Is a Fashion Degree for You?

Fashion students will learn about the business of designing, producing and selling apparel. Fashion is a multifaceted industry with many professionals working together from conception to the marketing of a finished product. Employment within the fashion industry can be difficult to obtain. Most people have to start at the bottom and work their way up, or display exceptional levels of talent at the beginning of their careers. To truly grasp the full scope of fashion design, students have to master technical skills and increase their awareness to remain competitive.

Students in a fashion merchandising or retail management program will learn about the business and manufacturing aspects of fashion by studying various business procedures and marketing strategies, as well as consumer behavior and sales techniques. Merchandising majors will gain the knowledge and skills needed to merge visual design with marketing and give consumers what they want.

Advice for Earning Your Fashion Degree Online

As online degrees become more widespread and popular, more people have started to recognize the personal advantages and professional benefits of going to school online. Most online fashion programs are the same as on-campus ones except you have a much more flexible and convenient school schedule. Online students are subject to the same rigorous curriculum and grading procedures as traditional students. However, online classes are sometimes limited by a lack of resources that would otherwise be available in person. Online students have to supply their own drawing, pattern making and sewing materials.

Before enrolling in a fashion degree program, it's crucial that you make sure your online college is accredited by a group that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. This is because many employers will accept only degrees that are earned from accredited schools. There are several different kinds of fashion degrees out there, so it's important that you choose one that in addition to being accredited, meets your academic and professional goals.

Required Courses

A fashion curriculum will vary according to your area of concentration, but most students are required to take the same core classes, such as history, English and basic science. Fashion design majors take several technical design and manufacturing classes, such as pattern making, clothing construction, fashion illustration and tailoring. Fashion merchandising and retail management majors will take business mathematics, accounting, marketing management, consumer behavior and sales courses.

Common Career Paths

The fashion industry is highly competitive and graduates often have to work their way up before attaining top designer and management positions. However, after you get some experience, there will be a number of careers open to you. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Fashion Designer

    Any article of clothing that is bought in a store, regardless of style or price, has been created by a fashion designer. Fashion designers are responsible for the billions of dresses, suits, shirts, pants, shoes and accessories bought in stores worldwide. The most influential designers can become global trendsetters. Fashion designers can work independently or for large fashion houses. Some handle every aspect of their own designs, from fabric choice to the final say over the finished product, while others work as part of a large team and handle only small parts of a larger project, such as pattern making or collar design. Fashion designers must have a discerning eye, a strong point of view and an ability to sense emerging trends.

    Employment of fashion designers is expected to see little change between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Their median annual salary was $64,530 in May 2010. 

  • Fashion Stylist

    Fashion stylists are professionals who put together clothing for celebrities, models, public figures, editorial features and advertising campaigns in print or television. Stylists can also work for individuals who need help creating a particular look for a professional or recreational event. Usually, when the public sees a celebrity at a public event, his or her wardrobe has been selected and coordinated by a stylist. Stylists who team with celebrities typically work with designers to make sure that no two celebrities wear the same outfit to the same event, and they typically petition for their desired clothing choices to be sent and made available to the celebrity with whom they work.

    Typically, major advertising campaigns enlist the help of a large team of fashion stylists who work together to create a coherent look that reflects that brand’s desired image. Depending on their background and expertise, fashion stylists' annual salaries can vary widely. As of June 2012, they ranged from $23,489 to $80,168, according to Payscale.com.

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