Shoe Designer Career Info

Read on to see what shoe designers do and how to prepare for this career. Get job prospects and earning potential to decide if this job is right for you.

Career Definition

A career in footwear design combines fashion expertise, design skill, and business knowledge in the design, engineering, and marketing of footwear for corporate or independent shoe retailers. People trained in shoe design may focus on the technical design, manufacture, sales, or merchandising of shoes, and many shoe designers specialize in particular types of footwear, such as hiking boots and outdoor shoes, bridal and formal women's shoes, children's shoes, or occupational footwear (like nurses' shoes or workers' boots).

Become a Shoe Designer

Required Education

Students interested in shoe design careers can pursue two-year associate's or advanced study degrees in footwear design at many fashion design institutes internationally, according to These programs typically include classes in shoe engineering, industrial design, and fashion marketing. Other students pursue bachelor's degrees in fine art or industrial design before becoming shoe designers.

Skills Required

Familiarity with the fashion industry, illustration skills, broad knowledge of textiles and materials, and an understanding of shoe engineering are all baseline skills for becoming a shoe designer. Proficiency with computer-assisted design (CAD) programs and modeling software is also useful. In addition, strong marketing skills, a mastery of trend analysis, and basic business acumen are important for entrepreneurial shoe designers interested in starting their own footwear lines.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average annual salary earned by fashion designers of all kinds, including shoe designers, was $72,620 in May 2012. However, the BLS also notes that starting salaries within the field of fashion design tend to be low; designers begin to make money as they build their clientele and develop a market for their particular design aesthetic. New York and California employ more fashion designers than do other states.

In 2012, the BLS reported that about 25% of fashion designers, including shoe designers, were self-employed. Because the fields of shoe design span the creative (women's designer shoes) and the practical (orthopedic footwear), possible career directions are diverse for those with a strong basic skill set.

Alternate Career Options

Graphic Designer

Graphic designers work with clients, art directors or other colleagues to create images or images and text that convey a desired concept. Some designs may be developed by hand or with computer software. A bachelor's degree and a portfolio are common requirements for employment. Software vendor-issued certification is available.

The BLS predicts that jobs for graphic designers will increase 7% from 2012-2022; while print opportunities are expected to decline, electronic and web opportunities are expected to increase, and employment is likely to be competitive. The average pay for this job was $48,730 in 2012, per BLS.


A buyer gathers details about a company's inventory and sales, suppliers, and vendors to make decisions about what products to buy for a company to resell. A buyer may be responsible for single or multiple lines (or types of product). Education requirements vary widely, but on-the-job training is common. The BLS predicts that wholesale and retail buyers can expect job growth of 7% from 2012-2022. This career paid an average salary of $57,420 in 2012, per the BLS.

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