The Top Colleges and Grad Schools To Study Game Design

One of the best schools in the world to study computer game design started out as a private company. DigiPen Institute of Technology, a for-profit school with 1,200 students in Redmond, WA, was founded in 1988 as a computer simulation and animation company based in Vancouver. As the company grew, it had a tough time finding qualified workers, so in 1990 it started offering a training program in 3D animation. That same year it approached

of America to form a post-secondary program in video game programming. The collaboration turned into DigiPen Applied Computer Graphics School, which opened in 1994, eventually developing eight different four-year bachelor’s degrees, from a BA in game design to a BS in engineering and sound design as well as a master’s degree in computer science and digital arts. In 1998 it opened the Redmond campus. It also has campuses abroad, in Singapore and in Bilbao, Spain.

If your ambition is to pursue a career as a computer game designer, look beyond the well-known institutions that offer engineering degrees. This week Princeton Review, the New York-based test prep and educational services company, released a ranking of the best schools for undergrad and grad students to study game design. You’ll find household names like University of Southern California, No. 1 among undergraduate schools, Carnegie Mellon (No. 12) and MIT (No. 14). But in addition to DigiPen at least half of the list of the top 25 schools is made up of institutions that aren’t featured prominently in most college guides. Another example: Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, a school of 5,000 students that dates its origins to 1888. The first school in the world to offer a computer gaming degree, in 1997, it counts among its alumni David Jones, creator of Grand Theft Auto (Jones left school before graduation but was later given an honorary degree).

See our slideshow above for the top 25 undergraduate institutions and the list below for the grad schools.

To put together its list ,Princeton Review looked at 150 schools in the U.S., Canada and abroad that offer game design coursework and/or degree programs.

I’ll include more on the methodology below. It includes questions about curriculum, facilities, technology and career services, and also considers faculty credentials, graduates’ starting salaries and employment experience. Undergrads from these schools do well on the job market, earning an average starting salary of $58,000, 28% more than the average salary for all 2014 graduates, according to Princeton Review’s calculations. Many students in these programs work while they’re in school, with 48% of undergrads and 66% of grad students shipping a game before they even graduate.

“For students aspiring to work in the burgeoning field of game design, these are truly the ‘cream of the crop’ institutions from which to launch a career,’” said Robert Frank, Princeton Review senior vice president, in a statement. “All are renowned for their exceptional faculties and awesome, state-of-the-art facilities.”

Princeton Review teams with PC Gamer magazine as its reporting partner on the rankings.

Below is a summary of the methodology Princeton Review used to compile the ranking, based on a survey conducted in 2014-15. It put together the survey together with an advisory board that included faculty from schools that offer game design courses and professionals in the gaming industry. The survey has more than 50 questions. Here is a sampling:


  • What game design-related courses do you offer for undergraduates?
  • The number of gaming-related courses available to students.
  • Whether the school hosts an annual gaming competition, showcase or symposium.
  • If your students have entered outside competitions and festivals have any placed or won? What game design-relevant skills does your program teach?
  • Does your gaming program use a team-driven approach? If yes, in that team are students paired with other students from different disciplines?
  • Is it a requirement for students in your program to have created a functional game before graduating?
  • The number of research opportunities available to students.


  • What percentage of your total undergraduate gaming faculty have started, run or worked for a game studio?
  • How many gaming faculty members do you have?
  • How many departments do they represent?
  • Percentage of gaming faculty with PhDs (or terminal degree equivalent).
  • Does your faculty have funded research in game design?


  • What technologies or engines does your school utilize?
  • Does your school offer game labs for students to use?
  • Does your school offer a game library for students to use?


  • What career-related opportunities does your school offer to undergraduate gaming students?
  • For the most recent graduating class, what percentage of graduates have worked on a game that has shipped?
  • During the 2014 academic year, how many game companies visited your school for any of the following reasons: recruiting, lectures, seminars, demos, collaborations?
  • What percentage of graduates have taken a job in some aspect of game development at the time of or before graduating? What was their salary?

Here is the list the list of the top 25 graduate schools for game design:

  1. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
  2. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
  3. Southern Methodist University (Plano, TX)
  4. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
  5. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
  6. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
  7. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)
  8. University of California at Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
  9. New York University (Brooklyn, NY)
  10. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
  11. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
  12. The University of Texas at Dallas (Richardson, TX)
  13. DePaul University (Chicago, IL)
  14. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
  15. Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
  16. The Ohio State University – Columbus (Columbus, OH)
  17. Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, MA)
  18. Full Sail University (Winter Park, FL)
  19. University of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, PA)
  20. Abertay University (Dundee, Scotland)
  21. American University (Washington, DC)
  22. Texas A&M University (College Station, TX)
  23. Georgia Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
  24. Sacred Heart University (Fairfield, CT)
  25. University of Illinois at Chicago (Chicago, IL)

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