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Become a Technical Designer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a technical designer. Research the education and career requirements, training and experience required for starting a career in technical design. View article »

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  • 0:05 Becoming a Technical Designer
  • 0:40 Career Requirements
  • 1:27 Step 1: Earn a Degree
  • 2:30 Step 2: Gain Experience
  • 3:18 Step 3: Career Advancement

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Video Transcript

Becoming a Technical Designer

So you think you might like to become a technical designer? Though they can be found in other fields, technical designers work predominantly in the fashion manufacturing industry. A technical designer takes a newly created design idea and works with the manufacturer to bring it to life. They construct and engage in quality control for a variety of products, from handbags and footwear to one-of-a-kind garments and entire clothing lines. Technical designers work as part of a collaborative team of designers, merchandisers, manufacturers and other relevant personnel.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; associate's degree for some assistant designer positions
Degree Fields Fashion design, technical design
Certification Not required
Experience Varies; approximately one to three years for entry-level positions, five to ten years for senior positions.
Key Skills Proficiency with colors, garment construction, fabrications, pattern making, sewing and silhouettes; strong communication skills; team player; experience with web PLM/PDM, Illustrator, Microsoft Office, Excel, Outlook, Word and Photoshop; knowledge of creating technical packets; technical drawing
Salary (2015) $63,670 per year (Median salary for fashion designers)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

So what are the career requirements? Starting with the right education is important. Employers look for someone with at least an associate's degree, and some employers prefer a bachelor's degree. The degree field is fashion design or technical design. Most employers look for someone with 1-3 years' experience for entry-level positions and 5-10 years' experience for senior positions.

Key skills:

  • Proficiency with colors
  • Garment construction
  • Fabrications
  • Pattern making
  • Sewing and silhouettes
  • Strong communication skills
  • Team player

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for fashion designers is $63,670.

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Step 1: Earn a Degree

Some employers will accept applicants with an associate's degree. Completing an associate's degree program may serve as a means of transitioning into a four-year program that culminates in a professional degree.

Students are taught about digital imaging and how to work with industry-specific software used to develop and correct computerized patterns. They also learn how to develop technical packages, correct patterns and check sample garments for correct fit prior to manufacturing. Students will often have the chance to work on a special design project. Certificate programs may also be available for those already working in the field who are looking to specialize.

Here's a tip for success:

  • Explore workshops. Some schools may offer short, intensive workshops to introduce prospective students to their programs. Potential topics may include design basics, design process, basic fabrication, presentation and critique, team building and career planning.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Finding basic employment with a design firm before beginning a degree program, or while earning a degree, is one way of getting to know how the fashion design field works. Also, earning an associate's degree in two years may lead to entry-level employment and the chance to gain experience while continuing one's education.

Assistant technical designers can perform various duties, such as taking fitting notes and logging in data for vendors and factories, as well as creating, modifying and updating sample and technical packages.

Here's a tip for success:

  • Choose a program with a relevant internship. Some programs include an internship. These programs allow students to develop professional skill sets in professional work settings.

Step 3: Career Advancement

Gaining technical design experience can lead to senior and supervisory positions. One may also want to consider advancing their design career by pursuing a master's degree program in something like design and technology. Students in such a program expand their understanding of how technology affects the design process.

Here's a tip for success:

  • Learn about merchandising. By developing merchandising experience, one can improve his or her career opportunities. One way is to look for opportunities in the workplace as they open up. Another way is to specialize by pursuing a certificate program in fashion merchandising.

Earning a degree, gaining experience and pursuing career advancement are great steps to follow to make the most of a career as a technical designer.

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