USC named top game school

Princeton Review releases top-10 lists for undergraduate and graduate game design programs, with the University of Southern California topping both categories.

Thinking about going to school for game design? College preparation service The Princeton Review today released a ranked list of game design programs in the US and Canada, and the University of Southern California scored top marks at the undergraduate and graduate level.

USC stands tall in game design, according to The Princeton Review. Photo credit: USC.

Rounding out the top five undergraduate schools for video game design were the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Utah, the DigiPen Institute of Technology, and the Art Institute of Vancouver.

As for graduate schools, The Princeton Review's top five schools were led by the aforementioned USC, followed by the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Central Florida, and Southern Methodist University (The Guildhall).

See below for the full top-10 lists for undergraduate and graduate game design programs. In total, The Princeton Review ranked 50 schools: 18 graduate schools and 32 undergraduate institutions. For the full lists, check out the company's website.

The Princeton Review chose the schools based on what it called a "comprehensive" survey, conducted during the 2011-12 academic year at 150 schools offering game design courses or degree programs in the United States and Canada.

The company's survey touched on a range of items related to game design, including questions related to academic standards, faculty knowledge and experience, career placement, and technological capabilities.

Top undergraduate game design schools, according to The Princeton Review:

1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
3. University of Utah (Salt Lake City, UT)
4. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
5. The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, BC)
6. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
7. Shawnee State University (Portsmouth, OH)
8. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
9. University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
10. Becker College (Worcester, MA)

Top graduate game design schools, according to The Princeton Review:

1. University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
2. Rochester Institute of Technology (Rochester, NY)
3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, MA)
4. University of Central Florida (Orlando, FL)
5. Southern Methodist University (SMU) (Plano, TX)
6. Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
7. Savannah College of Art and Design (Savannah, GA)
8. DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, WA)
9. Univ. of California, Santa Cruz (Santa Cruz, CA)
10. Drexel University (Philadelphia, PA)

Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

46 comments
Raz48
Raz48

I studied architecture, and am now trying to enter the industry as a level designer, I am spending time now learning UDK and other engines, I already have a good hand with 3d programs. I am fortunate enough to have the resources available to get another degree in gaming, but would it be a waste of money and time at this stage? i.e is my time better spent studying myself and trying to get a intern job for a year?

Nyolls79
Nyolls79

I contemplated going to one of those Full Sail type schools that are strictly for the games industry. I'm very glad i never did that because its such a niche degree, if your can't get one of the few thousand (not that many actuallY) jobs in the industry in the country, your degree is going to waste and your screwed. I then worked for a games company for 6 months and lets just say the bloom was off the rose by that point. Zero job stability, inhumane hours, and very low pay to start unless your a wiz programmer. If you want to get into the games industry you need a couple things:1) A LOT OF TALENT. You will not excel in this industry if you are not incredibly creative and talented. 2) The desire to move every year or two because of the instability of the industry. Every week you hear of studios laying of hundreds of works, closing, or being acquired. 3) The willingness to live at the poverty level for a few years if your starting out as a tester, intern or low level art person. 4) or, if you come from means, have your parents basically support you for 4-5 years until you get a gig in the industry that pays well. This is less true if you are a talented programmer or artist, but if your goal is to be in QA, production, creative, etc, you will have a hard long road ahead of you. Being someone who has gone through it a bit, if you want to be in the design realm of the industry, my advice would just be to get a computer science/engineering degree from a regular university. While your getting your degree, work on some mods and have something put together that you can present to an employer when you start looking for work. If the games thing doesn't work out or you have a long employment lull in the industry, you can get work in another area because that degree is very versatile.

hegemon44
hegemon44

Sorry to burst your bubble, but you're not going to get the same caliber of education, or job placement or alumni support at a "McCollege" that you would going to a tier one university like USC.

bluedarrk
bluedarrk

@inline243 you are exactly right!

inline243
inline243

Full Sail is a great college. People talking bad about it probably couldn't handle the hours or have never visited it before. Some people can't handle the 4 hr labs and 4 hr lectures everyday and its open 24 hrs a day so you might have a class at 4 am. You work way more hours than that in the industry. It's all about the individual and how hard you work at it. If you don't put in the time, then you won't get anything out of it. A college is there to provide you information and tools. If you choose not to work hard after class, then you're not actually going to learn anything you just heard.

PixelAddict
PixelAddict

UC Santa Cruz Banana Slugs? Really? I thought the only thing they studied there was cannabis...

YummyMango
YummyMango

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

bluedarrk
bluedarrk

@Lazy_Marine There are lots of jobs in the game industry you just have to have talent to get in it. What are you talking about the game industry is shrinking? It's growing casual gaming is huge now. Everyone with a smart phone or tablet most likely plays games on it. Now if your friend can't get a job because either his portfolio sucks or he doesn't know how to interview.

NitehawkFury
NitehawkFury

The truth is, there are always going to be those who try to tear down the dreams of others, but that doesn't mean that you should just give up on it. If you want to follow a passion and go after something, then you should do it. You can't expect that just getting a degree is going to hand you a job in the industry, of course, but it you put in the effort, focus your time and be creative, then you'll find success. These programs can help you on your way, but just like with anything in life, you're going to get out of it what you put into it - This is a stepping stone. But don't let other people dissuade you from trying just because it looks difficult. No one ever succeeded by simply taking the "safe" route.

Lazy_Marine
Lazy_Marine

Hi Guys, i want to mention something important: The economy is so bad and its getting so much worse there is just no jobs out there for game designers, the industry is shrinking even more, people don't have money to spend. What is the use graduating form USC then no job. My friend recently finished postgrad in game design at nyu but he hasn't got a job in 1 year. We r heading into v bad times, that is the reality. Look at Blizzard they make billions yet 600 will be fired soon. All of you young people here still in University so happy cheering loudly with bright dreams have no idea what's waiting, good luck all.

berto64
berto64

UNM in the list .well they have a good program there i see why. go Lobos :D

t0taldj
t0taldj

Don't be mistaken by "game design". It's not like that jump in and use a software to make games. There's tons of computer science involved with languages that I've never heard of. If you're good at computer science you'll have no problem getting a job in the gaming industry.

alexLmx6
alexLmx6

@chinchillables2 - +1 this big time. While I don't regret going to school, (went to Humber College for 3d Modelling and Vfx and I am currently at George Brown for Game Development) I feel like I've learned more on my own reading tutorials, experimenting and watching a few paid tutorials (3dMotive is awesome.) What school is great for is meeting people and making connections, although it could definitely be argued that you could do this much better in other places. Plus, school can't teach you creativity, or give you artistic talent or vision. All it can do is guide you towards developing skills you probably already have.

Wolfetan
Wolfetan

My brother goes there. Thats so cool.

melante
melante

I checked on my previous post: MIT doesn't have any game design degree, either undergraduate or graduate, just the Gambit Lab which is so successful only thanks to the talent (and money) coming from Singapore. Really, MIT shouldn't even be on this list at all but I guess it makes it much more "snobbish" to include such a prestigious institution at #2 above others that have real (and very successful) degrees on the subject. Conclusion: Princeton review is a joke. BTW, Full Sail got a honorable mention.

fartmoo
fartmoo

This made me so excited to be transfering to UCF! WOO! :3

melante
melante

Does MIT have game design degrees? Never heard of it....

ToughCritic28
ToughCritic28

Representing University of Utah, Woo Woo! Go Entertainment arts and Engineering program!

SythisTaru
SythisTaru

I'd rather hire self-taught people who've created amazing mods or indie games.

JamesHetfield89
JamesHetfield89

It's obviously not a blanket statement...but there is no denying that these are far far better institutions and that any graduate is more likely to be successful. The best talent tends to matriculate to the best schools, for a multitude of reasons that immediately obvious. Full Sail will take anyone with 100 grand to blow - most of whom aren't the kind of talent that could get into the schools on this list. There is a reason FS has horrible graduation rates - they will take people they know are going to fail out. It's not against their interests to do so, unlike real schools like those on this list.

bluedarrk
bluedarrk

Just because you go to the best school for game design doesn't mean you're great at game design. Working in the game industry requires talent period we all know that. It doesn't matter what school you went to all the person interviewing you wants to see is your portfolio and how talented you are. I can't assume that if I go to USC that I'll get a job in the gaming industry just like that and someone who goes to FullSail is screwed. It's all about talent.

baystatethrashr
baystatethrashr

Wait. Full Sail isn't on here? Shocker..............

Scyther_88
Scyther_88

Wow, some of these comments really scare me. MIT is one of the most prestigious universities in the world. How does someone not know that?

JamesHetfield89
JamesHetfield89

USC is private, MIT is private, Digipen is private, Drexel, SMU and Carnegie are private. Most of the list is private. Full Sail didn't make it because Full Sail is an awful institution.

tachsniper
tachsniper

Proud student of R.I.T. (Rochester Institute of Technology)

chinchillables2
chinchillables2

Google should've been top spot. All you have to do is research and learn.

soniex
soniex

I think the only reason why Full Sail didn't make it on to the list is because it's considered to be a private university. To my knowledge all of the universities in these lists are public.

soulless4now
soulless4now

I'm sorta shocked to see USC at the top spot, but good for them.

Darth_Tyrranus
Darth_Tyrranus

No surprise that UCF made the list. Also not a shocker that Full Sail didn't.

sweet_jcs
sweet_jcs

USC isn't a real university??? MIT isn't a real university, are you kidding me?

Barighm
Barighm

The game industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that is current rivaling the movie industry. And any game design course I've ever attended always included at least 2 years of standard programming and IT courses before I ever even got to the game design stuff. I ended up just completing the regular program and sat in on the game design courses.

montblanc512
montblanc512

@supertom221, you know these are real universities, right? Drexel, USC, Rochester, all big schools that have high standards. Also, niche markets don't advertize on TV or have multi-million dollar advertizing departments. Video Games stopped being a niche market about ten years ago.

supertom221
supertom221

I didn't even know these schools actually exists. I thought they were at best a special program or course. This "college" is just a bad joke. Gaming is a niche market that is a passionate hobby at best, and you shouldn't rely on it as a life job. Because it sucks in the long run. Just learn actual computing like Computer Engineering and languages. A very boring and unfun subject, but it'll earn you a place in the industry, whether gaming or not. I prefer Game Design myself, but I know I can't rely on it for the life of me, so I just learn the usual Stuff like Java, Assembly, Network Protocols,SQL, all that bull. Avoid this crap and go to a real university.

chazy035
chazy035

Interesting choice of focus on the thumb nail. T_T

THA-TODD-BEAST
THA-TODD-BEAST

"Game design" programs are a joke. Just get a Computer Science bachelor's degree and it'll look much more impressive to employers and be better for you in the long run.

THA-TODD-BEAST
THA-TODD-BEAST

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

seniorcanardo
seniorcanardo

Surprised that no schools from the Montreal area is not there... There are only 5 major studios in that city...

dragondoom01
dragondoom01

It seems to me to be very foolish to spend years learning a very niche market. Jobs in the game industry suck anyway, no job stability. Better off learning general computer engineering

ARsignal11
ARsignal11

Wow...I did not realize Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) had a great graduate program for game design. That's pretty cool.

sirkibble2
sirkibble2

I never would have thought that USC would have a top anything related to video games but it does make sense. They seem to do great with training in entertainment.

pokecharm
pokecharm

interesting distribution across the country. I don't have any intention of going back to school though ;)