Best of the best
Top undergraduate schools for game design:
* University of Southern California
* University of Utah
* DigiPen Institute of Technology
Top graduate schools:
* Rochester Institute of Technology
* University of Central Florida
* Southern Methodist University
The number of colleges offering degrees in video game design nearly doubled last year, further cementing games as a vibrant entertainment medium. Yet the school most recommended for its video game design curricula remains the same: the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. USC has held the top spots each year in The Princeton Review's lists of top schools for video game design for undergrads and grad students.
More than 100 schools participated in the third-annual survey, up from 50 in 2010. "There certainly is an increase in visibility in game design, and schools are ... putting out students that are employable," says David Soto, director of content development at The Princeton Review.
Game design students are in high demand. Employment in the video game industry grew at an annual rate of 8.6 percent from 2005 to 2009 with more than 120,000 employees, according to the Entertainment Software Association. The average starting salary for undergraduates rose to $54,054 last year, The Princeton Review found. Grad students' annual starting salary rose to $62,862.
USC graduates have gone on to work at top publishers such as Activision and Electronic Arts and to work on blockbusters such as "Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3." The school gets hundreds of applicants for 15 to 20 undergraduate slots and 15 graduate slots annually, says Tracy Fullerton, chair of the Interactive Media Division at USC's School of Cinematic Arts.
New areas of emphasis include social and mobile games, motion capture and 3-D games, as well as gesture-based control systems such as Microsoft's Kinect.
"Students need to be able to walk into industry five years from now, armed with the type of skills that today are just emerging," Fullerton says.