(HARLINGEN, Texas) – People who thrive on creativity can easily find digital media design jobs in Texas.
Texas State Technical College’s online Digital Media Design program teaches students about digital imaging, digital video, photography, typography and other topics. With a well-curated portfolio, students can be confident in their abilities to work in agencies and businesses of all sizes.
Devon Smittkamp, a founding partner at Glitch Creative Labs in McAllen, said he has noticed the creative talent growing during the last few years in the Rio Grande Valley.
“We live in a time of instant gratification,” he said. “Someone with a camera is an influencer. Someone with a laptop and a design program is a designer. A lot of people can do good design, but they need to have the mentality behind it and know the customer-service end.”
Smittkamp said people who are successful in the digital media design field have an eye for what looks good and the skills to do work that does not always follow traditional rules. Those entering the industry should have good critical and logical thinking skills. Fitting in with a creative agency or business can also help potential workers.
“We work hard here,” he said. “It’s important to be able to have some fun in the creative process. Culture is a really important thing.”
Jerry Vavra, statewide lead in TSTC’s Digital Media Design program, recommends that students do freelance work before they graduate in order to gain experience in dealing with customers and understand the financial value of their work.
Vavra said students seeking jobs upon graduation should pay attention to the kind of portfolio that employers want to review. He said the type of work they apply for also factors into what materials should make up the portfolio.
Smittkamp said those interviewing for jobs should not put random files into Dropbox, a hosting service using cloud technology, to present portfolios. He said personal design websites are good to point potential employers to, along with a range of images and a resume put together in a PDF format.
Vavra said people who are job hunting should consider employers’ benefits and insurance plans. They should also embrace remote work.
Smittkamp said he is excited to see young adults starting their own creative agencies in McAllen.
“It is proven (that) the world is going digital,” he said. “There is value still in traditional media, but in looking for a younger audience, everything is digital.”
Students who graduate from TSTC’s Digital Media Design program can go on to become art directors, graphic designers, film and video editors, and photographers. The yearly average salary among these professions in Texas ranges from $47,000 to $76,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s CareerOneStop website. There will be a need for more than 36,900 workers in Texas by 2028.
This fall, TSTC’s program will be taught in a performance-based format. Performance-based education allows students to have flexibility with their schedules as they master set competencies. Students can build on existing knowledge and may have the opportunity to graduate earlier than planned. Students will still have semesters, but the number of classes will vary.
Vavra said performance-based education appeals to a new kind of student that TSTC is seeing.
“They come in knowing how to self-teach, and they go at a faster pace,” he said. “They could go through a class much faster and end up with a good portfolio. We are forcing them to perfect the competencies before they move on.”
Students already enrolled in the Digital Media Design program before the start of the fall semester will be considered “traditional” because they will still take classes lasting the full 15 weeks of a semester.
Vavra said due to the online program expanding statewide, faculty members will use Google rooms starting this fall to connect students from different locations. Faculty members will also have set room hours from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Mondays to Fridays and be ready to answer students’ questions and spur on creative discussions.
TSTC offers an online Associate of Applied Science degree in Digital Media Design.
Registration continues for the fall, and scholarships are available. For more information, go to tstc.edu.