Fashion Schools and Training Programs: How to Choose

Lovers of fashion can pursue degrees and certificates at fashion schools throughout the U.S. Programs in fashion studies are available at the undergraduate and graduate levels.

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Fashion programs are available at colleges of art and design and general 4-year colleges and universities. These programs teach students about many different aspects of the fashion industry, including design, marketing and business.

10 Schools with Fashion Studies Programs

Fashion studies programs are widely available at a number of private and public universities. These are ten of the schools offering fashion studies or design programs across the country:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition (2015-2016)*
Columbia College Chicago Chicago, IL 4-year, Private Bachelor's $24,344
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $48,791
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising - Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 4-year, Private Associate's $29,930
Fashion Institute of Technology New York, NY 4-year, Public Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's $5,230 in-state, $14,230 out-of-state
Iowa State University Ames, IA 4-year, Public Bachelor's $7,736 in-state, $20,856 out-of-state
Kent State University Kent, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's $10,012 in-state, $18,212 out-of-state
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $34,970
University of Delaware Newark, DE 4-year, Public Bachelor's, Master's $12,520 in-state, $31,420 out-of-state
University of Minnesota - Twin Cities Minneapolis, MN 4-year, Public Bachelor's $13,790 in-state, $22,210 out-of-state
University of North Texas Denton, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's $9,730 in-state, $19,090 out-of-state

*Source: National Center for Education Statistics

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in fashion studies may want to keep these important considerations in mind when they are selecting a program:

  • Because fashion is such a broad field, different programs emphasize different aspects. Students should make sure that the curriculum aligns with their academic interests and career goals.
  • When considering programs that include research or thesis requirements, prospective students may want to find out about the interests and expertise of faculty members, who may act as advisors.
  • Prospective students may want to look for schools that offer state-of-the-art studios and technology, allowing students to experience the latest in computer design equipment and get cutting-edge hands-on training.
  • Some schools offer students relevant real-world experiences, such as internships. Prospective students may want to find out where they are available in order to ensure that they get experience in the setting where they would like to work, such as a major retailer or well-known fashion design studio.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs are available in fashion design and/or merchandising. They introduce students to the fundamentals of the fashion industry. Those that focus primarily on design emphasize the artistic aspects of the field, offering theoretical and studio-based coursework in fashion materials, construction and drawing. Fashion merchandising programs incorporate more business coursework, covering topics such as financial accounting, merchandise planning and retail sales promotion. All associate's degree programs include general education coursework, and they typically take two years of full-time study to complete.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degrees are offered in multiple areas of the fashion industry, ranging from fashion design and marketing to fashion journalism. Students can earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) in the field. Many design programs require students to complete a fashion collection and/or present a runway show. An internship may be required in any type of fashion program.

Master's Degree Programs

There are several master's-level options for students who are interested in fashion. Aspiring designers may pursue a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degree, which includes advanced courses in fashion design, a graduate internship in the field and a final thesis project consisting of a collection of fashion design work and an exhibition. Another option is a Master of Science (MS) in Business of Fashion, which includes a series of advanced courses in topics such as branding, digital marketing, fashion law and entrepreneurship. Master of Arts (MA) in Fashion Studies programs are also available for students who want to pursue high-level coursework and write a research-based thesis in a historical or theoretical aspect of fashion.

Certificate Programs

Undergraduate and post-baccalaureate certificates are available in a variety of areas of fashion, including fashion design and fashion retailing. Like associate's degree programs, undergraduate certificate programs introduce students to the fundamentals of the field. For students who already have educational experience in fashion, there are graduate certificate programs that allow them to advance their expertise in a fashion-related topic, such as fashion merchandising.

Fashion studies degree programs are a good way to gain a strong understanding of the world of fashion, often including subjects such as fashion history and relevant computer applications. Building a portfolio can help to find employment in the field, so students may want to consider a school's opportunities to gain this type of practical experience when deciding where to study.

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