why fully online programs are a better choice for working professionals already in the field, rather than students just starting out from scratch; they have access to the tools they need, and already have the experience – they just need the credentials.
A video game design education may offer training in the following: computer science, programming, software engineering, 2D modeling, 3D modeling, animation, interface design, script writing, drawing, storyboard rendering, and more. Ultimately, a degree in video game design should prepare students for a successful career in this field.