Work in Apparel Manufacturing: Options and Requirements

Apparel manufacturing is generally learned on the job, though degree programs prepare students for non-production jobs such as fashion designers and managers. Continue reading for an overview of the training, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

Sewing machine operators, fashion designers and assemblers/fabricators all work within the field of apparel manufacturing. While there are no specific educational requirements for a career as a sewing machine operator, assemblers/fabricators can enter this profession with a high school diploma, and fashion designers are normally required to have a bachelor's degree in a relevant field.

Essential Information

Production-based jobs, such as sewing or clothing pressing, may require only a high school diploma or GED. Many industries provide on-the-job training, though some competency in a particular area may be necessary. Several schools offer relevant educational programs and courses in apparel manufacturing, including sewing and tailoring, industrial machine operations and pattern-making. Management of a production department may be attained through years of experience in the industry, though degrees in apparel production management and business management may provide a more direct avenue to supervisory positions.

Non-production professions vary in their educational requirements. While some careers may not require formal education, many schools and colleges provide training specific to these fields, and employers may prefer those with demonstrated proficiency in the trade. Other skilled professions, such as engineers or machine workers, may require a degree.

Career Sewing Machine Operator Assembler/Fabricator Fashion Designer
Education Requirements None High School Diploma Bachelor's degree typically required
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* -27% -1% 3%
Median Salary (2015)* $22,550 $27,620 $63,670

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Apparel manufacturing employs production line and professional workers in a variety of fields. Few educational requirements exist for most positions, though several colleges and universities offer career training and degree programs in apparel manufacturing, design, engineering and management to launch or advance a career in the industry.

The apparel manufacturing industry employs those who work on production assembly lines, performing specific tasks in the process of clothing creation, as well as non-production workers that are responsible for staff management and product operations. Technological advances in these professions have allowed for more efficient performance in the field, utilizing computer-based and automated equipment.

Apparel Manufacturing Production Jobs

Apparel manufacturing production workers usually perform repetitive assembly line activities. Although significant changes have been made in manufacturing tools and equipment, jobs in manufacturing production still require considerable hands-on labor. Assembly positions necessitate a high degree of concentration and efficiency, though they are typically considered entry-level jobs into the field. Assemblers and sewing machine operators are two such careers that fall into this category.

Apparel Manufacturing Non-Production Jobs

Non-production occupations deal with apparel manufacturing before and after a product is completed. Unlike production, non-production jobs may require a college degree or advanced, industry-specific skills. One such career is that of fashion designer. Fashion designers create patterns and images for clothing, accessory design, and footwear. Some designers specialize in one area while others master all three. Aspiring designers will need a degree, plus artistic creativity and excellent communication skills, as collaboration with companies and clients is commonplace.

Fashion designers create the look and pattern for apparel that will be produced and typically hold bachelor's degrees. Sewing machine operators and assemblers/fabricators don't require any formal training to prepare the parts of the item and put them together to complete the product.

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