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Best Game Design Master’s Degree Programs, Jobs, and Salaries

Joseph Taglavore - May 29, 2022


The best game design master’s degrees focus on the process of making, testing, developing, and designing video games. If you have a computer science degree or IT degree and have dreamed of making video games, then a Master’s Degree in Game Design will provide you with the technical skills in all aspects of game design you need to succeed in the field.

With so many game design master’s degree programs out there, it can be difficult to know which is best. To help with your school search, we’ve put together a list of the best game design master’s degrees and a breakdown of each one’s admission requirements, the application process, and more. We’ve also listed the best game design master’s degree jobs for grads.

Where Can I Get a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

The best colleges where you can get a Master’s Degree in Game Design include the American University, Laguna College of Art and Design, Full Sail University, Bradley University, and DePaul University. Each of these schools has a fantastic curriculum with courses covering topics such as game studies, 3D animation, and mobile gaming.

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What Schools Offer the Best Game Design Master’s Degrees?

  • American University
  • Bradley University
  • DePaul University
  • Full Sail University
  • Laguna College of Art and Design

What Are the Admission Requirements for a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

The admission requirements for a Master’s Degree in Game Design are often different from school to school but always require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree . Other common requirements include having a GPA above 2.75, one or multiple letters of recommendation, a statement of intent or short essay, and a portfolio of work or resume.

Many schools have a highly-competitive acceptance rate, so having competitive standardized test scores may be required, along with a GPA lower than the minimum requirement. Keep in mind that although all programs require applicants to have a game development bachelor’s degree , many don’t require that bachelor’s degree to be in a field of study related to game design.

Game Design Master’s Degree Admission Requirements

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of intent or essay
  • Resume and portfolio of work
  • Competitive GPA and standardized test scores

How to Get a Game Design Master’s Degree

The best way to get a game design master’s degree is by fulfilling all of the degree completion requirements. Requirements generally consist of completing multiple capstone projects, completing a thesis project, participating in group and team assignments, completing an internship, and demonstrating your work at a portfolio showcase.

How Many Credits Do You Need for a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

You typically need between 30 and 64 credits for a Master’s Degree in Game Design. Depending on the program, it can take between one and two and a half years to obtain a Master’s Degree in Game Design. Many programs break up the entire degree into equal parts and workshops rather than individual credits.

Game Design Degree Requirements

  • Complete three capstone projects
  • Complete a thesis project
  • Finish an internship
  • Enter your portfolio pieces into a student showcase
  • Performing a new role in the development process each semester

Best Game Design Master’s Degree Programs and Schools: Overview

School Program Accreditation
Academy of Art University Master of Arts in Game Development Western Association of Schools and Colleges
American University Master of Arts in Game Design The Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools
Bradley University Master of Science in Game Design and Development Higher Learning Commission
DePaul University Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Higher Learning Commission
Full Sail University Master of Science in Game Design Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
Laguna College of Art and Design Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Western Association of Schools and Colleges
New York University Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Rochester Institute of Technology Master of Science in Game Design and Development Middle States Commission on Higher Education
University of Central Florida Master of Science in Interactive Entertainment Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
The University of Utah Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Best Schools for Game Design: Top Game Design Master’s Degree Programs

The best schools for a Master’s Degree in Game Design can be found all across the country. Whether a private or public university, each of these schools provides a program designed to create the next generation of talented video game designers. You’ll gain game development skills and study topics like art direction, design concepts, and animation techniques.

1

Academy of Art University

San Francisco, CA

Located in San Francisco, California, the Academy of Art University is an art and design school with its campus close to Silicon Valley and Hollywood. This school helps students learn the ins and outs of their craft and prepares its graduate students to work in the industry by giving them hands-on experience in game development, film, design, and more.

Master of Arts in Game Development

The Academy of Art University’s Master of Arts in Game Development is a 36-credit-hour degree program that prepares students for the world of game creation. The program provides courses covering topics like digital media creation, coding scripts, sound design, and real-world projects to add to your portfolio.

Master of Arts in Game Development Overview

  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Tuition: $1,171/unit
  • Required Credits: 36 units
  • Program Length: 1.5 years
  • Learning Format: In-person and hybrid
  • NCES Grad Rate: 47%

Master of Arts in Game Development Admission Requirements

  • GPA: No minimum specified
  • Standardized Tests: Not required
  • Application Fee: $50
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Resume, statement of intent, and portfolio or demo reel

Applying to Academy of Art University

  1. Fill out the application form on the school website.
  2. Pay the $50 application fee.
  3. Submit your official transcripts, resume, portfolio, and letter of intent.
  4. Speak to an admissions counselor.
  5. Complete your financial aid application.

2

American University

Washington, DC

American University is located in the heart of the US capitol with easy access to Virginia, Maryland, free museums, art, and a multitude of restaurants from all around the world. Established in 1893 and with a student population near 15,000, American University is a fantastic school for anyone looking to broaden their worldview.

Master of Arts in Game Design

American University's Master of Arts in Game Design degree is an excellent choice for your graduate program. This program begins with a bootcamp for those without the required technical skills. Students get the opportunity to work alongside professional game developers, allowing them to get an in-depth professional and educational experience.

Master of Arts in Game Design Overview

  • Accreditation: The Middle States Association Commissions on Elementary and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)
  • Tuition: $1,866/credit
  • Required Credits: 36 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Learning Format: Hybrid
  • NCES Grad Rate: 79%

Master of Arts in Game Design Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Minimum 3.0
  • Standardized Tests: Not required
  • Application Fee: $55
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Resume, essay, letters of recommendation, portfolio (optional), and interview (if requested)

Applying to American University

  1. Submit your completed online application and questionnaire.
  2. Provide your official transcripts.
  3. Send a current resume.
  4. Write a 500-1,000 word essay.
  5. Submit two letters of recommendation.
  6. Provide any portfolio work (optional).
  7. Attend your interview if requested by the admissions committee.
  8. Pay the application fee.

3

Bradley University

Peoria, IL

Bradley University is a university located in Peoria, Illinois, with around 6,000 students. Just three hours away from Chicago, Bradley University includes over 185 academic programs laser-focused on giving students experiential learning opportunities to help them reach their full potential.

Master of Science In Game Design and Development

Bradley University’s Master of Science in Game Design and Development is a multi-faceted, full-time, 30-credit hour graduate program that challenges students with courses in augmented reality, artificial intelligence, and game design. The program's courses are hands-on and require students to complete game production projects which they can then add to their portfolios.

Master of Science In Game Design and Development Overview

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $950/semester hour
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 1.5 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 76%

Master of Science In Game Design and Development Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Minimum 3.0
  • Standardized Tests: Not required
  • Application Fee: $40
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree in game design, computer science, or related field
  • Other Requirements: Portfolio, 250-word essay, and two letters of recommendation

Applying to Bradley University

  1. Submit your application form on the school website.
  2. Provide your official transcripts.
  3. Submit a portfolio of game design work with a description of your role on each project.
  4. Submit two letters of recommendation.
  5. Provide a statement of intent.
  6. Pay the $40 application fee.

4

DePaul University

Chicago, IL

DePaul University is located in the heart of Chicago, with its graduate campus in the business district, just a train ride away from the rest of the city and within walking distance of all that Chicago has to offer. If the hustle and bustle of the city are for you, DePaul’s graduate campus might be a great option.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design

This is a three-year master’s degree program that has produced excellent game developers. The developers of the $4.9 million dollar indie game hit Octodad and Young Horse developed the smash success as a portfolio project while attending DePaul. With a focus on team building and portfolio work, DePaul University is one of the best game development graduate programs in the country.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Overview

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Tuition: $900 per credit hour
  • Required Credits: 64 credits
  • Program Length: 3 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 71%

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Admission Requirements

  • GPA: 2.5
  • Standardized Tests: Not required
  • Application Fee: $25
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Resume, portfolio, statement of creative intent, and at least two letters of recommendation

Applying to DePaul University

  1. Complete the online application request.
  2. Pay the $25 application fee.
  3. Submit your resume, portfolio, statement of creative intent, and letters of recommendation.
  4. Submit your official transcripts.

5

Full Sail University

Winter Park, FL

Full Sail University is one of our top game design schools for 2020 . The college is located in Winter Park, Florida, and allows both online and on-campus students to reach their full potential. Full Sail University offers all students the option of starting with a discounted welcome pack that includes a laptop, software, and hardware accessories, so all students start on the same footing.

Master of Science in Game Design

The Master of Science in Game Design from Full Sail University is a 41.5 credit hour program that lasts between one and three years. With a direct pipeline to some of the largest media companies in the United States, Full Sail University is one of the best choices for graduate students who want a career in the AAA gaming industry.

Master of Science in Game Design Overview

  • Accreditation: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Tuition (and Fees): $867/credit
  • Required Credits: 41.5 credits
  • Program Length: 1-3 years
  • Learning Format: Online, in-person, or hybrid
  • NCES Grad Rate: 44%

Master of Science in Game Design Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Minimum 2.5
  • Standardized Tests: Not required
  • Application Fee: $75
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree in a related field
  • Other Requirements: Letter of intent and resume for applicants with a GPA below 2.5 or a bachelor’s degree outside of related fields of study

Applying to Full Sail University

  1. Speak to an admissions counselor and complete an admissions interview.
  2. Submit your completed admissions request form.
  3. Pay the application fee.
  4. Submit your official transcripts.
  5. Provide any additional documents if needed.

6

Laguna College of Art and Design

Laguna Beach, CA

Laguna College of Art and Design is located in Laguna Beach, California. With its campus just a 30-minute walk from the water and downtown Laguna Beach, there might not be a more pleasant place to study on our list. Laguna also has an acceptance rate of 79 percent and an off-campus housing assistance office, making it a welcoming option for many graduate students.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design

Laguna College of Art and Design’s Master of Fine Arts in Game Design is an intensive two-year master’s program that allows students to gain real-world experience by working alongside industry professionals. This allows students to learn game design in a way that mimics industry-standard practices.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Overview

  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Tuition: $1,297/unit
  • Required Credits: 60 units
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 67%

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Admission Requirements

  • GPA: No minimum specified
  • Standardized Tests: Not required
  • Application Fee: None
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Statement of purpose, portfolio, resume, and letters of recommendation

Applying to Laguna College of Art and Design

  1. Submit your free online application on the school website.
  2. Provide your statement of purpose and portfolio.
  3. Send your official transcripts.
  4. Submit two letters of recommendation and your resume.

7

New York University

New York City, NY

Located in one of the most famous cities in the United States, New York University is a school serving over 52,800 graduate and undergraduate students. With its campus in the heart of the Big Apple, New York University is within walking distance of anything a graduate student could want, along with a myriad of transportation options.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design

This is a two-year intensive degree in video game development where students can create a professional game portfolio and learn the different roles in a game development studio like game art, game analytics, game programming, and game engine design. Students work alongside industry professionals to gain a mastery of game development concepts.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Overview

  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition (and Fees): $32,704/semester, full-time
  • Required Credits: N/A
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 88%

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design Admission Requirements

  • GPA: No minimum specified
  • Standardized Tests: Not required, may be submitted
  • Application Fee: $65
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Two letters of recommendation and a portfolio containing your resume, personal statement, a critical analysis of one game, two projects each with a one-page design statement

Applying to New York University

  1. Begin the online application process by enrolling in the SLATE online graduate school application portal.
  2. Submit two letters of recommendation and your official transcripts via the SLATE portal.
  3. Submit your portfolio, including all the documents listed above.
  4. Pay the application fee.

8

Rochester Institute of Technology

Rochester, NY

The Rochester Institute of Technology has a student population of 16,158 and a rich history. Founded in 1829, the Rochester Institute of Technology puts technology first and offers programs in multiple technology fields. The Rochester Institute of Technology is a great choice for those who want a more technology-focused degree.

Master of Science in Game Design and Development

Rochester Institute of Technology’s Master of Science in Game Design and Development is a 33-credit program lasting around two years and is more technically focused. It includes elective courses chosen by the graduate student to enhance the degree so that it’s tailor-made to each student’s professional needs.

Master of Science in Game Design and Development Overview

  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Tuition: $54,176/year
  • Required Credits: 33 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 71%

Master of Science in Game Design and Development Admission Requirements

  • GPA: 3.25
  • Standardized Tests: GRE if GPA is below 3.5
  • Application Fee: $65
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Resume, two letters of recommendation, portfolio, personal statement, and one year of significant programming experience in an object-oriented language

Applying to Rochester Institute of Technology

  1. Submit your application form through the school application portal.
  2. Pay the $65 application fee.
  3. Provide your official transcripts.
  4. Submit your personal statement, resume, letters of recommendation, and portfolio.
  5. Send your standardized test scores, if necessary.

9

University of Central Florida

Orlando, FL

The University of Central Florida is located in the city of Orlando and is one of the most affordable options on our list. With over 71,881 students and located just forty minutes from some of the largest theme parks in the United States, the University of Central Florida is an affordable and interesting option to earn a graduate degree in game design.

Master of Science in Interactive Entertainment

This program requires the completion of 30 credits and takes approximately one and a half years to complete. Throughout the program, students complete multiple capstone projects and take courses focused on 3D modeling, producing, game art, interactive media design, and systems design. This is a great choice for those wanting to learn the different facets of game design.

Master of Science in Interactive Entertainment Overview

  • Accreditation: Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Tuition and Fees: $1,098/credit (in-state); $1,922.40/credit (out-of-state)
  • Required Credits: 30 credits
  • Program Length: 1.5 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 74%

Master of Science in Interactive Entertainment Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Minimum 3.0
  • Standardized Tests: GRE required, no minimum specified
  • Application Fee: $30
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Three references, a personal statement, and your portfolio

Applying to University of Central Florida

  1. Submit your online application on the university application portal.
  2. Submit your official transcripts.
  3. Submit your GRE test scores.
  4. Submit a portfolio, personal statement, and letters of reference.
  5. Pay the $30 application fee.
  6. If selected, attend an enrollment interview.

10

University of Utah

Salt Lake City, UT

Located in Salt Lake City, Utah, the University of Utah was founded in 1850 and currently has 31,000 students enrolled in its various programs. Just minutes away from the sights and sounds of Salt Lake City and with multiple tracks for prospective students, the University of Utah is a great choice for potential game designers.

Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering

This program allows students to specialize in one of four tracks in specific areas of the professional games industry. These include game art, game engineering, game production, and  technical art. This competitive degree program divides students into teams that compete with one another while achieving mastery of game development.

Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering Overview

  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Tuition: $1,956.44/credit (in-state); $5,201.76/credit (out-of-state)
  • Required Credits: 40 credits
  • Program Length: 2 years
  • Learning Format: In-person
  • NCES Grad Rate: 67%

Master of Entertainment Arts and Engineering Admission Requirements

  • GPA: Minimum 3.0
  • Standardized Tests: GRE or GMAT required
  • Application Fee: $55
  • Minimum Education: Bachelor’s degree
  • Other Requirements: Writing sample, personal statement, resume, three letters of recommendation, code sample (technical arts track and engineering track), and portfolio (technical arts track and art track)

Applying to The University of Utah

  1. Submit your application form on the school portal.
  2. Provide your official transcripts.
  3. Submit your letters of recommendation, writing sample, personal statement, and resume.
  4. Send any track-specific application materials.
  5. Pay the $55 application fee.

What Is a Game Design Master’s Degree?

A game design master’s degree is an advanced degree that prepares students for a career in the field of game design. Master’s Degrees in Game Design provide graduate students with hands-on experience in the video game industry, an overview of higher-level theoretical concepts like player-game interaction, and practice working using higher-level digital media tools.

No matter which game design master’s degree program students graduate from, they’ll have taken a great step in launching their career in the gaming industry. Game design master’s degree programs give students the real-world experience that is paramount for developing physical or digital games.

How Important Is a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

A Master’s Degree in Game Design is important for students who want to learn more advanced techniques in game design and build a portfolio of projects while being supported by experienced professionals and peers. Master’s degree programs are fantastic places to create a strong support network when it comes to starting your career.

What Types of Master’s Degrees Can You Get in Game Design?

The types of Master’s Degrees in Game Design you can get include a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Fine Arts (MFA), or Master of Science (MS). The best type of Master’s Degree in Game Design you can get depends on your goals. If you want to focus on the more artistic side of game design, you’ll benefit more from a Master of Fine Arts compared to if you want to focus on coding or programming.

Is It Better to Get a Master of Fine Art or a Master of Science in Game Design?

It’s better to get a Master of Science in Game Design if you want to work primarily in technical roles that involve programming and coding. In a Master of Science program, you’ll take a larger number of courses focusing on the actual technical development of games. This will allow you to more easily apply for software engineering or artificial intelligence jobs in the field of gaming.

That being said, it’s better to get a Master of Fine Art in Game design if you want to work on the more artistic side of game design. In an MFA program, you’ll take more courses that focus on topics such as 3D modeling, storytelling through gameplay, animation, or sound design. However, you may have fewer job options with an MFA than an MS.

What Is the Difference Between a Game Design Master’s Degree and a Game Design Certificate?

The main difference between a game design master’s degree and a certificate in game design is the time it takes to complete the program and the depth of the education provided. The first is a degree program that takes between one and two years to obtain, while the second is generally awarded after only a few months and requires the completion of fewer classes.

A game design certificate can be a great option for students who want more experience in the area of game design in a shorter timeframe and at a lower cost. A game design master’s degree is more in-depth and provides an accredited degree but comes with a higher time commitment and cost. A master’s degree is generally more respected than a certificate.

How Much Does It Cost to Get a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

A Master’s Degree in Game Design costs an average of $19,314 per year , according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The actual cost of a master’s degree can vary significantly depending on the institution providing it. Typically, the cost of a degree provided by a public university will be much lower than that of a private university.

The best way to reduce the cost of your master’s degree program is to apply for financial aid opportunities like federal or private loans or scholarships and bursaries. An easy way to know which of these you qualify for is to talk to a financial services officer at the school you are or intend on attending.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Game Design Master’s Degree?

It takes between one and two years to get a Master’s Degree in Game Design on average when attending a full-time program. With the average master’s degree requiring the completion of 36 credits, this means that a student needs to take nine credits per semester to graduate within two years. That being said, some programs require the completion of many more credits, leading to a more intense workload.

Depending on the university or college, the duration of a game design master’s degree program can also vary based on additional certifications and courses offered. Some game design master’s degrees also include an internship with a video game developer, which can change the overall length of the program.

How Hard Is It to Get a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

It is not hard to get a Master’s Degree in Game Design. If you already have a solid foundation in the required skills for the trade, thanks to your bachelor’s degree or work experience, you’ll have an easy time demonstrating sufficient knowledge of game design fundamentals, creating at least one feature complete game from start to finish, participating in an internship, and creating portfolio projects in order to graduate.

Why Should You Get a Game Design Master’s Degree?

You should get a game design master’s degree if you want to improve your knowledge and skills in programming for video games or with the artistic tools and techniques used in the medium. A Master’s Degree in Game Design is a great choice for students who want to network more and gain more experience before venturing into the game design industry.

There are many skills taught in a game design master’s program, including concepts and technical aspects like human-computer interaction, marketing digital media, enemy and level video game design, game art, and creating game prototypes. All of these skills are taught and tested on a much deeper level than in an undergraduate degree.

What Courses Do You Need to Take in a Master’s Degree Program in Game Design?

The required courses for a Master’s Degree in Game Design are dependent on the type of degree and the school offering it. That being said, there are some common courses you can often find across any game design program. Some of these core courses include game mechanics, game theory, game world design, capstone projects, and a thesis project.

Game Mechanics

Game mechanics are simply the human-computer interaction that occurs when a player plays the game. In a racing game, the game mechanics could be drifting, shifting gears, or avoiding a crash. In a platformer, the game mechanics can be as simple as jumping. Each game is different and learning how to create different interactions for players is key to great game design.

Game Theory

Game theory courses are found across math, philosophy, and game design undergraduate studies. Graduate-level courses on game theory use mathematical models to try and predict what a user will do in a given scenario. Games are interactive narrative experiences where players can choose to interact in many ways, making understanding game theory vital.

Game World Design and Game Level Design

Game worlds can be vast and complex. Levels, while not as formulaic as in past decades, are the backbone of many games and are the playgrounds for players to interact in. Lessons in the game world and game level design are very important for graduate students during their degree program.

Capstone Projects and Team Projects

Depending on the school, students may need to work on several different projects throughout the year. These projects can range from game demos to fully formed and distributed games. Games like the multi-award-winning Portal and Octodad were fully student-created games for capstone projects.

Thesis Project

A thesis project is the final project for many degree programs. In game design master’s programs, thesis projects are generally the most significant endeavor that students undertake. These projects will challenge them to incorporate everything they’ve learned through their degree. Moreover, thesis projects usually involve students taking on a specified role within a team of peers.

Continuing Education Paths for Game Design Master’s Degree Graduates

The best paths to take with a game design master’s degree include pursuing graduate degree programs like a PhD degree , obtaining a certification in a programming language, getting a certification in a game engine, pursuing an internship at a game studio, or attending a bootcamp or workshop. The latter half of these paths are generally the most practical ones for earning a high salary and starting your career.

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What to Look For in the Best Game Design Master’s Degree Programs

The factors to look for in the best game design master’s degree programs include an affordable cost of tuition, a quick completion time, multiple post-graduation options, a wide variety of courses of study, and many capstone projects allowing you to develop a robust portfolio. These are all important factors when deciding which game design master’s program is right for you.

Affordability

Master’s degree programs are often less expensive than their undergraduate degree counterparts. However, this doesn’t mean that a master’s degree program is cheap. When looking into master’s degree programs, factor in all of the fees and other costs that might come along with your education and consider what financial aid opportunities are available to you.

Completion Time

The time it takes to complete a course is an important factor when considering master’s degree programs in game development . Depending on your needs and goals, look for a degree that works well in conjunction with them, whether that means looking for shorter programs with accelerated options or longer programs that offer part-time options.

Post-Graduation Help

Many schools offer direct pipelines to game development spaces which can make it easier to find a job upon graduation. DePaul University offers students the experience of selling the projects that they work on during their master’s program. Other universities offer tours of game industry giants like Nintendo, Electronic Arts, and Microsoft or internships at large studios.

Courses Offered

All game design master’s degree programs offer programming courses. That being said, there is more to designing games than writing code. Great game design programs teach aspects of digital arts like technical art, concept art, story scenario planning, creative writing, and other aspects of game development. The best game design schools offer well-rounded programs.

Portfolio and Capstone Projects

A capstone project is a project that is a culmination of everything students have learned in game design and development. Capstone projects are generally larger, and once an individual or team completes them, they can be added to a portfolio. The best masters game design programs include these projects to help give students a body of work for their portfolios.

What Is the Most Affordable Game Design Master’s Degree?

The most affordable Master’s Degree in Game Design is offered by Full Sail University. Full Sail University’s Master of Science in Game Design costs $867 per credit, meaning a total cost of $35,980 for the degree. Besides being the least expensive, it’s also the most straightforward, with many companies hiring graduates immediately upon graduation.

Salary and Job Outlook for Game Design Master’s Degree Graduates

Students working on a collaborative project.
A game design master’s degree program lets you work with other students to create games, just like at a real game development studio.

The best game design master’s degree jobs are easy to land for graduates in the same field, with their skills opening up a world of career possibilities in the game development industry. The average Master’s Degree in Game Design salary is impressive, too. That being said, the field of game design is narrow, and many traditional computer science careers are more difficult to obtain.

How Hard Is It to Get a Job With a Game Design Master’s Degree?

It’s very easy to get a job with a game design master’s degree. There are many different roles to fill when it comes to developing video games, such as video game art and design, software programming, scenario planning, quality assurance testing, and interaction design. With so many roles to fill, the hardest part of finding a job is picking what you want to specialize in.

What’s the Average Game Design Master’s Degree Salary?

The average salary for someone with a Master’s Degree in Game Design is $79,000 per year , according to PayScale. Naturally, what you end up making will depend on your position, experience, location, and the company for which you work. A master’s degree will let you earn significantly more than someone with just a Bachelor’s Degree in Game Design, who earns an average of $69,000 per year .

What Types of Jobs Can You Get With a Game Design Master’s Degree?

The jobs you can get with a game design master’s degree are varied, meaning that no matter your interest, you’ll be able to find something that caters to your passion. Jobs such as game developer or programmer, quality assurance testers, digital designers, animators, and graphic artists are all important and unique roles in developing video games.

Game Design Degree Jobs

  • Game Developer
  • Quality Assurance Analyst
  • Digital Designer
  • Game Animator
  • Graphic Artist

Potential Careers With a Game Design Degree

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How Much Money Can You Make With a Master’s Degree in Game Design?

You can make between $50,710 and $110,140 with a Master’s Degree in Game Design, depending on your position and experience. Because there are so many roles needed to develop a game, there are many different potential salaries and benefits for those in the gaming industry.

The best way to earn a lot of money in this field is to leverage your unique skills in design, concept art creation, game art design, animation, or user interface design. While not the typical programming jobs most people associate with game development, these are great careers that will use your game design degree.

Highest-Paying Game Design Master’s Degree Jobs and Salaries: Overview

Game Design Master’s Degree Jobs Average Salary
Game and Software Developer $110,140
Quality Assurance Analyst $110,140
Game Animator $78,790
Digital Designer $77,200
Graphic Artist $50,710

Best Jobs for Game Design Master’s Degree Grads

The best jobs for game design master’s degree grads include artists, developers, quality assurance testers, directors, designers, writers, and managers. Interactive design and game development require the collaboration of many individuals. Here’s a breakdown of the best jobs for a Master’s Degree in Game Design grad.

1

Game and Software Developer

Average Salary: $110,140

Game and software developers are the cornerstones of interactive design and game development. These professionals create the software and systems used to run programs. In game programming, many of these systems are created in-house to develop game engines. Game engine design is the foundation of game development.

2

Quality Assurance Analyst

Average Salary: $110,140

When it comes to software engineering, there are always bugs when creating any kind of digital media. Quality assurance testers are a staple of software engineering. These software engineering positions consist of checking lines of code and testing games to make sure they are free from errors and software bugs. The two-year programs listed above will prepare you for the position of QA analyst.

3

Game Animator

Average Salary: $78,790

When it comes to game design, animators are some of the most interesting and cutting edge positions out there. Video game and digital entertainment animators focus on areas like 3D modeling, motion capture, lighting, and creating digital media assets. The best two-year programs for this position are a Master of Fine Arts or a Master of Arts degree program.

4

Digital Designer

Average Salary: $77,200

Digital designers create user interfaces, text interfaces, or even mission tracking systems. In all areas of software development and software engineering, lines of code are the foundation. In order to read the data, understand the programs, or even see a visual representation of code in a way that makes sense, digital designers create visual representations of that code for humans to interact with.

5

Graphic Artist

Average Salary: $50,710

The field of graphic design is large and is present in many different industries. In video game design, game artists play an important role in making sure that games look their best. Whether it is mobile games, the latest console releases, or a throwback game that looks like it is from another time, graphic artists are the ones that bring the visual style of games to life.

Best Jobs According to Your Major

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Is a Master’s Degree in Game Design Worth It?

Yes, a Master’s Degree in Game Design is worth it if you want to work for a specific company that requires you to have one. Moreover, a master’s degree in this field will help you gain more skills and experience in game design before starting your career. It can also help you become a senior programmer or team lead, and you can go on to pursue a PhD degree in game design if you want to enhance your skills further.

In the majority of cases, a Master’s Degree in Game Design of any kind is not necessary for a job in game development. Generally, a certification, bachelor’s degree, or experience programming your own games is enough to help you land your first job in the video game industry.

Additional Reading About Game Design

Game development is a rewarding field with many career opportunities. Find the best game development bachelor's degrees and discover career paths you can take.

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Are you looking to take your graphic design career to the next level? Here are the best graphic design master's degrees you should consider.

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Game Design Master’s Degree FAQ

Do you need a Master’s Degree in Game Design to work in the game industry?

No, you do not need a Master’s Degree in Game Design to work in the game industry. A Master’s in Game Design can help students understand complex concepts in a learning environment rather than an often hectic game development space.

What does getting a Master’s in Game Design do?

A Master’s in Game Design allows graduates to understand the more advanced concepts of video game development and prepares them for senior and leadership positions in project management. While not necessary, a game design master’s is a great step to gaining more experience in the industry before entering the field of game development.

How many years does it take to become a game designer?

It can take anywhere from six months to a year to become a game designer after completing your degree. However, if you pursue an online degree, it may take you a bit longer. Depending on where you live and your qualifications, you may have an easier or harder time finding work in game design.

What qualifications do game designers need?

Game designers don’t need any qualifications to create and sell a game. There are many bootcamps for game design, free tutorials, and online programs and guides to help you create your first game. If you want to work for a larger game development studio, a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or a certificate can increase your chances of landing a job at a larger company.

About us: Career Karma is a platform designed to help job seekers find, research, and connect with job training programs to advance their careers. Learn about the CK publication.

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Joseph Taglavore

About the author: Joe is a content writer with extensive technology experience fixing electronics, building computers, and repairing video game consoles. Both in and out of his work, he is interested in video games, content creation, social media, marketing, and filmmaking. Joe also has his own YouTube channel and a computer repair business. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a Specialization in Digital Marketing from Liberty University.

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