Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Turn your passion into a career with a master's in game and media design. Check out our ranking for the top programs.
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Game and media designers create digital content for video games and other electronic media. They may also work in fields such as animation, mobile app development, and user interface design. A master's in game and media design can give you the skills to enter high-level positions in this rapidly growing industry.

Total costs for art and media programs vary widely, but the National Center for Education Statistics reports that graduate students in all fields paid an average of $19,792 in tuition and fees for the 2019-20 school year. Most master's programs last about two years. Some online programs may offer flexible part-time enrollment options.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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Graduate school can be an expensive investment, with many candidates needing to take on significant student debt to earn their degree. Many game design students pursue the degree to follow their passion, but the industry also features competitive salaries for skilled designers. Payscale June 2022 data reports that game designers earn an average annual salary of $67,230, while top-paid designers can earn six-figure salaries.

Our Top Pick

Columbia University - New York City, New York

Why It's #1: Columbia University is the number one ranked school on our best master's in game and media design programs list. Students in this program focus on the design of educational technology and complete an integrative capstone project to add to their resume. Degree candidates at Columbia receive close attention from professors, and the school boasts an impressive 95% graduation rate. Although tuition is relatively high at Columbia, 50% of students receive grants from the school.

Read Our Rankings Methodology

Best Accredited Master's in Game and Media Design Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

#1 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Columbia University in the City of New York

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In State | $32,363
Out of State | $32,363

Credits to Graduate
32-33

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

A member of the prestigious Ivy League, Columbia offers a master's in game and media design with start dates in the fall, spring, and summer. The program emphasizes the design of digital games and media with a focus on education and learning. Typical courses include the instructional design of educational technology and ethical issues in technology design.

Applicants must submit all undergraduate transcripts, though Columbia does not maintain a specific GPA requirement. Applicants must also submit a statement of purpose, a resume, and at least two letters of recommendation.

Average Tuition
In-state
$57,763
Out-of-state
$57,763
Retention Rate
99%
Admission Rate
5%
Students Enrolled
31,456
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#2 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

American University

  • Washington, DC
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,866
Out of State | $1,866

Credits to Graduate
36

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

A private college based in Washington, D.C., AU offers a top-ranked master's in game and media design. This interdisciplinary degree explores varied approaches to game design while also incorporating topics such as strategic communication and social marketing. 

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree in any field and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students must also submit an admissions essay and two letters of recommendation. AU does not require applicants to submit GRE scores.

Average Tuition
In-state
$49,070
Out-of-state
$49,070
Retention Rate
87%
Admission Rate
36%
Students Enrolled
14,318
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#3 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Emerson College

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online, Hybrid, or On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,349
Out of State | $1,349

Credits to Graduate
32

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

A Boston-based private college, Emerson offers one of Massachusetts' top master's in game and media design programs. The school's MA in media design combines studies in art, technology, and community research. Students gain the skills to design media in the service of social change and civic engagement.

Applicants must submit transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and an admissions essay. Candidates must also submit a creative sample in the form of either a writing sample or a visual portfolio.

Average Tuition
In-state
$48,280
Out-of-state
$48,280
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
33%
Students Enrolled
4,930
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#4 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network

  • Boston, MA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,804
Out of State | $1,804

Credits to Graduate
34

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Northeastern's master's in game and media design emphasizes technical skills and a player-centric approach to design. The curriculum encompasses both arts and computer science, with many opportunities for internships and other experiential learning activities. Typical course topics include play psychology, game evaluation methods, and narrative techniques.

Game design applicants must submit transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. Applicants can also submit an optional portfolio that demonstrates their design work.

Average Tuition
In-state
$29,298
Out-of-state
$29,298
Retention Rate
Not provided
Admission Rate
Not provided
Students Enrolled
11,857
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
#5 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

University of Connecticut

  • Storrs, CT
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,010
Out of State | $2,227

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

One of Connecticut's major public colleges, UConn offers one of New England's top master's in game and media design programs. The degree highlights the intersection of technology, fine art, and science, training students in advanced approaches to digital design. Candidates can also gain hands-on experience through a digital media internship.

Graduate applicants must submit transcripts, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation. All applicants must also submit a portfolio that showcases their digital media work.

Average Tuition
In-state
$13,798
Out-of-state
$36,466
Retention Rate
94%
Admission Rate
49%
Students Enrolled
27,280
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes New England Commission on Higher Education

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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#6 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Touro College

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online, Hybrid, or On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $820
Out of State | $820

Credits to Graduate
33

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

A private college based in New York, Touro offers an online master's in game and media design. Focusing on user interface and web design, the degree trains students to create interactive applications and other media. Typical course topics include graphic design, multimedia products, and digital modeling and animation.

Program applicants must hold a bachelor's degree and a minimum 3.0 GPA. Candidates should also submit a resume and a statement of purpose. A portfolio of work is optional.

Average Tuition
In-state
$18,038
Out-of-state
$18,038
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
69%
Students Enrolled
11,631
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#7 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Laguna College of Art and Design

  • Laguna Beach, CA
  • 4 years
  • Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,334
Out of State | $1,334

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Located in Laguna Beach, California, LCAD offers a comprehensive master's in game and media design. The school's MFA in game design explores both the technical and theoretical dimensions of game design. Common courses include game narrative and specialized programming.

Applicants must submit both a statement of purpose and a portfolio of work. The portfolio may include completed games or other projects demonstrating student ability. Applicants must also submit undergraduate transcripts, a resume or CV, and letters of recommendation.

Average Tuition
In-state
$31,600
Out-of-state
$31,600
Retention Rate
79%
Admission Rate
81%
Students Enrolled
834
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
#8 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

The New School

  • New York, NY
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,880
Out of State | $1,880

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

Based in Manhattan, The New School offers an MFA in design and technology. This studio program combines hands-on labs with theoretical perspectives on the history and application of design. The degree encompasses topics including game design, digital animation, and new media art.

Graduate applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts, a statement of purpose, a resume, and two recommendation letters. Master's in game and media design applicants must also submit a portfolio that contains a video introduction and a sample of work. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$49,770
Out-of-state
$49,770
Retention Rate
82%
Admission Rate
57%
Students Enrolled
10,432
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
11% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
#9 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Savannah College of Art and Design

  • Savannah, GA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

100% Online or On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $890
Out of State | $890

Credits to Graduate
45-90

Program Information
Program Accreditation | N/A

A private art school in Savannah, Georgia, SCAD offers multiple online master's in game and media design programs. Candidates can choose from either a master of arts or a master of fine arts in interactive design and game development. Both programs offer concentrations in game development and interactive design.

Graduate applicants must submit undergraduate transcripts, a resume, and two letters of recommendation. Game design candidates must also submit a portfolio of work and a statement of purpose.

Average Tuition
In-state
$37,575
Out-of-state
$37,575
Retention Rate
84%
Admission Rate
96%
Students Enrolled
14,840
Institution Type
Private
Percent Online Enrollment
20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
#10 Best Master’s in Game and Media Design Programs

Temple University

  • Philadelphia, PA
  • 4 years
  • Online + Campus

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,217
Out of State | $1,614

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
Program Accreditation | National Association of Schools of Art and Design

Located in Philadelphia, Temple offers an MFA in graphic and interactive media. This interdisciplinary program features a research-based focus on design, highlighting varied approaches to visual media. The curriculum includes art history courses, studio electives, and design seminars.

Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree related to graphic and interactive design, with at least 40 studio art credits and 12 art history credits. Master's in game and media design applicants must also submit a resume, statement of purpose, and a creative portfolio. 

Average Tuition
In-state
$16,080
Out-of-state
$28,992
Retention Rate
89%
Admission Rate
60%
Students Enrolled
38,794
Institution Type
Public
Percent Online Enrollment
21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
Accreditation
Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education

Popular Online Game and Media Design Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

How We Rank Schools

Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Master's in Game and Media Design Programs ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by the National Center for Education Statistics. We identified 13 schools that qualify for our ranking list based on the following criteria.

  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer a master's degree program in the given subject.
  • Must submit an annual report to the National Center for Education Statistics.

To ensure the accuracy and quality of our final ranked list, the ranking team reviewed each qualifying school to ensure it met the criteria for our ranking, and then applied our proprietary ranking methodology to identify the best schools offering this program in the nation. Each school is ranked based on a formula measuring academic factors (60%) and affordability (40%).

The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.

BestColleges' Ranking Factors

Frequently Asked Questions About Game and Media Design Programs

Is a master's in game and media design worth it?

Given the price, time commitment, and academic rigor of graduate school, it's understandable to wonder if a master's in game and media design is the right choice. A master's degree can lead to increased job opportunities and salary potential, making the degree a practical choice for those willing to commit the time and money.

If work or other obligations prevent you from relocating for school, an online program can

give you the flexibility to pursue a degree without sacrificing work or family responsibilities. These programs often cater to working students, offering more flexible course scheduling and part-time enrollment options.

What can I do with a master's in game and media design?

A master's in game and media design prepares you for careers in the video game industry and other digital media professions. Graduates often pursue careers related to mobile application development, user interface design, and digital animation. The skills gained in a media design program can apply to a variety of industries, including entertainment, filmmaking, and advertising.

If you're specifically interested in video game design, many programs offer specific concentrations for various careers in the field. Game-focused programs can prepare you for jobs such as game programmer, level designer, and production supervisor. These programs often include internship opportunities to help you build professional experience and connections.

Are game and media design graduates in demand?

The video game industry thrived during the COVID-19 pandemic, growing 23% in 2020, according to research from Newzoo. While this level of growth is likely to slow over time, total revenue for the gaming industry is projected to reach about $219 billion in 2024, greatly eclipsing the film industry. This sustained growth likely means sustained demand for skilled game designers in the coming years.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects strong growth for many jobs associated with game and media design. The BLS projects special effects artists and animators to grow 16% from 2020-2030, a rate much higher than the national average of 8%. The BLS projects jobs for web developers and digital designers to grow 13% in the same time period.

How much money can I make with a master's in game and media design?

Salaries for game designers vary widely depending on factors such as location, experience, and employer. As of June 2022, Payscale reports that video game designers of all types earn an average annual salary of over $67,000.

Master's in game and media design graduates can pursue many other career paths related to game design. Per the BLS, web developers and digital designers earned an annual median salary of $77,200 in May 2020. Special effects artists and animators earned an annual median salary of $78,790 in May 2021.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in game and media design?

Many of the top-paid positions in the game and media design field are senior management positions. The BLS reports art directors earned an annual median salary of $100,890 in 2021. The top 10% of these workers made over $194,130 per year. In general, professional experience, including work on successful game releases, can help increase salary.

Outside of management, computer programmers also command high pay. The BLS reports these professionals earned a median annual salary of $93,000 in 2021.

Feature Image: gilaxia / E+ / Getty Images

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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