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.

portrait of Reese Lopez
by Reese Lopez

Published on July 27, 2022 · Updated on July 29, 2022

Edited by Amelia Buckley
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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.

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.

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Best Accredited Master's in Game and Media Design Programs

Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team

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#1

Columbia University in the City of New York

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 5%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 6% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#2

American University

School Information
Location Washington, District of Columbia
Admission Rate 36%
Graduation Rate 79%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#3

Emerson College

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 33%
Graduation Rate 82%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 10% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#4

Northeastern University Lifelong Learning Network

School Information
Location Boston, Massachusetts
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 52% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#5

University of Connecticut

School Information
Location Storrs, Connecticut
Admission Rate 49%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 14% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#6

Touro College

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 61%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 17% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#7

Laguna College of Art and Design

School Information
Location Laguna Beach, California
Admission Rate 81%
Graduation Rate 57%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 39% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#8

The New School

School Information
Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 57%
Graduation Rate 70%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 11% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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. 

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#9

Savannah College of Art and Design

School Information
Location Savannah, Georgia
Admission Rate 96%
Graduation Rate 70%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 20% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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.

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#10

Temple University

School Information
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Admission Rate 60%
Graduation Rate 74%
Accreditation Yes Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21% Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

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. 

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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.

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.

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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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