Fashion Merchandising Career Options and Education Requirements

May 27, 2021

There are many career options that fall under the umbrella of fashion merchandising, including fashion designer, retail buyer and fashion merchandiser. These professions typically call for a 2- or 4-year college degree.

Essential Information

Fashion merchandising focuses on promoting and selling current and emerging fashion trends. It may also emphasize the planning, manufacturing and marketing of products from a design and manufacturing standpoint. Fashion merchandising students may pursue many career options, including positions as retail store managers and buyers, fashion designers and fashion merchandisers.

Career Titles Fashion Designers Retail Buyers Fashion Merchandiser
Education Requirements 2- or 4-year degree 2- or 4-year degree 2- or 4-year degree
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) -4%* 3% (purchasing managers)* 3% (purchasing managers)*
Median Salary (2020) $75,810* $66,690 (wholesale and retail buyers except farm products)* $66,690 (wholesale and retail buyers except farm products)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Fashion merchandising graduates have many opportunities for employment in the fashion and design industries. Because fashion merchandising programs include a healthy amount of business training, many graduates seek employment in management or buying positions. Likewise, many graduates seek employment in the design phase of the business as well as in marketing these designs. A fashion merchandising degree and a good portfolio can open many doors in the fashion and design industry.

Retail Store Manager or Buyer

Retail businesses such as clothing stores employ buyers to manage store inventories, interface with suppliers and manage purchasing budgets. Buyers may also be store managers who are responsible for selecting suppliers, determining which fashions the store will carry, setting delivery dates and evaluating the amount of inventory to purchase based on seasonal needs, emerging styles and projected supply and demand. Buyers are trained to forecast fashion trends, analyze value versus cost and assess competition.

Purchasing managers jobs were expected to increase 3% from 2019-2029, which is about as fast as the national average of 4% for all occupations. Wholesale and retail buyers earned a median yearly wage of $66,690 in May 2020 for wholesale and retail buyers except farm products, according to the BLS.

Fashion Merchandiser

Fashion merchandisers may work in the marketing, sales, product development and production departments of companies that create clothing, jewelry and other accessory lines. Retail stores also hire fashion merchandisers to plan and implement store displays. Fashion merchandisers may work directly with fashion designers as assistants, buyers and studio managers.

Though the BLS doesn't collect statistics on fashion merchandising careers, the outlook for wholesale and retail buyers can suffice. The BLS predicts a 1% decrease or lower in employment for these professionals between 2019 and 2029. As of 2020, the median salary for all wholesale and retail buyers was $66,690.

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers conceive and assist in creating clothing, shoes and accessories for purchase by retail stores and individual consumers. Designers may begin by studying past and current fashion to predict upcoming trends. They help determine new fashion trends by creating unique pieces or entire lines of a product. Designers may also draw conceptual sketches, select textiles and supervise the fabrication processes that produce their final designs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 4% decrease in jobs for fashion designers from 2019-2029. Fashion designers took in a median wage of $75,810 per year.

Education Requirements

Several colleges offer programs that lead to associate and bachelor's degrees in fashion merchandising. Both 2-year and 4-year programs offer sufficient training for the jobs listed above. Program applicants may be required to complete prerequisite courses, including introductory art, textiles, design and business. They may also be required to submit a portfolio that demonstrates their prior work and creative abilities. Fashion merchandising programs may include courses in fashion history, fabrics, sewing and computer-aided design.

Internship opportunities may be available through retail stores, manufacturers and design studios that offer further training and experience in the fashion industry. Due to the international influence of the fashion industry, fashion merchandising students may find it useful to seek out learning opportunities in cities that house major fashion districts, including New York, Paris and Milan.

Fashion merchandising can combine the creative with the business side of fashion through careers including designer, buyer or retailer. All these careers require associate's or bachelor's degrees in fields in fields such as fashion merchandising, which can including marketing, management and design courses. Internships are also important, especially in the design field.

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