game design degree online
The increased number of game design degrees being awarded parallels the soaring popularity of the multi-billion dollar video game industry. New technologies, increased graphics capabilities, and the proliferation of mobile devices are changing the way we game, creating a new world of career opportunities for creators. To meet this growing demand, schools offer a range of certificates and degree programs in video game design.

Game design degrees focus on three main disciplines - design, art, and programming. Some programs fit neatly into a single discipline, while others combine two or even all three domains for a more well-rounded game design education. Your personal interests and career goals will determine which program is right for you. This guide will compare certificates, associates and bachelor's degrees in game design, show you which courses to look for in a game design curriculum, answer FAQs from prospective students, and spotlight some of today's best online degrees in game design to help you make an informed decision.

Marketable Courses in a Game Design Degree

Curriculum - the tools, techniques and platforms you learn over the course of the program - is the most important factor when choosing a game design degree. Look for a curriculum that covers as many of the following topics as possible within your desired role. Remember, it's good to have skills from peripheral game design disciplines as this makes you more versatile and valuable to employers, especially at a small studio where responsibilities overlap.

Here are the courses you should look for in a game design degree, broken down by job role:

Game Design Courses

Game designers are responsible for crafting the story and rules of a video game. They also create the characters and universe in which the game takes place. A college degree in game design should include the following subjects:

  • Technical and creative writing inc. storytelling and storyboarding
  • Character design using classic archetypes, philosophy and mythology
  • World design including the creation of levels, maps and puzzles
  • Game mechanics including pacing, conflict resolution & reward systems
  • Project management, leadership and effective communication skills
  • Coursework in physics and math (especially algebra) will be useful

Game Programming Courses

Game programmers take the elements of a video game and turn them into the computer code that makes it all work. Curriculum in a game programming degree will include coursework in:

  • Desirable programming and scripting languages for game development inc. Java, C++, JavaScript, C#, SQL & Python
  • Mobile app development using Java or Kotlin (for Android games) & Objective-C or Swift (for iOS games)
  • Game engine programming, algorithms, and physics system development
  • Virtual Reality (VR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) programming

Game Art Courses

Game artists create the visual elements of a video game, from the way a character looks to a tree waving in the breeze in the background and everything in between. The course curriculum in a game art degree should include:

  • Strong foundation in visual arts, 2D drawing and multimedia design
  • Graphic design using popular software like Adobe Creative Cloud
  • 3D computer animation including modeling and texture design
  • Motion-capture shooting, tracking, enhancement and correction
  • Exploration of shading, lighting, reflection, mood & atmosphere

Game Design Degree Levels

From self-paced online courses and certificates to associate and bachelor's degrees, there are numerous pathways to becoming a video game designer. Let’s take a closer look at some of the most common game design programs that can aid in your quest for a new career.

Certificate in Game Design

Game design certificates provide career-focused training in the fundamental principles of video game design. These programs, which typically last three to six months, tend to focus on essential skills in one of the three aspects of game design: game art, game design, or game programming.

Some game design certificates will cover multiple knowledge domains, however, due to their brevity, certificate programs may lack depth in the theory and intricacies of video game design. They are geared towards career changers, hobbyists aiming to turn a passion into a profession, or anyone interested in acquiring a basic understanding of the field.

Associate Degree in Game Design

A game design associate degree is a more intensive course of study that usually takes two years to complete as a full-time student. Depending on its area of focus, this program will feature coursework in areas like programming, 3D modeling, character development, and narrative design.

An associate degree in game design provides students with a stronger grasp of the nuances of the field than a certificate program, cultivating artistic creativity alongside technical prowess. This program should include hands-on game design projects and portfolio development, both of which are essential for job applications and further study.

Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design

A game design bachelor’s is a four-year program that dives deeper into the world of video game creation. This in-depth program covers an array of topics such as game theory, digital media, storyboarding, game programming, multimedia design, video game project management and more.

Bachelor's degrees in game design typically offer specializations, allowing students to focus on niche areas like 3D character animation, puzzle creation, virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR). Game design bachelor's programs often include training in valuable soft skills for game designers like critical thinking, collaboration and creative problem solving.

Online Degrees in Game Design

Compare the top-rated online degrees and certificates in video game design.

Admissions advisors can provide more info about game design programs, admission requirements, tuition costs, and personalized financial aid options.
Got targeted learning goals? Many schools offer individual courses from accredited degrees.
Search IT courses and degrees by job role, technology platform, and concentration.

Frequently Asked Questions

Tech insiders answer questions from game design degree candidates.

What college degree do you need for game design?

Though not always mandatory, most game design roles require a bachelor’s degree. Desirable majors for game designers include computer science, game design, game development, software engineering, and computer animation.

How long does it take to earn a game design degree?

A bachelor’s degree in game design typically takes four years to complete as a full-time student. Some schools offer accelerated online game design programs that can be completed in as little as 2.5 years. A game design associate degree typically lasts 2 years, while a game design certificate can be completed in a year or less.

Can I earn a game design degree online?

Yes, you can earn a game design degree 100% online. Many of the top schools for game design offer distance learning programs that provide the expertise to succeed in this field. Online game design programs cater to students who need flexibility because of location, work commitments, or other constraints. But not all online game design degrees are created equal - it's essential to research and choose a reputable school with a game design curriculum that aligns with your goals.

Further Reading

About the Author

IT Subject Matter ExpertDaniel Greenspan is the founder and Editor-in-chief of ITCareerFinder. Working closely with IT professionals, world-class trainers, and hiring managers since 2005 has given him unique insight into the information technology job market and the skills and credentials IT pros need to succeed.