TSTC fills computer technology need

North Texas campus programming graduates have abundant job options

Staff report
Texas State Technical College offers an online Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology.

RED OAK — The hands-on experience that Texas State Technical College’s Computer Programming Technology students have now will help them tomorrow in the job market.

“For every business in Texas today, there is a need for a programmer or a team of programmers,” said Shannon Ferguson, TSTC’s statewide lead instructor in the Computer Programming Technology program.

Students get hands-on experience developing programs using a variety of programming languages. Students get experience in web programming, database development, Java, mobile app development, C++, C# and Python. Students also develop their skills in research, problem-solving, working on a team and interpersonal skills.

“Our courses are built around real-world simulated projects,” Ferguson said. “From the very first semester, students will learn and use industry-standard tools to complete software applications. Throughout the program, students will do the things that they will see in industry.”

Graduates of TSTC’s Computer Programming Technology program go on to become software developers, mobile app developers, game programmers, web developers, development operations developers and cloud developers.

Gearbox Entertainment Co. in Frisco is currently seeking people to fill positions such as development and operations engineer, online programmer, platform specialist and cloud engineer. The company specializes in interactive entertainment.

“Game industry hiring tends to favor candidates with portfolios and personal projects that set them apart, rather than cookie-cutter examples that all students in a program create to pass their classes,” said Aaron Thibault, Gearbox Entertainment’s vice president of strategic operations.

Students and graduates need not only to understand how to write code, but also how to read it to know how existing systems work, said Steve Jones, Gearbox Entertainment’s chief technical officer.

“Most of the programming on our game projects is done in C++, so candidates for even our entry-level positions need to have a solid foundation in that language,” Jones said. “Unfortunately, a lack of that foundation is one of the more common reasons why a candidate does not make it through our hiring process.”

Thibault said adaptability, along with communication and problem-solving skills, is essential for students to learn to be productive in the video game industry.

“Both students and their parents would benefit from knowing about the hiring expectations and opportunities that exist in the industry,” he said.

The yearly median salary in Texas for computer programmers is more than $91,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration’s CareerOneStop website. Database administrators and architects in Texas are making a yearly median salary of more than $104,000.  A majority of jobs are centered in the Austin, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston and San Antonio areas. 

TSTC offers an online Associate of Applied Science degree in Computer Programming Technology. Ferguson said in the future, the program might add short-term certificates that would benefit people who do not want to complete the associate program but are interested in learning specific programming languages.

“Being online allows us to reach individuals from around our state in areas that have the highest concentration of opportunities,” he said. “This opens the door to more students, but more importantly it helps get the word out about our program and graduates.”

Registration continues for the fall semester, with scholarships available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.