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Bring virtual worlds to life with an online game design and art degree.
Whether it's imagining rich virtual game worlds or designing creatures from another planet, you'll be on the right path to the fast-paced, exciting world of video game art and design with SNHU's Bachelor of Arts in Game Art and Development.
As an online game design degree that zeroes in on game art, this program will help you build a portfolio of compelling front-end game designs. You'll use industry-standard 3D and 2D graphic software to learn and apply game design and game art principles such as:
Creativity, critical thinking and technical skills all come together in this highly sought-after undergraduate program. The convenience of SNHU’s online offering means you can remain located in the areas of the country where the markets are booming – the West Coast or Florida, for instance – and emerge with the skills you need to enter an industry that's both fast-paced and always changing.
You'll learn how to:
Level Up in Game Programming: Passionate about the science behind gaming? Our game programming degree online will teach you how to create interactive game experiences through rule design, play mechanics and more.
According to Newzoo, the global video game industry is projected to grow to more than $180.1 billion by 2021.2 In addition, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for multimedia artists and animators is projected to grow 4% through 2028 – on pace with the national average for all occupations.3
SNHU offers a critical advantage in a highly competitive field, as our program uniquely hones in on today's industry standards and essential skill-building to excel in game design and game art.
Whether it's for games or movies, ed-tech or the military, here are just a few careers you might land with an online game art degree:
Almost anything you need to build or create in the 21st century begins with a model, animation or both, because these tools can help pinpoint design flaws, identify areas of improvement and ultimately reduce costs.
The practical application of these skills is one of the big reasons Danielle Rumbaugh '20 was able to take her career to the next level.
"When I first started the game art program, I worked at a small game company," Rumbaugh said. "Applying the knowledge I learned from SNHU really pushed the limits of what I thought I was capable of."
Learning the ins-and-outs of industry tools, she made the decision to "jump right in and do it." That attitude ultimately helped her become her own boss.
"Building up these skills was what gave me the courage to start my business and reach out to new companies," she said.
Now, as a contract artist, Rumbaugh has already collected her share of big wins. She's even had her work featured in Aviation Week and Space Technology.
As far as future goals? She's aiming even higher. "I’m hoping that I will eventually be able to work on my first console game as a contract artist," she said.
With no set class meeting times, you can learn on your schedule and access online course materials 24/7.
Take advantage of some of the lowest online tuition rates in the nation, plus financial aid for those who qualify. We also make it easy to transfer to SNHU by accepting up to 90 credits from your previous institution.
Founded in 1932, Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution with over 100,000 graduates across the country. SNHU is regionally accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), which advocates for institutional improvement and public assurance of quality.
Recently, SNHU has been nationally recognized for leading the way toward more innovative, affordable and achievable education:
At Southern New Hampshire University, you'll have access to a powerful network of more than 200,000 students, alumni and staff that can help support you long after graduation. Our instructors offer relevant, real-world expertise to help you understand and navigate the field. Plus, with our growing, nationwide alumni network, you'll have the potential to tap into a number of internship and career opportunities.
96.5% of students would recommend SNHU.* Discover why SNHU may be right for you.
Part of our mission to expand access to quality higher education means removing the barriers that may stand between you and your degree. That’s why you can apply at any time and get a decision within days of submitting all required materials.
Acceptance decisions are made on a rolling basis throughout the year for our 6 (8-week) undergraduate terms.
Simply contact an admission counselor, who can help you explore financial options, answer all your questions and walk you through the application process. Start by:
Test scores are not required as part of your application.
Our curriculum was designed to help you become proficient with design tools like Adobe Software Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator, In-Design) and 3DS Max. Armed with these tools, you'll build an eye-catching portfolio that includes original character and creature designs. You'll also gain demonstrated experience designing interactive 3D environments.
Courses mirror the standard workflow pipeline used in the industry for the production of art assets. You'll apply these skills to multiple video game platforms, including web, console, PC and mobile, so you'll be ready to hit the ground running in a fast-paced industry.
Additionally, our expert faculty of gaming vets will impart their broad experience within the gaming industry.
Curriculum Requirements & Resources
Using tools and skills you gain throughout the program, you'll build a portfolio employers want to see.
For John Lanier '20, that meant building character designs for just about any type of game you can think of – from surrealist horror to go-cart style racing games.
"In my time at SNHU, I created player and non-player character concepts that evolved from quick thumbnail designs to these final versions," Lanier said. "Modeling was done in 3D Studio Max and Mudbox, with textures created in Photoshop – all programs introduced and taught within the program."
Total Credit Hours: 120
The following software programs will be required for use in the game art and development program. Note that system requirements may change without notice. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that they meet the minimum system requirements for these programs.
This package includes Maya, 3ds Max, MotionBuilder and Mudbox. Students can download these products for free under an educational agreement through Autodesk.
Note that some Autodesk products included in the Entertainment Creation Suite may be available for Apple® Mac OS® X operating systems. Students may elect to run non-native software (most notably 3ds Max) on Windows® through Apple's Boot Camp® or Parallels Desktop® systems. Students who wish to obtain Windows® 10 may do so through SNHU's OnTheHub store.
This package includes Photoshop, Lightroom, Illustrator, InDesign, Acrobat and more. Students can download these products for a reduced monthly cost through SNHU's OnTheHub store.
The requirements below are listed for Photoshop and Illustrator. Given that current system requirements can change without notice from Adobe, it is best to consult the most up-to-date requirements on the Adobe website.
Tuition rates for SNHU's online degree programs are among the lowest in the nation. We offer financial aid packages to those who qualify, plus a 30% tuition discount for U.S. service members, both full and part time, and the spouses of those on active duty.
Tuition Rates are subject to change and are reviewed annually.
No Application Fee, $150 Graduation Fee, Course Materials ($ varies by course)
There isn't one defined path to becoming a game artist. Some earn a game art degree, while others pursue a graphic design degree. Others may major in computer graphics or animation.
No matter what degree you choose, the program should help you:
Fortunately, our bachelor's in game art can help you do all 3.
"Our BA in Game Art & Development prepares students for careers in game and simulation development," said Max Callahan, associate dean at SNHU. "The experience students gain with 2D and 3D graphics software and game engines allows them to apply those creative and technical skills to exciting and challenging creative projects."
Here's the best part: you won't have to wait for graduation to show what you're capable of.
We offer a number of interactive experiences to help prepare you for future success. One such example is the annual Art Exhibition Contest. You'll get the opportunity to have your work reviewed by experts in the field. If your work is selected, you'll also receive a scholarship prize (not to mention bragging rights).
A game art degree is what it sounds like: a program that helps you specialize in making artwork for video games.
With a game art degree, you'll learn how to create the parts of a game people see. You could design the leading heroine in a first-person shooter or the final boss in an action adventure. You might create the coins players collect to advance to the next level of a mobile puzzle game, or a fantastic steam-punk world in an RPG.
By exploring areas like digital sculpting, 3-D modeling and animation, and environment design, you'll learn how to create industry-ready work. And, with any luck, you'll knock the socks off gamers, too.
Of course. Whether you're looking to start your career, or pivot to a new one, learning online can help unlock your future potential.
Our game art degree can be completed 100% online, giving you the flexibility you need to advance your career without putting your life on hold.
That's what motivated SNHU game art graduate John Lanier to take the leap. "I’d been meaning to complete my bachelor’s since leaving the military," he said. "But I had a hard time finding a program tailored to game development [that was] also flexible and affordable."
When he found SNHU, John suddenly had a platform to step back into the world of higher education. But with so many years out of the game, it wasn't without hesitation.
"I was worried about the time commitment, workload and seemingly large number of different classes that lay before me," he said. "I’ve also been out of school for a very long time, so the fear of getting back into a classroom was very real."
Still, John went for it. He enrolled, worked hard, established his voice as an artist and came out the other side a proud graduate.
"My proudest accomplishment is now seeing my bachelor’s degree on the wall," he said.
While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not specifically report game design or art salary data, multimedia artists and animators reportedly earned a median annual wage of $75,270 in 2019.3
It should be noted, however, that salaries can vary greatly by geographic location, experience level and work environment.
Plus, with highly specialized roles within the gaming industry, each of which requires different subsets of skills and responsibilities, wage estimations are often difficult to predict.
The gaming industry is attractive to many people. It can be highly collaborative, creative and rewarding. That said, it's also very competitive and difficult to break into. This is especially true for those in underrepresented groups, such as women and members of the LGBTQ+ community.
A 2017 survey by International Game Developer Association found that 21% of respondents in the gaming industry were women, 5% identified as homosexual and 3% identified as transgender.4
But at SNHU, we're committed to helping our diverse student body succeed. Whether it's empowering women leaders in our gaming and STEM programs or giving underrepresented students the opportunity to network at events like Game Jams, PAX East or the Grace Hopper Celebration, we provide opportunities to not only succeed – but to excel.
As one former game design student, Grace Tay '17, put it: "We need to get to a point where, if a woman is leading in a video game, it's normal. The only way we're going to do that is if women see themselves in these positions. So my advice is: Don't let statistics discourage you, use them as fuel. If you are passionate about this field, and you apply yourself, you can do it."
A game art degree can help prepare you for a handful of different roles in the gaming industry. You could become the concept artist who creates the characters, environments, vehicles and creatures that define the overall look and feel of a game. As a modeler or animator, you could be responsible for building 3D models along with the animated assets to put them motion.
You can also apply these skills outside of the gaming world. Just ask John Lanier '20, a game art graduate who now works with a large manufacturer of aviation aircraft.
"The BA in Game Art and Development degree at SNHU has given me the tools to expand and evolve what I can do for my company," Lanier said. From designing beauty renders and concept art to modeling assets, he applies what he's learned every day.
"I’m now trying to create an interactive spec tool with the Unreal Game Engine that customers can use to select materials and veneers for an aircraft interior," Lanier said.
He's also noticed a trend – he's not the only person with a background in video games. "There are two of us now with GA&D degrees that work here… it’s kind of a jack-of-all-trades degree."
As complex as the process of making a game can be, it's important to note the responsibilities of each team member involved. Here's a quick breakdown of some key jobs in the gaming world:
Game artist. Game artists are specifically responsible for the front end designs in games. This may include 2D or 3D models of characters, creatures, vehicles or virtual environments.
"In the online BA in Game Art and Development degree program, we'll teach students how to create art designs and assets for game design concepts," said Max Callahan, associate dean at SNHU.
A game art degree is designed to help you fill any number of roles as a game artist – including concept designer, modeler, texture artist, rigger and animator.
Animator. An animator is someone who takes a static drawing or 3D model and brings it to life. As mentioned before, animation is a sub-specialization of game art.
Like many roles in gaming, this is a highly collaborative job. In many cases, your designs will come from a 3D modeler. You'll then likely work with designers under the direction of an art director to figure out exactly how a character, creature or object should move.
You'll almost act as a stage coach – helping understand a character's motivations and giving personality to the way they move. Plus, your skills will be transferable to a number of other industries – such as film, television, marketing and more.
Game designer. What does a game designer do? These are the pros who have a deep understanding of their industry and what gamers want.
As a game designer, you'll spend a lot of time analyzing and talking about competitors' games. It can be helpful to start out as a QA tester or production assistant, as a good portion of your job will be dedicated to noticing design flaws to help improve gameplay mechanics.
Game designers may also hone in on a particular area of a game. You could be a level designer – where you essentially create blueprints of level maps. As a content designer, you could help create the narrative of a game, including character names, dialogue, quests and stories.
Game producer. Every team needs a person to keep projects on task – in the gaming world, that's the producer.
These are the folks who schedule out the work, communicate with stakeholders, manage budgets and check in with teams to make sure everything's running smoothly. It's all about communication and organization.
Those in the entry level are often given the title of associate producer. Upon reaching a more senior level, you'll likely become a product owner.
Game programmer. We've talked about the artists of the gaming world – now let's talk about the scientists.
Programmers are highly technical. They'll use programming languages like C++, C# and Java to define the mechanics and logic of a game. They'll build their work on a game engine like Unreal for various platforms.
Specialized game programming roles include tools programmer, simulations programmer and software applications developer.
Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) as well as several other accrediting bodies.
*According to a survey responses from over 9,200 SNHU online students conducted in the fall of 2019.
2 Newzoo Adjusts Global Games Forecast to $148.8 Billion; Slower Growth in Console Spending Starts Sooner than Expected. Newzoo, on the internet at https://newzoo.com/insights/articles/newzoo-adjusts-global-games-forecast-to-148-8-billion-slower-growth-in-console-spending-starts-sooner-than-expected/ (viewed May 12, 2020)
3 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, on the internet, at:
Cited projections may not reflect local and/or short-term economic or job conditions and do not guarantee actual job growth.
4 Game companies are failing on diversity, according to new report. Polygon, on the internet at https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/8/16855940/videogame-diversity-report-igda (viewed May 27, 2020)