Game Art & Design Degrees: Bachelor, Associate & Online Course Info

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What will you learn in a game art and design degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of associate's and bachelor's degrees and potential careers.
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Studying Game Art and Design: Degrees at a Glance

In a game art and design degree program you'll learn to design the visual aesthetics that make a video game interesting and enjoyable. Associate's and bachelor's degree programs include hands-on courses in the latest game design software used to create game settings and characters. Although you may not need a degree to enter a career in game art and design, completing a degree program may help you develop your artistic skills and learn the computer skills necessary for this career.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that employment for multimedia artists and animators, including video game artists, would be slower than average from 2010-2020. This projection was based on the trend of outsourcing these types of jobs. Software publishers were expected to employ the greatest number of animators and multimedia artists during the 2010-2020 decade.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Those seeking entry-level jobs as game artists and designers and students who want to transfer to a 4-year degree programThose interested in seeking positions as media creators, game designers and project leaders
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Game tester ($37,000)*
- Junior game designer ($48,000)*
- Entry-level game artist ($49,000)*
- Multimedia artists and animator ($68,000)**
- Creative director/Lead game designer ($71,000 - with 3-6 years of experience)*
Time to Completion 2 years, full-time 4 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - 60-66 semester hours
- General education courses
- Portfolio preparation course
-120-125 semester credits (180 quarter credits)
- General education courses
- Media design and computer technology courses
- Portfolio class
- Externship
Prerequisite Artistic ability and computer technology skills Demonstrate artistic ability in portfolio of artwork
Online Availability Some courses may be found online Yes

Sources: *Game Developer Magazine (February 2012 figures, salary info for those employed for three years or less), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate's in Game Art and Design

An associate's degree program in game art and design should prepare you to continue studying game design in a 4-year institution or gain an entry-level position. Programs include courses in computer technology and media art and design. Combined with your individual artistic and creative talent, you'll learn skills to become an animator, modeler, texture artist, level builder or designer of interactive games.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • An associate's degree can be completed in two years or less
  • A 2-year degree can cost significantly less than a bachelor's degree program
  • Can prepare students to transfer to a 4-year degree in game art

Cons

  • Game artist job growth in the U.S. is sluggish because many jobs are moved overseas*
  • A 2-year degree in game art and design may not prepare students for supervisory or leadership positions
  • This degree requires students to master complex math and computer programming skills

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Common Courses and Requirements

In addition to math and computer technology courses, students may be required to take courses in studio art, game development, game modeling and animation. General education courses are also required. Some additional courses may include:

  • Computer graphics and animation
  • Multidimensional design
  • Vector graphics for games
  • Interactive game design
  • Drawing

Online Degree Options

Online associate's degrees in graphic design or web design are more commonly found than those specifically in game art. Some online graphic design degree programs include some of the required courses for a bachelor's degree in game art, and thus may be preparation to transfer to a 4-year degree. Online programs in graphic design may require students to have a degree or have a minimum number of general education credits before enrolling.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

With a 2-year degree in game art and design, you'll likely need professional experience to find a job. To get ahead, you can gain experience while in school through internships. It's also a good idea to make industry contacts at game design conferences and workshops. Taking courses in game interface design may better prepare you to enter into the workforce.

Other Degrees to Consider

While an associate's degree in game art and design may help you in your quest to use your artistic skills in the development of video games, an associate's degree in graphic design may provide you with more career alternatives. An associate's degree in graphic design includes general coursework in graphic arts and communication design that can prepare you for careers in game art as well as electronic publishing, marketing, advertising and other fields. Also, it may be easier to find an associate's degree program in graphic design because there are many more 2-year graphic design programs available than 2-year game art and design programs.

Bachelor's Degree in Game Art and Design

A variety of bachelor's degree programs are available in game art and design. You can complete a Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree program in this subject. Courses help you hone your artistic skills while preparing you for a career as a game artist and animator. By the end of your degree program you should have a portfolio of your work to show future employers.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • A bachelor's degree can make you more competitive in the field
  • A 4-year degree can give you time to develop a portfolio of work
  • In general, those with bachelor's degrees earn a higher median annual salary than those with only associate's or no degree at all*

Cons

  • Students may have to provide a portfolio demonstrating their artistic skills in order to be accepted into the program
  • This degree focuses on a career that demands working long hours, including nights and weekends*
  • For fiscal year 2011, game art and design professionals with an associate's degree made a higher average annual salary than those with a bachelor's degree**

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Game Developer Magazine (2012 survey)

Courses and Requirements

In addition to the general education courses required of all undergraduates, students may take the following courses:

  • 3D design
  • Animation
  • Texturing, shading and lighting
  • Modeling
  • Figure sculpting and drawing
  • Interactive design

Online Degree Options

Although online bachelor's degrees in game art and design are available, options are limited. If you enroll in an online bachelor's degree in game art and design, you may be required to purchase multiple software packages that you'll use for class. You may also have additional hardware requirements, such as a digital camera and a scanner.

Stand Out with This Degree

Video game designers work in teams of artists, programmers, designers and managers. While earning your degree, take advantage of team project opportunities to learn how to communicate and work in a team atmosphere. Also use your project opportunities to create a portfolio of your work. You'll need a portfolio to demonstrate your art and design abilities to future employers.

Popular Schools

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Full Sail University

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Southern New Hampshire University

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