Schools with Apparel Design Programs: How to Choose

Dec 10, 2019

Prospective apparel designers will study all of the stages that clothing goes through before reaching consumers, from a designer's vision to the manufacturing process. Students can find apparel design programs in every level of schooling.

Apparel design programs are offered by community colleges, technical schools, art schools, and universities. Programs are available from the undergraduate certificate to the graduate degree level, and subjects range from pattern making to design theory.

Schools with Apparel Design Programs

These schools each offer any type of program in apparel or fashion design. Annual tuition rates are based on undergraduate degree-granting programs:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees (2018-2019)*
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah, GA 4-year, Private Bachelor's, Master's $37,130
Fashion Institute of Technology New York, NY 4-year, Public Associate's, Bachelor's $5,740 in-state, $15,520 out-of-state
California College of the Arts San Francisco, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $49,138
The New School New York, NY 4-year, Private Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's $49,064
Massachusetts College of Art and Design Boston, MA 4-year, Public Certificate, Bachelor's $13,200 in-state, $36,400 out-of-state
Michigan State University East Lansing, MI 4-year, Public Bachelor's $14,460 in-state, $39,766 out-of-state
University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 4-year, Public Bachelor's $11,000 in-state, $27,334 out-of-state
Keiser University Fort Lauderdale, FL 4-year, Private Associate's $20,208

Source: *NCES College Navigator

School Selection Criteria

Some considerations for students entering this field include:

  • Apparel design programs should give students the chance to make connections and explore possibilities in the design world; many programs allow or require students to study for a semester or two at schools in fashion hot-spots such as New York or Milan.
  • Apparel design is hands-on, so opportunities to absorb and practice this skill, from student fashion shows to field trips, will be promoted by schools with a high level of commitment to their design programs.
  • The field of fashion and apparel design is competitive, and an internship gives students an introduction to the industry and helps ease the transition between schooling and career.
  • Computer use is becoming the norm for many apparel design tasks, so schools should ensure that students are up-to-date on computer design industry trends.

Certificate in Apparel Design

An apparel design certificate is usually earned upon the completion of 35 to 40 units that prepare students for entry-level positions in design rooms. Some schools allow this coursework to be applied toward an associate's degree. Students may be required to compile a portfolio and participate in an internship.

Associate of Applied Science in Apparel Design

Preparing the student for jobs such as pattern maker, alterations specialist and designer, the Associate of Applied Science in Apparel Design program typically requires completion of technical courses in addition to design courses. Some colleges offer apparel or fashion design as an Associate of Science degree. Associate's degree programs usually have the same core courses and graduation requirements that certificate programs do, but they also include general education courses. Toward the end of the program, students may develop their own clothing lines.

Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design

In order to earn a Bachelor of Science in Apparel Design, students complete studio work and portfolio reviews in addition to theory coursework. Some schools base entry into the major upon reviews of student portfolios. Other requirements could include completing an internship and creating a clothing line.

Master of Science in Apparel Design

A Master of Science in Apparel Design gives students the preparation they need to enter upper-level positions in the apparel industry or pursue Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in apparel or fashion design programs, many of which are offered by the same schools that offer master's degree programs in apparel design. To obtain a graduate-level degree, students are required to complete and defend a research thesis that is related to textiles or apparel. Some programs require the development of a professional portfolio and an internship instead of a thesis.

To summarize, different program options, lengths, and concentrations exist in the field of apparel design, based on the career goals of students. Any prospective student should consider the availability of internship opportunities and hands-on learning, as well as how each school's curriculum has responded to the changing times and trends.

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