Top Online Bachelor's Degree Program in Fashion Merchandising
After extensive research, Study.com has identified a top program for students interested in studying fashion merchandising online. We considered factors like accessibility and tuition rates along with data from the U. S. Department of Education. We also factored in opportunities for students like multiple degree options and access to current technologies used in the industry. If you're thinking of earning a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising, be sure to check out the program described below.
Central Michigan University
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Prospective fashion merchandising students can choose from four degree tracks at Central Michigan University: The school offers both Bachelor of Applied Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees, and each degree offers a choice of emphasis on product development or visual merchandising. In addition to a course of study tailored to their particular interest, fashion merchandising students at Central Michigan benefit from access to cutting-edge technologies used in the field like 3-D printing and computer-aided design. The school proudly notes an emphasis on hands-on learning, helping students to develop a portfolio of work to share with potential employers. Students can also choose from Central Michigan's wide range of minors offered online including business communication and entrepreneurship, thoroughly preparing them to enter the fashion industry upon graduation.
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Online Fashion Merchandising Degree Overview
Fashion merchandising degree programs are available from schools across the country. Students can pursue a fashion merchandising degree in New York, California and everywhere in between, and several of these programs are available in online formats for flexibility. These degree programs aim to teach students about the fashion industry and equip them with the business skills needed to buy and sell products in the industry. Many of these programs include unique hands-on learning experiences to help prepare students for various types of careers. Explore some of the different online degree and certificate programs available in fashion merchandising below.
Online Associate Degrees in Fashion Merchandising
Students can choose between online Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees in areas like fashion merchandising or fashion merchandising and management. Most of these programs can be completed in 2 years, but some programs may allow students to work at their own pace. These programs may require between 60 and 61 credits and are commonly designed as transfer degrees to allow students to transfer general education credits to a 4-year institution and continue their studies. Some of these programs may include an internship for hands-on learning.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Fashion Merchandising
Online Bachelor of Science (BS), Bachelor of Professional Studies (BPS), and Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degrees are available in areas like fashion merchandising and fashion merchandising and retail management. Many of these programs require around 120 to 122 credits and may conclude with a senior capstone experience. Other programs may also offer internship and/or senior co-op experiences for hands-on learning. Depending on the program, courses may only be 8 weeks in length and multiple start dates may be available for flexibility.
Online Master's Degrees in Fashion Merchandising
Students can earn a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Fashion Merchandising or Fashion Merchandising and Retail Management. There is even at least one online Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree available with a concentration in global fashion merchandising and management. In general, online master's programs in fashion merchandising may require around 36 credits and take about 2 years to complete. Some programs may give students the option of completing a thesis or final project. Students may be able to customize their program of study based on their personal interests and/or experience in the field.
Online Doctoral Degrees in Fashion Merchandising
There is at least one hybrid Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Apparel, Merchandising, and Design degree program available, as well as on-campus PhD programs in the field that allow students to specialize in areas like merchandising, apparel design, textile science, and more. Generally, doctoral degree programs in the field are designed for those wishing to work in leadership positions in research, academia, and policy development. The available hybrid program does require on-campus residencies, typically during the summers. Students in these programs may complete between 72 and 90 credits and are usually required to do a dissertation.
Online Certificates in Fashion Merchandising
Students may be able to choose from online certificate programs in areas like fashion business and fashion merchandising. Some of these programs may require as many as 38 credits. Other programs may only require 8 classes (around 24 credits) and allow students to choose some elective courses. Depending on the program, students may be required to complete a resume and professional portfolio to help prepare them for their future careers. Courses might include apparel selection, consumer behavior and visual merchandising.
Fashion Merchandising Specializations/Concentrations
Fashion merchandising may be offered as its own concentration for more business-related degrees, such as a BS in Management. In general, many online bachelor's degree programs specifically in fashion merchandising do not offer additional areas of concentration. However, there are a couple of programs that may offer concentrations in areas like fashion design, visual merchandising or product development. There are some online bachelor's programs in the field that allow students to earn various minors to further focus their studies. Some graduate-level programs in fashion merchandising may offer additional areas of concentration.
Curriculum/Coursework for a Fashion Merchandising Degree
Students in online bachelor's degree programs in fashion merchandising typically take some general education courses, core courses, and electives. Depending on the type of degree, core courses may be primarily in fashion merchandising or broken into core business and fashion merchandising courses. For example, a BBA degree may include additional core business courses in areas like accounting, finance, management, and economics, in addition to core fashion merchandising courses. Also depending on the program, some students may be required to finish their degree with some kind of culminating experience, like a capstone course and/or internship. While the specific name of the course may vary by school, some common core fashion merchandising courses for these online programs include:
- Retail merchandising
- Digital drafting/tools
- Product development
- Visual communication
- Product lifecycle management
- Retail executive decision making
How Long Does it Take to Get an Online Bachelor's in Fashion Merchandising?
Many online bachelor's degree programs in fashion merchandising take 4 years to complete. However, there are some programs that may allow students to finish their degree in about 3.5 years. Students who have prior credits from earning an associate's degree or taking other undergraduate courses may also be able to transfer in credit and finish their degree more quickly. Some bachelor's programs may accept up to 90 credits of the required 120 credits and allow students to finish their degree in about 2 years.
Accreditation for Online Bachelor's in Fashion Merchandising Degrees
Accreditation for online degree programs is important because it increases the chance that students will earn a quality degree that has met independently set academic standards. Many schools that offer online bachelor's programs in fashion merchandising are regionally accredited by one of the seven organizations approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), like the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) or the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
However, since fashion merchandising is a business-related degree, some of these bachelor's programs may have an additional level of accreditation that is subject-specific. These programs are typically accredited by groups like the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) and indicate that programs have met specific business standards that help prepare students for a career in the field.
Fashion Merchandising Licensure & Certification
While there is not one over-arching fashion merchandising license or certification, some employers may prefer or require certification; this varies by position. For example, the American Purchasing Society offers a general Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) certification for those with purchasing experience in various industries. Students pursuing this certification in positions like fashion buyers or purchasing managers, must earn professional development 'points' and then renew their certification through continuing education, experience, and other professional opportunities. There are also a number of supply management-related certifications available from organizations like the Next Level Purchasing Association.
Although it is not usually required, the National Retail Federation (NRF) provides a couple of certifications specifically for professionals in retail. Professionals can pursue a credential in customer service and sales or participate in the RISE Up training and credentialing program. This program aims to equip students with foundational skills and knowledge of the retail industry to help prepare them for a career in the field.
Fashion Merchandising Career Information
Students wishing to become a fashion buyer, purchasing manager, retail store manager, fashion marketing manager, and more, can all begin their career by earning a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising. While the specific education requirements may vary by position, a bachelor's degree may be the minimum education requirement. For example, the fashion buyer education requirements and marketing manager education requirements may vary by experience level. Some other available title for graduates in fashion merchandising include:
- Retail planner
- Social media brand ambassador
- Visual merchandiser
- Merchandising manager
- Showroom manager
- Corporate retail merchandiser
- Manufacturer sales representative
- Regional retail operations manager
How to Become a Purchasing Manager, Buyer, or Purchasing Agent
In the fashion industry, a buyer or purchasing agent may go by the title of fashion merchandise buyer, fashion retail buyer, fashion buyer, and more. Students wondering how to become a fashion retail buyer should know that it begins by earning a bachelor's degree. Fashion buyers and purchasing agents also likely need to undergo some on-the-job training to learn their job duties. Training may last a few months and may include skills in negotiating and maintaining inventory. Purchasing managers typically need a bachelor's degree and some work experience. They may work their way up from buyer or purchasing agent positions over time. Optional certification is available in the field.
A fashion merchandise buyer job description generally includes following trends in the fashion world and procuring products for resale. Buyers and purchasing agents may have to analyze and negotiate contracts, determine which vendors to use, and manage records of purchases and inventory. Purchasing managers also oversee the work of staff and may handle any issues with vendors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents was $69,600, as of 2019. The BLS also reported that jobs for buyers and purchasing agents would decrease 9% from 2019 to 2029, while the job outlook for purchasing managers during the same period was 3%.
How to Become a Marketing Manager
Students interested in becoming a fashion marketing manager should earn at least a bachelor's degree. These managers also typically need to have some prior work experience. This work experience may come in areas like promotions, sales, or marketing. Many of these managers may begin their careers as buyers, purchasing agents, or sales representatives.
Marketing managers are primarily responsible for finding markets for their products, creating a pricing strategy, and predicting the demand for their product(s). These managers typically need to oversee and work closely with product development and sales staff members. Marketing managers made a median annual salary of $136,850, as of 2019, according to the BLS. These managers had a job outlook of 7% from 2019 to 2029.
Financial Aid and Scholarship Information for Fashion Merchandising Degrees
Financial aid and scholarship opportunities are typically available to students who attend accredited institutions. Students first need to fill out their Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see what loans and/or grants they are eligible for at the federal level. After that, students can begin to explore grant and scholarship opportunities available at their schools of interest and/or from outside organizations at the local, regional, national, or even international levels.
Specifically, for fashion merchandising students, there are some schools that provide scholarships for students in their fashion-related programs, as well as local organizations that may partner with an institution. For example, Missouri State University offers the Noel Allan Conrad Scholarship for $1,000; it's based on the financial need of full-time students pursuing a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Design. Kent State University also has the Brage and Hinda Golding Endowed Scholarship that is open to sophomores, juniors, or seniors in design or merchandising. A local organization in Georgia, Georgia Soft Goods, works with the University of Georgia to provide several different scholarships to students majoring in fashion merchandising.
How to Choose a Fashion Merchandising School and Program
There are several factors to consider when deciding between different online bachelor's degree programs in fashion merchandising. Students may first want to think about their career goals and determine what type of degree they want to earn. For example, someone who would like a more well-rounded education in business may earn a BBA instead of a BS because it has more core business courses. Some students may also want to look for a program with an option for more hands-on learning through an internship or study abroad experience. Finally, fashion merchandising students may want to consider a program that is accredited by a business-related accreditation body to ensure they are earning a quality business education.
Besides factors specific to fashion merchandising, students may need to think about their personal preferences and/or needs. For example, some students may need to have a more flexible program format to accommodate work schedules. Students may also want to look at a school's scholarship and financial aid opportunities to help pay for their education.
Professional Organizations in Fashion Merchandising
Graduates of fashion merchandising who are beginning their career in the field may want to consider joining a professional organization. These organizations help provide a wide range of resources to professionals to further their education and careers in the field. There are several different professional organizations in the fashion industry that are open to those in fashion merchandising, including:
- National Retail Federation- In addition to the RISE Up program and other trainings, the NRF offers membership and resources like a job board, research, and retail security tools. The organization also has an event calendar that includes a leadership series.
- Fashion Industry Association- The FIA provides a directory for the fashion industry where professionals can search meetings and gatherings across the nation for specific job titles in the field. The organization also maintains a blog to keep professionals updated on fashion-related news.
- International Textile and Apparel Association- Membership to the ITAA is available and the organization also offers an annual conference and other professional development opportunities. Professionals can browse online publications, including newsletters, from the group's website.