Fashion Merchandiser: Education Programs and Career Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a fashion merchandiser. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and internships to find out if this is the career for you.

Fashion merchandisers increase clothing sales by identifying and promoting current fashion trends. Completion of a certificate program is typically the minimum educational requirement. Those pursuing higher-level positions often obtain an associate's degree, bachelor's degree, or master's degree.

Essential Information

Fashion merchandisers spot emerging trends, create seasonal fashion lines, install store displays, track inventory and supervise sales. Experience in the field is vital, but several levels of certificate and degree programs also prepare candidates for a variety of fashion merchandising careers including merchandising manager, retail buyer, product coordinator and product developer.

Required Education Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level positions, associate's degree, bachelor's degree and master's degree programs are available for higher level positions
Other Requirements Optional internship programs to gain work experience
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 1% (purchasing managers)*
Median Salary (2015) $108,120 (purchasing managers)*

Source: *Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

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Education Programs for Fashion Merchandisers

Specific career goals determine the educational option selected. Job titles within this career include merchandise manager, retail buyer, product coordinator and product developer. Job seekers who have strong computer skills and a solid grasp of the global economy will be better prepared to meet the demands of this field. Internship programs can help students gain hands-on fashion merchandising experience, and relevant work experience in retail settings can also prove valuable. Those who seek top-level executive jobs in the field are required to have a master's degree in business administration, fashion merchandising or a related field.

Certificate Programs

Certificate programs offered at trade schools or community colleges cover introductory courses in fashion merchandising, such as fashion buying and the principles of retailing. Certificate programs prepare students for entry-level jobs in the field and usually take less than one year to complete.

Associate Degree Programs

Offered by community colleges, 2-year fashion merchandising programs give students a more in-depth education in marketing and business management. In addition to business and management skills, these fashion merchandising programs typically provide a foundation in the fashion industry, textiles and cultural aspects of clothing. Graduates learn to predict consumer behavior and ensure that products meet the needs of the consumer.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs in fashion merchandising typically expose students to the study of global fashion markets. Coursework emphasizes the development of managerial and fashion trend analysis skills. This course of study prepares students to work as retail managers, product coordinators and retail buyers.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's degrees in fashion merchandising offer students the opportunity to develop specialized knowledge to shape their careers. Advanced studies in fashion forecasting and the international fashion market provide a basis for better managerial decision making. Graduate students also gain deeper product knowledge and learn skills to evaluate the quality of fashion products. They may learn as much about design and textiles as about the business side of the fashion industry.

Career Outlook for Fashion Merchandisers

The fashion industry in the U.S. and around the world continues to grow, though economic factors have had an impact in recent years. Overall employment for purchasing managers is expected to grow at a rate of one percent from 2014-2024, which is slower than the total average for occupations in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Growth in the retail industry is likely to occur in superstores and other large discount retailers due to economic decline, according to the BLS. Smaller, more specialized retailers and traditional department stores may be vulnerable to declining economic conditions and changing fashion trends. Job seekers may find opportunities in other industries such as media, entertainment or advertising.

Fashion merchandisers support the success of a retail business by promoting the sale of current fashion trends. Academic programs in fashion may prepare individuals for other related positions, such as merchandising manager, product coordinator, or retail buyer. Purchasing managers made a median annual salary of $108,120 in 2015.

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