Online Apparel Merchandising Degrees: Overview of Programs

Find out about online apparel merchandising courses and in which degrees they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

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Essential Information

Apparel or fashion merchandising degree programs aren't especially common in an online format, although associate's degree programs in this field are more widely available than bachelor's degree programs.

In these programs, the coursework can be completed online. Programs often also include practical experiences or internships that require in-person attendance. Students may be able to participate in field trips, campus-based student groups and study abroad programs. A scanner, digital camera or specific software may be required to participate in the program.

Associate's Degrees in Apparel Merchandising

Apparel merchandisers provide the link between fashion and consumers, and they are involved with every aspect of the apparel industry. Basic courses in an associate's degree program cover textile manufacturing and fashion design, including the history of fashion and its continuous, fast-paced change. Students also learn how apparel merchandisers predict and identify fashion trends. Branding, retail buying, marketing, business studies and public relations are other aspects of Associate in Applied Science or Associate of Science in Apparel Merchandising programs.

Information and Requirements

Online associate degree programs can be completed within two years. Accelerated online programs are sometimes available. A computer with high-speed Internet and e-mail is required, so students can connect with instructors and classmates via chat and discussion forums. Access to a scanner or digital camera may be needed for some classes.

List of Common Apparel Merchandising Courses

The core online curriculum centers on apparel and business. However, some general education classes may be needed for an associate's degree. These may be taken online.

Merchandise Planning and Control

Online students learn the math applications necessary to calculate items, such as stock-to-sale ratios, mark-ups and sales. Students also explore seasonal purchase planning and retail inventory.

Fashion History

This course provides a context for contemporary design by looking at fashion history, and it examines fashion as both an influence on and reflection of culture. Coursework includes research and written papers that students submit online.

Visual Merchandising

Visual presentation can mean success or failure for retailers of apparel. This class looks in-depth at the elements of visual display, such as natural and artificial lighting, fixtures, store layout, clothing and accessories.

Textile Survey

Students learn about knitted and woven textiles and how to identify them. Production techniques, including those involving pattern and color design, are presented via pre-recorded videos that students download online.

Bachelor's Degrees in Fashion Merchandising

Equivalent to apparel merchandising, fashion merchandising is more readily available as an online bachelor's degree. A degree such as a Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising takes a comprehensive look at the fashion industry. Students explore merchandising through the analysis of textiles and apparel, retail business and buying information, and they learn the skills and methods for finding and predicting trends. Communication, leadership, critical thinking and decision making are important abilities for a merchandiser to have.

Information and Requirements

Although four years is the standard completion time for online bachelor's degrees, accelerated three-year schedules are sometimes offered. Technical requirements include access to a computer with high-speed Internet. Students may need to purchase specialized software and should expect to use a digital camera and discs.

List of Common Apparel Merchandising Courses

General education courses in natural science, humanities, math and social science must be fulfilled. Core business classes, such as business law, accounting, organizational theory, finance and ethics are often required for this degree.

Introduction to the Fashion Industry

Students in this online class learn fashion terminology and history, as well as how both wholesale and retail facets of the industry have become globalized. Instructors present information about how fashions start, grow and become trends.

Trend Forecasting

Important merchandising skills include trend identification and research. These concepts involve data collection, analysis and reporting. In addition, students learn how the fashion industry uses and benefits from trend predictions.

Promotion and Events

Persuading consumers to buy products is crucial to any retail business. This online class shows students ways to plan and carry out a fashion promotion. Besides choosing the right product to highlight, considerations include strategy, budgeting and media communications. Students are presented with methods for evaluation and analysis after the event.

Career Information

Apparel merchandising graduates may enter a wide variety of careers in the fashion industry. These include product development, retail management and merchandise buying. Opportunities for apparel coordinators exist at fashion magazines or design houses.

Graduates with a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising go on to work in such positions as buyers and retail store managers. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that buyers earned an annual median salary of $59,620 as of May 2015. First-line supervisors of retail sales workers earned an annual median salary of $38,310.

While not common, there are online apparel or fashion merchandising programs available at the bachelor's and - more commonly - associate's degree levels. These programs may require equipment like a digital camera or scanner, and they explore the topics of merchandising planning and control, fashion history and trend forecasting.

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