University Esports Programs – Where to study esports in colleges and universities

Esports has grown phenomenally and become accepted as a sport and a profession. In recent years studying esports and gaining esports qualifications has become possible. There are university esports programs, collegiate esports options, and professional esports education opportunities. Let’s take a look at how far you can go with an esports education…

Firstly, it’s important to realise that not only can gamers study esports in order to become professional competitors, but that budding esports students can take the first steps towards career paths right across a new esports industry.

Esports courses and qualifications cover anything from esports management and marketing to tournament organizing and technical aspects. Professional esports athletes need coaches, trainers, managers and physical therapists just like traditional sports athletes.  And, of course, the video game industry also offers a multitude of opportunities in game design, coding, and publication.

University esports program australia QUT

© QUT Esports Flickr

We’ll give you a general idea here of the esports education opportunities available. It’s also notable that esports programs are available not just in the US, Europe and Asia but around the globe as this new industry’s reach permeates each and every country, spanning both borders and generations.

Where esports courses aren’t available from traditional institutions, online course providers like Udemy and Coursera have a range of esports options that can be studied from anywhere in the world.

High School Esports

There are now esports options in many hundreds of high schools around the globe ranging from dedicated esports clubs and teams to more formal esports curricular activities. By 2019 in the US 15 states recognized esports as a high school varsity sport and in Illinois alone 100 high schools now offer esports options. It’s probably no surprise then that Illinois State University has no less than 12 competitive esports teams fielding players in titles like Rocket League, League of Legends and Overwatch.

By early 2020 it was estimated that 17 US states and the District of Columbia had formal esports teams and high school coaches are now running drills, working on strategy and even reviewing game footage for their competitors. Whereas some high schools have esports teams under their athletics banner others, such as in Virginia, consider esports an academic activity.

It’s easy to assume that the US is ahead of other countries in offering esports in colleges and esports options for high school students, and that may well be the case. However other nations are quickly realising the potential of the esports industry and recognising the demand for key esports talent. There are high school level opportunities in most regions and summer schools are also common in Europe. Russia recognised esports as a sports discipline in 2016, also one of the first countries to do so. In 2020 Vladimir Putin gave his support for esports tournaments to be held in Russian schools.

In 2020, the British Esports Association has partnered with global learning company Pearson to create BTEC qualifications in esports which will be offered to students from September 2020.

Varsity Esports

Esports first became a recognised high school or varsity sport in the US in 2018. The first acknowledging states were Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and the number of states has grown rapidly. This means that talented esports athletes can play their way to win esports scholarships in order to further their education and their competitive gaming careers. Competitive collegiate esports is now huge in the US with many institutions fielding teams for collegiate leagues which draw much attention.

Esports Scholarships

The University of California Irvine was the first public university in the US with an official esports program, back in 2016. It also opened its UCI Esports Arena and is famous within the industry for its Pokimane Scholarship program. New York University was also an early provider of esports scholarships. There are at least 170 colleges and universities with esports options in the US and it’s estimated that there is more that $16 million worth of esports college scholarships available. Just recently the Gen.G foundation has committed $1 million to esports scholarships in a foundation partnership with the University of Kentucky.

Ohio esports university courses

© Davis Wince Architecture

In the UK esports scholarships are available, including at the University of Roehampton. Furthermore, the Prince’s Trust has backed an esports workshop course which helps unemployed young adults learn new skills.

Esports Degrees

Fully fledged esports degrees are available at leading universities around the world. In the US, the University of California Irvine, the University of Texas at Arlington, The Ohio State University, the Caldwell University, the George Mason University, the Becker College, the Shenandoah University, the Saint Peter’s University and the Keuka College all offer esports degree programs.

Esports degrees can vary from bachelor’s degrees in esports management to majors in business with an esports minor. Esports university courses are now widely available with a good choice in academic disciplines to focus upon. In October 2019, the University of New Haven revealed the first-ever business of esports course focusing on esports management and beginning in the fall of 2020.

In the UK, Staffordshire University offers a BA (Hons) esports program covering aspects of the esports business. It too offers esports scholarships to talented players. Chichester University in the UK offers an esports BA (Hons), as does Sheffield Hallam University with a degree that focuses on event management. Staffordshire University and Teeside University also have masters level esports degrees. There are also degree level esports qualifications available at other universities in the UK and in Europe including in France, Germany and Finland.

In Singapore, the Informatics Academy has an eight-month full time diploma in esports and game design. In China, the Lanxiang Technical School was the first to offer an esports course. Its three-year education covers both gaming and game theory and its graduates can go on to become either professional players or coaches, event organizers, promoters and the like.

Academic Esports Research

Again, the University of California Irvine (UCI) is a leader in esports research. One of the core pillars of its esports program is research and it is known for a neuroscience study that found 3D immersive games can, in fact, improve memory. The amount of academic research focused on organized and competitive gaming has been monitored and found to have grown rapidly from 2002 to date into a field of study across numerous academic disciplines including sports science, law, media and sociology.

In the UK, Abertay University has a PHD student working on an esports thesis and the University of Manchester published a whitepaper on esports in 2017.

It’s clear, no matter where you live in the world, right now or in the very near future there will be opportunities to study esports, qualify in an esports discipline, attend an esports university course and otherwise further your professional esports career. Whether you aspire to be one of the world’s leading gamers or are seeking another career path in one of the most exciting and forward thinking industries today, the opportunities are there to be found.