Become a Stylist: Education and Career Roadmap

Stylists require little to no formal education. Learn about the training, job duties and certification requirements to see if this is the right career for you.

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Should I Become a Stylist?

Stylists are fashion professionals who provide style advice and coordinate outfits for their clientele. Careers can include personal fashion stylist and personal shopper. While it is possible to become a stylist with no more than an excellent eye for fashion trends and the ability to create attractive, well-put-together outfits, education, networking skills, and a good portfolio will be key to being successful in this field.

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Career Requirements

Degree Level None mandatory; 2- and 4-year degree programs related to fashion are available
Certification Voluntary through the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI)
Salary (2014) $50,904 for stylists; $40,566 for personal shoppers (median salary for both)

Sources: PayScale.com

Step 1: Become Educated

While a college degree is not always required to become a stylist, it can be helpful. An associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion design, fashion merchandising, or visual communication in a fashion-oriented program can help students gain an understanding of fashion basics and how to create looks for clients. Coursework in fashion trends, fashion design, color, textiles, styling, professional practices, and marketing can all be useful in this career.

Some schools and businesses offer training and education courses for prospective stylists. This can include noncredit certificate programs that provide an educational foundation and help with networking and building a portfolio.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Some fashion and design schools offer styling clubs as an extracurricular activity to give students the chance to network and build their portfolios with club projects. Working under the guidance of an established stylist or interning for a magazine, fashion design firm, or other fashion related business can provide prospective stylists with the skills they need to style others.

Some stylists gain experience by working as an assistant to other stylists, personal shoppers, wardrobe consultants, or closet organizers. Employment in retail stores can also provide insight into fashion trends and what people want to wear.

Step 3: Follow Fashion Trends

It can be important for stylists to have a grasp of current trends in fashion. Prospective stylists can follow trends by reading fashion magazines and blogs, shopping in department stores and boutiques, visiting fashion related websites, and attending fashion shows.

Step 4: Market Yourself

In addition to creating a cover letter and resume to apply for jobs, prospective stylists need a portfolio to present their styling work visually. According to the career center at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (www.fidm.edu) the portfolio should contain at least 12-14 photographs of the stylist's best work, displayed on a neutral background. Aspiring stylists can also gain an online presence by creating a website featuring photographs and descriptions of the outfits and looks that they create for clients.

Step 5: Seek Certification

The Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) offers several levels of certification for stylists and other image-consulting professionals, including stylists with varying levels of experience (www.aici.org). While certification is not required to work as a stylist, holding a credential from AICI can increase credibility and earning potential. In addition to passing a written exam, the highest levels of certification require significant paid experience as a stylist, recommendations from clients and industry colleagues, continuing education credits and a portfolio review.

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