If you have a passion for video games, you may be interested in earning an online game development degree, which melds together your interests and career plans. Online bachelor’s in game design programs help prepare learners to develop and create video games, and students in this field develop creative and technical skills and become familiar with coding languages, animation, and storytelling. Aspiring game designers can also major in related areas, such as web development and interactive media design.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t offer much data regarding game design yet, as it’s still a developing career field. That said, the BLS does offer insight into the job outlook for animators — which is just one component of game design. This field is expected to grow by about 4% between 2019 and 2029, which is about average for all career fields.
If you’re interested in pursuing this type of degree and want to find the most affordable game design bachelor’s programs, or if you just want to learn more about how you can obtain a game design degree online, you can find the information you’re looking for below.
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The 3 Most Affordable Online Bachelor’s in Game Design Programs in 2021
Students who are interested in creating challenges, storyboards, and goals for video games can consider earning an online bachelor’s in game design. Distance learning can help students earn their degree while working full time. The following list includes the most affordable online bachelor’s in game design programs to help prospective students find an option that suits their needs.
Savannah College of Art and Design
A private school based in Georgia, SCAD offers a bachelor of arts in interactive design and game development. The program allows students to concentrate in either area of the BA. Many students pursue a double major or minor to inform their game design. Other majors and minors include animation, storyboarding, and visual effects.
SCAD's game design program allows learners to explore technology hands-on through AR/VR labs. Many students participate in competitions such as E3 College Game Competition and Intel University Games Showcase. Learners attend professional conferences and collaborate with well-known digital media companies. Notable courses include visual culture and digital communication.
Prospective students apply for an achievement honors scholarship by submitting a portfolio. Doing so also communicates an applicant's technical and storytelling skills. Portfolio submissions require a written document sharing the student's role in the production of submitted work.
Students wanting a degree in game design should consider BU's bachelor of science in web development. Set in Nebraska's "Silicon Prairie", the 127-credit program utilizes hands-on training needed for students to develop web applications. BU features online courses to allow students to build their portfolio on a flexible schedule.
Active-duty service members receive discounted tuition rates. Applicants need a high school or GED diploma or homeschool letter of completion. Transfer students must provide transcripts. Those with a two-year degree from another school do not need to submit high school transcripts. BU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
A private school based in Columbus, Ohio, Franklin attracts students interested in a bachelor's in game design. Franklin's BS in interactive media design teaches students how to develop websites, games, and mobile apps. The program prepares students to create professional portfolios with a project-based curriculum.
Online courses allow working students to complete their degree without career disruption. Enrollees receive hands-on experience with software and programming languages. Notable courses include advanced graphic design and human-computer interaction.
The program caters specifically to transfer students. Students can transfer up to 24 technical credits, such as web design and flash animation. Transferring credits allows students to earn their degree in three years.
In addition to transferring credits, students can earn credits by taking an exam. Disciplines available for credit by exam include communications, computer science, and mathematics. Franklin offers discounted tuition rates to service members. Franklin does not charge an application fee.
Here are the most frequently asked questions about an online bachelor’s degree in game design.
What is game design?
The video game development discipline includes game design. Game designers use creativity and design skills to develop games. This includes the creation of stories, characters, and rules.
Can I study game design online?
Yes. Many schools offer game design and related degrees online. Online courses can help busy learners and working professionals study according to their schedule.
How long does it take to earn a bachelor’s in game design online?
Students typically earn their bachelor’s degree in four years. Learners with an associate degree usually graduate in two years.
What is the difference between game design and development?
Game design involves creating a game’s look and feel. Game development typically focuses on the mechanics necessary to create the game.
Do any programs combine game design and development?
SYes. Many academic programs cover both game design and development. Game design and development curricula cover similar topics, and understanding both can benefit professionals in the field.
What are the requirements to become a videogame designer?
Game designers typically need to have a bachelor’s degree in computer programming, game design, or something similar. Other requirements will vary based on the job and trajectory you’re aiming for.
Is a game development degree worth it?
Game design and development jobs are competitive, but if your passion is in this field, you may decide this career path is for you. It’s tough to tell what the average salary or career field growth is currently, but as the field continues to grow, more data will be available to make the cost vs. benefits of this degree more clear.
Do you need a degree to design video games?
In general, yes. Most companies that hire for these positions will require you to have at least a bachelor’s degree in a field related to game design to qualify as an applicant. For that reason alone it would benefit you to get a degree. You’ll also learn the skills you need to succeed in this field if you enroll in and complete a program related to game design.
Career and Salary Outlook for Game Design
Earning potential for game design professionals varies by specific career. A degree in game design can lead to positions in animation, graphic design, and software development.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), multimedia artists and animators earn a median annual salary of $77,700. These professionals create moving images and visual effects for entertainment. The highest number of multimedia artist and animator positions exist in California, according to the BLS. Additionally, software developers earn a median annual salary of $110,140, according to the BLS. Software developers create systems that allow computers and other devices to run.
Individuals with a degree in game design can pursue the careers below. Many game design degrees help students develop skills that apply to careers in software development, animation, and graphic design.
Accreditation for Game Design Programs
Students should verify each prospective school’s accreditation status before applying. Accreditation ensures the school or program offers a high-quality and consistent education. Independent accrediting organizations perform rigorous evaluations. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversees these organizations.
Students will benefit from attending an accredited school for their online game design degree. Only students at accredited institutions can qualify for federal grants and loans, so attending a non-accredited school or program can make it tough to afford. Employers who offer tuition assistance also typically require recipients to attend an accredited school.
In addition to institutional accreditation, you can also look for programmatic accreditation. The National Association of Schools of Art & Design and the Computing Accreditation Commission award accreditation to game design programs. This field-specific accreditation demonstrates that the program meets high academic standards for the discipline. Students can use the searchable database from the U.S. Department of Education to determine the accreditation status of any school or program.
Courses in Online Game Design Programs
After earning an online bachelor’s in game design, graduates can pursue a variety of careers in video game development. Game design curricula help learners develop skills necessary to create entertaining and educational games. Common courses include interactive design and digital communication.
Many programs also help students create a professional portfolio. Hands-on courses, such as game art and animation, typically involve projects that allow students to demonstrate practical skills.
The following list includes courses common to the best game design bachelor’s online programs. Not all programs offer the classes below, so learners should contact their prospective school to verify course availability.
- Visual Art
- Game design students typically take multiple visual art courses, which introduce relevant language. Students explore concepts such as form, shape, and color. They may learn about drawing, painting, and sculpting composition. Visual art courses typically require students to participate in peer critiques. Enrollees typically develop art portfolios.
- Game Design
- This class introduces the primary concepts of gaming. Learners explore common practices and trends in the field, and they examine the mechanics and rules of various types of games. Degree-seekers also learn how players interact with games. Students may create a game concept. This introductory course does not typically require programming knowledge.
- Interactive Design
- Students learn how to create and develop entertainment technologies. Coursework explores common practices and methods for creating interactive media, and learners examine past and current trends in the field. Students may design and develop interactive media projects in groups or individually.
- Game Art
- Degree-seekers learn to create 3D content and to model and texture games. They learn how to develop game props and a variety of gaming environments. Coursework also covers the creation of optimized interactive models.
Scholarships for Game Design Students
Many learners apply for scholarships to help fund their education and minimize student debt. Individuals pursuing an online bachelor’s in game design can qualify for a variety of scholarships based on factors such as background and need. The following list includes a few of the scholarships for a bachelor’s in game design online.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship helps underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students fund degrees in design, photography, and illustration. Applicants submit a written statement that includes a biography and their goals as a creator. Candidates also provide an art portfolio, recommendations, and their FAFSA information.
Who Can Apply: Applicants pursuing a career in video game development can qualify for this scholarship from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences. Learners must be enrolled full time in an undergraduate or graduate program. Applicants submit recommendation letters and a written statement.
Who Can Apply: This scholarship supports full-time learners who identify as women and who are pursuing careers in video game development or design. Applicants must submit two recommendations and a personal statement. Candidates also provide a written statement detailing their financial need, leadership, and character.
Who Can Apply: High school seniors who plan to attend a postsecondary institution can apply. Students need a minimum 3.0 GPA and must belong to a minority group. Applicants submit proof of acceptance to a higher education institution, a recommendation letter, and a written essay.
Who Can Apply: Black high school seniors who are interested in technology careers can apply for this award from Microsoft. Candidates need a minimum 3.3 cumulative GPA and must demonstrate leadership in their school or community. Applicants submit two recommendation letters, a resume, and two essays.