Fashion Design & Merchandising Career Options and Requirements

Fashion design and merchandising is typically offered as an associate's or bachelor's degree program. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

If you are looking for a career in fashion design and merchandising, consider becoming a fashion designer, retail buyer or a purchasing manager. Many of these professionals require some formal education, but none higher than a bachelor's degree, and get to work from different perspectives of the fashion industry.

Essential Information

For those with acute style sensibilities and the desire to inspire others, careers in fashion design and merchandising provide opportunities to set trends and stay abreast of the latest fashions. Many career paths in the fashion design and merchandising world require a bachelor's degree at minimum, and some jobs are available to those with only a high school diploma.

Career Titles Fashion Designer Retail Buyer Purchasing Manager
Required Education Bachelor's degree High school diploma or equivalent Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 3% 6% (for all wholesale and retail buyers, except for farm products) 1%
Average Salary (2015)* $73,180 $59,270 (for all wholesale and retail buyers, except for farm products) $114,130

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

The global field of fashion design and merchandising provides various career options for professionals at any level.

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers are responsible for overseeing the creation of clothing for a particular company based on upcoming trends. Fashion designers should possess a keen eye for trends in clothing, accessories and fabrics.

Retail Buyer

Fashion buyers find and purchase clothing and accessories for retailers large and small. People working in clothing retail see firsthand the latest trends and may have an opportunity to network while gaining a basic understanding of the industry.

Purchasing Manager

Purchasing managers in the fashion industry buy products for stores and companies to use or resell. They evaluate suppliers, negotiate contracts and review product quality. Working in small retail clothing stores can give aspiring fashion design and merchandising professionals some insight into the industry. These shops provide opportunities to learn about consumer buying habits and retail marketing methods.

Outlook and Salary Info

In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported average annual salaries for fashion designers and retail buyers of $73,180 and $59,270, respectively. The BLS projects an employment increase of six percent for retail and wholesale buyers between 2014 and 2024, while employment of fashion designers is expected to rise three percent during that same time. Purchasing managers earned an average of $114,130 in 2015, per the BLS, and they should see job growth of 1% from 2014-2024.


Fashion design and merchandising professionals should possess a keen eye for trends in clothing, accessories and fabrics. According to the BLS, it can be helpful to have experience in economics or business, since one must cater to the habits and needs of targeted consumers (

Associate's or Bachelor's Degrees

Fashion design and merchandising is a very competitive field, so an associate's or bachelor's degree might be required for many jobs. Many colleges and universities offer fashion design and merchandising degrees. One could expect to take classes such as fashion buying, retailing, visual marketing and textile design in a bachelor's degree program. In keeping with the global reach of the fashion industry, students in some of these programs have opportunities to study abroad.

Networking Skills

In this competitive field, networking skills can be highly important to fashion designers and merchandisers. Creating relationships with clients and colleagues helps professionals build their business and generate new ideas.

Fashion designers get to design new clothing fashions and trends while retail buyers and purchasing managers choose from the latest creations to supply clothing and retail stores. An associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion design and merchandising or a similar field is recommended due to the competitive nature of the fashion industry. Besides a taste in clothing and knowledge of the newest and up-and-coming trends, professionals in these careers need strong networking and interpersonal skills to help them be successful.

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