Apparel Design Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Students interested in training for a career in this field can enroll in a certificate, associate's or bachelor's degree program in apparel design. See program requirements, details and coursework, as well as employment information.

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Essential Information

A certificate program in apparel design provides students with the basic skills needed to pursue an entry-level position in fashion design and merchandising. Associate's degree programs cover some of the same skills as certificate programs, though they may include more experiential learning opportunities through lab training and design studios. A bachelor's degree might be beneficial for those seeking advancement in the field. Students are often required to complete a portfolio of work that they can use to obtain internships and jobs upon graduation.

A high school diploma or its equivalent is generally required for admission to these programs. Some schools also require students to have a basic understanding of sewing and garment construction prior to beginning core courses.

Apparel Design Certificate

The courses offered within a certificate program in apparel design provide students with an introduction in the basic components of fashion design. Students learn to produce flat sketches of garments using computer software programs. They also learn how to work in a design room, catalog fabrics and trims, perform spec writing and update sample boards. Some possible course topics include:

  • Fashion sketching
  • Analysis of fabrics
  • Patterns
  • Principles of design
  • Computer-aided design
  • Apparel manufacturing

Associate of Science in Apparel Design

Associate's degree programs in apparel provide students with the fundamental knowledge and skills needed to gain entry-level positions in fashion design, manufacturing and wholesale. These programs may offer students the chance to further explore theories of color, design and patterning. Students also often have more opportunities to gain first-hand experience working in design studios, constructing garments, selecting fabrics and operating apparel production equipment. In addition to core, practical courses related to garment design, associate's degree programs in apparel design include those classes that cover the business elements of the industry. Some examples of courses include:

  • Fashion design
  • Apparel manufacturing
  • Electronic pattern making
  • Portfolio development
  • Fashion line development
  • Business communications

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Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design

Bachelor's degree programs in apparel design provide students with the practical skills required for garment production while also allowing them to develop their creative thinking skills. Students gain hands-on instruction in manual pattern drafting, computer-aided fashion sketching and apparel structuring. The courses offered in a bachelor's degree program in apparel design are divided among classroom lectures, laboratory work and independent studio hours. Some examples include:

  • Textile analysis
  • Drawing and design
  • Color theory
  • Illustration for apparel design
  • Fabric design workshop
  • Apparel design studio and research

Popular Career Options

While a certificate program in apparel design may not prepare graduates to become full-fledged fashion designers, it can give them a foot in the door. The careers available to graduates of an associate's degree program in apparel design are slightly more advanced than those available to graduates of a certificate program in the field. Some individuals work as fabric buyers, assistant merchandisers, apparel product developers and technical designers. Other common positions are:

  • Design room assistant
  • Assistant apparel designer
  • Production assistant
  • Customer service representative
  • Assistant to fabric buyer
  • Associate designer

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 23,100 fashion designers worked in the United States in 2014. Professionals in the field earned a median annual salary of $63,670 in 2015. Employment in the profession is predicted to grow by 3% between 2014 and 2024, which continues an industry trend of a high number of potential employees competing for limited positions.

Continuing Education

Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in apparel design can go on to earn a master's degree in the field. These programs are ideal for those who want to design their own lines or work as creative directors for established lines. Master's degrees in fashion merchandising are also ideal for designers who are interested in working in the business side of the fashion industry.

Apparel design programs are available at the certificate, associate's degree and bachelor's degree levels to train students in the required design, manufacturing and business skills needed to work as fashion designers. Master's degree programs are available to graduates of bachelor's programs to advance their careers, as competition in the industry is high.

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