Top Game Programming and Design Schools

Find out what you should look for when choosing a school with a good program in game programming and design. Read about three excellent schools with programs in this field, and find out what game design-related degrees you could pursue at each school. Schools offering Game Production degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Some Characteristics of Exceptional Game Programming and Design Schools?

Whether your primary strength is art design, programming or the business behind game development, some schools have created interdisciplinary programs to address these interests. Excellent schools should have strong art programs and relevant computer science courses to prepare you for the fields of game programming and design. Since game development may have immediate commercial applications, a good school should also help you to learn the business skills necessary to launch or market your projects. Up-to-date laboratory and research facilities, strong industry connections among faculty, and frequent opportunities to practice your skills in a hands-on way are also factors to consider, as these will help to enhance your marketability once you graduate.

What Are Three Outstanding Game Programming and Design Schools?

Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA

As of 2019, Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) has a computer engineering program that is tied for third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.

As an undergraduate student at CMU, you'll study core, fine arts and computer science subjects under dual advisors from the College of Fine Arts (CFA) and the School of Computer Science (SCS). Students have interned with news and entertainment organizations and participated in the Sparta Institute, a summer multimedia program in Greece. Undergraduate research projects are encouraged with a small grants program.

The CFA and SCS also collaborate for a master's program within the SCS's Entertainment Technology Center. The interdisciplinary 2-year master's degree program focuses on projects more than coursework, which gives students a chance to work on artist and technologist teams. The game design project emphasizes the testing, creating and developing of different types of games. Students can pursue the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Computer Science and Arts (BCSA)
  • BCSA with a concentration in the College of Fine Arts - Art
  • BCSA with a concentration in the College of Fine Arts - Design
  • BCSA with a concentration in the School of Computer Science
  • Master of Entertainment Technology

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY

Graduates of RPI have included the creators of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Spider-Man 3, and Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2. RPI's undergraduate and graduate degree programs have access to the Department of Art's technology laboratories, multimedia studios, art gallery and games project space. To attract high school seniors, RPI has a summer Computer Game Development Academy with slots equally divided between artists and programmers. The following degrees are available:

  • Bachelor of Science (B.S) in Games and Simulation Arts and Science
  • B.S. in Electronic Arts
  • B.S. in Electronic Media and Communication
  • Master of Fine Arts in Electronic Arts
  • M.S. in Cognitive Science
  • M.S. in Human-Computer Interaction
  • Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Electronic Arts
  • Ph.D. in Computer Science
  • Ph.D. in Cognitive Science

University of Southern California (USC) in Los Angeles, CA

The Princeton Review lists USC as number one in the company's Top Undergraduate Schools for Game Design list in 2019. USC's School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) faculty includes professionals from the entertainment industry and many Oscar and Emmy award winners.

SCA's Interactive Media Division (IMD) offers a bachelor's and master's degree and is the only such program to be connected with a cinematic school. IMD laboratories and major research initiatives include the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab, the Entertainment Technology Center and the USC Games Institute. IMD has many active research projects, some funded by major institutions and corporations. Projects include games like Chojo, a 3D virtual world game and E.L.E.C.T., an Army training scenario with virtual characters. Degree options include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Entertainment
  • Master of Fine Arts in Interactive Media

Ten Additional Schools Offering Degrees in Game and Interactive Media Design

College/UniversityInstitution TypeLocation Estimated Undergraduate In-State Tuition*
Cleveland Institute of Art4-year, PrivateCleveland, OH $42,000
Quinnipiac University4-year, PrivateHamden, CT $48,000
Riverland Community College2-year, PublicAustin, MN $6,000
Blue Ridge Community College2-year, PublicFlat Rock, NC $3,000
Wilmington University4-year, PrivateNew Castle, DE 11,000
Michigan State University4-year, PublicEast Lansing, MI $14,000
University of Utah4-year, PublicSalt Lake City, UT $9,000
South Georgia Technical College2-year, PublicAmericus, GA $3,000
University of Denver4-year, PrivateDenver, CO $51,000
Yavapai College2-year, PublicPrescott, AZ $2,000
  • Source: NCES, U.S. Department of Education

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:

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