Fashion Designer: Employment Info & Career Requirements

Learn about education requirements, employment prospects and earnings potential for fashion designers. Find out what types of career tools and skills are necessary to succeed in the field, as well as alternative career options for students who are interested in the accessories and fashion industry.

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Career Definition for a Fashion Designer

Fashion designers create sketches and patterns and choose the fabrics and materials for accessories, apparel and shoes. Their activities can include staying abreast of fashion forecasts and trends, developing accessory or garment prototypes, participating in fashion shows and finalizing the production process. They may also be involved in marketing and promoting their products to customers, retailers and wholesalers.

Education Bachelor's of fine arts, master of fine arts, postbaccalaureate certificate
Job Skills Drawing and illustration skills, communication skills, attention to detail
Median Salary (2017)* $67,420
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 3% increase

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A number of public and private institutions across the country offer courses and degree programs in fashion design, such as those than can lead to a Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts or a Postbaccalaureate Certificate in Fashion Design. According to the International Academy of Design & Technology, a fashion design curriculum typically includes topics in computer-based design, pattern drafting and manufacturing. Hands-on experience is acquired through assistant design positions and internships.

Skills Required

Fashion designers must have the drawing and illustration skills necessary to visualize a concept or design. Good communication skills are also required, especially when working as a member of a team or explaining construction techniques to sewers. Additional abilities and skills include an attention to detail, creativity and decisiveness.

Career and Salary Outlook

As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a 3% growth in jobs is expected for fashion designers nationwide between 2016 and 2026. A quality portfolio, formal design training and experience in the field will be key to obtaining a job. In May 2017, fashion designers earned a median annual salary of $67,420, with California and New York offering some of the highest levels of employment (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Similar career choices within this field include:

Jewelers and Precious Stone and Metal Workers

Artisans who work with metals and precious stones appraise, design and repair jewelry. Training usually takes place on the job, but short-term programs at trade schools can also provide aspiring professionals with information about repair and resizing techniques, computer-aided design and materials. According to the BLS, a 7% decline in employment opportunities is expected for jewelers and metal workers from 2016-2026. As of May 2017, professionals employed in the field were paid a median annual salary of $37,960 (www.bls.gov).

Models

Models, especially those who specialize in fashion modeling, pose for customers or photographers at advertising, catalog and magazine shoots or in runway shows. A formal education is not required to begin a career; training in the use of cosmetics and movement can be found at modeling schools. Between 2016 and 2026, employment opportunities for models nationwide are projected to see little or no change, as reported by the BLS. In May 2017, models earned a median hourly wage of $11.01, with those in the top 10% earning in excess of $23.78 (www.bls.gov).

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