There are many paths you can take to be at the front lines of the game design industry. This is a personalized journey to take you to the land of creativity, innovation, and design that clearly drives you enough to offer a pathway to your future. The best game design master’s programs abound. There are so many programs that offer the skills, experience, expertise, and professionalism that will get you where you want to go, but it is of course good to decide where it is you want to go. Some programs are more specialized than others. Some enable students to pursue a specialization that supports their unique academic and professional goals. Many programs are computer science-oriented with the addition of game design to support well-rounded career options. Many programs are designed to be flexible enough to accommodate students who are already working and may need to divide their time between a myriad of life commitments. The majority of the programs below are delivered in convenient and flexible formats that enable students to work from their couch at any hour of the day. You can achieve a program such as these following a bachelors in a similar or different field. Many programs heavily emphasize projects and enable students to build effective portfolios while working through the programs.
We have compiled a list of the best online master in game design programs that are ranked according to the following metric:
- Student Success Rate
Take a close look at all of the offerings and determine what it is you are looking for. There is something for everyone in this course of study.
Columbia University in the City of New YorkNew York, NY
Columbia University in the City of New York has a Master of Science in Computer Science program that is offered entirely online. This degree is available to matriculating students that are interested in broadening their knowledge of how technology can be used in aspects including but not limited to, science, business, education, and video game imaging. This 30 credit computer science graduate program lands on our list of best online masters in game design as a comprehensive program that offers all the same basic course options of a graduate program in game design. Columbia University acknowledges that their program can offer students a broader option when investing in their future careers, similar to the vast and broad opportunities having a Master’s degree in computer science can. There are eight-track options with this program, to continue building upon a skill set suited for the gaming industry is the Vision, Graphics, Interaction, and Robotics Track. There is also an option to personalize your own track and customize your learning experience.
Degree: Master in Computer Science
University of Southern CaliforniaLos Angeles, CA
The University of Southern California offers a Master of Science in Game Development this concentration is packaged as a computer science degree with a concentration in game development. Although due to the pandemic most programs are switching to an online modality. This best game design master’s program is online and can be completed from the safety of your home. USC takes game development and engineering very seriously, as the demand for software and game developers increases each year and so does the mission of their program. This includes using a research and development direction to archive literature so as to elevate the game design process. Deadlines are coming up for fall 2021 so serious applicants only have until January, if they choose this program. Students who want an engineering orientated gaming development core choose this best online master in a game design program. This is a 32 credit graduate degree, with four-track options available to students, game development infrastructure, cognition and games, immersion, and serious games.
Degree: MS in Computer Science: Game Development
Northeastern UniversityBoston, MA
One of the best online master’s in game design programs is offered by Northeastern University. This is a Master of Science in Game Science and Design and is held out of the Boston campus. All students considering this program should know that this program is not traditionally offered online but due to the pandemic has moved a large portion of their classes to an online modality. Northeastern tackles teaching the science of game design from a highly analytical platform. Their goal is to ensure students have an in-depth understanding of what makes a successful game product in a player-centric environment. They build upon student’s incoming knowledge of software engineering to mold diverse professionals ready to grow within the gaming industry. It focuses primarily on developing interdisciplinary skills in each graduate. To do so students will take courses like business models in the game industry, player experience, and game artificial intelligence.
Degree: MS in Game Science and Design
University of Wisconsin-StoutMenomonie, WI
If you are considering an advanced degree in game design you have found one of the best online master’s in game design programs with the masters of fine arts in design at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. This course of study is delivered in a hybrid format, meaning there are some on-campus requirements, however, much of the program can be completed from the comfort of your living room. An MFA is a terminal degree, which means you have gone as far as you can possibly go in a field and are then qualified to teach at the university level. This course of study emphasizes problem solving and innovation from an artistic lens. They work hard to train students to think critically about the world with the premise of using these skills gleaned to make it better. Leadership is also a critical focus in this program in preparation for a teaching or facilitation career. Some of the topics covered include animation, graphic design, interactive media, interior design, digital cinema, and industrial design.
Degree: Cross-Disciplinary MFA Design
Boston UniversityBoston, MA
Boston University offers a Master of Science in Software Development, completely online. Software development is at the core of game design. With a firm solid background in software development, students can enter into the gaming industry with confidence. This online master’s program will teach students the industry standard requirements and skills for creating software across diverse industries. Producing robust and reliable software design and code is the foremost skill students who choose this degree leave with. BU’s software development degree is a 32 credits program, with part-time or full-time options; it typically takes 16 to 24 months to complete the degree requirements. As a student in this program, you benefit from a small classroom environment and a leg up on the competition. As the demand for software development professionals continues to grow so does the number of programs choosing which program is important.
Degree: MS in Software Development
Rensselaer Polytechnic InstituteTroy, NY
If you are interested in going all the way in the field of game design, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute might be the perfect fit for you. Their masters of science in critical game design is multifaceted as it is delivered through their School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. This programming uniquely touches its approach as emphasizing the transformative capacity of games. Students will gain insight into the underpinnings of the gaming industry with a focus on a holistic approach to the industry, the academic reach of gaming, and the larger society. Students will be able to gain foundational insights into consumer desires as they relate to producing apropos game design. This program is considered one of the best online masters in game design programs for a number of reasons, one of which is their interdisciplinary approach. Students will not only gain the critical technical skills, but also a theoretical framework that drives the stories behind popular games.
Degree: MS Critical Game Design
University of BaltimoreBaltimore, MD
The University of Baltimore offers a Master of Science in Interactive Design and Information Architecture entirely online. This entire course of study is 36 credits in completion, this best game design masters program focuses on the process of imagining, designing, and building interactive tools to help evolve how people use technology. To be accepted into this program, it is expected that prospective students have an intermediate understanding of HTML. Admission requirements ask that students have a bachelor’s degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. This thesis required program is given on a two-year track, while encouraging innovation and discovery it provides a strict guideline of learning and outcome fueled goals. Students will conduct user research, design interaction, and evaluate the social and cultural effects of today’s information systems and their implementations. The online format utilized will also give students the flexibility to hold positions and internships while participating in this online master’s program.
Degree: MS in Interaction Design and Information Architecture
East Carolina UniversityGreenville, NC
East Carolina has the best online master in game design programs, a Master of Science in Software Engineering. This industry acknowledged degree program blends computer science with a rapidly evolving field of software engineering. Upon program completion, students will learn the skills required to design, develop, test, and maintain high-quality software systems, similar to the ones necessary to build video games and mobile gaming applications. There is an intentional combination of theory and practical application, so as to allow students to have a strong grasp on the general development process in order to be able to apply it to any field, including Game Design. Students will take courses such as Software engineering foundations, project management, programming and data functions and so much more. Potential game designers should not overlook the benefits of having a wide grasp of software engineering as a way to break into the gaming industry.
Degree: MS in Software Engineering
Brandeis UniversityWaltham, MA
Brandeis University offers a Master of Software Engineering that fits generally into this list of best game design master’s programs. This course of study is offered part-time online. This program is for the working learner. As a 30 credit program, you can complete your master’s degree in as soon as 2 years. There is a list of prerequisite courses prospective students must have before an application into the graduate program can be accepted. The entire degree course can be completed in six courses and four elective courses. The elective classes allow students to choose classes based on their desired professional skill set. One course that will allow those interested in becoming game designers is the mobile application and responsive web design class. It’s important that students who are interested in game design know that software engineering is the foundation of that ability. Upon completion students will be able to demonstrate a cross-section of skills needed to successfully design, implement, and release newly developed software.
Degree: Master of Software Engineering
Lewis UniversityRomeoville, IL
Lewis University’s Master of Science in Computer Science pops up on our list as another cross-sectional program in game design and development. While this degree offers several tracks to completion, we will focus on the Software Development track as it aligns with the principles and skills required to be a successful video game designer. One of the exciting elements of this program is it is an accelerated degree that is offered completely online and can be completed in one year! Each course is offered in short 8 week sessions. This gives students the option to complete their degree at an accelerated pace. As well as the flexibility of the program offerings there are the faculty working in the industry that guides their students in learning about the real-time advancements of the field and what companies are looking for in potential hires. Coupled with internship opportunities offered by partnering institutions, this program should be high on the list of all potential game designers.
Degree: MS in Computer Science: Software Engineering
DePaul UniversityChicago, IL
DePaul University has one of the foremost Master of Science in Game Programming degrees offered entirely online. Several elements of this program stand out, one of which is that 95 % of graduates are employed after completing this program, with a median salary of 78K annually. Additionally, enrollment begins quarterly so students have access to flexible start times. This best online master in game design program focuses on understanding programming at the highest level. Skills such as real-time cupping computer graphics and professional retooling for the game are the key skills students leave with. Courses that are introduced to a blended method of theory and applied practice, examine both emerging trends and proven knowledge. DePaul University employs leaders in the industry to perform as adjunct professors in this program, which is an invaluable benefit to their students. Game programming coursework dives into tackling the real-world need by special topic-based classes like global software development, software methodologies, and parallel computing architecture.
Degree: MS in Game Programming
Kennesaw State UniversityKennesaw, GA
Kennesaw State University offers a Master of Science in Software Engineering online, course work for this degree consists of 30 credits that can be completed in one year. Applicants can apply no matter their background, however, if you are coming without a lot of foundation in software engineering you may have to complete up to 5 foundational courses so that you will be successful in the graduate program. A promising option for those wanting to break into the gaming industry after their undergraduate. Among other things an exciting tidbit about this program is that it is located in the Atlanta area and their program is partnered with some of the local tech companies, so graduates have an easier pathway to employment. Some of their stringent requirements have gotten this program a reputation for producing professional candidates for the job market. Students will benefit from that rigor through coursework like user interactive engineering, cloud computing, mobile app development, and modeling and simulation.
Degree: MS in Software Engineering
Pace UniversityNew York, NY
To round out our list of best game design master’s programs we added Pace University’s Master of Science in Software development and Engineering offered completely online. Some will find being able to master the full complexity of software engineering will prepare graduates to enter into the diverse field of game design, where companies are looking for innovative and knowledgeable candidates that can program. Mastering software development and engineering is a great pathway to achieving that goal. Pace offers a 36 credit program students can customize to reflect their professional interest, by allowing a variety of elective courses for students to choose from, 18 credits of coursework will be shaped by the students. Incoming candidates must hold an undergraduate degree in computer science or related degree. Another benefit of the degree is it will prepare you for the CSDA exam; this highly coveted certification will prepare students for a competitive job market.
Degree: MS in Software Development and Engineering
Liberty UniversityLynchburg, VA
If you are interested in learning the ins and outs of game design, the master of science in IT: software design management at Liberty University is an excellent place to hit the ground running. It made the list as one of the best game design masters programs for a number of reasons. One perk is that the programming is delivered in a flexible and convenient format and can be accomplished from the comfort of your home or office. The entire course of study is made up of 36 credit hours and can be entirely completed in 1.5 years. All of the courses are eight weeks in length. Some of the courses offered include software design, secure software engineering, and software development engineering. The evangelical approach of liberty feeds all of their programmings, as they infuse Christianity into all of their classes.
Degree: MS in IT: Software Design Management
University of Advancing TechnologyTempe, AZ
The University of Advancing Technology offers one of the best online masters in game design programs. It is offered as a masters of science in game production that is self-directed while offering plenty of skills and supports. One of their taglines expresses that the outcome of the program is innovation instead of a thesis. All students will have the opportunity to work on real-world projects. A perk of the program is the course delivery, which is primarily live simulation. This gives students a chance to ask questions in real-time and connect with one another. Students are able to not only utilize their current work experience to gain further insight but also apply it to class assignments. Students are also given the opportunity to participate in community tech projects. The University of Advancing Technology offers many financial aid opportunities and creative ways to finance a student’s education.
Degree: MS in Game Production
Lindenwood UniversitySaint Charles, MO
Lindenwood University offers a Master of Arts in Game Design program. This is one of the best game design master’s programs that breaks all the molds. It is made up of 36 credit hours with two completion options, thesis or non-thesis. Traditional on-campus programming has switched to offer a chunk of their course load online due to the pandemic. For students considering this program, be prepared to attend in-person classes at some point, as this two-year program has a lot to offer a student attending on campus. This is a GRE required admission process, and a 3.0 GPA from undergraduate to qualify. There is a nine-credit per semester maximum for the master of art students, that can be rounded out with an independent study or tutorial course. Students looking to build a comprehensive portfolio would benefit from a game design program like this one. Here is where game theory and design meet, with courses like the history of games and theory, 3D animation, and concept design.
Degree: MA in Game Design
University of California-Santa CruzSanta Cruz, CA
University of California Santa Cruz offers a Master of Science in games and playable media, there is also a master of science in serious games. Helping students learn how to design games is the primary mission of this program, while imparting the importance of being a socially responsible designer. This is a 60 credit course designed to be taken over 5 quarters. An exciting aspect is that UC Santa Cruz has a silicon Valley campus that offers an elective so students will be exposed to the industry’s high tech environments. For students looking to expand their opportunities choosing a program with a capstone program is a good start. Students of the games and playable media complete their degree in the culmination of a collaborative capstone project. Some courses available with this degree, Game engineering, game design systems, and game & playable media studio. Students are given an option to use their summer semester working on a sponsored project or interning at a games company.
Degree: MS Games & Playable Media or MS Serious Games
University of Houston-Clear LakeHouston, TX
The University of Houston offers a master of science in software engineering entirely online. This degree is named after its primary core focus of study software engineering list that it prepares students for the high tech industry of the game design field. We have spoken a lot about the intersection between game design and development and software engineering. The flexibility of the program will enable those working in the tech industry or those looking to break -into the game industry. Students can complete the work in its entirety in 15 months if courses are taken across consecutive semesters. With this degree, students have an option to choose from one of four offered specializations: gaming, Robotics Software, Data mining, and software project management. For those already working in the field, UH accepts work experience to receive class exemptions, which could evaluate your degree completion timeline. The mission for this faculty is applied instruction, making sure graduates leave with the core principles of software engineering as the program’s purpose.
Degree: MS in Software Engineering
University of MiamiCoral Gables, FL
The University of Miami has a Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media that crosses the boundaries of typical games programs by focusing on the intersection between technology, human behavior, and design. Imparting the importance of being an accountable designer, by sharing the prevailing philosophy that designers have a social responsibility to use their skills to better-disadvantaged communities. Interactive media is a two-year graduate degree with an option for students to choose from tracks like interaction design, game design, interactive storytelling, user experience, and information graphics and visualization. While all graduates are exposed to the general concept of all of these topics, students get to craft their own curriculum with the help of a department advisor. Admission requirements are traditional, a bachelor’s degree, along with a portfolio and/or GRE scores are what UM uses to determine eligibility. Graduates go on to work as designers in a variety of sectors, entertainment, journalism, non-profits, and corporation.
Degree: MFA Interactive Media
Full Sail UniversityWinter Park, FL
Full sail university is following a trend by offering one of the best online masters in game design programs, a master of science in Mobile gaming. This online degree is training graduates to design, program, and launch mobile games. At full sail, they emphasize the importance of creative thinking and implementation. As a 12-month online master’s, the work and the course load is rigorous. They pride themselves on being able to produce professional candidates for the job market. Classes begin monthly so you have flexible start times, and they do not require GRE scores for admission into the program. Full sail also has an impressive relationship with alumni and professionals working in the field. Students will take courses like computer science for engineers and Game development frameworks. This foundational learning highlights the need for game designers to think like software engineers. While you will cover implementation course work in classes like Mobile gaming business, and personal development and leadership.
Degree: MS in Mobile Gaming
Walden UniversityMinneapolis, MN
Walden University is offering a master of science in Software Engineering. This program is an online, 30 credit hour course of study. The interesting aspects of the program include the fact that it emphasizes advanced engineering skills that are applicable to a myriad of industries. There are many opportunities to get your hands dirty in this program, as they believe in hands-on and experiential learning and, therefore, pride themselves on their interactive curriculum. They also go the extra mile, ensuring that their students move beyond just the technical aspects of technology, but also train students in the skills necessary for being business savvy. In conclusion, one of the things that set Walden apart from some of its competitor programs is the fact that they go the extra mile for students to feel supported. They have a myriad of services to help students get their academic and personal needs met while they are in the program.
Degree: MS in Software Engineering
Southern New Hampshire UniversityManchester, NH
Southern New Hampshire University offers a masters of science degree program in information technology that emphasizes software application development. This has made the list as one of the best game design masters programs. The entire course of study is comprised of a total of 36 credit hours. This is a transfer-friendly program that enables students to bring with them a maximum of 12 graduate credits from another program. The program can be completed in as little as 15 months’ time. Some of the courses in this specialization might include software design and modeling, advanced information technology, and object-oriented application development. Students will have a myriad of hands-on opportunities including the chance to build mobile applications. These skills are not only supportive of a career in game design, but the degree makes it possible to engage in a number of other disciplines related to technology.
Degree: MS in Information Technology: Software Application Development
Academy of Art UniversitySan Francisco, CA
The Academy of Art University offers a master of fine arts in game development that is clearly one of the best game design master’s programs out there. One of the pulls towards this particular program is the emphasis on artistry as it aligns with the technical aspects of the discipline. Students will have the chance to get their hands dirty in the realm of art creation, prototyping, and game mechanics. Each student will create an extensive thesis project that will tie into their industry-standard portfolio. Some of the classes they will take in their first semester include game design principles, elements of video games, and scripting for video games. In their second semester, students will get deeper with coursework such as history and techniques of games, rapid game development, drawing Bootcamp for games, and anthropology: experiencing the culture. As you can see, students will receive a well rounded and culturally diverse education that far exceeds simply learning the technology that makes games move.
Degree: MFA in Game development
Savannah College of Art & Design
Savannah College of Art & Design offers a master of arts program in interactive design and game development. This is considered one of the best game design master’s programs with a true cross-section of course offerings. Students can self-direct in many ways. There are six specializations in the program including game art: engine pipeline and practices, game art: virtual world building, game tech: real-time materials and shaders, game art: character creation and digital sculpting, game art: art direction and look development, game design: professional production pipeline. All of these tie nicely into the coursework related to interactive design. The entire course of study is made up of a total of 45 credit hours. Some of the core courses include contemporary art, media art, history and theory of virtual spaces, interactive design, and game development final project- there are three options for the final project protocol.
Degree: MA in Interactive Design and Game development
ECPI UniversityVirginia Beach, VA
ECPI University Online offers a masters of science degree program in systems engineering: software engineering. This has made the list of one of the best game design master’s programs for a number of reasons. The first reason is its 100 percent online format that is designed to be flexible enough to accommodate busy adult professionals. In fact, the program is convenient enough to complete all of the coursework in the comfort of your own home during the hours that work best for you. Some of the topics that students will engage in this course of study include: software architecture, DevOps, software assurance, design and implementation, testing and evaluation, and systems analysis. They make it easy for students to apply the foundations of the program to a myriad of professional opportunities including within the realm of business, engineering, mathematics, and education. They also pride themselves on being military friendly.
Degree: MS in Systems Engineering: Software Engineering
Why Should I Get My Master’s in Game Design Online?
There are many reasons you might be considering a masters in game design online. Maybe you are a video game enthusiast that wants to go all the way in the discipline. If so, you are certainly not alone. There are so many game design master’s degree online programs that support the needs of those who are interested in playing leadership roles in-game managing companies along with those who want to create stories and create games with as much education as possible under their belts. A game design master’s online will enable you to continue working and pursuing your other life commitments while completing a program that offers flexibility and the convenience to study from your home or workplace. Player-centric environments come in all shapes and sizes, though students in such programming will learn how to contribute to such spaces with expertise. They will gain foundations in topics such as game analytics and game science. Many programs offer students the opportunity to work with faculty members who are also on-the-ground-game-designers. Many programs offer a synthesis of game sciences and design.
Is a Master’s in Video Game Design Worth It?
It is only natural to ask big questions before investing in a program like this one if a master’s degree in video game design is worth it. A good way to answer that question is to consider the video game designer job outlook. One thing you may not know is that the gaming industry brings in more revenue than Hollywood. That’s right. Video games, these days, make more than films. The video game industry is predicted to grow over nine percent between 2012 and 2026 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It looks like the industry is spreading throughout the country and is not just centralized in one epicenter. This is good news for those of you who are not interested in moving to Los Angeles or New York City. Currently, the game design industry is mostly spread throughout Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Austin Texas, but most states have some employment within this lucrative field. While it is up to you to determine if this degree is a good investment for you, in particular, signs point to a lucrative career with many possibilities.
How Much Can I Make with a Degree in Game Design?
According to payscale the average for a video game designer salary is $65,354. This is, once again, an average, so it goes much higher and lower. A low end for a video game design salary is $40,000. This, of course, is right out of the gate, with lots of room to grow. The high end for a game development salary is just at the beginning of six figures at $103,000. One of the nice aspects of a game design and development salary is that it generally comes with excellent benefits. Eighty-three percent of fame design companies offer medical benefits and seventy-one percent offer dental. The perks of benefits are not always apparent in the computer programming industry, as many people work as independent contractors. This field has more traditional benefits as professional game designers generally work for game development companies rather than as independent contractors. So, while a video game designer salary is variable, there are generally additional perks that come with the industry.