Online Visual Merchandising Degrees by Degree Program Level

Find out about online visual 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

Visual merchandising operates as a component of the online fashion merchandising degree programs offered by many schools at the associate's and bachelor's levels. These programs are typically offered fully online, allowing students to access video lectures and course materials online at their own convenience within set deadlines. Additionally, they can communicate with classmates and instructors through chat rooms, message boards and e-mail. Students will need access to Adobe software, as well as a digital camera to complete coursework.

An associate's degree generally requires two years of full-time study, while a bachelor's degree usually takes four years. Many courses can be completed virtually while some programs require that students get hands-on experience through internships in the fashion industry. General education courses such as history, mathematics and science often round out a necessary course load.

In a fashion merchandising program, students get a broad foundation in general business principles through courses that may include sales, e-commerce, human resources management and financial management. They learn about fashion merchandising and marketing and get an in-depth look at the industry by studying fashion history, textiles, fashion show production and product development. In their courses, students learn to organize the products and utilize both business and design principles to create appealing displays.

Associate's Degree

An online associate degree in fashion merchandising provides students with a solid foundation in fashion marketing and fashion merchandising principles, which involves an emphasis on visual merchandising concepts and techniques. Students study merchandising team development, product development and contemporary retail management. The program may help develop creative skills and analytical thinking. Internships may be offered to give students a chance to acquire real-world experience.

Courses

These cover a variety of topics and often incorporate visual merchandising concepts and techniques throughout the curriculum. The following is a list of common classes in online programs.

Fashion Marketing

Utilizing case studies, this course focuses on the integration of marketing concepts, practices and applications. Students analyze opportunities for merchandise positioning, targeting, segmentation of apparel and brand imagery.

Fashion Merchandising

Lessons provide a comprehensive look at the retail environment, the merchandising team and techniques used by fashion and visual merchandisers. Demands teamwork to simulate various merchandising projects and displays.

Contemporary Retail Management

Students study the impact a shopping experience has on consumer shopping. The course covers the operational segments and function of the fashion industry along with employee contributions to sales productivity and customer satisfaction.


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Bachelor's Degree

At the bachelor's level, students learn how to develop, analyze and implement sales strategies in a retail environment. The curriculum combines courses in design, visual merchandising, knitwear, textiles and merchandising and explores the importance of visual merchandising in the fashion industry, which includes sales displays, runway shoes and online retail presentations.

The program combines fashion design with computer skills to prepare graduates to work as fashion merchandisers. Students may produce a collection of professional-quality work culminating in a fashion portfolio that demonstrates technical and stylistic expertise. Depending on the program, curriculum requirements can range from 130-180 credit hours. Computer software requirements for certain courses may include the use of Adobe Photoshop CS4, a digital camera or Adobe Acrobat Professional.

Courses

Courses include a core curriculum combined with program electives and general education. A sampling is presented in more detail below.

Consumer Motivation in Fashion

Lessons cover the psychographic and demographic trends that influence fashion marketing. Students learn to identify what motivates customers to buy as they study tactics and methods used to appeal to specific target markets.

Visual Merchandising

Students learn to create their own displays and develop an eye for visual appeal. Introduces consumer buying habits and the latest techniques and principles used in the visual organization of merchandise, including fixtures, signage, lighting, props and mannequins.

Fundamentals of Management

Engages the different elements of business management, which includes organization, ethics, planning, decision-making and leadership. Utilizes case studies to teach application of these concepts to real business situations.


Career Information

An online program in fashion merchandising prepares graduates for various careers, such as visual merchandising, styling, retail management and retail sales. Department stores, boutiques, specialty stores and other retail outlets all employ graduates of a fashion merchandising programs.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment opportunities within clothing, accessory and general merchandise stores are expected to increase by 7% between 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). However, it is important to note that growth within the industry depends heavily on consumer spending and the health of the economy. According to the BLS, formal college education has become increasingly important for candidates seeking higher-level managerial positions, such as visual merchandising directors, designers or consultants.

According to the BLS, employment opportunities in the retail and fashion sales sector are much the same for graduates of associate and bachelor's degree programs. The BLS reports that computer skills are increasingly important for managers in this sector, so the more advanced computer skills taught in some bachelor's degree programs may be helpful.

Online degrees in visual merchandising are available at the associate's and bachelor's levels, often fully online. Courses cover the marketing and merchandising aspects of fashion design, as well as management principles.

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