Online Game Design Degrees

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If you’re a video game enthusiast ready to take your hobby from fantasy to reality, consider an online game design degree.

Online Game Design Degrees

This unique degree path combines art and technology, preparing students for success in a booming, multi-billion dollar industry.

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If that sounds exciting to you, here’s what you need to know.

What Is an Online Game Design Degree?

A Game Design student looking at her project

An online game design degree will prepare you for both the artistic and technical aspects of a career in video game design.

Most degree programs will give you a thorough understanding of the entire process – from concept development to initial storyboard creation, to animation and design, to technical programming. You may even cover budgeting and marketing a game from a business standpoint.

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With a degree in this field, you could work for a multinational gaming company, a small independent company or even start your own design firm. Depending on the type of business you work for, you may take on many roles – creative and technical – or you may focus on one particular aspect of the process.

What Will I Learn in a Game Design Program?

Online game design classes will cover both the technical and creative aspects of this field. Some of the skills you will gain include:

  • Communication skills
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Presentation skills
  • Programming skills
  • Storytelling skills
  • Visual design skills

You will learn how to create visually appealing animations and engaging stories, program on a variety of platforms, understand relevant laws and regulations, work within budgetary constraints and present to a team, among many other things.

What Degree Options are There for Online Game Design and How Long Will It Take?

Game Designer creating new game characters

When it comes to earning an online game design degree, the industry-preferred credential is a bachelor’s degree, but it’s certainly not the only option available to you.

Certificate in Game Design

If you’re not ready to commit to a full degree program, or if you have been in the workforce but need to brush up on some specific skills, a certificate may be a good option for you. Some certifications can be earned in a matter of weeks.

Associate’s in Game Design

An associate degree is a step above a certificate program and generally takes around 2 years to complete. With this degree, you will take introductory courses in design, simulation and some basic programming. Your degree will qualify you for an entry-level job as a programmer or graphic artist, for example.

Bachelor’s in Game Design

This is the most common, preferred degree choice in this field. It takes around 4 years to complete, and covers programming languages, design theory, and concept development. You will also have the opportunity to choose an area of specialization, allowing you to cultivate your artistic or technical skills. This degree will qualify you to work in almost any position within this competitive field.

Master’s in Game Design

This 1- to 2-year commitment can really set you apart in this industry, helping you land highly sought after positions in concept development or team leadership. You will likely participate in a practicum project that involves scripting, sketching, animating, programming, and developing your own game or application.

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If earning a degree quickly is a priority to you, and you are able to study full time, look for online game design colleges that offer accelerated programs for online learners. As an example, through an accelerated program you may be able to earn a bachelor’s degree in as little as 2 years.

What Specializations are Available in Game Design?

Game Designer and Computer Animator working together

While an online game design program may already seem pretty niche, there are actually a variety of different degrees or areas of specialization available.

Here are the Top 5 Game Design Specializations:

  1. Game Design – This area of study offers a broad overview of the creation and production process. You can expect to cover topics such as storytelling, discrete mathematics, level design, play balancing, design tools, and even how to manage game economics and social issues. This choice is for people very certain about going directly into game design as a profession.
  2. Game Art – If you lean more towards an appreciation of the artistic and aesthetic side of the gaming experience, then a bachelor’s degree in game art might be the best fit. This program of study focuses on production methods that serve as the basis for 3-D model generation, as well as how to apply traditional art and animation principles to a virtual setting. This degree program will allow you to showcase your artistic skills via one of the fastest-growing mediums in the modern world.
  3. Computer Animation – A bachelor’s degree in computer animation takes the concepts of game art and applies it to the much larger canvas of game worlds and rendered environments. Traditionally, professionals that delve into this learning opportunity seek to populate digital settings with interactive models and custom game art, all while ensuring content continuity and quality.
  4. Computer Science – Planning, designing, and optimizing software is the focus of this degree program. As the most diverse and versatile option on this top five list, computer science majors handle a variety of “back-end” tasks while serving as systems architects for the foundation of the video game development process.
  5. Multiplatform Software Development – This final path aims to translate the game development process to the growing world of devices. Specializing in game design for iOS, Android, Windows, and other platforms is the major selling point of this career path. It is important to note that many students in this field end up serving as independent contractors, so programs typically spend a little time covering the business side of mobile development, as well as how to conduct and implement market research. In each area, it is most common to pursue a bachelor’s degree and most bachelor’s programs require around 120 credit hours. In addition to your traditional online game design courses, you may also need to complete a project development portfolio or team-building assignments to demonstrate your abilities.

    What Can I Do With a Game Design Degree?

    Group of game designers testing their new software

    With online degrees, you could be quite successful in the world of video game development – whether you want to work in artistic or technical creation or both – but your options don’t end there.

    Your degree could also help you land a career as a/an:

    • Animator
    • Applications developer
    • Artist / cartoonist
    • Computer analyst
    • Computer programmer
    • Computer and information researcher
    • Graphic artist /graphic designer
    • Information security
    • Network systems administrator
    • Software developer
    • Web developer

    How Much Money Can I Earn With a Degree in Game Design?

    Game designer working in his office

    In this field, salaries are largely based on your experience, job responsibilities, the size of your employer and your location.

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    According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average salary for an animator is $78,790.

    Are Game Designers in High Demand?

    Though the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not track data directly related to video game design, it does offer some relevant data for closely related careers. Take a look.

    Careers Annual Median Salary
    Software Developers $110,140
    Multimedia Artists / Animators $78,790
    Web Developers $77,200
    Graphic Designers $50,710


    Clearly, this is a lucrative field that is in demand and expected to see continued growth.

    Scholarships for Game Design Bachelor’s Degree Programs

    Game Design Bachelor’s Degree students applying for scholarships

    There are many scholarship opportunities available in this field, whether it be for artistic achievements, technical development or another area of game design. Check first with the online game design school you have chosen, and then try searching online for additional scholarship opportunities.

    Here are some examples:

    • Microsoft Imagine Cup Global Competition – Students from across the globe build amazing teams to bring their biggest, boldest ideas to life. Working with mentors and industry leaders, they get feedback to further hone and develop their projects. Awards vary, but include prizes, trips, mentoring sessions, grants and up to $100,000 cash.
    • Support Creativity Scholarship – For college students in the New York area (CT, NJ, NY, or PA) majoring in any creative field. Design something creative via any medium (drawing, painting, animation, digital media, film) that shows your passion for the field. Multiple awards of $1000.
    • The NYU Game Center EVO Scholarship – The NYU Game Center has partnered with the Evo tournament to create an annual scholarship to study game design at New York University. The Evo Scholarship is open to anyone who is passionate about fighting games and eSports. Amount varies but has included a full scholarship in the past.
    • Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship – For underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students who are studying photography, illustration, and design disciplines. Multiple awards up to $5000.
    Ready to start your journey?
    Elizabeth Abner
    WRITTEN BY Elizabeth Abner

    Elizabeth is pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Foreign Policy and earned her master's degree in business administration. For her undergraduate studies, she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration with a concentration in international business. Elizabeth's research is focused on universities offering online degree programs.