Online Master’s in Game Design

By Erika Lasrado

Updated March 15, 2024

Erika Lasrado

Erika has broad experience in counseling, psychology, and human resources. Although she has done a master’s in psychology, she is currently pursuing a master’s in educational psychology to change careers. Erika is a foodie and reader and loves to research and write about various topics when time permits.


Master of Psychology, Master of Educational Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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Careers in game creation and programming are available in the rapidly expanding video game industry. There is an increasing demand for game designers, multimedia artists, and animators as people expect increasingly complex visual effects and creative applications for gaming, television, movies, and mobile devices. Students can get the skills and abilities needed to enter a developing and competitive sector by enrolling in an online master’s in game design degree. This degree teaches students about creating and applying interactive digital media and other new technologies. Continue reading to learn more about the game design master’s online, its curriculum, employment opportunities, and more.


Best Online Master’s in Game
Design Degrees

Choosing a good college to pursue an online master’s in game design can be difficult. To find a decent college, one must examine various essential elements such as the college’s infrastructure, the skills and expertise of its staff, the availability of computing facilities, graduation rates, affordability, and so on. With these and other considerations in mind, FBD teams have compiled a list of the best online master’s in game design degrees in the United States: *

Columbia University (also known as Columbia, and officially as Columbia University in the City of New York) is a private Ivy League research university in New York City, founded in 1754 as King’s College. Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in New York and the fifth-oldest in the United States, and it is regarded as one of the most prestigious schools in the world.
Univ Address Tuition Grad Rate
Columbia University West 116 St and Broadway, New York, New York 10027 $50,496 97%

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from the Online Master’s in Game
Design Degree Program

Online master’s in game design programs are made up of advanced game design and production courses that prepare students for the industry and give students the abilities needed to succeed in a game studio setting. In addition to fundamental principles like storytelling and character development, students are introduced to crucial industry concepts like aesthetics, immersion, usability, and game economics. The curriculum is woven with project and portfolio courses committed to providing a current and thorough curriculum. Some of the courses one can expect are:

Game Prototyping

This course introduces game production, focusing on the theoretical underpinnings, methods, and skills required to create games. Students learn to build modern computer games using conventional processes for developing concepts, testing prototypes, finding assets, and communicating design.

Game Development

This course teaches students about computer game development, strategies, implementation, and programming. While the course emphasizes technical and programming skills such as core game algorithms, graphics, interface design, and artificial intelligence, students are also exposed to game development’s aesthetic and production-oriented aspects.

History of Games and Critical Theory

This course examines the history of video games and gaming, from its influences and forerunners through modern gaming on various platforms. Major game genres, technological breakthroughs, and the application of critical theory to the subject are explored in their respective socio-historical settings.

3D Animation

This course covers animation principles, and students will learn the creation of three-dimensional animations using industry-standard tools such as character animation, particle simulations, facial animation, keyframes, and altering three-dimensional animation curves.

Examples of other courses include:

  • Video Game Design
  • Game Audio
  • Interactive Design
  • Entertainment Design
  • Digital Media and Digital Design
  • Game Production and Management
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Interactive Entertainment – Games and Interactive Media
  • Game Programming
  • Gaming Industry Standards
  • Digital Production
  • Computer Graphics and Art Design
  • Game Studies
  • Artificial Intelligence

In addition to regular and specialized courses, the online master’s in game design could include a thesis or capstone project. It is also not uncommon for some programs to require an internship at a game design firm or a thesis towards completion. Additionally, depending on the college, one may be able to pursue this degree either online, in-person, or coupling both in a hybrid mode.

Read the Guide to Master’s Programs to understand more about them.

Degree Types for Online Master’s in Game
Design Programs

When it comes to online master’s in game design programs, students have several options. A Master of Arts or MA in Game Design or a Master of Science or MS in Game Design can be obtained. Additionally, there is also a Master of Fine Arts or MFA in Game Design, which has stronger creative requirements.

Master of Arts in Game Design

The Master of Arts in Game Design or MA Game Design primarily focuses on theories, user research, game creation, and economics to upskill students. An MA in game design online program is best suited for people pursuing specialized fieldwork and wishing to advance in their careers.

Master of Science in Game Design

The Master of Science in Game Design or MS Game Design focuses on aesthetics, usability, and techniques while emphasizing game ideas and prototyping. An MS in game design online program is designed for experienced developers working in game studios who want to learn technical skills such as coding and software development.

Master of Fine Arts in Game Design

The Master of Fine Arts in Game Design or MFA Game Design emphasizes immersive design, information architecture, and character creation in addition to game development, with a community-based approach. An MFA in game design program can help researchers and academicians diversify their creative approach to games while developing their portfolios.

Note: A master’s in game design degree can also be undertaken as a computer science master’s degree specialization. Game design and development, video game design, and computer gaming design and development are all terms that can be used as titles for a game design program.

Areas of Specialization for Online Master’s in Game
Design Programs

Specialization is a key factor in determining one’s academic and employment chances. Pursuing a general game design master’s degree and focusing on specific areas offers advantages. Through specializations, one can hone a certain talent in which one might become an expert and so boost market desirability and employability. Some examples of online master’s in game design concentrations include:

Area of Specialization Description Career Options
Game ArtThis specialization helps students develop aesthetically appealing 3D art and learn how to incorporate that art into a game engine. Storytelling, level design, and team-oriented project production for several platforms are emphasized.Various roles in the gaming industry
Games and Playable MediaThis specialization primarily focuses on developing the game’s blueprint, which includes features such as game narrative, level design, engine middleware, game design, and so on.Various roles in the gaming industry
Critical Game DesignThis specialization offers a unique combination of theoretical and hands-on learning that focuses on studying game tests and breaking them down to understand what they mean, understanding the impact a game has on its users, and developing thoughtfully.Various roles in the gaming industry
Serious GamesThis specialization focuses on game development for entertainment and businesses such as EdTech, fitness, well-being, and medicine. It teaches strategies for conducting target market research, modeling, simulation, efficacy testing, and statistical analysis.Various roles in the gaming industry
Game Development InfrastructureThis specialization is the study and development of the software and hardware required to create massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).Various roles in the gaming industry
Cognition and GamesThis specialization teaches the theories developed for simulating and modeling computer characters and stories, simulating and modeling human emotion, evaluating large-scale gameplay, and integrating pedagogy with gameplay.Various roles in the gaming industry

Why should I do an Online Master’s in
Game Design Degree?

Game design offers opportunities for various professionals, no matter their backgrounds. It takes a wide range of skills to create, develop, test, and sell new games, platforms, and concepts, making game design a particularly interdisciplinary field. Consequently, regardless of one’s skills and career goals, one of the strongest reasons to earn a master’s degree in game design is that there may be a place for everyone in this field. After completing this degree, graduates will be qualified to design the technologies needed to develop the upcoming generation of serious and amusement games. The long-term objective of the online master’s in game design degree is to set up research and development paths that result in novel new games.

The online master’s in game design degree is a perfect fit for students who enjoy playing video games and are interested in designing and producing them. By pursuing this degree, students will be equipped for cutting-edge professions such as graphic visualization, game production, and computer modeling, as well as all the information needed to secure a position in the $203 billion global gaming business. Among the skills they would have acquired in this program that they can immediately use are the ability to:

  • recognize the ideas behind milestones, daily progress reports, and other notes- or schedule-driven parts of video game development;
  • use design and write components of game production that coexist with the process of producing graphic assets and animation for video games;
  • design two- and three-dimensional games, from creation to use, along with character development;
  • recognize the numerous game genres and the fundamental psychology of gaming
  • understand how different game elements, such as shooters, multi-players, role-playing, sports, etc., are used successfully to build a great game;
  • use the theories of game design, including how to create a game that is exciting and fun and how to involve and immerse players in gameplay;
  • understand the fundamental components that make up particular video game genres;
  • demonstrate proficiency with design software by producing vector drawings and animation; and
  • use various technologies to create games and understand the video game market.

Free Courses for Online Master’s in Game
Design Students

Online game design courses are widely available for free. However, they often do not provide a comprehensive degree like any other full-time or part-time program from an authorized university; instead, they just offer the abilities associated with a certain concept or component of game design. The free online master’s in game design courses are either certificate programs or individual modules best suited for people who want to learn more about a topic before delving into it in-depth or who want to increase their knowledge. Here are a few free courses to explore:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Game TheoryThis course covers the fundamentals of describing games and tactics, the extended form (also known as game trees by computer scientists), Bayesian games (which mimic things like auctions), repetitive and stochastic games, and more. Some classic games and a few applications as examples are includedCoursera
Introduction to Augmented Reality and ARCoreThis course teaches the basics of Augmented Reality (AR) and how to create an AR experience with ARCore. The course will simplify difficult augmented reality principles while offering expert advice and information.Coursera
The Inventory System in Computer Games [GODOT Game Engine]This course teaches students how to define and recall different sorts of computer data. They learn how to make a text game inventory system and visual video game inventories.Udemy

How to get into the Online Master’s in
Game Design Program?

Most online master’s in game design programs are not very demanding of incoming students when it comes to admissions requirements. While colleges prefer that applicants have a background in game design, it is not always required. Students with any bachelor’s degree that included physics, math, calculus, and algebra courses can comfortably seek admission. Some of the typical online master’s in game design admission requirements are:

Online Application & Application Fee

Completing an online application and paying the prescribed application fee.

Academic Transcripts

An official copy of academic transcripts from each college/university attended.

Undergraduate Degree + Grade Point Average

An undergraduate degree and Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.8 or more.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) Scores

An official copy of GRE or GMAT scores no older than 5 years.

Graduate Résumé or Curriculum Vitae

The latest résumé or CV that provides personal information and work experience.

Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose

A statement outlining how the program relates to the applicant’s career goals.

Letters of Recommendation

At least 2 letters of recommendation from those who can provide a thorough evaluation of the applicant’s abilities at the graduate level. 

Proof of English Proficiency

A document proving proficiency in English (if the native tongue is or education was not in English).

Note: Because the specific requirements for each college vary, it is always a good idea to check with the admissions office for the most up-to-date information.

No GRE Online Master’s in Game
Design Programs

Universities use the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores to determine whether or not a student is capable of independent study and has the required foundational knowledge to pursue a master’s degree program. While most students find the GRE cumbersome, time-consuming, and outdated, some universities have also reached the same conclusion and waived the GRE requirement for admission altogether. However, the waiver is applicable in some instances only if the student’s GRE is above a prescribed minimum score. Some examples of universities offering master’s in game design no GRE programs are Lindenwood University, University of Southern California, and American University.

How Long does it take to complete the Online Master’s
in Game Design Degree

A full-time online master’s in game design typically requires between 1 and 2 years to complete. To graduate in two years, a student must take at least 9 credits per semester, while the typical master’s degree requires the completion of 36 credits. However, it is worth noting that some programs have higher credit requirements (up to 65 credits), which means a heavier workload. The length of an online master’s degree in game design might also change depending on the university or college and the additional certifications, concentrations, and courses available. Some master’s degrees in game design additionally require an internship with a video game producer, which can alter the program’s overall length. Here is an overview of the timeline:

  • Typical time required to graduate with a master’s in game design: about 2 years
  • Minimum time required to graduate with a master’s in game design: about 1 year
  • Typical time required by part-time students to graduate with a master’s in game design: about 2 to 3 years
  • Typical credits required for a master’s in game design: 30 to 65 credits

Accelerated Online Master’s in Game
Design Degrees

Accelerated degree programs are slowly but surely growing in acceptance among some student groups. Two main benefits of accelerated online master’s in game design degrees are saving time and money. Compared to the typical two years required for master’s programs, accelerated online master’s in game design degrees can be earned in just a year. While some schools allow students to combine a bachelor’s program with a master’s to finish both in about 3 to 4 years, others, like Lindenwood University, offer a fast-track 1 year online master’s in game design degree (with some additional admissions criteria).

Accreditations for Online Master’s in Game
Design Degrees

Accreditation is synonymous with official acknowledgment from regulatory bodies ensuring that an educational institute’s education quality meets or exceeds an established level. Pursuing an accredited online master’s in game design program is an excellent way to advance one’s career and get a well-recognized education. An accreditation also confirms that the institution can easily execute educational credit transfers and enable students to access federal financial aid. The six primary regional accrediting authorities in the United States are:

In addition to a college being accredited, a program may also be accredited. In the domain of game design and development, some programs can have accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

Read the Guide to College Accreditation to learn more about the accreditation process and its critical role in higher education.

How to Pay for an Online Master’s in
Game Design Degree?

An online master’s in game design is usually an expensive program, not so much because of the tuition fees but because of associated costs such as investing in high-spec computer equipment. An advanced desktop or laptop with a good CPU, graphics card, and enough memory are required to run the desired design software(s) that are part of the coursework for an online master’s degree in game design. These costs can be intimidating, ranging from $1,000 to $8,000, plus the tuition fees. As a result, financial aid is often necessary for most students, which is available through some of the following means:


Scholarships are given to specific persons by universities, institutions, alums, and bursaries. Academic merit is the primary determining factor in selecting a recipient, along with factors such as heritage, religious connection, community work, and so on.


Grants are need-based and usually given to students with poor financial backgrounds on a case-by-case basis. While they differ from scholarships in that grant funding can be used for purposes other than tuition, the academic performance requirement is the same in both.

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships provide a partial fee remission or a stipend in exchange for assisting in a classroom or lab. This includes assisting a professor with workshops or demonstrating for undergraduates, known as teaching assistantships, or participating in and supporting a professor’s research, known as research assistantships.

Student Loans

Student loans include a calculated risk on the part of the student because they borrow money from financial organizations, banks, or federal agencies and promise to repay it in installments. One must be wary of interest and adhere to the payment schedule; otherwise, they may be counterproductive and increase debt.

Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a form students must fill out to determine their eligibility for financial aid.

Scholarships for Online Master’s in Game
Design Students

Master’s degrees can be exceedingly expensive to obtain; after graduation, recovering its costs may take years. Scholarships and other forms of financial aid can drastically change this situation by reducing college costs, leaving graduates with significantly less debt. Here are a handful of these scholarships for students pursuing an online master’s in game design:

Scholarship Description Amount/AwardDeadline
ESA Foundation ScholarshipsThe Entertainment Software Association (ESA) Foundation encourages and assists anyone interested in working in the video game industry. The Computer and Video Game Arts and Sciences Scholarship, the LGBTQ+ Service Scholarship, and the Esports Scholarship are the 3 distinct scholarships offered by ESA.VariesTBA
IGDA Foundation International Scholars ProgramThe International Scholars Program of the IGDA Foundation is intended for college students from all over the world and is designed for university students and recent grads. Recipients can expect to learn more about gaming vocations and the fundamentals of breaking into or launching their own studios.VariesTBA
AIAS Foundation ScholarshipThe AIAS Foundation Scholarship is available for students who want to pursue a career or work as early professionals in any facet of game development, including game design.$2,500May 31

FAQs Related to the Online Master’s in Game
Design Degree

What is game design?

The gaming industry is worth billions of dollars, and game designers are its backbone. A subset of video game development is game design. It tries to combine storytelling, graphic design, characters, tactics, and other components to produce engaging games that add value to the player’s experience.

What is a master’s in game design degree?

What can I do with a master’s in game design?

Is a game design master’s degree worth it?

How long is an online master’s in game design?

Can a master’s in game design be pursued online?

Who can study a master’s in game design?

Is game design in demand?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after an Online
Master’s in Game Design Degree

An online master’s in game design degree enables designers to explore entrepreneurship by establishing their own gaming-related business organization and assembling a team of diverse profiles to build games. Meanwhile, those looking for experience can work as game designers, developers, character modelers, and so on in established game design firms. Those who choose user-experience and psychology courses can also join research and development teams.

Other industries that graduates of game design online master’s might easily enter are multimedia design and animation. Some job profiles for a game designer include 2D or 3D game design, multimedia art, game development, graphic design, and critical game design. Some possible job titles include, but are not limited to:

  • Game System Designer
  • Game Artist
  • Game Programmer
  • Game Designer
  • Game Audio Engineer
  • Game Marketer/PR
  • Creative Game Director
  • QA Game Tester
  • Game Animator

With Statista reporting that the global video games market was valued at $138.4 billion in 2021 and has grown to $203 billion in 2024, it is evident that the gaming industry requires more workers, which provides ample job opportunities for online master’s in game design graduates. Listed below are some careers game designers can consider. However, they are not directly related to game design – because game designing is only one function of building a game, and several other components go into it.

Occupation Job Description Skills RequiredMedian Annual Salary Job Growth (up to 2030)
Broadcast, Sound, and Video TechniciansBroadcast, sound, and video technicians set up, use, and maintain electrical and other equipment used in radio and television broadcasts, concerts, movies, and sound recordings.Computer skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, manual dexterity$48,79010% (faster than average)
Special Effects Artists and AnimatorsAnimators and special effects artists create two-dimensional and three-dimensional models, moving visuals, and visual effects for video games, movies, television shows, and other forms of media.Communication skills, time-management skills, computer skills, artistic talent, creativity$78,7905% (as fast as average)
Producers & DirectorsProducers and directors make creative and business decisions for films, television shows, stage productions, and other types of entertainment. They act out a screenwriter’s screenplay to entertain, inform, or instruct an audience.Leadership skills, communication skills, decision-making skills, creativity$79,0008% (faster than average)
Web Developers and Digital DesignersWeb developers create and maintain websites, as well as monitor their technical aspects, such as performance and capacity. Digital designers plan, develop, and test a website or interface’s layout, functionality, and navigation.Problem-solving skills, customer service skills, communication skills, creativity, detail-oriented$78,30023% (much faster than average)
Software Developers, Quality Assurance Analysts, and TestersSoftware developers design computer applications that enable users to perform certain tasks and the underlying systems that power devices or operate networks. Software quality assurance analysts and testers create and conduct software tests to identify defects and learn how products works.Interpersonal skills, analytical skills, problem-solving skills, communication skills, creativity, detail-oriented$109,02025% (much faster than average)

Certifications and Licensing for Online Master’s in
Game Design Students

A game design master’s degree is usually sufficient to start designing and developing games, although certification broadens one’s potential in one skill or tool. These certifications appear well next to projects on a designer’s résumé and help them stand out from their peers. Although not compulsory, many companies encourage their candidates and employees to earn particular professional certifications. While there are no specific board certifications for game design, some private companies and institutes offer professional credentials to help one grow in their career. Here are a few examples:

A license is not usually required to work as a game designer or creator. However, exceptions may apply if the work is in defense, military, or even EdTech, which is typically taken care of by the employer.

Additional Resources for Online Master’s in
Game Design Students

Joining professional organizations and sites that offer profession-related resources is an excellent opportunity to build one’s professional community of colleagues. It is also a good way to explore career paths, engage in discussion forums, build relationships, access podcasts, webinars, and conferences, and do much more. Here are a few resources that could help online master’s in game design students get started:

Title/Resource Description
ACM Special Interest Group for Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI)ACM SIGCHI is the premier international community of students and professionals engaged in Human-Computer Interaction research, education, and practical applications. It empowers its members to design and modify how people interact with technology and comprehend how technology affects people’s lives.
North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA)The North American Simulation and Gaming Association (NASAGA) is a professional network dedicated to developing, deploying, and assessing games and simulations to improve learning outcomes in various businesses.
International Game Developers Association (IGDA)The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) is the world’s largest nonprofit membership organization that serves all game developers. It helps game developers progress in their professions and improve their lives by connecting members with their peers, supporting professional development, and advocating for the concerns of game developers globally.
Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA)The Digital Games Research Association (DiGRA) is the leading international organization for academics and professionals interested in digital gaming and related issues. It emphasizes high-quality game research and encourages collaboration and sharing of work among its members.
Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences (AIAS)The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences (AIAS) is a non-profit organization that promotes and recognizes the interactive arts. AIAS, which has over 30,000 members, aspires to promote and enhance the global interactive entertainment community while also recognizing outstanding achievements in the interactive arts and sciences.

Author Bio:

Erika Lasrado

Erika has broad experience in counseling, psychology, and human resources. Although she has done a master’s in psychology, she is currently pursuing a master’s in educational psychology to change careers. Erika is a foodie and reader and loves to research and write about various topics when time permits.


Master of Psychology, Master of Educational Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.


The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.