USA Today has ranked Virginia Tech as the nation’s best for majoring in family, consumer, and human sciences.

The ranking category spans all the majors in the Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management: consumer studies, family and consumer sciences, fashion merchandising and design, property management, and residential environments and design.

“Our programs involve active learning,” says Julia Beamish, head of the department. “Classes are hands-on as well as foundational, and our students seem to revel in the experiential part of the curriculum.”

The consumer studies major prepares students to analyze issues and problems from the perspectives of consumers, business, and the government. Students learn to advocate for consumer interests; track economic, social, and political changes; and help consumers improve their personal and financial well-being.

The family and consumer sciences major prepares graduates to teach students and families to make critical decisions in the areas of financial security, housing, nutrition, health and wellness, personal and family relationships, and a sustainable quality of life. The major, which provides a range of career opportunities, is also designed to fold into a master’s degree in education.

“Teachers of family and consumer sciences are always in high demand,” Beamish said, “as they’re frequently identified as being on the critical shortage list in Virginia and other states.”

Virginia Tech’s fashion merchandising and design program – often ranked among the best in the world – focuses on new technologies in apparel product development and consumer-centric marketing strategies. Students supplement classroom learning with New York City internships or study abroad in such fashion capitals as London, Paris, and Rome. Graduates pursue careers in fashion design, product development, trend forecasting, buying, international sourcing, showroom design, retail merchandising and styling, and marketing and management of clothing brands.

Property management majors learn the complexities of managing multimillion-dollar real estate investments. Graduates of the program – the first of its kind in the nation – pursue career opportunities in operations, marketing, training, development, and acquisitions of multifamily and commercial properties.

“We have such strong ties with the real estate industry,” Beamish said, “that 100 percent of our seniors are offered jobs, often multiple ones, before they graduate.”

Majors in residential environments and design learn to design, select, market, and manage residential spaces and products. Opportunities for hands-on learning include the Center for Real Life Kitchen Design, which allows students to learn not only new applications for products, materials, and technologies, but also universal accessibility standards. Graduates often work as residential housing designers and construction experts.

USA Today’s ranking methodology places a strong emphasis on student success outcomes.

“The top rating our programs received validates the respect they’ve earned with employers,” said Elizabeth Spiller, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. “The rating also reflects the value of our majors, which allow our students to design and invest in their own future.”

Virginia Tech’s Department of Apparel, Housing, and Resource Management has long held a national reputation for excellence. USA Today and its ranking partner, College Factual, named the program first in the country last year as well.

“Our programs are comprehensive but at the same time professionally driven, which means our students have no trouble securing jobs,” said Beamish. “Our students are broadly and deeply trained to respond to a fast-changing world.”