Footwear Design Training Programs and Requirements

Private art and design schools often offer focused footwear and accessories design training programs at the undergraduate degree level. While associate and bachelor's degrees are the most common training avenues for footwear designers, some schools also offer certificate programs for specific footwear designs, such as athletic shoes.

Essential Information

Training in footwear design begins at the undergraduate level with a fashion-focused associate or bachelor's degree program. Many fashion design companies and retailers hire footwear design professionals with an associate degree; however, some prefer, if not require, candidates to have a bachelor's degree. A combination of experience and education may often be substituted for a 4-year degree. Experience in the field is vital, and most trained footwear designers start out in assistant or entry-level positions and work their way up.

  • Program Levels in Footwear Design: Associate's degrees, bachelor's degrees, certificate programs
  • Program Length: 1 year for associate's degrees, 4 years for bachelor's degrees

Associate's in Footwear Design

Associate degree programs in footwear or accessories design can be completed in as little as one year, since many programs are geared toward fashion degree-holders who seek specialty training in footwear design. Students learn about:

  • The history of shoe design trends
  • Basic shoe styles, including moccasins and oxfords
  • Footwear design tools

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in Fashion Design

Generally, BFA majors must complete core art courses on color and form. Fashion design majors can learn to create specialty shoes, such as boots or theater footwear. They study closed-shoe design strategies and learn to manipulate leather for shoe design. Students also learn marketing and merchandising fundamentals. Some course topics might include:

  • Sewing
  • Pattern drafting
  • Sketching
  • General design

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The BLS reports that fashion designers as of May 2014 make a mean annual wage of $73,690. The employment for fashion designers from 2012-2022 is expected to decline 3%, according to the BLS.

Workshops and Seminars

Footwear organizations, such as the American Apparel and Footwear Association (, often sponsor 1-day workshops or 2-3 hour seminars. Topics range from customs regulations to design trends. Both domestic and international fashion and footwear conferences and expos are also common and generally last for several days. Expos are a way for independent footwear designers to market their shoes and network with industry professionals.

Continuing Education

Fashion shows offer footwear designers the opportunity to study trends in color and style. Footwear designers can also look to websites for a number of resources, such as e-bulletins, and news articles. Additionally, the American Apparel and Footwear Association compiles statistical information and trend analyses on the footwear industry every year and then documents the information in its publications ShoeStats and Trends.

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