Master's Degree Programs in Game Design and Development

Master's degree programs in game design and development are available in several specialization options that allow students to focus on areas such as advanced programming, game art or production. Learn about common course topics and concentration areas, and find out about career opportunities for graduates. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Kind of Master's Degree Can I Earn in Game Design?

Most commonly, you can earn either a Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree in game design. The principle difference between the two is that an MFA is almost exclusively a creative program, focusing on how the game looks. Meanwhile, an M.S. program is often more technical, emphasizing how the game works. Some Master of Arts (M.A.) programs are also available.

Degree Options Master of science, master of fine arts, master of arts
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field; GRE scores
Online Availability Online programs are available, but rare
Specialization Options Programming, production, art
Common Courses Effects animation, game art, prototyping, 3-D modeling, visual development
Career Options Producer, storyboard artist, art director, animator, creative director
Median Salary (2018) $72,520 (for all multimedia artists and animators
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% growth (for all multimedia artists and animators

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 

Are There Online Options?

Online master's degree programs in game design and development are not widely available; however, they do exist. If you're studying online, you'll likely access your coursework through a Web-based course management system. At schools with both on-campus and online degree options, you may be able to experience on-campus events virtually; for example, if the on-campus program invites a well-known game designer to be a guest speaker, a webcast or streaming video of the presentation may be available for you to view.

Although master's-level programs that primarily involve online study are uncommon, it's typical for on-campus programs in game design to offer a few - or even many - courses via e-learning. You're likely to have options to earn a number of credits online, even if you can't earn a full degree.

What Are the Prerequisites?

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to be considered for admission, and many master's programs prefer a degree in a related field, like programming, media production or art design. You'll probably have to submit GRE scores, letters of recommendation and a personal statement as well. Additionally, MFA degree programs will likely ask you to submit a creative portfolio to demonstrate your current design skills.

What Will I Learn?

Many design programs will allow you to choose a specialization, such as art, production or programming. Art specializations are largely creative and teach you techniques like shading, rigging, modeling, texturing, lighting and motion capture editing. Programming specializations typically include instruction in things like developing game engines, porting games to various platforms and fielding current technology limitations like memory management. Production specializations teach you to manage development teams, come up with ideas for games, develop marketing campaigns and even deal with logistics issues like distribution.

Most programs also emphasize knowledge of the industry and the development process. Areas such as team leadership, collaborative design and project management are often explored.

What Kinds of Classes Will I Take?

Coursework in these programs often depends on whether you are getting an M.S. or an MFA. Students in MFA programs will take more creative classes, while M.S. students may take more technical classes. A few classes you might find in a master's program include:

  • Effects animation
  • Prototyping
  • Level design
  • Visual development
  • Game art
  • 3-D modeling

What Kinds of Jobs Can I Get?

Earning a master's degree qualifies you to work in the gaming industry, often in a management capacity. Job titles you could pursue include:

  • Producer
  • Creative director
  • Art director
  • Lead game designer
  • Animator
  • Level designer
  • Storyboard artist

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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