The University of Central Florida stands out as one of the nation’s top talent pipelines for a fast-growing gaming industry that powers Central Florida’s economy and is projected to be worth more than $300 billion worldwide by 2026.
In UCF’s undergraduate and graduate game design programs, talented students learn from world-class faculty with extensive industry experience and graduate well-prepared for success in their careers.
That’s one of the main reasons The Princeton Review and PC Gamer consistently rank the programs among the best in the world. This year, UCF’s game design graduate program, the Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy (FIEA), ranked #2 for the fourth consecutive year in the top two.
The undergraduate program at UCF’s Nicholson School for Communication and Media — the Games and Interactive Media (GaIM) program — has climbed seven spots since last year to No. 6 in the world, its highest ranking ever.
The annual ranking of colleges and colleges offering the best game design programs covers the United States, Canada and five European countries.
The two programs are located at UCF Downtown in Orlando’s Creative Village, where graduate and undergraduate students learn the tools and techniques to become artists, programmers and producers in the gaming industry. The Creative Village is also home to Electronic Arts’ new office, so students are just steps away from internship and job opportunities.
FIEA has graduated 940 students, many of whom created video games together in an industry-like setting before graduating. In 2022, 88% of FIEA graduates were hired. About half of FIEA graduates stay in Central Florida after graduation, with the average starting salary for gaming graduates exceeding $71,000. Top employers include Electronic Arts, Iron Galaxy Studios, Epic Games, Ubisoft Red Storm, and Microsoft Games.
“For nearly 15 years, UCF’s FIEA Graduate Program in Video Game Development has been ranked among the top five programs in the world. … That foundation has enabled us to become the leading territory in the United States building the Metaverse,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said during his State of Downtown speech in December. Dyer also said that Orlando has the highest concentration of game developer licenses in the country.
Like FIEA, GaIM has earned national recognition at UCF’s Nicholson School for Communication and Media – in large part due to its faculty, many of whom have both industry and academic experience. In 2022, 79% of the program’s students were hired, with an average salary of $52,036.
“GaIM faculty excel in gaming and interactive media, including immersive storytelling, virtual and augmented reality, and accessibility in games – expertise that they bring to their course offerings and the mentoring of our students,” said Professor Natalie Underberg-Goode, Assistant Principal of the program.
GaIM undergraduate courses include video game design and production, web and social platforms, and interactive experiences that combine art, storytelling, design, and technology.
The Princeton Review ranks the best video game design college programs after surveying administrators at 150 institutions that offer game design courses and/or degrees. The survey covers a wide range of topics, from academic rigor to faculty credentials to graduate career outcomes.
Mark Schlueb ’93 ’21MA