Explore CAUS

An undecided major in the College of Architecture & Urban Studies that serves as a portal to the college's four and five year degree programs.

Choosing a degree program can be tough. The EXPLORE CAUS major was created to help students who know they are interested in Architecture & Urban Studies disciplines, but not sure exactly which major they want to pursue. Students considering the highly competitive Architecture, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design, and Industrial Design programs but aren’t sure which one of those majors they want to apply to may find the Explore CAUS major a better start.

How Does it Work?

Once accepted to the EXPLORE CAUS major, students will pursue coursework across the College of Architecture & Urban Studies while also taking classes that meet some of their general education curriculum course requirements. We’ve secured permission for our EXPLORE CAUS majors to take certain classes typically limited to Architecture, Interior Design, Industrial Design, Landscape Architecture, Building Construction, Art, Environmental Policy & Planning, and Smart Sustainable City students. EXPLORE CAUS majors are advised about these courses during new student orientation.

You’ll be advised by Rob Jacks, Director of Academic Advising in the College of Architecture & Urban Studies, and receive advice on taking classes relevant to a CAUS major or majors you’re interested in and assistance with how to transition to another CAUS major. Frequently asked questions about the Explore CAUS major can be found at the bottom of this page.

Click to see the flyer for our EXPLORE CAUS major.

Rob Jacks, Director of Academic Advising in the College of Architecture & Urban Studies, serves as the academic advisor to EXPLORE CAUS majors. Contact him at rjacks@vt.edu if you have questions about the major!

What are the college's degree programs?

Check out these undergraduate majors and minors we offer through our college, and if you have questions and want to learn more, consider scheduling a visit or get a current student’s perspective by contacting one of our college ambassadors.

School of Architecture + Design

Landscape Architecture
This 5-year program comprises four major study areas: Virginia Tech Core Curriculum, Landscape Architecture Core Curriculum, Supporting Professional Courses, and General Electives. These courses enable students to receive a well-rounded university education. A required design studio anchors each semester of the 5-year program. Technical, theory, and methods courses complement the studios and complete the program core curriculum.

Interior Design
This program is a balance of design, history, and professional practice. All courses are supplemented by the required University Core Curriculum. This balanced curriculum ensures that every graduate has the knowledge and skill needed to successfully contribute to the work of a design firm as an intern and as a graduate.

Industrial Design
This internationally recognized program is fully accredited by the National Associate of Schools of Art and Design and prepares individuals to enter this dynamic field through a rigorous curriculum, and an experienced, dedicated faculty.

The Bachelor of Architecture takes five years to complete. The first year students work through a Foundation Program. The second and third years, students work through the Core Professional Program. Fourth and fifth year students complete the Advanced Professional Program.

All architecture, industrial design, interior design, and landscape architecture majors study together for the first year. The focus in the first year of the Foundation Program is involved with basic elements of design, addressed visually, conceptually, and haptically.

Myers-Lawson School of Construction

Building Construction
This program curriculum focuses on the business and process of making buildings and the performance of buildings including operations, finance, energy, and sustainability. The four tracks – Structural Design, Sustainable Building Performance, Virtual Design Construction, or the Restricted Elective Track – offer opportunities to students who wish to lead in this challenging, changing world.

School of Public and International Affairs

Smart and Sustainable Cities
The Smart and Sustainable Cities (SSC) major is one of the first majors of its kind in the United States. In the major, students will learn the dynamics of urban change across time, space, and place. Students will gain a deep understanding of sustainable urban development and how smart technology and urban analytics can be combined to create solutions for the cities of the future.

Environmental Policy & Planning
This program provides students the opportunity to study environmental problems and their solutions from an interdisciplinary perspective involving humanities, natural and social science, planning, and public policy. The curriculum, while providing a broad liberal arts and natural and social science base, has a pre-professional slant involving analytical and communication skills and policy and planning methods to prepare students for employment and graduate study.

School of Visual Arts

Art History
This program is oriented toward the history of western art, although courses are frequently offered on non-western topics. The foundation is a two-semester survey of the history of art. At the intermediate level there are 14 courses offered on a regular basis that cover a wide range of art topics. Upper-level courses are designated as special topics courses. In recent years they have ranged from the Seven Wonders of the World to Japanese prints to the History of Photography.

Studio Art
The Studio Arts Program is looking to the future to prepare students for the digitally enhanced world by offering a range of classes in new media and creative technologies including digital photography, digital video and visual effects, digital painting and 3D animation and modeling. This program is specially addressed to students who aim to continue their education as artists at the graduate level. A required entry portfolio review determines acceptance into the program.

Graphic Design
This program prepares students for a career in graphic design by focusing on conceptual thinking, semiotics, and problem-solving tactics. The program demands individual creativity, teamwork skills and adaptability while preparing students to enter the job market with practical experience and a full, professionally reviewed portfolio. In order for students to be accepted into this program, they must pass a competitive portfolio review.

Creative Technologies

Creative Technologies is a program that prepares students to become future leaders of many new artistic fields and industries. Students who graduate with a Creative Technologies BFA will go on to pursue careers spanning gaming, film, animation, motion graphics, video production, and fine arts. Some students will also pursue graduate programs in these fields. Creative Technologies classrooms are rigorous and focused. Students are provided with dedicated mentorship and guidance to develop their ideas, and our program has facilitated many ongoing collaborations between students and Virginia Tech faculty. Many Creative Technologies undergraduate students get paid to work on funded research projects.


In addition, minors are available in five areas. Please review the minor checksheets for course requirements.

  • Art History
  • Community Systems & Engagement
  • Environmental Policy & Planning
  • Industrial Design
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Smart and Sustainable Cities
  • Visual Arts and Society

Frequently Asked Questions about the Explore CAUS Major

How long will I have to wait before I can apply to change my major to Architecture, Industrial Design, Interior Design, or Landscape Architecture?

The application period for major changes in the School of Architecture + Design starts in January. You’ll apply to the major you’re interested in, have an interview, and if successful you’ll be invited to attend summer studio in Blacksburg. You’ll attend summer studio at VT and faculty will review your work at the end. If you do well and pass you’ll be accepted to your new major having successfully transferred in by the start of your second year at VT.

If I start in the CAUS major and after my first year get accepted to a major in the School of Architecture + Design, will I be behind?

The answer to this question will differ student to student based on the classes they take their first year and what kinds of credits they transfer to Virginia Tech and how well they perform in summer studio. We have secured permission for our CAUS students to take the same math, science, etc. that students in the School of A+D take. The only thing you’ll have to make up is your first year studio experience. In some instances, students who perform exceedingly well in summer studio may be allowed to move into the second year of their program as a sophomore meaning that you’ll graduate in the same amount of time as students who started in that major. Students who perform moderately well may be asked to go back and complete the first year studio their second year at VT, pushing back graduation an extra year.

You’ll take classes your first year as a CAUS major that a student in A+D may not typically take until years 2 or 3. This allows you to get ahead in some areas while you wait to catch up with your studio experience.

What classes will I take my first semester in the Explore CAUS major?

No two students will have an identical schedule, because the credits you bring to Virginia Tech influence what you’ll need to take. At new student orientation you’ll map out your schedule and if you know what major you are most interested in your advisor will help you secure courses that will eventually count for that major. A sample first year schedule for a CAUS student who is thinking about transferring into Architecture might look like:

  • ENGL 1105 (3) – Freshman English
  • CAUS 1004 (2) – Exploring Architecture & Urban Studies
  • MATH 1535 (3) – Geometry & Mathematics of Design
  • GEOS 1004 (3) – Physical Geology
  • LAR 1264 (3) – Seeing, Understanding, and Representing Landscapes
  • … and a general education curriculum or elective course of their choosing which would count for a major they are leaning towards.


How difficult is it to transfer to restricted majors in the School of Architecture + Design?

The application process is straightforward, and as a CAUS major you’ll have the advising support to assist you and remind you of the application process and alert you to information sessions about the restricted A+D majors.

While these majors are extremely competitive, as a CAUS major you’ll have had exposure to coursework in those majors and opportunities that we think will help set you apart from other applicants if you manage to maintain a high GPA and stay engaged.

Is everyone in the Explore CAUS major looking to transfer to Architecture?

No! The Explore CAUS major is made up of diverse students who selected the major as a first choice. Some students will come in thinking they want to pursue a program like Architecture, and over the course of their first semester learn about another major in the college which they will decide to pursue instead.

As a CAUS major you’ll take a course, CAUS 1004: Exploring Architecture & Urban Studies, which exposes you to all the majors in CAUS and the careers that lead from those majors. You’ll also receive advising support to help you in your decision making. We’ve seen Explore CAUS majors change into majors in all 4 schools within the college.

How long can I stay in the Explore CAUS major?

Two years is the maximum time you can stay in this non-degree granting major.

What are the college’s non-restricted majors?

Building Construction, Environmental Policy & Planning, Smart and Sustainable Cities, and Art History are non-restricted majors that Explore CAUS majors may change into at anytime.