What are the top Florida game design programs for 2024?

Top 5 Game Design Schools and Colleges in Florida - 2024 College Rankings
1University of Central FloridaOrlando
2Full Sail UniversityWinter Park
3Ringling College of Art and DesignSarasota
4University of FloridaGainesville
5The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School Orlando

Our 2024 ranking of the top 5 game design school programs in Florida. 

For an explanation of the ranking criteria, click here.

1. University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida
University of Central Florida

Visual and Performing Arts is one of the top five undergraduate disciplines at University of Central Florida (UCF). The Interactive Entertainment MS program is one of the school’s top 15 master’s degrees. Housed in the College of Sciences’ Nicholson School of Communication and Media (NSCM), and part of the Florida Interactive Academy (FIEA), the MS lists two sets of specialization options. The first consists of Art, Production, and Programming. Each requires nine credit hours. 

The second set of listed specializations includes Level Design; Tech Design; Modeling; Animation; Programming, Tech Art; and Project Management. Across specializations, students will explore Unreal Engine, Maya, AI programming, Visual Studio, Unity Game Engine, C#, history of animation, process analysis, digital sculpting in ZBrush, Python, visual effects, animation design, 3D Math, and graphics programming. 

The MS requires 30 credit hours beyond the bachelor’s degree. The program has a 12-credit hour core consisting of Production for Media; Experimentation, Application, and Innovation in Games; Rapid Prototype Production; and Preproduction and Prototyping. Course examples across specializations include Digital Asset Creation; Production and Design; and Advanced Game Programming.

All students will complete the Game Design Practicum (internship/full-time job) or Digital Venture Practicum (creating a start-up company). The MS culminates with the Capstone/Interactive Entertainment Project, where students will work in teams of 15-20 to develop their own games and interactive projects—from start to finish. Many FIEA students publish their games through avenues such as Xbox or Steam, resulting in their first published title. 

For undergraduate students, Nicholson School of Communication and Media at UCF also houses a Digital Media BA program with a Game Design track. Students in this program will complete 45 credit hours of games and digital media coursework. Examples include Evolution of Video Games; Contemporary Topics in Digital Media; Casual Game Production; Game Testing; Game Level Design; Game Optimization and Performance; Game Design Tools and Plugins; Digital Cultures and Narrative; Modeling for Realtime Systems I and II; Post-Production Game FX; and Computer as Medium. 

The Digital Media BA/Game Design culminates with the Game Design Capstone completed across two workshops. This team-based project includes the design, production, and testing of games using professional tools and iterative design techniques. 

Students in all FIEA and NSCM Programs at University of Central Florida will work, learn, and collaborate in the Communication and Media Building which houses 112,000 square feet of state-of-the-art studio and classroom space. This includes Studio 500—one of the largest soundstages and motion capture studios on the east coast. Study abroad opportunities and career development resources are also available to all students. 

Graduates of the Games and Interactive Entertainment programs at University of Central Florida are prepared to pursue careers in all areas of game design and development, interactivity, visualization, entertainment, and more. 

Across programs, alumni have been hired by more than 300 companies. Examples include Epic Games, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts (EA), Gameloft, Blizzard Entertainment, Nintendo, Apple, Walt Disney Imagineering, Zynga, Cartoon Network, Marvel, Sony, Google, Blur Studio, Lockheed Martin, and Unity Technologies. 

University of Central Florida opened in 1968 as Florida Technological University. On the first day of classes, the school had less than 2,000 students. Today, UCF serves more than 69,000 students, making it the largest university by enrollment in the state of Florida, and one of the top 10 largest universities in the U.S. The school provides 104 bachelor’s degrees, 97 master’s degrees, and 33 research doctorates, three professional doctorates, and three specialist degree programs across 13 colleges. 

University of Central Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

2. Full Sail University, Winter Park, Florida
Full Sail University

Full Sail University is home to The Gaming School, which houses classrooms and production studios that function just like most major production studios. The school also houses nine game design programs at all levels. Students seeking a shorter program can earn a 3D Arts undergraduate certificate; a Game Business & Esports undergraduate certificate; or an associate of applied science (AAS) in Game Art. 

Undergraduate degrees include a BS in Game Development; BS in Simulation & Visualization; Interactive Technology BS completion program with a Game Design concentration; BS in Visual Arts completion program with a Game Art concentration; and the Game Business & Esports BS. 

The Simulation & Visualization BS is available on campus only. All other programs can be completed on campus or online. 

At the graduate level, Full Sail University has a Game Design MS that focuses on production, design, and user experience research. Students may craft a track that matches their career goals and chosen area of expertise. Examples include game design, producing, research, and publishing. The MS program can be completed on campus or online. 

In addition to gaining production experience in a real-world studio environment on the Full Sail University campus, all Gaming School students have opportunities to work off campus at local and national studios through the internship program. Courses in The Gaming School are also immersive. Course examples across all programs include Motion Capture; Prototyping and the User Experience; Game Mechanics; Data Visualization & Modeling Engine Development; Prototyping and Content Creation; Artificial Intelligence (AI); Game Production Tools. 

All students will explore all roles in the production pipeline; test simulation; video game development for computers, networks, and console; animation; game effects; and narrative design. Graduates are prepared to pursue roles across the games industry, film and animation, advertising, media, simulation for training and development, and many other industries. 

Full Sail University’s Career Development Department provides 24/7 access to job opportunities, with workshops and presentations that cover branding, networking, research strategies, and interviewing techniques. The department also coordinates local hiring events and events in other markets such as Los Angeles and New York.

Full Sail University graduates have worked on many popular games, films, and ad campaigns. Games include Call of Duty: Modern Warfare II, Overwatch 2, Horizon Forbidden West, Apex Legends, Destiny 2, and Fortnite. More than 350 Full Sail graduates were credited on 31 projects nominated in 22 categories at the 2023 Game Awards. 

Thirty-five graduates contributed to nine winning projects in 15 categories including Best Narrative and Best Game Direction for Alan Wake 2; Best Score and Music for Final Fantasy XVI, Best Audio Design, Hi-Fi Rush; Innovation in Accessibility, Forza Motorsport; and Best Ongoing Game and Best Community Support for Cyberpunk 2077

Full Sail University alumni have also been hired by companies and studios such as DreamWorks, Rockstar Games, Blizzard Entertainment, HBO, Pixar, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM), Disney, Universal Studios, Miramax, Nickelodeon, MTV, Bunim Murray, and ESPN. 

Full Sail University opened in 1979 in Dayton, Ohio. Today, the school is located just 35 minutes from downtown Orlando and Universal Studios. Serving approximately 21,000 students, Full Sail provides graduate certificates and degree programs at all levels in the Arts, Entertainment, Media, and Technology. Full Sail University is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

3. Ringling College of Art and Design, Sarasota, Florida
Ringling College of Art and Design

Ringling College of Art and Design (RCAD) is the only institution in Florida dedicated exclusively to teaching art and design. For students interested in careers in the game design industry, the school has two options: the Game Art BFA and the Virtual Reality Development BFA. Both programs attract recruiters from major studios such as Blizzard Entertainment, Epic Games, Riot Games, and Bungie. 

The Game Art BFA at RCAD follows the studio model of teaching, which emphasizes learning by doing. Students in this 120-credit hour program will work on projects in teams to develop technical, collaboration, and communication skills. Students will create works in state-of-the-art facilities equipped with the latest software used by AAA and indie studios. Game Art facilities feature Houdini, Unreal Engine, Zbrush, Maya, and Adobe Substance Suite, among others. 

Other program benefits include participation in the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco; industry critiques by successful visiting artists; and access to RCAD’s experiential learning initiative—INDEX. This program provides opportunities to gain hands-on industry experience working on real world projects with real world clients. INDEX activities take place in the classroom, the Design Center, Studio Labs, ART Network, the Maker Space, and through client competitions, immersive experiences, internships, elective courses, and volunteering. 

Of the 120 credit hours required to complete the Game Art BFA, 48 are in the major. Course examples include 2D and 3D Design; Programming for Artists; Visual Development for Games I-II; 3D for Games I-IV; Game Design I-III; Digital Painting for Game Art; and Color and Perspective Drawing. 

The Game Art BFA culminates with the Game Thesis Project completed across four courses including Game Thesis Preproduction; Game Thesis Project 1A; Game Thesis Project 1B; and Game Thesis Project II. The Thesis totals 15 credit hours. 

The Virtual Reality Development BFA at Ringling College of Art and Design provides the same access and benefits as the Game Art BFA. This 120-credit hour program focuses on the design, creation, and analyzing of immersive experiences. This includes utilizing game engine technology in the creation of immersive experiences; navigating the production pipeline for 3D VR; utilizing specific software for creating 3D databases; mastering story structures; and innovating VR ideas. 

Students will also develop collaboration and communication skills, as well as advanced knowledge of professional practices. Of the 120 credit hours for the Virtual Reality Development program, 51 credits are dedicated to the major. Course examples include 2D and 3D Design; Concept Development for Virtual Worlds; Immersive Media Design I-IV; 3D Technical Art; Visual Scripting; and Programming for Immersive Media.

General electives, Art and Design History electives, and open electives allow students to enhance the degree by specializing in an area of interest. Students may select six credit hours of general electives; 12 in Art and Design History; and 12 credit hours of open electives. 

The Virtual Reality Development program at RCAD culminates with the VR Thesis/Capstone, completed across three courses including VR Thesis Preproduction; VR Capstone Project I; and VR Capstone Project II. This culminating experience totals 15 credit hours. 

Graduates of the Game Art and Virtual Reality Development programs at Ringling College of Art and Design are prepared for careers in game art, design, development, and programming; virtual reality design, development, and programming; and user interface/user experience (UI/UX) design; architecture; military and law enforcement; education and training; advertising and marketing; art and design; healthcare and fitness; sports; tourism and travel; wellness; and automotive. 

RCAD Game Art graduates have been hired at major companies and studios such as Electronic Arts (EA), Blizzard Entertainment, Rockstar Games, Microsoft, Riot Games, Hasbro, Epic Games, Netflix, Bethesda, Naughty Dog, and Meta. 

Virtual Reality Development graduates have the opportunity to work at places such as Epic Games, Microsoft, General Motors, Kinetic Vision, 3D Forensic, Meta, Halon Entertainment, Vu Studios, Immersive Health Group, AECOM, Boabab Studios; ILMxLAB; Mote Marine Labs; and Funomena. 

Ringling College of Art and Design is a private, not-for-profit college accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC). Founded in 1931 by Dr. Ludd M. Spivey (then president of Southern College) and circus baron John Ringling, RCAD serves approximately 1,700 students enrolled in 11 different majors leading to a BFA degree, two majors leading to a BA, and minor options in 10 areas.

4. University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida
University of Florida

College of the Arts (COTA) at University of Florida (UF) has been in existence since 1925. Within COTA is the Digital Worlds Institute, which houses the Digital Arts & Sciences (DAS) program. As part of UF, the DAS program is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). 

Digital Worlds Institute features include the DAS Mentorship Program; access to LUMA at Digital World Studios; guest speakers and lecturers; Portfolio Open House events; participation in the internship program; and several degree options for game designers. These include the DAS BA (BADAS); DAS Masters (MiDAS); and a DAS Minor. The BADAS is available on campus and fully online through UF Online. 

All UF Digital Worlds programs are interdisciplinary and combine arts, engineering, communications, and science. Course examples across pathways include Game Development; Game Content Creation; Creating Mobile Games; Game Design and Production; 3D Animation Techniques; Game Systems Development; Digital Storytelling; and Interaction & Usability. 

The BADAS program requires 120 credit hours of study and successful completion of the culminating DAS project. The UF MiDAS program explores game engines and development; emerging technologies such as AR/VR; software and hardware integration; design and interactivity; and proposals, project management, and production pipelines. The MiDAS program can be completed in an accelerated format in just one year. 

Graduates of the BADAS and MiDAS programs at University of Florida are Game Designers, Level Designers, Game Artists, Character Modelers, Visual Effects (VFX) Artists, Software Engineers, Technical Animators, Digital Storytellers, Motion Graphics Animators, UI/UX Designers, Production Coordinators, Entrepreneurs, and Freelance Designers. Program alumni have been hired at major companies and studios such as DreamWorks and Microsoft. 

University of Florida traces its founding to 1853, when the East Florida Seminary opened as the state’s first state-supported institution of higher learning. Today, University of Florida is a top 10 public, comprehensive, land-grant, research university with professional campuses in Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Orlando, Florida. UF serves 60,795 students enrolled in more than 300 programs across 16 colleges and schools. University of Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

5. The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (The DAVE School), Orlando, Florida
The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School (DAVE School) has several award options: the 12-month Diploma, 18-month Diploma, the 32-month Bachelor’s, and the 36-month Bachelor’s. For game designer’s The DAVE School has a 12-month Diploma and a 32-month Bachelor’s degree in Game Production. DAVE students can earn the Diploma separately or as part of the 120 credit hour Bachelor’s degree program. Students in the Bachelor’s program will receive the Diploma credential after completing 60 credits. 

The DAVE School also has a Virtual Production (VP) Diploma program, which combines the curriculums of the Game Production and Visual Effects Production Diplomas. The flagship VP program takes 18 months to complete. Students in the Game Production Diploma programs have the option to extend their initial 12 months into the Virtual Production program.

Across all options, students will explore areas such as concepts and terminology of game production, game physics and FX, worldbuilding, light and software techniques, asset creation, emerging technologies, and Unreal for AR/VR. Across programs, course and topic examples include Advanced Asset Creation & Look Development; Emerging Real-Time Tech Pipelines; 3D Animation; Character, Prop, and Environment Modeling; 2D/3D Tracking; Digital Modeling and Sculpting; Level Design; Lighting and Texturing; Visual Effects; Real-Time Rendering & Emerging Technologies. 

The programs at The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School emphasize collaboration, so students will complete a three-month residency in Orlando, Florida where they will work in teams to create games across the entire production pipeline. For the final project, DAVE students will complete an in-house game that will become a major component of their professional demo reel and portfolio.   

DAVE school graduates are prepared to pursue positions across the games and entertainment industries. Alumni are Gameplay Animators, Art Coordinators, Pipeline Supervisors, Cinematic Animators, Lighting Artists, Compositors, and Environment Artists. 

In addition, DAVE School graduates (and instructors) have worked on productions and games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold, Game of Thrones, Terminator Genisys, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Deadpool, Green Lantern, Captain America, Dumbo, Avengers: Age of Ultron, The Mandalorian, Conan Exiles, Anthem, The Hunger Games, Jurassic World, Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Walking Dead: Saints & Sinners, and The Hobbit

The Digital Animation & Visual Effects (DAVE) School was founded in 2000. Located on the backlot of Universal Studios, Florida, DAVEl is an academic unit of NUC University, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MCSHE). DAVE serves around 1,000 students enrolled in six programs leading to a Bachelor’s degree or Diploma.