Career Guide to JMU Majors: Architectural Design

Career Guide to JMU Majors

The Major

Who Succeeds



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The Major

Architectural Design is a major offered by the School of Art, Design and Art History, a program within the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

Architectural Design students learn from curriculum that is centered around a 6-studio sequence. The teaching of design process and a design ethos is at the heart of the program. Additional required coursework in interior & architectural history, materials & methods, computer drawing & modeling, mechanical drawing, and professional practices supplement the studio sequence and support design projects of increasing sophistication and complexity. The curriculum instills purpose, craft, technological competence and versatile thinking. The graduates are passionately dedicated to the creation of meaningful interiors. Supplementing JMU's general accreditation, all degrees offered by the School of Art, Design and Art History are professionally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design.

Tell me more about this field of study

Architectural Designers plan, design, and furnish interiors of residential, commercial, or industrial buildings. They formulate design which is practical, aesthetic, and conducive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity, selling merchandise, or improving life style. Many specialize in a particular field, style, or phase of interior design. Common responsibilities may include:

  • Confer with client to determine factors affecting planning interior environments, such as budget, architectural preferences, and purpose and function.
  • Advise client on interior design factors such as space planning, layout and utilization of furnishings or equipment, and color coordination.
  • Coordinate with other professionals, such as contractors, architects, engineers, and plumbers, to ensure job success.
  • Review and detail shop drawings for construction plans.
  • Estimate material requirements and costs, and present design to client for approval.
  • Subcontract fabrication, installation, and arrangement of carpeting, fixtures, accessories, draperies, paint and wall coverings, art work, furniture, and related items.
  • Formulate environmental plan to be practical, esthetic, and conducive to intended purposes, such as raising productivity or selling merchandise.
  • Select or design, and purchase furnishings, art works, and accessories.
  • Render design ideas in form of paste-ups or drawings.
  • Use computer-aided drafting (CAD) and related software to produce construction documents.

Tell me more about specialization

JMU’s Architectural Design program is committed to the social aspects of contemporary design, including barrier free interiors, designing for under-privileged communities, projects that question ethical and political assumptions, and sustainability. Many Architectural Designers work for the specialized design services industry or for architectural, engineering, and related services industries. In 2010, about 30 percent were self-employed. Architectural Designers make interior spaces functional, safe, and beautiful for almost every type of building: offices, homes, airport terminals, shopping malls, and restaurants. They select and specify colors, finishes, fabrics, furniture, flooring and wall coverings, lighting, and other materials to create useful and stylish interiors for building. Current emphasis on Equal Access for individuals with physical challenges is a highly sought specialty focus.

Common majors or minors that complement this major

The Architectural Design curriculum is demanding and cannot usually accommodate another major or minor, unless the student takes classes in the summer or adds additional semesters. Related minors could include: Communication Studies, Computer Information Systems, Film Studies, or Technical and Scientific Communication.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Successful Architectural Design students are creative, skilled at problem solving and have an entrepreneurial approach to their work and life. They enjoy working and communicating innovative and diverse ideas to others while integrating the impact of interior environments in the human context. 


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.

  • Certified Kitchen Designer
  • Color and Materials Designer
  • Commercial Interior Designer
  • Decorating Consultant
  • Design Director
  • Director of Interiors
  • Display Designer
  • Equal Access Specialist
  • Environmental Designer
  • Exhibit Designer
  • Furniture Designer
  • Interior Architect
  • Interior Architecture Coordinator
  • Interior Architecture Consultant
  • Interiors Photographer

Who employs graduates?

Many Architectural Designers work for design firms. However they also work for: Architecture Firms, Colleges/Universities, Commercial Real Estate Companies, Department Stores, Galleries, Healthcare Facilities, Hospitality Industry, Industrial Design Companies, Interior Design Companies, Museums, Performing Arts Centers, Remodeling Contractors, and School Systems.

Internships and Practicum Experiences

Students are required to complete a professional internship. Frequent field trips, guest speakers and internship opportunities provide students with exposure to the professional field. On campus, students can get involved in specific Architectural Design organizations such as student chapters of ASID and IIDA. There are sponsored activities such as artWorks Gallery and Sawhill Gallery that are also great ways to gain experience. Students should consult with their advisors about internship opportunities.

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Get the Facts

What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
Interior Designers

Interior Designer
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