20 Best Online Game Development Degree [2021 Guide]

An online game development degree may lead you to a rewarding career in the fast-paced gaming industry.

Online Game Development Degree

If you’re an avid gamer with strong math abilities and a love of computers, you may want to seriously consider this educational pathway.

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A gaming degree could lead to a job as a video game developer, a game designer, a game programmer, or a game artist. It could also lead to other, related careers in computer technology.

Online Game Development Degrees

Video games are played on multiple devices, including computers, cell phones, and console systems.  In the game production process, designers, artists, and programmers work together.

You may be interested in an all-encompassing degree in game development, or you may consider one of these bachelors degrees that helps prepare you for a career in a specific phase of game development.

Online Bachelor’s in Game Development

Game designer working on their computer

A game developer degree program is designed to help you become proficient in all phases of game development, from generating games’ initial concepts to marketing the final products.

An online video game development degree offers training in game design, programming for systems and games, and video game artistry. With this degree, you may qualify for an exciting, high-income career as a video game developer.

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For this program, you would take courses in high-level mathematics, including calculus and physics. You would also learn about different specializations and phases of game development, focusing on how game designers, game artists, and game programmers work together in the production of video games.

As you pursue a bachelor’s degree in game development, you would take courses that cover multiple game design processes. These include game level design, artificial intelligence (AI), 3D animation, and gaming technologies.

Online Bachelor’s in Game Design

Game Designers collaborating on a project

As a video game designer, you would create the storylines for games, including the missions, challenges, and puzzles that make games compelling for users.

You may create flowcharts and mockups to plan games. Depending on your position, you may specialize as a content designer, a level designer, or a writer.

In a traditional or online game design degree program, you would develop skills in storyboarding, content writing, and creative game theory. To develop these skills, you may take courses in game mechanics, game balancing, and game design preproduction.

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Through game mechanics courses, you may learn to apply pacing variables and thematic structures to create a challenge and reward system based on conflict resolution. You may learn about game balancing to design levels that facilitate a smooth and rewarding user interface.

In game design preproduction courses, you can learn real-world collaboration skills by working in teams to develop gameplay prototypes. The skills you learn through this program and the wide range of opportunities you have after graduating with this degree is what makes a game design degree worth it.

Online Bachelor’s in Computer Science

graphics programmer working in his office

Some colleges offer online bachelors in computer science degree programs with game development as an area of concentration.

In these programs, you would not find a separate degree program specifically for game development or design. Within the computer science curriculum, you may acquire the necessary skills and knowledge to launch your career in game development.

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If you’re interested in the programming aspect of game development, this degree may be a good fit for you. With this degree, you might specialize in game development as an artificial intelligence programmer, a graphics programmer, or a network programmer.

In a computer science bachelor’s degree program, you would take courses in advanced math, calculus, linear algebra, and more. You’d also learn about operating systems, software, programming languages, and algorithms. These courses may prepare you for a lucrative career as a game programmer.

Game Development Careers & Salaries

Game Development Careers & Salaries

Game development is a cutting-edge industry that is evolving rapidly. There are multiple career pathways in this field.

With a bachelor’s degree in game development, you may be able to work in your favorite career niche. Options include gaming theory, programming languages, graphic design, concept development, and marketing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you may pursue the following careers if you earn a bachelors in game development or in computer science.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Computer and Information Systems Manager $151,150
Computer Network Architect $116,780
Software Developer $110,140
Information Security Analyst $103,590
Database Administrator $98,860
Computer Systems Analyst $93,730
Computer Programmer $89,190
Multimedia Artist or Animator $77,700
Computer Support Specialist $55,510
Graphic Designer $53,380

The burgeoning world of video games needs professionals who can work collaboratively in teams throughout the complex steps of game development. These professionals include game designers, software developers, computer programmers, animators, audio engineers, writers, and technical support specialists.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a well above average job growth for most careers related to the computer and gaming industry. For example, while jobs for multimedia artists and animators are projected to grow as fast as the average at 4%, computer occupations are estimated to grow 11% for the next ten years.

Game Development Curriculum & Courses

In addition to core courses, you’ll specialize in math and computer courses for a program in game development.

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The following list represents a sample of courses you may take:

  • Artificial Intelligence: You’ll discover techniques to design intelligent behaviors and create lifelike characters that provide realistic and challenging gameplay.
  • Engine Development: This course will cover debugging, problem solving, reading and understanding of pre-written code, and other skills for software engineering.
  • Data Structure and Algorithms: You’ll learn how to implement data structures and algorithms to understand how they function.
  • Game Mechanics: This course will help you understand how to manipulate pacing and thematic structures to generate a challenge and reward system based on conflict resolution.
  • Game Balancing: This course will explore the fundamentals of level design and gameplay design with emphasis on user interface.
  • Game Design Production: You’ll learn to collaborate and work in a team to develop a gameplay prototype.
  • Motion Capture: This course will help you develop an understanding of simulated motion as you learn techniques to digitize motion, edit sequences, and correct or enhance animation.
  • Level Assembly and Lighting: You’ll learn the game requirements necessary to construct a playable level.
  • Game Animation: This course will teach you to focus on game-engine requirements and constraints in order to understand how animation applies to the gaming industry and to produce animated sequences for gameplay.
  • Environment Design: You’ll learn how to create an environment inside a game studio and build a game model from an original, digital sculpt.

For an online video game programming degree or online video game development degree, you will often need to complete 120 to 130 credit hours of coursework and capstone projects.

Admissions Requirements

Game Development degree student studying online

Admission requirements vary from one college or university to another. Basic requirements are as follows:

  • High school diploma or equivalent
  • Minimum high school GPA
  • Letters of recommendation

Written essays are sometimes required as additional evidence of your suitability for college admission. Some schools may also ask for prior courses in graphics design or evidence of computing experience. Although many schools are moving away from SAT and ACT requirements, some colleges do still require minimum scores on these tests.

Accreditation

Online Game Development Degree Accreditation

As you shop around for a school, you may keep an eye out for  an online game programming degree program, game art and design degree program, or a game development degree program, depending on your interests.

When you are narrowing down your program options, you may want to consider whether a program is accredited by one of the following regional accreditation organizations:

Regionally accredited schools and programs are recognized and respected by employers and other higher education institutions.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

Online Game Development Degree Financial Aid

As you research colleges and degree programs, you may wonder, “How much will my degree cost, and how will I pay for it?”

The tuition costs and fees vary from one college or university to another. Some are more expensive than others, and out-of-state or non-resident tuition may be more expensive than resident tuition.

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Some institutions waive their on-campus fees and the out-of-state tuition increase for students who pursue online degree programs. Fortunately, there are many options to get help with tuition costs if you qualify. You may  investigate financial assistance opportunities by visiting the Federal Student Aid website.

There you can find information about student loans, grants, merit-based and need-based scholarship programs, work-study programs, military veteran and military family assistance programs, and more. An easy first step is to fill out and submit your FAFSA form on the Federal Student Aid website.

What Can You Do with a Game Development Degree?

Software Developer working

With a game development degree, you may position yourself to enter into a number of jobs. After completing your degree, you might step into a position as a video game designer, video game artist, or video game programmer.

You might also choose to use your skills to work in video game marketing or in a computer-related field. Related computer positions include computer systems analyst, computer support specialist, software developer, and more.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Game Development Degree Online?

The typical bachelors degree requires 120 to 130 credit hours of coursework, including satisfactory completion of capstone projects in upper-level courses. If you enroll full-time in a degree program that follows the traditional 16 week semester model, you may finish in 4 years.

On the other hand, if you attend a college or university that offers 8 week semesters and you enroll year-round, it may be possible for you to finish in less than 4 years. If you enroll part-time, it may take you longer to finish the program, depending on your schedule and availability.

What Degree Do I Need for Game Development?

Software Developer working on his computer

Video game development is a broad field that encompasses 3 major areas: game design, game artistry, and game programming.

Some schools offer a Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development or a Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Design. Still other schools offer the Bachelor of Fine Arts in Game Art and Design or the Bachelor of Science in Game Software Development.

Another useful degree for this field is a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a concentration in game development, artificial intelligence, or software engineering. It all depends on the area of game development that is most interesting to you.

Can You Major in Gaming?

Game Developer testing a game

If you have a passion for gaming, you may turn it into a career by choosing a college and degree program that provides preparation for an exciting career in game design, computer animation, computer programming, or sound production.

Colleges and universities offer online degrees that allow you to develop skills in the area of gaming that is most interesting to you. For game design, you may develop skills in content writing, storyboarding, and creative game theory.

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For game artistry, you would learn to use 2D and 3D computer animation software to design the artwork for video games, including characters, weapons, and background scenery for game worlds.

If you’re looking to enroll in a video game programmer school, you may become a game programmer and develop proficiency in programming languages such as Java, C+, C++, and more.

Can You Get a Video Game Programming Degree Online?

Video Game Programmer working on his desk

Yes, you can get a video game programming degree online. Searching for degree programs in game development rather than game design will allow you to focus more on programming.

Another option is to look for bachelors degree programs in computer science with concentrations in artificial intelligence or software engineering. These programs provide a foundation in programming that may be applied to game programming or to other careers in the computer and information technology field.

What Are the Video Game Designer Degree Requirements?

To earn your bachelors degree in video game design, you’ll complete approximately 120 credit hours to 130 credit hours in undergraduate courses. These credit hours will include general education courses as well as specific courses for video game design.

These courses will help you develop skills in various areas of video game design. You may become proficient in game art, mobile game design, concept art and illustration, animation, or game development and design. Some upper level courses may require collaborative teamwork and the production of capstone projects.

What’s the Difference Between Game Design vs. Game Development?

Game Developer working in his office

Video game designers and developers work in teams as they take a game-building project from the initial idea through to testing and production.

Video game designers create the overall design of a game. Their work is performed in the preproduction phase. Designers come up with the framework, storyline, and general layout of the game. They know about 2D and 3D art theory, storytelling and mythology, and computer technology.

Game developers take the creative concepts from the designers and turn them into a game product. Programming and coding are a big part of the developers’ job as they build the game on a gaming engine.

What’s the Difference Between a Game Development Degree vs. Computer Science?

Computer Programmers working together

A computer science degree program focuses on developing high-level math skills and calculations along with skills in programming languages.

If you’re interested in a career as a video game programmer, a computer science degree would be most useful. You could apply your programming skills to AI programming, graphics programming, or network programming for the production of video games.

In contrast to a computer science degree, a game development degree focuses on video game design and artistry in addition to programming. It includes coursework in subjects such as content design, storyboarding, animation, and modeling.

Is a Game Development Degree Worth It?

Game Developers working together

Yes, a game development degree is worth it for many students. The Bureau of Labor Statistics is projecting 11% job growth in computer and information technology occupations over the next 10 years.

Common game development careers in this field include computer network architect, software developer, computer systems analyst, computer programmer, and multimedia artist and animator. Your bachelor’s degree in game development may also allow you to acquire skills that you can apply to computer-related careers outside the gaming industry.

Universities Offering Online Bachelor’s in Game Development Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Academy of Art University

Academy of Art University campus

Students at Academy of Art University have several degree options when it comes to the field of game development. The school offers Associate of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Arts, and Master of Fine Arts degrees in the field. Students learn about rapid development, production, and art principles.

Academy of Art University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Baker College

Baker College campus

Baker College’s Bachelor of Science in Game Software Development program teaches students about game development at every stage, beginning with designing concepts and ending with monetizing the final product.

It requires 90 core credits and 30 general education credits for completion and includes courses in game design, analysis, and programming.

Baker College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Cogswell University of Silicon Valley

Cogswell University of Silicon Valley campus

The Bachelor of Science in Game Design Engineering curriculum at Cogswell University of Silicon Valley has an extremely heavy programming and coding focus. Another important component of the program is the collaborative project. Students develop plans and begin turning them into real games, with each student undertaking a different role.

The Cogswell University of Silicon Valley is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.

Columbia College – Hollywood

Columbia College Hollywood campus

Columbia College – Hollywood doesn’t offer a game development program, but it does offer Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees in Graphic Design and Interactive Media or in Visual Effects. Both degrees that can lend themselves to careers in game development, and both programs are offered online and have flexible curricula.

Columbia College – Hollywood is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.

Davenport University

Davenport University campus

Students interested in game development at Davenport University can enroll in the Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program and choose a concentration in Gaming and Simulations.

Computer science and game design essentials are key components of the curriculum. Other classes include multiple math and diversity classes, biometrics, and operating systems.

Davenport University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

DeVry University

Devry University campus

DeVry University offers a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science with a specialization in Web Game Programming.

This helps students learn to design games for smartphones, tablets, and computers. Core curriculum courses include basic controls, game layout, game design, and the development and characteristics of multiplayer online games and websites.

DeVry University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission.

George Mason University

George Mason University

The Bachelor of Arts in Art and Visual Technology program at George Mason University is a 120 credit program that requires students to take multiple art classes in different disciplines. These include classes in graphic design, photography, Asian, Western, and Latin art, writing for designers and artists, painting, and sculpture.

George Mason University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Grand Canyon University

Grand Canyon University campus

Students in Grand Canyon University’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Programming program will take courses from four key disciplines: information systems, professionalism and ethics, leadership and management, and computer programming.

These courses help prepare them for a number of computer science-related careers, including careers in game development and applications design.

Grand Canyon University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Kennesaw State University

Kennesaw State University campus

Kennesaw State University’s Bachelor of Science in Computer Game Design and Development program teaches students the fundamentals and basic principles behind software design and engineering and computer science.

Other core courses include human-computer interaction, 2D and 3D graphics, data structures, the theory of gaming, simulation, artificial intelligence, algorithms, and modeling.

Kennesaw State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Liberty University

Liberty University campus

Students interested in game development at Liberty University can enter the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program and select the Gaming Design specialty. The degree can be earned in as few as 4 years, and students can transfer up to 75% of the required credits from other accredited universities.

Liberty University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Lindenwood University

Lindenwood University campus

The Bachelor of Arts in Game Design program from Lindenwood University is a flexible, affordable program that can be undertaken online or in hybrid format. Students can also enroll in the program and choose the game art concentration, or they can take a game design minor along with another program.

Lindenwood University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Middle Georgia State University

Middle Georgia State University campus

Students at Middle Georgia State University have a couple options when it comes to game development. They’ll join the information technology bachelor’s program, but they can choose either digital media and game design or web applications development as their concentrations. Both concentrations feature 42 core credits and 18 elective credits.

Middle Georgia State University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design campus

Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design’s Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation can be taken entirely online. Core courses in the curriculum include 2D and 3D drawing, modeling, stop motion animation, storyboarding, line of action, and character design. The school also offers bachelors degrees in game art and illustration.

Rocky Mountain College of Art + Design is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Savannah College of Art and Design

Savannah College of Art and Design campus

Savannah College of Art and Design’s Bachelor of Arts in Interactive Media features a concentration in Game Design that prepares students for multiple careers within the game development field.

It’s a comprehensive program that features 110 general education and general elective credits, 25 foundational studies credits, and 45 concentration-specific credits.

The Savannah College of Art and Design is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Southern New Hampshire University

Southern New Hampshire University campus

The Bachelor of Science in Game Programming and Development program at Southern New Hampshire University includes a concentration in Video Game Programming. It’s a 120 credit program, but students can transfer up to 90 previously earned credits. Students will learn about programming languages, 3D modeling, and using Adobe Creative Suite.

Southern New Hampshire University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Advancing Technology

University of Advancing Technology campus

The online game programming degree from University of Advancing Technology teaches students about programming languages, platforms, and gaming via video games, PC, web, or mobile apps.

In addition to data handling, game play interaction, scripting, and C++ programming, students also learn about artificial intelligence, networking, and DirectX and Open GL development.

UAT is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of Baltimore

University of Baltimore campus

University of Baltimore’s Bachelor of Science in Simulation and Game Design program teaches students about the design of multiplayer games, usability design, computer programming, applied game design theory, animation, 3D modeling, and using simulation in education and other non-entertainment fields.

There are concentrations in Coding and Development and Technical Art.

The University of Baltimore is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

University of Cincinnati

University of Cincinnati campus

University of Cincinnati’s Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program features four concentration options, including one in Game Development and Simulation. Upon graduating, students should be ready for careers in IT or game design, be able to continue on to graduate school, and have the knowledge and drive to become lifelong learners.

The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

University of the Potomac

University of the Potomac campus

The Bachelor of Science in Computer Science program at the University of the Potomac focuses on operating systems, programming and programming languages, object-oriented design, and database organization.

Students can also select specializations, including one in Game Design, and choose appropriate electives that help them learn more about their chosen specializations.

University of the Potomac is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Wilmington University

Wilmington University campus

Wilmington University offers one of the only accredited, 4 year game development and design programs in their entire region. Tuition is affordable, and class schedules are very flexible to accommodate working professionals. Most lessons are conducted via hands-on work experience so students can get real instruction in the game development field.

Wilmington University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.

Getting Your Game Development Degree Online

Getting Your Game Development Degree Online

If you’re interested in turning your passion for computers and gaming into a potentially lucrative and rewarding career, then you may want to pursue a regionally accredited game development degree online.

As you research various schools and programs, you may want to weigh your options concerning available concentrations in the area of game development that interests you the most.

While a degree requires hard work and dedication, you may motivate yourself by remembering the rewarding career options that await you at the end of your educational journey.

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Carol Benton
WRITTEN BY
Carol Benton
Carol is a retired college professor in the field of music education. She holds a Doctor of Musical Arts from Shenandoah University, a Master of Music in piano performance and a Bachelor of Music Education from Virginia Commonwealth University. Carol has many years of experience as a teacher and academic advisor for undergraduates.