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Best Online Bachelor's in Game Design Degree Programs

Explore online game design bachelor's degree program features, such as how long they take and what classes they include. Find out some of the careers that are available to you after graduation as well as professional organizations for game design.

Schools with Online Game Design Bachelor's Programs

Online game design bachelor's degree programs are offered by a variety of schools across the United States and typically consist of online classes over four years of full-time study. Some of the schools that offer online game design bachelor's programs are shown in the table below.

School Name Location Courses Degrees Per-Credit Tuition (2019-2020).
Bellevue University Bellevue, NE *Animation
*Level Design
*Narrative Design
Bachelor's $425
Franklin University Columbus, OH *Interactive Media
*Flash Animation
*Human-Computer Interactions
BS in Interactive Design $398
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA *Digital Aesthetics
*Game Design
*Game Development
BA in Digital Media $37,575 (per academic year)

Overview of Online Game Design Bachelor's Programs

Online game design bachelor's degree programs can usually be completed entirely online. Students often use a primary website for their courses, sometimes referred to as a learning portal, as well as relevant software and applications needed to complete assignments. Students may earn one of several different types of degrees, depending on their school and program. Available online game design bachelor's degree programs include:

  • Bachelor of Arts (BA) - These degrees might be a BA in Game Design, Game Development or a related area. These programs usually have more liberal arts topics and flexibility. For example, students in these programs may have more control over which classes they will take (via electives).
  • Bachelor of Science (BS) - Like BA programs, these degrees can have various titles but are more program-focused than BA programs. These programs provide deeper analytical and technical study and may concentrate on specific types of game design (such as computer game design or software development).
  • Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) - BFA in Game Design programs are the least common type of online game design program. These programs are more connected to the artistic aspects of game design while still providing technical knowledge.

Some online game design programs include a residency or internship experience. Depending on the school, program and student, these requirements may be completed on-campus or at approved sites. Completing a residency or related internship enables students to practice and build upon the skills that they have learned in their online coursework.

Common Courses

The specific classes that are included in online game design bachelor's degree programs vary by school and concentration (if applicable). However, students of online bachelor's degree programs in game design are likely to have some of the courses listed below.

  • Game Design - This course explores game designer roles and responsibilities and teaches students how features such as characters and in-game rules interact.
  • Game Design Tools - Students learn about the practical tools that are used in game design as well as how to create simulations, designs and presentations.
  • Game Development - Students utilize object-oriented programming languages and game editing software in the creation of animations, sprites and games.
  • Game Scripting - This course provides an overview of relevant languages, functions, conditions and events that are necessary in developing game engine scripts.
  • Level Design - In this course, students explore game levels and how to recognize their structural characteristics. Students also review aesthetics, purpose and pacing.
  • Character Design - This class introduces students to character design, including components such as texture, color, story and 3-D modeling.

Program Length

Although program lengths can vary, online game design bachelor's degree programs traditionally take four years of full-time study to complete. Most programs include 120 credit hours and students often take 30 credits per year via fall and spring semesters. Students whose programs offer part-time options may be able to stretch their program out longer and/or utilize summer semesters to lighten the course load in the spring and fall semesters.

On the other hand, students interested in finishing their programs in less time can often do so by taking more classes each academic year. Students may choose to take on a bigger load in the longer terms and add classes in the summer. Some schools offer courses in 8-week and similar formats that allow students to have rolling course terms, eliminating the shortened summer semester and instead featuring around 6 accelerated terms. Students interested in finishing their program earlier who are enrolled in 8-week terms, for example, could take 3 courses per term; this would lead to 18 courses per year (54 credits) and a total program length of fewer than 2.5 years.

Transfer Credits

Students who have previously completed coursework can typically transfer in qualifying credits (such as those with a GPA of 3.0 or higher from an accredited program). Transferring in courses from earlier programs allows students to waive some of the courses required for their online game design program. Bachelor's degree programs typically allow for significant transfer credits, as long as they're applicable to the courses being waived. If a student has already completed an associate's degree, they are often able to waive around 60 credit hours, cutting the length and cost of their program in half.

Admissions Requirements

Specific admissions requirements for online game design programs vary by school, but all students need to have a high school diploma or GED for admission. Many schools require, or prefer, students to have earned a specific GPA on their diploma/GED, such as a 2.5. In addition, schools typically require a copy of students' SAT or ACT scores and/or a copy of transcripts from previous college coursework. Students may also need to provide essays or writing samples, samples of relevant work (such as artwork or gaming design) and letters of recommendation.

Cost of Online Game Design Bachelor's Degree Programs

The cost of an online game design program varies but is typically composed of tuition and other applicable fees. Tuition is the largest portion of the program cost and is usually charged per credit hour. Tuition can vary considerably between schools and might be anywhere from $200 to $1,000 per credit hour. Students who need to complete the full 120 credit hours could have a total tuition of $24,000 to $120,000. In addition to tuition, students may encounter other costs such as distance education fees and registration fees. These fees might be charged per semester or credit hour, depending on their purpose, and can add up to several thousand dollars over the course of the program.

Financial Aid for Online Game Design Bachelor's Program

Online game design bachelor's degree students can qualify for several types of financial aid, including scholarships, loans and grants. Students interested in obtaining financial aid should first fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA is free to use and enables students to send their results to their selected schools directly from their application. Students need to complete the FAFSA in order to qualify for federal aid and some private aid. Some types of financial aid available to online game design students are discussed in the sections below.

Scholarships

Students of online game design programs can obtain scholarships from several resources, including their schools and state education websites. There are countless scholarships available and can be awarded based on factors such as field of study, merit and financial need. Some scholarships available to online game design students are listed below.

  • Microsoft Imagine Cup Global Competition - Students of accredited schools can compete in this software-building competition offered by Microsoft to win one of various award amounts.
  • Walt Disney Imaginations Design Competition Challenge - This competition also awards various prizes to students who create iconic art installations.
  • Worldstudio AIGA Scholarship - This $5,000 scholarship is offered to financially disadvantaged and minority students pursuing degrees in fields such as interactive design.

Work-Study Programs

Work-study programs allow students to earn funds for their program by working part-time while in school. These programs can be offered by schools (backed by the federal government) as well as individual employers.

Student Loans

Student loans are offered by government and private loan servicers, but those offered by the government should be used before any private loans. Government loans offer flexible repayment plans and nationally set interest rates.

Accreditation for Online Game Design Bachelor's Programs

Schools that offer online game design bachelor's degree programs can be accredited by several different organizations. Accreditation shows that a school has met or exceeded certain quality standards, such as those relating to curriculum and graduation rates. Students interested in using federal financial aid (and some types of private aid) are required to attend an accredited school.

National vs. Regional

Colleges and universities can be accredited by two different types of accrediting organizations: national and regional. Although both types represent quality standards, there are a few key differences that students should consider when choosing a school. Please note, these characteristics are typical but vary by school.

  • National Accreditation:
    • Affects schools throughout the United States
    • These schools are often less expensive
    • More relaxed admissions requirements
    • Credits earned can only be transferred to other nationally accredited schools
  • Regional Accreditation:
    • Applies to schools in specific regional areas
    • Higher quality standards for accreditation
    • More selective admissions requirements
    • Credits can be transferred to schools with either type of accreditation

Careers for Online Game Design Graduates

Graduates of online game design bachelor's degree programs can pursue a variety of different careers, several of which are discussed below.

Multimedia Artists and Animators

Multimedia artists and animators develop the images and models that appear to move in video games and other media. Their duties often include using software to create animations and graphics, working with peers to develop needs, editing animations and meeting development deadlines. These individuals often work in their field of expertise, such as video games, and sometimes have sub-specialties. For example, video game professionals may focus on level design, making sure specific levels meet the desired layout. These professionals usually have a bachelor's degree related to computer animation or graphics along with a portfolio of applicable work.

Software Developers, Applications

Applications software developers create computer applications, including games. They can be responsible for designing software that will be sold to consumers or organizations. Their duties often include designing pieces of applications and making sure that these pieces run smoothly together, documenting changes and bugs, and maintaining the performance of developed applications. Many of these professionals have a bachelor's degree in computer science or a related field and skills that are relevant to their field. Game design graduates may have better employment odds if they complete a related internship and have familiarity with computer programming tasks.

Art Directors

Art directors oversee the images and perception of artistic productions, departments or organizations. They are often responsible for deciding how to best represent a concept, choosing appropriate visual elements, managing artists and other staff, and presenting finished concepts to clients. Art designers with experience in game design may oversee gaming departments or companies, making sure that the visuals work, the story is effective and the code is free from glitches. These professionals usually have work experience in a similar field, such as graphic designer, along with at least a bachelor's degree in a related field.

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers create a visual representation of an idea or concept by hand or by computer. They create the design and layout that communicate specific ideas or feelings to customers. Their duties can include using editing software, developing layouts and color schemes and presenting designs to art directors and clients. Graphic designers typically need a portfolio of their work experience and a bachelor's degree in graphic design or a similar field, such as game design. In addition, candidates for these positions can benefit from internships and optional certification that establishes their expertise with specific software products.

Job Title Median Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028).
Graphic Designers $50,370 3%
Software Developers, Applications $103,620 26%
Multimedia Artists and Animators $72,520 4%
Art Directors $92,780 1%

All career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Organizations for Game Design Graduates

There are a number of professional organizations available to graduates of online game design bachelor's degree programs. These organizations enable individuals to connect with others in their field and advance their knowledge and skill sets. Some of the professional associations that are open to online game design bachelor's degree graduates are listed below.

  • International Game Developers Association (IGDA) - Members of IGDA have access to software and even discounts, networking and collaboration and professional development resources. IGDS offers hundreds of local and global groups that allow members to collaborate and network.
  • American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) - AIGA is one of the largest professional organizations for designers in the world and offers group and individual memberships. Members have access to benefits such as discounts, job and internship boards, local activities, competitions and events.
  • Entertainment Software Association (ESA) - ESA is one of the foremost advocates for the video game trade industry and its professionals and has been since 1994. ESA works closely with members to ensure that games continue to be innovative and compliant with regulations.