Distance-learning master's degree programs in merchandising that can be completed 100% online are available. Students in these programs are typically required to complete a practicum or thesis toward the end of their studies. Because it is difficult to find master's degree programs specifically in fashion merchandising online, the practicum or thesis is a good opportunity for students interested in fashion to apply the merchandising concepts they've learned throughout the program to that field. A bachelor's degree is required to get into this program.
Master's Degree in Merchandising
A master's degree program in merchandising provides students with the skills needed to increase sales in a retail or wholesale environment. Students study the purchasing behavior of consumers, current market trends and product development. To apply for a master's program, students must already possess a bachelor's degree. Some professional experience in retailing would be helpful, but is not required.
Program Information and Technical Requirements
Most online programs consist of 36 credit hours and typically take two years or more to complete. Some online programs are offered through the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance (IDEA). Great Plains IDEA provides online graduate programs in affiliation with 11 research universities that are located mainly in the Midwest. Some of the colleges that participate in the program are South Dakota State University, University of Missouri and University of Nebraska.
To participate in the online classes, students will need access to a computer and a connection to the Internet. They will also need an email address and, for Great Plains IDEA courses, they will need to create an online account.
List of Common Online Merchandising Courses
Most programs require at least 24 credit hours of course work in merchandising along with additional courses outside the major. Each program also requires the student to submit a final master's thesis, exam or project. Examples of the types of courses in merchandising include:
Students research the buying habits of consumers and the psychology behind purchasing decisions in this class. Through interviews, market surveys and in-store observation, students learn what motivates people from varying cultures and demographics to buy or not to buy.
International Trade and Merchandising
It is common today for manufactured goods, such as textiles and apparel, to be globally sourced. Students in this course investigate the challenges of managing labor, raw materials, quotas and duty in various countries.
By reviewing case studies, students learn effective strategies for attaining increased sales. These strategies might include the use of loss-leaders, eye-catching displays, cross-selling or discount pricing.
Graduates with a master's degree in merchandising may find positions as sales managers, marketing managers or buyers. Environments they might work in include purchasing departments, retail stores or wholesale operations.
Salaries for sales managers are dependent on education level and experience. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov) reports the median annual salary for a sales manager employed in a department store in 2015 as $81,180. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment opportunities for sales managers to rise by 5% between the years 2014 and 2024.
While there are no doctoral-level degrees in fashion merchandising, students who wish to continue their education may choose to pursue either a Ph.D. in international merchandising or a Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) with a concentration in marketing. Graduates of a Ph.D. program can lead to an academic teaching or research position, while the DBA is intended for those wishing to remain in the business world. Some DBA programs are offered fully online.
Since it's not easy to find an online master's degree program in fashion merchandising, students who have an interest in this area can opt for a completely online master's degree program in merchandising. This degree can lead to a career working in purchasing departments, retail stores or wholesale operations.