Do Colleges Have Esports In The US? New Path to Pro Gaming (2023)

The structures of Esports and the gaming industry behind it are becoming more and more oriented towards classic sports. In the meantime, there is the active promotion of young talent in esports. On the one hand, esports organizations are looking for new talent, but the education system in the USA has also recognized that esports has built up a lot of marketing potential.

Traditionally, athletic careers in the U.S. start in colleges. So we asked ourselves, do colleges have esports in the U.S.?

Esports is a global industry that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years. So much so that the overall segment is expected to become a $2.3 billion giant by the end of this year.

Note: This article was written in English. Translations into other languages may not provide the same linguistic quality. We apologize for grammatical and semantic errors.

In a nutshell, the esports industry has made its way to colleges in the United States, as it has in many other advanced countries.

Rather its popularity is increasing, which is evident from the fact that in 2016 a total of just 7 different U.S. colleges had esports programs, but in the next two years, this number saw a tremendous increase and reached a figure of 63.

The NACE (National Association of Collegiate esports) is a non-profit membership organization based in the United States. It is actively engaged in introducing more schools and colleges to the field of esports.

NACE has more than 170 member U.S. schools, with over 5000 active players, and offers a total of $16 million in the form of scholarships and aid to the U.S. students participating in the esports domain.

esports gaming

The U.S. colleges may not have been as quick to embrace the global esports revolution as colleges in some other countries, but it’s better late than never.

These colleges now not just offer partial scholarships to players but, in some cases, even go as far as offering them full-ride scholarships.

These financial aids show that the U.S. Colleges want more students than ever before to play an active role in the ESports for bringing fame to their alma mater. 

Do College Esports Players Get Paid?

The field of esports is extremely lucrative, with global players receiving large sums of money. This is in addition to the massive winning prizes.

However, the situation is much different for college esports players, which don’t receive any direct funding or payments in most cases.

Rather what most colleges in the U.S. and globally do is that they offer several scholarships to these players.

In this way, while the players don’t get paid in the form of cash, they are often paid quite handsomely because the college fees in most parts of the world are pretty heavy.

This brings us to the question of whether the students are paid in terms of scholarships and what different types of scholarships are offered to them.

In short, there are three different types of scholarships offered to college esports players which are:

  • Partial Scholarships;
  • Full Tuition Scholarships;
  • Full-Ride Scholarships.

How Much Are These Gaming Scholarships Worth?

In the United States, most partial scholarships range anywhere between $500 and $8000 annually. 

This is a wide range, but who gets $500 and paid a handsome amount of $8000 per year depends upon the players’ skill.

Full tuition scholarships are far superior to these partial scholarships, as the complete tuition fee of U.S. colleges is thousands of dollars annually.

But it is the full-ride scholarships that take players to the next level in terms of monetary benefits.

A major problem in this segment, however, is that the universities mostly have no hard and fast rules in terms of awarding scholarships. 

Besides this, most U.S. colleges don’t mention the scholarships amounts on their websites or in their prospectus, so you can’t say with certainty how much money you will get in the form of a scholarship.

To get an idea of the amounts that various U.S. Colleges are offering, take a look at the below image.

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What Games Can You Play In College Esports?

The number of games available in college esports is growing over time. At first, when the field was still in its infancy, only a few titles were part of this list.

However, as more colleges joined the segment and more players became interested in such events, the number of games available in college esports grew rapidly.

So let’s take a look at the various types of games while classifying them on the basis of their categories.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA)

This is the most popular gaming genre among many esports fans and enthusiasts because such titles provide a highly engaging experience for players and spectators.

The major MOBA titles that are played as Sports in colleges include League of Legends, Arena of Valor, DOTA, and Heroes of the Storm.

First Person Shooter 

First-person shooter games push players to the edge of their seats, and spectators are glued to their screens throughout the gameplay. One wrong move and you’re gone.

Some of the famous FPS titles that are included in college esports include:

Counter-Strike, Fortnite, Overwatch & PUBG.  

esports event

Strategy Games

Real-time strategy games require players to devise a proper strategy for getting the best results. 

StarCraft II is a renowned game of this category that is loved by college esports players.

Fighting Games

Fighting games such as Mortal Kombat & Street Fighter are popular esports titles.

However, as already mentioned earlier, the list of games that players can enjoy as a part of college esports is increasing every year. 

This is because more and more players from various gaming genres want to compete against the best in the field, and college esports provides a great platform for them to do so.

In What Other Countries Can You Do Esports In College?

While colleges in the United States seem especially interested in college esports, there are many other countries located around the world that offer their students the chance of participating in this field.

South Korea

No discussion about esports is complete without mentioning South Korea. 

The reason for this is that the country has not only played an active role in providing great opportunities for this segment, but it has also been one of the pioneers in introducing esports in colleges.

esports event2


China is another country that appears to be making progress in all fields at the moment, including college esports.

This is why it is worth noting that China accepted esports as an official sport even back in 2003.

This shows why the esports segment is so popular in Chinese colleges. 

If you want to learn more about the limitations of Chinese gamers, we recommend this article from the New Your Times.


The European country of Finland is also at the forefront when it comes to this field. 

The Finnish government accepted esports as an official sport in 2017, and thus it has been almost 4 years that the students of Finnish colleges participate in esports events.


Ukraine is one of the most recent countries that have accepted esports as an official sport in 2020. In addition, multiple Ukrainian colleges now offer esports options to players. Of course, we hope that the Ukrainian Esports scene will remain intact despite the conflict with Russia. 

Of course, we think that nations should rather settle their disputes on the virtual battlefield.


United Kingdom

Several universities in the U.K. are even offering degrees in esports, and players of the sport remain actively engaged in gameplay matches throughout their stay in the colleges.

esports center


Thailand was the first country in South East Asia to accept esports, and thus various colleges in the country offer students the opportunity to participate in college esports.

It is also important to note that many countries accept esports and jump on board, realizing that this field offers numerous growth opportunities for both players and college students.

Final Thoughts on College-Esports 

While Masakari and I don’t think we’ve gotten worse at being gamers as we’ve gotten older (more on that theory in this post), we certainly won’t be going back to college. 

Too bad. 

Today, good students with talent have a good chance to slide into esports early and have a long career as a pro gamers. 

Of course, after the active career, the affiliation with esports doesn’t stop. In the meantime, ex-players change to the position of strategic advisors, coaches, or team managers.

For us, it’s always nice to see where the competitive part of gaming has gone in the last 25 years. The full potential is still far from being realized, but the current developments (read our post about the gaming industry) all point in the right direction.

If you’re thinking about a career in esports, the chances of success have never been higher.

If you have a question about the post or pro gaming in general, write us:

G.L. & H.F.! Flashback out.

Michael "Flashback" Mamerow has been playing video games for over 35 years and has built and led two Esports organizations. As an IT architect and casual gamer, he is dedicated to technical topics.

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