Game Design & Development: Masters, Training & Online Degree Info

About this article
What will you learn in a game design and development degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of training programs and master's degrees, and potential careers.
View available schools

Studying Game Design and Development: Training and Master's Degrees at a Glance

You'll find that a career in game design and development requires many of the same skill sets found in similar occupations in the computer software and video game industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates job growth for software developers, which includes game designers, will increase 30% between 2010 and 2020 (www.bls.gov). Because of the ongoing demand for new video games, you'll see continued growth in this industry, which includes occupations such as game designers, animators, multimedia artists, programmers and others.

If you're interested in game design and already possess a bachelor's degree, you may pursue a graduate certificate or a master's degree in game design. Here's a comparison of these programs:

Certificate Master's
Who is this degree for? Bachelor's degree holders seeking advanced, short-term programs in video game design Bachelor's degree holders seeking research and management training in the game design industry
Common Career Paths (with mean annual salary) - Game software developer ($62,000)*
- Game designer ($54,000)*
- 3-D artist ($52,000)*
- Video game producer ($74,000)*
Same as Training Program
Time to Completion Less than one year, full time 2 years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements 12-15 credit hours - 63 credit hours
- Thesis project
Prerequisites -Bachelor's degree and other requirements
- Technical ability and knowledge requirements
-Bachelor's degree in a specific major
- Demonstrated skillset for program
- Technical training and requirements
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *PayScale.com (median salary figures as of June 2012).

Training for a Graduate Certificate Program

There are many occupations involved in game design and development. As a game designer, you may be in charge of the overall design of the game, a specific game level, the game text and dialogue or even the game manuals and accessories. Some specific job titles include software developer, 3-D artist, video game designer and video game producer.

Training in a graduate certificate program in game design is generally for students who do not hold a bachelor's degree major in gaming but want to acquire needed training and skills in this field. These certificate programs may have prerequisites such as computer programming and data structure coursework. Applicants may need to have completed higher-level math courses. Also, work experience and demonstrated knowledge in game design may be accepted in lieu of actual coursework.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Graduate certificates may be completed in a year
  • Job growth in the video game industry continues to expand rapidly*
  • Certificate programs may improve your job opportunities
  • Flexible programs may allow you to continue to work full-time

Cons

  • A bachelor's degree or specific technical and education requirements are needed
  • The brevity and limited program coursework may not be adequate for some career paths
  • Earning potential for game designers vary based on your experience

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2010).

Courses and Requirements

Program courses may include introductory classes in game design and development, and then progress to advanced coursework. Your curriculum may include courses on:

  • Computer graphics
  • Game engine construction
  • Artificial intelligence for computer games
  • Audio processing for entertainment
  • Programming language courses
  • 3-D modeling and animation

Online Degree Options

Many graduate certificate programs in game design and development are not available entirely online. Those available generally offer curriculum and have requirements similar to traditional on-campus certificate programs in game design. Most certificate programs available online allow you to apply those credit hours toward a master's degree. These programs may be found in various formats, but are likely to be designed for adult learners and delivered in an accelerated format.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Game development is an evolving industry. Staying on top of the latest technology is an important aspect of working in this field. One way to keep up with industry trends is to actively participate in professional industry associations. The Entertainment Software Association and International Developers Game Association are examples of associations that you may want to join They are affiliated with many of the industry's largest names and can provide networking opportunities as well as offer many other benefits and resources, such as free online classes and education scholarship opportunities. Being involved in the gaming community and its peripherals can help you to stand out and enable you to find more opportunities while you attend school and after you graduate.

Master's Degree

Master's degree programs in game design prepare individuals for management and research positions in the gaming industry. These programs allow students to immerse themselves in a particular aspect of the industry and gain practical, hands-on experience. Most master's degree programs have capstone projects that allow you to hone and showcase your training. Such concentrations may include software development, art creation, level design, production or another area of focus.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Programs are generally taught by industry professionals
  • Programs may offer flexible schedules for working adults
  • You'll gain personal satisfaction and possibly fan appreciation for creating popular video games
  • In many cases, video game companies provide a casual or informal work environment

Cons

  • A bachelor's degree in a related field is needed for admission
  • You'll need to meet graduate degree admission requirements that require specific skill sets, credentials and a bachelor's degree
  • Keeping up with industry changes require continuing education
  • Job growth in video game industry means stronger competition for higher paying jobs.

Courses and Requirements

Master's degree programs in game design vary by school but generally require working with a faculty advisor on a directed course of study. You may also work with a team of other graduate students to create a working video game. This type of training provides you with real-world experience in game design. Program coursework may include 3-D modeling and animation, programming languages and video game history and technique. A final thesis or master's project will be required to demonstrate the skills and knowledge you've gained in the program.

Online Degree Options

There are accredited online master's degree programs available. The nature of this degree lends itself to the online format. Online programs may consist of very similar coursework to the campus based programs and are offered by highly recognized schools in the industry.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

Participating in an internship program may help you secure employment after graduation, as well as establish contacts in the industry. You may find internship opportunities via online websites, classified ads and by contacting companies you'd like to work for. Location is an important aspect of finding a job as a game designer or developer. You'll need to research the opportunities in your area and may need to consider relocating.

Popular Schools

  • Campus and Online Programs
    1. Full Sail University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
      • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
      • MSM in Information Technology
      • Master: Information Technology
      • Master: IT/Information Security and Assurance
      • MS in Cybersecurity Management
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Information Technology Management
      • M.S. in Instructional Technology
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security
      • Master of Science in Cyber Security (Bridge)
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Human Resources and Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MSTIM - Computer Science
      • MBA - Applied Computer Science
      • MBA - Computer and Information Security
      • MSTIM - Cybersecurity
      • MSTIM - Information Systems
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Colorado State University Global

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master - Information Technology Management
      • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    7. American InterContinental University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of IT: Project Management
      • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
      • Master of Science in Information Technology
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Utica College

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Cyber Policy
      • MBA - Cybersecurity
      • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Computer Forensics
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Cyber Operations
      • MS in Cybersecurity - Intelligence
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Abilene Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA - Information Technology Leadership
  • Online Programs Available
    10. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Cybersecurity

Featured Schools

Full Sail University

  • Master of Science - Mobile Gaming

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master: Information Technology - Project Management
  • MSM in Information Technology
  • Master: Information Technology

Which subject are you interested in?

Grand Canyon University

  • Bridge to the M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Information Technology Management
  • M.S. in Instructional Technology

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA Dual Concentration: Healthcare Management and Technology Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Accounting and Technology Management
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Public Safety Leadership and Technology Management

What is your highest level of education?

Northcentral University

  • MSTIM - Computer Science
  • MBA - Applied Computer Science
  • MBA - Computer and Information Security

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado State University Global

  • Master - Information Technology Management
  • Graduate Specialization - Information Technology

What is your highest level of education?

American InterContinental University

  • Master of IT: Project Management
  • Master of Information Technology - Information Assurance and Security
  • Master of Science in Information Technology

Are you a US citizen?

Utica College

  • MBA - Cyber Policy
  • MBA - Cybersecurity
  • MBA Economic Crime and Fraud Management

What is your highest level of education completed?