Graduate Programs in Fashion with Career Information

Graduate programs in fashion include master's programs in fashion design, fashion merchandising or business administration with a fashion specialization. These programs can prepare students for roles in different facets of the industry, from creating clothes to marketing them to supervising other fashion professionals.

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Essential Information

Graduate programs in fashion can lead to a Master of Fine Arts in Fashion, a Master of Science in Textiles, Fashion Merchandising & Design or a Master of Business Administration in Fashion Merchandising, among other closely related degrees. A bachelor's degree - sometimes in a related area - is required to enter these programs, and some may require portfolios, prior work experience, prerequisite coursework or GMAT scores.

In some programs, hands-on classroom exercises and projects usually accompany instruction, allowing students to develop their own apparel. MBA programs also cover other aspects of business operations that could relate to the fashion industry. Most programs can be completed in 2 years, with a thesis project sometimes being required to finish.

Master's Degree Programs in Fashion Design

Fashion design programs at the graduate level, such as the Master of Design in Fashion, Body and Garment or the Master of Fine Arts in Fashion, teach students the manufacturing process, from development to creation to marketing. Students learn how to make sound buying decisions and forecast fashion trends. The program typically lasts 2 years and prepares students for creative careers in the fashion industry.

Fashion design programs include both classroom instruction and studio work. Students usually design and produce actual garments during the graduate program. Courses may include the following:

  • Pattern making
  • Design technology & computer-aided design
  • Fashion trends
  • Drawing
  • Professional practices

Master's Degree Programs in Fashion Merchandising

Graduate programs in fashion merchandising include a Master of Arts in Family & Consumer Sciences with a fashion merchandising concentration and Master of Science in Fashion Merchandising, among others. These programs teach students about marketing, retailing and consumer behavior. Students will be prepared for a variety of jobs in the apparel industry, including buyer, manager and merchandiser.

Coursework in a fashion merchandising program cover fashion markets, forecasting and merchandising techniques, fashion trends and product evaluation. Courses may include the following:

  • Apparel design
  • Fashion merchandising
  • Product development
  • Textile markets
  • Promotion
  • Retailing

Master of Business Administration Degree Programs in Fashion

Some Master of Business Administration (MBA) programs offer concentrations in the area of fashion or fashion merchandising. These programs are appropriate for graduate students interested in business and management aspects of the industry. Some programs are aimed at professionals currently working in the fashion industry who wish to advance into management positions.

Programs cover theories of management and leadership and their roles within the fashion industry. Course topics include the following:

  • Retailing
  • Buying
  • Merchandise planning
  • Organizational behavior
  • Business law

Popular Career Opportunities

A business degree in fashion prepares students for management-level careers or entrepreneurial endeavors. Careers could include the following:

  • Independent fashion designer
  • Boutique owner
  • Retail buyer
  • Fashion buyer
  • Manufacturer representative
  • Fashion director
  • Textiles specialist
  • Product developer
  • Visual merchandiser
  • Merchandise manager

Career Outlook Salary Information

Median annual salaries for fashion designers were $63,670 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( While industry competition can be intense, jobs will remain available especially with firms who produce mass-market clothing. Most fashion designers work for apparel wholesalers and manufacturers. Many are self-employed. Jobs for fashion designers tend to be concentrated in fashion-centered regions such as New York and California.

The number of jobs for buyers and purchasing managers are expected to have slower than average job growth (2%) for the years 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. In May 2015, the BLS reported that purchasing managers made a median annual wage of $108,120.

Continuing Education

Continuing education is not a requirement in the fashion industry, but fashion designers can benefit from further education in several ways. Business courses can help self-employed designers manage their accounts and find business opportunities. Fashion courses can help designers keep up with current trends and advanced technologies.

Graduate fashion students can choose to focus on the creative or business side of the field, depending on their interests. Most of these programs last 2 years, with several potential careers for graduates in the designing, buying, and merchandising areas of fashion.

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