Top Schools for Video Game Design

Lori Johnston | March 3, 2010

Maybe you dream of people camping out in front of Best Buy, Wal-Mart or other stories for the newest release of a video game you helped create.

Or maybe you spend so much time playing everything from Halo Wars to Mario Kart Wii to Resident Evil 5, just a few of last year’s best-selling games, that you think you’re an expert.

Here’s more evidence that being a video game designer could be a lucrative and growing career field for you: The Princeton Review and GamePro Media this week unveiled their first-ever list of top 50 undergraduate video game design programs in the U.S. and Canada.

More colleges and universities are paying attention to this profession, and it shows that they recognize education and training are essential to being a successful game designer, not just playing a game nonstop or beating friends and strangers online.

The schools recognized stood out for their curriculum, faculty credentials, graduates’ employment, facilities, career achievements, infrastructure, financial aid, and career opportunities.

So, if you imagine yourself having a hand in designing the latest games for the Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, now is the time to look at schools that could train you to develop the newest Wii Fit, NCAA Basketball (think of March Madness fever), Call of Duty or Madden NFL games.

So who is No. 1? That’s the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. GamePro notes that the school’s Interactive Media Division has helped launched careers of graduates who are well known in the indie gaming arena.

Others rounding out the top 8 are on both coasts. They are: DigiPen Institute of Technology (Redmond, Wash.), Drexel University (Philadelphia), Becker College (Worcester, Mass.), Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (Troy, N.Y.), The Art Institute of Vancouver (Vancouver, B.C.), Worcester Polytechnic Institute (Worcester, Mass.), and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Cambridge, Mass).

Schools like Becker, which is 4th on the list, graduated their first class in the Game Design and Game Programming departments just last year, according to GamePro.

That shows that more schools are likely to be adding these programs, so it’s definitely worth asking if you’re interested in a school that doesn’t currently offer game design or other degrees.

Ready to play? Check out our info on salaries and job descriptions for game designers. That combined with the Princeton Review’s list of top programs could set you on the path to turning a pastime into an action-packed career.

-Lori Johnston

Technical Schools Welcoming More Students

Lori Johnston | November 3, 2009

Here’s some encouraging news out of my home state of Georgia: Record numbers of students are enrolling in technical colleges, inspired to try new career fields and seeking to quickly gain the knowledge needed to land those jobs.

Data from the Technical College System of Georgia shows a 24 percent increase in 2009 enrollment compared to 2008, with 110,254 students in the state’s 28 technical colleges. The previous record: 91,838 students, in 2003.

Officials say the enrollment increase is due to the downturn in the economy. The education provided by technical schools can provide marketable skills that open doors to jobs in high-demand fields such as healthcare, business and office technologies, and computer information systems.

You can gain that knowledge faster than at traditional four-year colleges and universities.  In Georgia, its 600 certificate, diploma, and degree programs can be completed in six months to two years, depending on the program. That’s much like other areas of the county, and the costs are low ($2,100 is the annual tuition and fee average in Georgia).

And the interesting thing is that technical colleges have a diversity of ages among the students enrolled. The schools in Georgia are seeing an increase in students under 21, with recent high school graduates joining experienced workers in the classrooms. Having that diversity of ages in programs is beneficial to everyone, preparing you for a multi-generational workplace.

You may be among those who have lost jobs or are just ready for a different career path, and technical colleges are an affordable route worth considering.

-Lori Johnston

Decoding Emerging College Majors

Dawn Papandrea | September 2, 2009

I love reading articles about college major trends because that’s a good way to gauge which career fields are up-and-coming and eager to hire. Lucky for us, writers at The Chronicle of Higher Education did some legwork in yesterday’s story, “5 College Majors on the Rise.”

Not surprisingly, all of the majors they list have something to do with making ourselves and/or the environment a little healthier, and finding new ways to solve problems. In fact, each field can be classified as “higher” education in some way, since they each have a higher purpose than just simply memorizing facts, performing calculations, or appreciating some type of art.

Take a look…

Sustainability — A few weeks ago, I actually had to look this up — no joke! That’s how new an idea this is when it comes to education and business. If you’re wondering what it is (which is nothing to be ashamed of), I’ll tell you. It’s the concept of making something more “green” or ecofriendly. Many businesses today are sustainable businesses. So college students, be sure to at least take a class on this because it’s the hottest buzzword in the workplace today!

Service Science — This is another buzzword that may not be what you think it is. The article describes it as cultivating “‘deep problem solvers’ who understand the economic, human, and technical dimensions of complex systems.” Yikes! That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? The idea is to improve productivity and encourage innovation in various service industries. In other words, these grads will help find more efficient ways of doing things. That sure is a good skill set to have.

Health informatics — The idea is to take each person’s tons of health data and digitalize it. The Feds are totally behind this initiative, and so a new field has emerged that will demand lots of technological know-how with a health care twist.

Computational science — Math meet science. Science meet math. Together, you’ll solve problems. At least that’s the gist of what computational science is all about. I’m not a techie or a number cruncher so it’s a bit beyond me, honestly, but the article says this: “Companies have used computational analysis to increase the absorbency of disposable diapers and to tweak the shape of potato chips so they drop into packages rather than fly off the conveyor belt.” OK then, moving on…

Public health – If the swine flu epidemic has taught us anything, it’s that public health is an expansive field. Students who merge the biology stuff with the public policy stuff will be huge commodities in our society.

Intrigued by any of these up-and-coming fields? They are definitely worth paying attention to for anyone interested in entering a viable industry. One day, they may even be as commonplace as English literature or psychology, so get studying!

-Dawn Papandrea

How To Become A Computer Engineer

Gina L | July 29, 2009

If you haven’t already figured it out, computers are a pretty big deal. So if you are looking for a career in an industry that’s in it for the long haul, think about becoming a computer engineer.

How do I become a computer engineer?
Computer engineers work in the design, development, evaluation, and testing of computer software and systems. Since computer technology changes at such a rapid pace, it is important to stay at the forefront of computer science by remaining up to date with new programs and systems.

Although hands-on experience is the best way to find employment in most industries, many of those looking to remain competitive in the computer world attend school for a degree in computer science. Many liberal arts colleges and universities offer four-year degree programs in computer science or management information systems, while a great number of community colleges and vocational schools also offer two-year associate’s degree programs in computer science and other related disciplines. Many employers are enticed by applicants with college experience because it shows not only that they have the skills necessary to excel in computers, but that they are also committed to learning and growing in the field.

Another way to prove your skills as a computer engineer is to become certified in computer systems. A+ certification is one way to prove your mettle with Microsoft, while other vendors and applications also offer certification in their areas of specialization.

What will I learn in computer engineering school?
If you are enrolling in a computer engineering school, chances are you already know a thing or two about computers. But computer technology advances so quickly that it’s very easy to fall behind on all the new systems and applications. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 80 percent of computer software engineers had at least a bachelor’s degree, so you will be in great company if you enroll in a four-year program.

In a computer engineering school, you will learn the ins and outs of how a computer works and all the applications and programs that can be used on various platforms and computer systems. From C++ to COBOL to Java, you will become fluent in many programming languages, any of which will add value to your resume.

In addition to learning computer hardware, software, and systems from the ground up, many programs also have classes in communications. This is an especially good part to any computer science program, as most computer engineers work as part of a team and will have to maintain excellent interpersonal skills in order to get a job done. As in any vocation, a high degree of professionalism goes a long way, and so there will be a higher chance of employment for those computer engineers who are easy to work with and can give and receive feedback well.

In an industry where C++ is just as good as A+, you can really make the grade as a computer engineer.