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Game Programming Degrees in Chicago, IL with Course Overviews

The Chicago area has six or more schools that offer game programming certificate and degree programs. Learn about the degree programs, admission info and program requirements for three of these schools, all within about five miles of downtown, and make an informed education decision.

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Chicago Schools with Game Programming Degree Programs

Students in Chicago can find bachelor's and master's degree programs in game programming very near the city center. This article profiles three schools, none more than 15 minutes from downtown, and the game programming programs they offer. There is also a table that presents facts a prospective student should know, such as tuition, enrollment and graduation percentages. At the end of the article is some information about community colleges in the Chicago suburbs that offer certificate and 2-year degree programs.

  • Located at the heart of downtown, Columbia College - Chicago is a private arts and media college that offers a bachelor's degree program in game programming.
  • DePaul University, which is about five miles from the city center, offers bachelor's and master's programs related to game programming and development.
  • University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), is part of the University of Illinois system. UIC offers its computer science degree with a concentration in human-centered computing through the College of Engineering. UIC is about two miles from downtown Chicago.

Columbia College - Chicago

Columbia College offers computer gaming degrees through the Interactive Arts and Media Department. This school hosts modern facilities and tools so that students gain the skills to work in a rapidly changing industry. Columbia also provides internship opportunities with industry leaders to help students develop contacts and experience.

Bachelor of Science or Arts in Game Programming (B.S. or B.A.)

Students in either program take interactive media courses covering computational and media development, game culture, and navigational interfaces, as well as programming courses covering C++, object-oriented, and XNA game programming. The B.S. program is designed to develop software engineering capabilities and emphasizes graphics rendering, game physics, and network programming. Students in this program take 22 credits of math courses, such as calculus, numerical analysis, and linear algebra, and 30 credits of programming coursework, such as game engine programming and engine-based design.

The B.A. program is designed to prepare students to work as programmers or scripters and emphasizes simulation design, technical and production methods, and game design theory. Students in this program take six credits of math in calculus and linear algebra, nine credits in either programming or simulation, and are encouraged to minor in cultural studies. All students complete a capstone project.

DePaul University

At DePaul, computer science programs are offered through the College of Computing and Digital Media, which offers multiple undergraduate and graduate computer science degree programs. DePaul offers some undergraduate coursework and several complete master's degree programs online, including its computer game development and human-computer interaction degrees.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Game Development

The bachelor's degree program in computer game development is made up of a combination of liberal studies, electives, and major classes, as well as concentration classes in game design, gameplay programming, or systems programming. The gameplay programming concentration combines computer science, computer graphics, linear algebra, artificial intelligence, and game physics. In this concentration, students take classes in C++, object-oriented game development, and practical scripting for games along with elective courses.

The systems programming concentration offers many of the same core courses, but focuses on the computer hardware and operating systems involved in game engine development. The game design concentration focuses less on programming and more on the development of the game itself, including rules and structure as well as the game experience. DePaul also offers a combined bachelor's/master's degree in game development.

Master of Science in Computer Game Development

The master's program is comprised of three levels of coursework. The introductory coursework, which may be waived for students with related education or experience, covers topics such as data structures, accelerated C++, and computer systems. Foundation courses cover algorithms, game programming fundamentals, and computer game architecture. Advanced coursework includes computer graphics, physics for game developers, and artificial intelligence for computer games. Students also take three electives, such as computer animation, distributed systems, or design for multiplayer games. Students complete a capstone project where they design and implement a game. Degree candidates must earn 52 credits in addition to any introductory course credits.

University of Illinois at Chicago

UIC offers several specializations within its computer science bachelor's program. Regardless of specialization, all students complete a 50-hour general education program covering subjects such as academic writing, world cultures, humanities, and science. The Department of Computer Science at UIC places a heavy emphasis on writing and communication skills.

Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, Human-Centered Computing Concentration

To earn a degree in this major, students complete 128 credit hours comprised of general education, engineering, mathematics, and technical electives. Engineering classes cover program design, machine organization, data structures, programming, and computer systems. Specific to the concentration, students can choose from elective options such as computer vision, natural language processing, computer graphics, and video game design and development. Math requirements include calculus, differential equations, linear algebra, and statistics.

Comparison of Schools

Individuals who are looking for a college must consider many facts. The following table presents important information about these schools in a format that makes it easy to compare them.

Columbia College - Chicago DePaul University University of Illinois at Chicago
School Type 4-year; private, not-for-profit 4-year; private, not-for-profit 4-year; public
Total Enrollment (2011) 11,625* 25,398* 28,091*
Campus Setting Large city Large city Large city
Undergraduate Tuition & Fees (2012-2013) $21,730* $32,295* $13,122 in-state, $25,512 out-of-state*
% of First-Year Students Receiving Any Form of Aid (2011) 79%* 91%* 82%*
Acceptance Rate (2011) N/A - Open admissions 62%* 64%*
Retention Rate (2011) 67% for full-time students, 47% for part-time students* 86% for full-time students* 79% for full-time students, 42% for part-time students*
Graduation Rate (2011) 42%* 66% (24% transfer-out rate)* 54%*
Distance from Downtown N/A - located downtown 5.2 mi. (11 min) 2.2 mi. (7 min)

Sources: *NCES College Navigator.

Other School Options

The College of Lake County offers both a certificate and an associate's degree program in game development online, as well as at three campuses in the far northern suburbs of Chicago. Moraine Valley Community College, located in Palos Hills, a southwestern suburb of Chicago, offers a 23-hour certificate in computer animation. In the western suburbs of Chicago, the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn offers a certificate in game programming and development.

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