USA | TOP game schools

2021 US game schools ranking: which are the best?

How do you choose the right school to pursue your dreams of becoming a video game creator, game designer, game programmer, game artist, sound designer or producer?

GAMEducation has created a ranking system for the best video game schools in the US, a first-of-its-kind approach incorporating the professional placement of recent alumni.

We consider graduate placement in game studios the cornerstone of game school success. GAMEducation’s rankings derive from careful examination of thousands of young graduates who have entered the game industry between 2016 and today.

Other important criteria of note are the quality of student game projects and the rigor of degree programs.

GDC | Game Developers Conference , students play games

GAMEducation brings together professionals from the video game industry and data specialists based in America, Asia and Europe. We inaugurate a new type of school ranking based on the career placement of young graduates over the last five years while paying particular attention to the quality of these positions.

Another important criterion is the quality of the student's video game projects completed during their studies.

This ranking thus highlights the schools that best enable students to acquire the necessary skills for a successful career in the gaming industry.

Our rankings are based on data from more than 300 studios and 5,000 alumni in the United States

The US ranking requires diligent examination of more than 5,000 alumni profiles and 100 US schools.

This information results in a precise overview of alumni positioning in 300+ video game studios in the US and an indepth look at the universities and institutes and the preparation they offer.

We completed two rankings in the United States analyzing data from 2016-2020

VIDEO GAME SCHOOLS: Where did graduates complete their studies before accepting quality positions in the US video game industry?

VIDEO GAME STUDIOS: Which studios have recruited the most graduates and for which positions?

GDC | Game Developers Conference , students talk to the studios

TOP 10 US Game Schools 2016-2020

☆ more details about the top 5 ☆

TOP 10 US STUDIOs 2016-2020

for hiring young talent

game schools top 5 USA

#1 DigiPen Institute of Technology

Redmond, Washington

  • 1,174 students. 92% in Bachelor's and 8% in Master's of video game.

  • Private (for-profit) Baccalaureate College - Diverse Fields

  • Tuition & fees (2020-2021): $37,030 (non U.S. residents)

details on World Ranking

#2 USC - UNIversity of SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

Los Angeles, California


  • 48,321 students. In video game training: 47% Bachelor's and 57% Master's graduates.

  • Private (not-for-profit) Research University (very high research activity)

  • Tuition & Fees (2020): $59,260 (non U.S. resident)

details on World Ranking


#3 Champlain College

Burlington, Vermont

  • 4,531 total students. 99% bachelor's and 1% master's degrees in video game in 2016-2020.

  • Private (not-for-profit)

  • Tuition & fees (2019): $41,828

Champlain College provides a concrete, career-oriented education facilitating students’ entry into the world of work. In addition, Champlain’s degree programs leave ample room for creativity, as illustrated in the school’s numerous game project achievements, both visually and in terms of interactivity.

Champlain’s value is growing when compared with other schools in America and across the world. Its Montreal campus offers students the opportunity to do part of their curriculum in Canada in a selection of studios.

ACADEMICS:

Champlain College offers four bachelor’s video game degrees, all distinguished by their thorough preparation:

  • Game Art

  • Game Design

  • Game Programming

  • Game Production Management


Champlain’s bachelor’s degree programs have the merit of being sufficiently well designed and comprehensive, allowing a large number of graduates to access employment without additional training.

Nearly all of the alumni (96%) who have entered video game jobs in the United States since 2016 hold only a Bachelor's degree from Champlain. The most numerous are BS Game Design graduates (32%). Next come BS Game Art and Animation (28%), Game Programming (15%), and finally BS Game Production Management (9%).

Another strong point of the school is that students are able to follow the courses of their chosen major from the first semester, which gives an advantage to the most motivated students.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor (2017), a Champlain student project commercialized on Steam.


GAMES PROTOTYPE AND COMPETITIONS:

Champlain College students produce a variety of high-quality video games. The following are some of the games that caught our attention:

Descent of Champions is an innovative PC game allowing spectators to influence the course of the game with their cell phone. It was presented at the Intel University Games Showcase 2020, hosted by the Game Developers Conference.

Diaries of a Spaceport Janitor is an open-world game in an extraterrestrial city featuring a wide variety of settings and characters. It was a finalist at the Independent Games Festival in 2017.

The main companies who have hired Champlain College graduates in games since 2016 are:


  • Vicarious Visions [a division of Activision Blizzard] (NY): 7 graduates.
    - 4
    game artists (world, weapons, VFX environment artists), 1 game designer, 1 engineer, 1 producer.


  • Velan Studios, Inc. (NY): 4 graduates.
    - 2
    game artists, 1 programmer, 1 production coordinator.


  • Raven Software [a division of Activision Blizzard] (WI):
    - 4 game artists.
    Notable game: Call of Duty: Black Ops 4.


  • Deck Nine Games (CO):
    - 2
    game designers, 1 technical artist (motion capture).
    Notable game:
    Life is Strange.


  • Sledgehammer Games [a division of Activision Blizzard] (CA):
    - 2 game designers, 1 game artist (VFX artist).
    Notable game: Call of Duty: WWII.


At these five main employers', more than half of the recent graduates employed have artistic functions, most being game artists (half of the positions) and game designers (1/4).


On a larger scale, Champlain alumni recruited over the last five years by 63 studios in the United States are 38% game artists and technical artists, 27% engineers and programmers and 24% game designers. The most common positions are those of game artists (1/3). The share of producers (11%) is also the highest among the US schools in our rankings.


Nautical Nonsense (2018)

#4 SCAD - SAVANNAH COLLEGE OF ART and DESIGN

Savannah, Georgia


  • 15,568 students. 89% of bachelor's and 13% of master's graduates specializing in video games in 2016-2020.

  • Private (not-for-profit)

  • Tuition & fees (2019): $38,075

Savannah College of Art and Design, or SCAD, is the school in this ranking with the most art oriented video game degrees. Students acquire not only artistic skills, but also technical skills, such as programming languages.

ACADEMICS:

  • Bachelor of Art in Digital Media

  • Bachelor of Fine Art in Interactive Design & Game Development

  • Master of Art in Interactive Design & Game Development

  • Master of Fine Art in Interactive Design & Game Development

Among the alumni recruited in the United States since 2016 by game studios, 89% have a Bachelor's degree from SCAD. For 2/3rds of these graduates, the SCAD degree is their only higher education degree in this speciality. These degree programs are proving to be very effective in obtaining careers in the industry.

55% have a Bachelor of Art in Interactive Design and Game Development, and 19% have a Bachelor of Art in Animation, followed by a BA in Sound Design (6%) and a BA in Visual Effects (5%).

CUI CUI, selected at Intel® University Games Showcase 2020


GAME PROTOTYPES AND COMPETITIONS

Few schools manage to have their student projects selected in major competitions several years in a row. SCAD is one of these, with five projects from 2016 to 2020 at the Intel® University Games Showcase (IUGS) national competition hosted by the Game Developers Conference (GDC). Two of these games have won awards:

Vacancy won the 2019 IUGS Innovation Award. This puzzle-solving game addresses the complex theme of mental health. In it, the character is connected to different dimensions by means of an interdimensional radio. The player can change the station - by mouse, game controller, keyboard or cell phone input - and can thus escape his state.

Battery Jam won two awards in 2016. It claimed second place for its visual quality and third place for its gameplay.

Cor Dormus was a finalist at the prestigious international Unity Awards competition in 2019.

Finally, the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), which hosts the national College Game Competition, selected SCAD games as finalists for five consecutive years from 2013 to 2017. Two Savannah games were crowned winners: Prisma in 2014 and Brobot Beatdown in 2016.

The main companies who have hired SCAD graduates in games since 2016 are:

  • Hi-Rez Studios (GA): 11 graduates.
    -
    8 game artists, 2 technical artists, 1 game designer.
    Notable games
    : Smite, Paladins, Realm Royale, Rogue Company.


  • Electronic Arts (EA) (FL): 7 graduates.
    -
    6 game artists, 1 technical artist.
    Notable game
    : Madden.


  • 343 Industries [a division of Microsoft] (WA):
    5
    game artists (building in-engine game environments).


  • Vicarious Visions [a division of Activision Blizzard] (NY):
    5 game artists (3 environment artists).
    Notable games
    : Destiny 2: Black Armory, Warmind et Forsaken, Season of Opulence.


  • Epic Games (NC): 3 game artists, 1 game designer, 1 tech artist.


  • Infinity Ward [a division of Activision Blizzard] (CA):
    4
    game artists (2 motion capture technicians).
    Notable games
    : Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, et Warzone.


The profiles of the alumni in the six largest game studios in the United States since 2016 show a perfect match with the artistic orientation of the school: 84% hold positions as game artists.

The 110 American studios that recruited the most SCAD graduates hired 70% artistic positions, 65% of which are game artists, a record rate in this ranking. 17% are game designers. Savannah College also prepares the largest share of audio designers (4%).

Conversely, only 7% are technical programmers / developers.


Cor Domus, student project finalist at the Unity Awards 2019

#5 RIT - rochester institutE of technology

Rochester, New York

  • 16,254 students. 79% of Bachelor's and 19% of Master's graduates in video game programs 2016-2020.

  • Private (not-for-profit) Doctoral/Research University

  • Tuition & fees (2019): $45,890

Rochester Institute of Technology focuses primarily on its comprehensive Bachelor's degree program. 76% of its graduates who have entered the video game industry since 2016 have a bachelor's degree from the Institute as their only higher education degree.

In 2016, the faculty of RIT's video game department supported the student project Hack, Slash and Backstab in successfully making it through Microsoft’s editing sieves resulting in it being published on Xbox Live.

ACADEMICS:

  • Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development

  • Bachelor of Fine Arts in 3D Digital Design

  • Master of Science in Game Design and Development

RIT's Bachelor of Science in Game Design and Development is particularly successful. It is sufficiently comprehensive and solid to allow most of its graduates to enter the gaming industry without further higher education. 73% of recent RIT graduates recruited in the United States hold this degree alone.

Hack, Slash & Backstab is an award-winning student game at the Intel University Games Showcase in 2016 which was later incubated and ported to Xbox Live.


GAME PROTOTYPES AND COMPETITIONS

RIT has been consistently present at the Intel University Games Showcase competition. Eight Rochester projects were selected from 2015 to 2019, two of which won awards: Super Daryl Deluxe, crowned best student project in 2015 and best in visual quality, and Hack, Slash & Backstab, third place winner for visual quality in 2016.

The mobile game Crazy Platez was a finalist in the 2018 Unity Awards and winner of the New York State Game Dev Challenge the same year.

The main companies who have hired RIT graduates in games since 2016 are:


  • Electronic Arts (EA) (CA, FL): 3 engineers.
    Notable game: The Sims 4.


  • Vicarious Visions [a division of Activision Blizzard] (NY):
    3 engineers, 1 game designer.
    Notable game: Skylanders Imaginators.


  • Rockstar Games [a division of Take-Two Interactive] (NY, MA):
    2 programmers, 1 game artist.


  • Epic Games (NC, WA): 1 programmer, 1 producer.
    Notable game: Fortnite.


  • Oxide Games (MD): 2 engineers, 1 programmer.


  • Santa Monica Studio [a division of Sony Interactive Entertainment] (CA): 1 gameplay animator, 1 programmer.


  • Zynga (NY): 2 game designers.
    Notable game: Wizard of Oz: Magic Match.


Rochester Institute of Technology’s focus on tech is clearly reflected here in the positions its recent graduates hold: nearly 3/4 of the positions are technical, with a majority of engineers and programmers . Only one recent new hire holds an artistic position as a game artist.

About half of RIT’s recent alumni earned a BS in Game Design and Development and the other half have a master's degree in the same realm.

These primary employers of RIT game graduates are mainly large studios, which allow these new hires to work on several major AA or even AAA projects.


71 studios recruiting Rochester’s alumni in the last five years mainly hire for tech positions: 69% are engineers and programmers / developers, and 10% are game artists and technical artists. Unsurprisingly, the main career paths are those of engineers (37%), programmers/developers (32%, the highest rate in our US ranking), and game designers (19%), which again reflects the content of RIT's video game teaching.