Fashion Industry Careers: Educational Requirements and Career Info

A degree in fashion design or merchandising typically covers sewing and draping techniques, technical and textile design, and marketing. Find out about the requirements needed to become a fashion designer, technical designer, or fashion merchandiser.

If your passion is fashion, and you have the skills to match, consider working as a fashion merchandiser or a technical, fashion, or textile designer. An associate's degree is required to get your foot in the door and a bachelor's can help position you for more senior jobs.

Essential Information

Those who possess a flair for fashion and style might be attracted to a career in the fashion industry. This industry offers varied career paths. Associate's degree programs offer training in the skills needed for entry-level positions, while bachelor's degree programs include liberal arts studies and courses to help graduates advance to supervisory positions. Read on to learn more about some of the most popular careers in this field.

Career Textile and Fashion Designer Technical Designer Fashion Merchandiser
Education Requirements Associate's or Bachelor's Degree Associate's Degree in Technical Design or Apparel Production Associate's or Bachelor's Degree in Fashion Merchandising
Job Growth (2014 - 2024)* 3% increase for Fashion Design Industry 9% decline in Apparel Manufacturing Industry 3%
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $63,670 $25,830 for all Tailors and Dressmakers $95,890 for all Advertising and Promotions Managers

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Graduates with a degree in fashion design or merchandising are qualified to work for retailers or at fashion and trade shows. They often choose fashion careers that allow them to design and create clothing, or use their experience to apply for marketing industry jobs. Fashion designer, technical designer and fashion merchandiser are a few of the possible career options.

Textile and Fashion Designer

Textile and fashion designers are the artists of the clothing industry. Textile designers embellish fabric through the application of color, weaving, beading or embroidery. Fashion designers select fabrics, sketch their design and make a model using cheaper materials. They sew samples of the final design to present at fashion and trade shows and to retailers. The styles they create drive the demand for fashion.

A keen eye for color and style and knowledge of trends are essential for textile and fashion designers. Students enrolled in an associate's or bachelor's degree program in textile design study lace and embroidery design, color fundamentals, designs for knit fabrics and screen print techniques. Bachelor's degree programs offer research projects and product-specific courses. Entry-level positions in textile design include colorist, woven fabrication designer, knit designer and screen print artist.

In addition to classes in pattern design, sewing techniques and draping, a bachelor's degree program in fashion design typically offers specialization in a clothing market, such as children's wear, knitwear or special occasion. Professional opportunities integrated into the program include working on runway shows and fashion exhibitions and attending industry events. Fashion design graduates may begin their careers as assistant designers, junior designers, sketching assistants or stylists.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the fashion design industry is projected to see an increase of 3% in job openings from 2014-2024, based on growth in the wholesale clothing market ( As of 2015, the median yearly salary for fashion designers in the U.S. was $63,670, the BLS reports, with the highest earners making upwards of $125,270 per year.

Technical Designer

This segment of the industry focuses on the technical aspects of apparel production. Fabric/apparel patternmakers use a computer to trace the pieces of a sample garment onto fabric, drawing buttonholes, pockets and pleats. The pieces are adjusted so the garment can be produced in a range of sizes.

Dressmakers and sewers bring the pieces of the garment together to create the final product. Custom tailors adjust the fit of a garment to an individual's body.

Skill in pattern cutting, garment construction and knowledge of industry standards are essential for anyone interested in this sector. An associate's degree in technical design or apparel production offers courses in clothing construction, computer aided apparel design, apparel production and accounting procedures. Entry-level jobs include sample maker, seamstress, pattern maker and alteration specialist.

The BLS projects a 9% decline in job opportunities in the apparel manufacturing industry for the 2014-2024 decade, with much work in the industry still taking place internationally. BLS data indicated a mean salary of $23.58 hourly, or a $43,900 annual median salary, for fabric and apparel patternmakers as of May 2015. During the same period, tailors, dressmakers and custom sewers earned a mean hourly wage of $13.76, or an annual median salary of $25,830 per year, according to the BLS.

Fashion Merchandiser

Fashion merchandisers bring the latest in fashion to the consumer through window and in-store displays that entice customers to buy the displayed fashions. A fashion merchandiser needs a strong visual aesthetic, combined with creative merchandising techniques.

Fashion merchandising degree programs offer training in advertising and promotion, fashion merchandising, marketing principles and retail management. Entry-level positions are available as department managers, visual merchandising team, special events planner and personal shopper.

A career in fashion merchandising closely resembles a job in advertising and marketing. According to the BLS, those working in advertising and marketing management made a median annual salary of $95,890 as of May 2015, with most salaries falling between $42,440 and $144,930 per year. The BLS reported a 3% projected increase in jobs from 2014-2024.

Whether your skills lie in visualizing new designs, bringing those designs into the physical realm, or marketing them to consumers, get the ball rolling with a degree in the fashion or advertising field. All of these jobs require artistic vision and inspiration as well as more job-specific skills that can be gained through portfolio work while in college.

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