Jennifer Lynn is a game-changer in more ways than one. This mother of four boys, a former lab technician and seven-year veteran as a high school physics and chemistry teacher, believes she can improve the classroom experience for students in her (and neighboring) school districts through game, simulation and animation design.
Because of the high market demand for IT professionals, Lynn chose to earn her first Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degree in IT Networking as a way to transition from teaching to her new field and is currently pursuing her second AAS degree in IT Game, Simulation & Animation Design. After graduation, she’ll continue to hone her skills to let her “inner gamer” thrive.
When there’s time, Lynn is a fan of video games, much like her boys, who think it’s more than “cool” that their mom is on her way to an interesting new career. But while Lynn has chosen networking as her new “day job,” her end goal is to leverage her TCC education and professional experience to join one of the on-trend game development companies located in North Texas, such as Mumbojumbo, Arcade, Fathomd or GearBox.
Before any of that can happen, however, Lynn will don her cap and gown this May as a graduate of the class of 2021, with her second Associate of Applied Science degree. Through the IT Game, Simulation & Animation Design program, Lynn has learned to write computer code to create simulated computer-based chemistry experiments to meet the State’s chemistry lab requirement and supplement what her and other small, rural North Texas school districts cannot easily afford.
I’d been thinking about a career change. That’s what TCC has offered to me and offers to lots of other older adults. The College offers so much to those of us looking to make those big changes in our lives.
“So, when I began thinking seriously about a career change, a friend suggested that I take some online career and skills inventory assessments to explore where my interests and aptitudes lay outside of teaching high school physics and chemistry.”
She was surprised when several of the job interest inventories showed a higher-than-expected aptitude and interest in technology. “I’d never used computers in the ways the career inventories suggested, plus I didn’t know one computer field from another, but that’s what led me to TCC. I knew I could get quality advising, afford classes and gain a set of solid marketable skills with degrees that would complement my career as a high school chemistry teacher,” said Lynn.
According to Donald Cunningham, professor of information technology, Lynn is a highly detailed and very motivated person who, in her final course for the program demonstrated her dedication, professional work ethic and high degree of IT acumen. “She explores each assignment in greater depth than is needed and applies the advanced knowledge to her course work and projects. These things lend themselves to her being successful in any area she applies her talents,” said Cunningham.
As program coordinator, Cunningham suggests some students might consider careers as video game developers, animators for film and television and other technical jobs in the entertainment industry, not to mention, area defense contractors and the U.S. Department of Defense. Cunningham’s goal is to equip students with the skills needed to use the newest software, coding languages and technology to meet the most cutting-edge industry standards. “TCC’s students can cross the stage at graduation and through the doors as employees of well-known gaming, simulation or animation companies—many of which are right in our back yard,” he said.
Texas has played a major role in the computer and video game industry since the 1980s and continues to remain a growing hub for production, meaning significant opportunity for graduates of this program. Additionally, the state is currently home to more than 130 animation, post-production and visual effects companies that supply support and talent to the local and worldwide film, advertising, education and video game industries, according to the Texas Film Commission.
Burning Glass Technologies, an analytics software company that supplies real-time data on job growth, skills in demand and labor market trends, reports that gaming and animation companies in North Texas can expect greater than 14 percent growth over the next 10 years. An entry-level salary begins somewhere in the range of $40,000, while those with more experience can command as much as $80,000 per year. The median income, once again estimated by Burning Glass, hovers around $66,000 for artists and technicians with more experience.
According to Woody Wu, professor of IT, gaming and IT companies want graduates who not only are creative, but who can collaborate with diverse groups. “Cooperating with peers leads to greater outcomes in mastering the defining skills required for employment in this sector. It’s common for several groups of designers to be working collaboratively on different components of a game, since design isn’t exactly a solo endeavor,” he said.
Lynn plans to continue teaching high school chemistry in her small, funding- challenged high school until her current contract expires. At that point, she’ll make her big jump. “My plan is to transition to my new career in IT through computer networking, which is a field with current high job demand. However, I’m interested in applying Unreal Engines—a complete suite of creation tools for game development—to improve the quality of simulation available for students. And so, yes, for now, games and simulations are still a hobby,” she said.
When the timing is right and with some IT networking experience under her belt, Lynn plans to take her hobby and turn it into full-time job.
“I plan on having a great résumé and portfolio to show prospective employers what I can do through hard work and the education TCC afforded me,” said Lynn.
Before she leaves the classroom behind, Lynn says she will encourage her current high school students to consider the sciences. “I let the girls know they may be the one girl in the class, and to not let that stop them from following their passions and going as far as they can,” she said.
About TCC's Game, Simulation & Animation Design Program
Students enrolled in the Game, Simulation & Animation Design program take many courses centered squarely on games, simulations and animation including 3D Game Modeling, Game and Simulation Programming Game Design Animation Programming Video Game Art, 3D Animation and Fundamentals of Network Security.
Learn more about TCC’s Associate of Applied Science degree and certificates in Game, Simulation & Animation Design.