Fashion Buyer Degree and Certificate Program Overviews

Fashion merchandising degree and certificate programs provide students with an overview of general business practices as well as a focus on the skills and knowledge necessary within the fashion world.

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Essential Information

Through courses in marketing, management and strategic planning, fashion merchandising programs teach students the basic business skills they will need for a fashion career. Courses teach students to analyze consumer research to determine shoppers' desires and look at fashion trends to see what will sell. Many bachelor's degree programs call for study abroad to give students experience with the fashion industry.

Students need no previous experience or training to enroll. Undergraduate certificate programs, which can be completed in about a year, offer only courses related to business and merchandising, while 2-year associate's and 4-year bachelor's degree programs also include general education courses such as English composition, social studies and mathematics. Bachelor's programs often require a study abroad experience.

Certificate in Fashion Merchandising

A fashion merchandising certificate program introduces students to the fashion industry and basic business practices. Students can develop planning, marketing, and management skills. This type of program can typically be completed within one year and require applicants to have a high school diploma or GED prior to admission. Coursework covers key theories and practices of retail management. Common courses may include:

  • Fashion analysis
  • Fashion planning and control
  • Visual merchandising
  • Clothing and society
  • Human relations

Associate Degree in Fashion Merchandising

Associate degree programs in fashion merchandising typically award an Associate of Science or Associate of Arts and provide students with a foundation in fashion merchandising, fashion marketing, and business principles. Students explore the merchandising environment including the functions of buyers, account executives, planners, and product developers within the industry. Many programs require an internship or participation in cooperative education opportunity. An associate's degree program usually takes two years to complete and requires a high school-level education prior to enrollment.

In addition to the core fashion merchandising curriculum, program coursework incorporates general education courses in the liberal arts. Common courses may include:

  • Fashion marketing
  • Fashion trends
  • Retail sales
  • Textiles
  • Color theory and analysis

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Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Fashion Merchandising

The curriculum for the bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising teaches students to identify style and fashion trends in order choose appropriate items for specified target markets. Students learn how to assess and respond to consumer behavior patterns and economic factors. Many programs offer students the opportunity to study abroad or participate in an internship to become more familiar with the fashion industry on a global level. In addition to a high school diploma and SAT or ACT scores, applicants to the B.S. program may also be required to complete prerequisite coursework in art and design, English, math, or introductory fashion courses.

Program coursework combines general education and major specific courses to create a comprehensive fashion merchandising curriculum. Common courses may include:

  • Fashion promotion
  • Retail buying principles
  • Costume history
  • Accounting
  • International fashion

Popular Career Options

A certificate program in fashion merchandising prepares individuals for entry-level positions within the fashion industry. Job opportunities include

  • Retail sales associate
  • Assistant fashion buyer
  • Retail manager

Popular Career Options

Graduates with an associate's degree in fashion merchandising are prepared for entry-level positions with retail and wholesale organizations ranging from large department stores to small specialty boutiques. Available opportunities include:

  • Vendor relations specialist
  • Associate fashion buyer
  • Sales representative
  • Visual merchandiser

Employment and Salary Information

Graduates of fashion merchandising programs are prepared to pursue careers as buyers within the retail and apparel industries. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that the employment of wholesale and retail buyers would increase by 6% from 2014 to 2024. According to the BLS, the median wage for wholesale and retailer buyers $52,940, as of May 2015.

Fashion merchandising programs focus on marketing, managing, and other business skills that those interested in careers as fashion buyers may need. Graduates have a range of employment options including vendor relations specialist, associate fashion buyer and sales representative.

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