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Footwear Design: Job Description & Career Info

Mar 06, 2019

A footwear design career is a challenging and rewarding choice for fashion designers with a particular interest in shoes, and the ability to specialize by type of consumer, style or shoe function makes it a particularly dynamic field of fashion design. Read further to learn more about this profession.

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Career Definition for a Footwear Designer

A career in footwear design offers a focused approach to fashion design; professionals conceptualize, create and showcase shoe designs for a variety of markets. Many footwear designers specialize even further, designing shoes for particular ages, genders, careers or environments; footwear for senior citizens, women, nurses or rock-climbing are just a few examples. Full-time footwear designer jobs can be found with corporate shoe retailers and boutique footwear design companies, but most footwear designers pursue freelance work or entrepreneurial ventures.

Education Associate's or bachelor's degree recommended
Job Skills Artistic, creative, detail oriented, interpersonal skills
Median Salary (2017)* $67,420 (all fashion designers)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 3% (all fashion designers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A degree is not obligatory, but those who earn a 2-year or 4-year degree in fashion design or fine art may find themselves better positioned to enter the competitive field of footwear design. General coursework includes fashion history, industrial design, shoe engineering and fashion merchandising. Because footwear designers often work independently, a solid education in business and marketing is also important, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Skills Required

A grasp of fashion trends is essential, as is a thorough understanding of the industrial design and manufacturing process. Footwear designers must also have artistic skills like drawing, an eye for color and knowledge of textures and fabrics. Skill with computer-aided design (CAD) programs is increasingly important in a digital marketplace. Because shoes often perform particular functions (such as running shoes), a grasp of podiatry and biomechanics is also useful for footwear designers.

Career and Economic Outlook

Staff positions as footwear designers are available but scarce, according to the BLS, so many shoe designers focus on building freelance careers which can be parlayed into starting new footwear design companies. A 3% increase in general fashion design positions was projected by the BLS from 2016-2026. Pay is highly inconsistent depending on the footwear designer's level of experience, reputation and target market, but a high income is possible. To give some idea of income in general, fashion designers, which would include footwear designers, bring in a median annual salary of $67,420 as of May 2017.

Alternate Career Options

An education in fashion design can prepare you for a variety of similar occupations, including industrial design and purchasing management.

Industrial Designer

Instead of designing shoes, these professionals consider form and function while designing products like toys, home appliances and cars. Normally having a bachelor's degree in engineering, industrial design or architecture, these designers also make use of their electronic portfolios to showcase examples of their best work. Employment growth of 4% was projected by the BLS from 2016-2026, which is slower than average. Industrial designers earned an annual median wage of $65,970 in 2017.

Buyers and Purchasing Agents

Education requirements vary widely, depending on the company and position, and on-the-job training normally spans at least a year. These professionals evaluate products, contracts and suppliers while buying goods for their companies to either use or resell. The BLS projected an employment decline of 3% from 2016-2026 for all buyers, purchasing managers and agents, and reported an annual median salary of $62,120 in 2017 for buyers and purchasing agents.

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