Below you will review what fashion programs are designed to do, and what the different types of fashion programs are. You will then briefly look at the salaries and job outlook of professionals in the field.
Programs in fashion design, apparel production and related subjects are most commonly available at the associate's and bachelor's degree levels. These programs are found at community colleges, universities and fashion schools, and they prepare you to create garments from patterns or from your own designs. They cover the steps from planning the design to the finished product. While some programs are online, given the hands on nature of the profession most or in-person. During your program, you'll likely get hands-on practice with garments and build a portfolio of apparel to show potential employers. Many programs even require the completion of an internship prior to graduation.
Programs At a Glance
Associate's Degree in Product Development
- This is a two-year degree program.
- Students need to have a high school diploma or GED when they apply.
- Classes are held on campus.
Associate's Degree in Fashion Merchandising
- This is a two-year degree program.
- Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED.
- Programs like this may be found on-campus or online.
Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Design and Production
- This is a four-year program.
- Incoming students are required to have a high school diploma or GED.
- This program is offered through on-campus courses.
Associate's Degree Programs
In an associate's degree program, you can expect to learn the skills needed to work as a patternmaker, production assistant, textile specialist or related role in the fashion field. You'll gain an overview of the fashion industry and learn to design apparel. You might complete some business courses and do a fashion internship. Courses are designed to prepare for hands-on work in these internships. Some of the topics you might study include:
- Garment construction
- Textiles and fabric
- 2D and 3D design
- Pattern making
- Fashion art techniques
- Apparel line production
Bachelor's Degree Programs
Related bachelor's degree programs often focus on fashion design and include an internship. The curriculum includes some of the same courses as an associate's degree program, including those covering textiles, pattern design, drawing, quality assurance, portfolio development, draping and fashion history. Some programs include coursework in computer-aided design and require a thesis. From these courses you will learn how to create digital models of designs and how to utilize digital photography. Some additional courses found in a bachelor's program in fashion design may include:
- Fashion illustration
- Professional presentation
- Design and color
- Accessories design
- Art history
- Merchandise planning and control
- Fashion history
Apparel production is one of the world's largest industries - everyone needs clothing to wear, and not all clothing can be produced by machines alone. Trained professionals in fashion and apparel production will be needed to create patterns, bringing their thorough understanding of body proportion and garment fitting to the task. Training and experience are also important when it comes to fabric selection and buying.
In May 2016, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that median annual earnings for fabric and apparel patternmakers were $39,650, although earnings will vary depending on location and position. At the same time, fashion designers earned a median wage of $65,170 per year.
Employment opportunities in the US-based fashion industry is expected to grow slightly between 2014 and 2024, according to the BLS. The slow rate of growth is due to strong competition for a small number of positions, and the location-specific nature of the industry. As a result, fashion designers can expect to see an increase of 3% in employment opportunities.
Those with an interest in fashion and a high school diploma or an equivalent may pursue and undergraduate degree that will turn their interest into a career. Related degree programs will provide students with both class room instruction and hands on training.