Schools with Footwear Design Programs: How to Choose

Footwear design programs teach students to design, produce, exhibit and market boots, fashion shoes and high-performance athletic footwear. Students take courses in design elements, footwear production skills and, sometimes, the history of footwear.

While there are limited footwear design programs domestically, this field is an integral part of many accessory and fashion design programs, which are more prevalent. Undergraduate and graduate degree programs in these fields can be found at art institutes, community colleges and 4-year universities.

Schools with Accessory and Fashion Design Programs

Programs for aspiring footwear designers can be found at these schools:

College/University Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Undergraduate Tuition and Fees (2015-2016)*
Fashion Institute of Technology New York, NY 4-year, Public Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's $5,230 In-state; $14,230 Out-of-state
California College of the Arts San Francisco, CA 4-year, Private Bachelor's $43,708
Long Beach City College Long Beach, CA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $1,182 In-state; $7,398 Out-of-state
Texas Tech University Lubbock, TX 4-year, Public Bachelor's $8,028 In-state; $17,388 Out-of-state
Syracuse University Syracuse, NY 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's $43,318
Academy of Art University San Francisco, CA 4-year, Private for-profit Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's $20,340
American River College Sacramento, CA 2-year, Public Certificate, Associate's $1,104 In-state; $7,440 Out-of-state
Drexel University Philadelphia, PA 4-year, Private not-for-profit Bachelor's, Master's $48,791
Palomar College San Marcos, CA 2-year, Public Associate's $1,338 In-state; $7,078 Out-of-state

Source: *National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)

School Selection Criteria

There are several things to consider when selecting a footwear design school.

  • Students should take advantage of educational opportunities like internships with nationally recognized design firms, design competitions and group projects.
  • Students interested in an international career in footwear fashion design should seek study-abroad opportunities and possibly learn a foreign language; Italian may be a good selection.
  • Program selection can also depend on career goals. Some degree programs, for example, include courses in marketing and emphasize the business side of footwear design. Students who graduate from these programs have a wide variety of career options, such as merchandiser, design assistant, showroom manager, customer service representative or freelance designer.

Associate's Degree Programs

Associate's degree programs in footwear, accessory, fashion or apparel design typically take 1-2 years to complete. Students interested in footwear design take specific courses in footwear construction and materials while also acquiring hands-on skills that include creating prototypes of the footwear and other accessories they've designed. A few schools also offer certificate programs in specialized areas of accessory design, such as athletic shoe design.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) Programs

Students who want to run their own businesses might complete a bachelor's degree program in fashion design or a similar field. These programs emphasize portfolio creation and exhibition of student collections, often during the final year of study, to prepare graduates to seek employment. BFA programs in this field often include courses in business, marketing and art history, as well as courses specific to accessory design.

There are a select number of colleges that offer footwear design programs, though most footwear design instruction is incorporated into such programs as accessory design or fashion and apparel design. It's important to review the courses offered in each program to ensure that it includes the type of training you need to suit your long-term career goals.

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