Career Guide


The Media Arts and Design major is a department within the College of Arts and Letters.


Creative Advertising
Digital Video and Cinema
Interactive Design 

Admission and Progression Standards

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

Description of Major

The School of Media Arts and Design incorporates the study and fields of mass communication, journalism, digital media/multimedia and mediated visual and aural expression. It offers a program of study that prepares students for careers in the media and/or a corporate environment; careers that rely on mass media and related areas of expertise or graduate study in mass communication and related areas, such as advanced visual communication or digital production. A student who has an interest in working in print and multimedia journalism, broadcast journalism, television and film production, live video production (including sports coverage), creative advertising, or interactive media would find one of the four concentrations offered through this major to fit their interests. The School of Media Arts and Design also contributes to interdisciplinary minors in Civic Leadership,  Creative Writing, Digital Humanities, Film Studies and Legal Studies. A student who has an interest in this major must declare SMAD as a major, enroll in SMAD 101: "Intro to Media Arts and Design" course and apply formally to the School of Media Arts and Design, during the annual admissions process each spring semester.

More About the Field 

Media arts and design studies how people influence and relate to one another through storytelling and design across platforms, which is essential for companies and organizations across all sectors, not just within the media industry. These stories and messages are researched and created in written, visual, video, audio and digital formats. Interactive Designers develop media that are aesthetically pleasing and user friendly while incorporating graphic images, animations, sound, text and video into computer-based interactive products - such as online sites and apps - for news, entertainment, training, education and persuasive purposes. This area also incorporates and emerging areas of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. Digital Video & Cinema creators write, plan, shoot, edit and assemble videos within both artistic/cinematic and corporate/educational realms. These media storytellers consider audiences and goals, then create productions with the proper mood, pace and context. Such stories include documentaries, live sports and news coverage, short and feature films, television and streaming programs, educational and training videos, advertisemnets and videos intended for social media. Video, film and television crew members work in all aspects of production to creat compelling visual stories. Journalists report, write, produce, fact-check and edit news reports, commentaries and features for newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations/networks and online sites. In the coruse of their reporting, they capture video, photographs, audio for multimedia stories. Creative Advertising storytellers use advertising principles and persuasive communication techniques to convey ideas, goals and an organization's brand and its values to employees, customers and other external audiences. They develop campaigns that incorporate video, audio, writing, photography, online media, soical media and other innovative advertising techniques. 


There are four concentrations to choose from within the Media Arts and Design major: Creative Advertising, Digital Video and Cinema, Interactive Media or Journalism. 

The professionally-oriented Creative Advertising concentration provides students with knowledge and skills to create and manage advertising and corporate communication programs emphasizing new media. In addition to theoretical concepts underlying advertising and corporate communication, students learn strategic creative writing, effective message design, management, and media production. Students also learn strategic planning, implementation and evaluation of new media technologies, and research and analysis of current trends and applications. The program reviews ethical and legal issues involving the creative advertising process, corporate communication, and the use of new media. Students planning careers in Creative Advertising also need a broad liberal arts education to better understand the characteristics that make the diversified communication process effective across various media and organizations.

The professionally oriented Digital Video and Cinema concentration helps students develop practical and analytical skills in digital video, including the aesthetics, techniques and technologies behind video production All concentrators are exposed to theories, design principles, legal issues and applications of film and video. Those interested primarily in the study of cinema, as opposed to production, can emphasize classes that look at filmmaking from an analytical or critical perspective. Those interested more in the actual production of films and videos can take coursework aimed at developing skills in shooting, editing, composing and disseminating video stories. The concentration utilizes a state-of-the-art, video production facility for both field and studio-based productions, allowing access to some of the finest educational lab space available anywhere. Students in this concentration also develop a critical understanding of how movies tell stories, convey information and affect audiences.  Students will examine the narrative conventions of film and television and investigate how story materials are created for today’s convergent media. This concentration is complemented by the College’s Interdisciplinary Minors in Film Studies and Creative Writing.

Interactive Design students focus on skills needed to create multimedia productions, such as apps and interactive websites, as well as incorporating the emerging fields of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality. The concentration emphasizes hands-on opportunities such as class projects and real-world experience through engaged learning. Students engage in audience/user analysis, usability research and interface design, then use text, images, animation, sound and video to convey a message. The concentration emphasizes both artistic and technical elements in the creation of interactive media products. Interactive Design concentrators often blend design principles and artistic applications (such as Photoshop and Illustrator) with technical elements such as XHTML, XML, CSS, database design and a limited amount of computer programming. Students also practice strategic and digital managerial issues including content management, domain name acquisition, search engine optimization, e-commerce and Web 2.0 utilization.

The professionally oriented Journalism concentration, enables students to develop reporting and information-gathering skills, writing, editing and multimedia storytelling skills needed to work in all news organizations, including newspapers, magazines, television, online sites and related fields. Students learn to research, discriminate among sources, recognize news values, apply basic news style rules and write under deadlines. Students gain experience covering breaking news and beat reporting as well as, features, business, political and entertainment news. the concentration incorporates layout and design, as well as editing and multimedia journalism. Students explore aspects of visual journalism and new media applications to lead and moderate online communities. The concentration also emphasizes legal and ethical issues faced by journalists.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

There are no common combinations but some examples students commonly choose include: African, African American and Diaspora Studies; American Studies; Art, Art History; Biology; Civic Leadership; Communication Studies, Creative Writing, Computer Science, Digital Humanities; Educational Media, English, Entrepreneurship; Film Studies, Marketing, Music Industry, Political Communication, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology; Sport Communication; Sports and Recreation Management; or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.

Characteristics of Successful Students

Openness to understanding others, curiosity and a sense of professional drive are essentail to becoming strong storytellers in these very competitive fields. Interest and skill in learning present and future technologies is crucial. Ability to work well under pressure and collaborate with others are required, as are a commitment to academic success and gaining media experience beyond the classroom.


Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that incorporate 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.

  • Advertising Art Director
  • Advertising Consultant
  • Advertising Copywriter
  • Advertising Salesperson/Manager
  • App Designer
  • Assignment Editor
  • Audio-Visual Engineer
  • Booking Agent
  • Broadcast Marketer
  • Camera Operator/TV/Video/Film
  • Catering Specialist
  • Commercial Account Executive
  • Communications Editor
  • Consumer Advocate
  • Continuity Writer
  • Copywriter
  • Digital Effects Designer
  • Document Publisher
  • Editorial Assistant
  • Entertainment Coordinator
  • Event Planner
  • Feature Editor
  • Field Producer
  • Film Critic
  • Graphic Designer/Artist/Animator
  • Hospital Services Coordinator
  • Interactive Content Specialist
  • Interactive Media Specialist
  • Journalist
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Marketing Director
  • Media Buyer
  • Meeting/Convention Planner
  • Motion Graphics Designer
  • Multimedia Developer
  • Multimedia Producer
  • Network Administrator
  • News/Video Producer
  • Newspaper Account Executive
  • Newspaper/Magazine Journalist
  • Online Director
  • Photographer
  • Photojournalist
  • Production Artist
  • Production Manager
  • Production Technician
  • Promotions Director
  • Proofreader
  • Public Affairs Director
  • Public Relations Specialist
  • Publishing Specialist
  • Radio/Television Broadcaster
  • Recruiter
  • Researcher
  • Sale Representative
  • Screen/TV Script Writer
  • Social Media Creator/Producer 
  • Social Media Manager
  • Software Developer
  • Speech Writer
  • Sports Editor
  • Sports Journalist
  • Studio Technician
  • Teacher
  • Technical Director
  • Technical Editor
  • Television Producer
  • Television Reporter
  • Television/Film Director
  • Training Coordinator
  • TV/Brand Developer
  • User experience designer/programmer
  • Video Producer
  • Video Programmer
  • Web Analyst
  • Web Designer

Who Employs Graduates?

Advertising Agencies, Cable Stations, Colleges/Universities, Corporate Environments, Deisgn Studios, Federal, State and Local Government Agencies, Firms that Market Consumer Goods and Services, Military, Motion Picture Studios, Newspaper/Magazine Publishers (Print and Online), Public Relations Firms, Publishing Companies, Radio Stations and Podcast Production Firms, Small Businesses, Social Media Companies, Special Effects Studio, Television Networks and Stations and Video/Audio Production Companies.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

Many opportunities are available as a result of well-organized programs. Getting involved in practicum and directed projects can help students to learn by doing. The Breeze, Breeze TV, WXJM, and Curio are examples of programs students could gain practical experiences related to their field of study. 

View our list of internship coordinators for each major.

Career Profiles 

Art Directors
Broadcast and Sound Engineering Technicians
Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts 
Film and Video Editors and Camera Operators
Multimedia Artists and Animators
A Day in the Life of a Media Planner
A Day in the Life of a Writer

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to

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