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Textile Graduate Programs Overview

Apr 24, 2020

Essential Information

There are a few options for master's degrees in textile studies. Students in a Master of Arts (MA) program examine textiles from a design or history perspective. In a Master of Science (MS) program, students study textile production, with an emphasis on either chemistry or engineering. A bachelor's degree and GRE scores are typically required to enroll in a master's degree program.

After completing a master's degree program, students may choose to continue their education to earn a Ph.D. Doctoral programs vary in length, taking between three and six years of study and research. Students can research topics such as textile history or textile marketing in some programs, while other programs are more technically focused on textile science or engineering. Most textile Ph.D. programs require a dissertation and a final oral examination.


Master of Arts in Textile

Coursework for an MA in textile focuses on design problems, draping, pattern making, textile evaluation and history of textiles. Some programs offer classes in fiber art and multimedia design. Students might learn about product development, body scanning, digital techniques for printing fabrics and computer-aided design (CAD).

Students in MA textile programs with a focus in textile design may look at textiles, apparel, and home furnishings. Studies relate the properties of textiles to human needs and consumer demands. Some programs offer a merchandising concentration.

An MA degree in textile with a focus in textile history might focus on conservation of textiles, museum work and the study of textiles as an example of material culture.

Master of Arts programs are usually completed in two years, require 30-36 hours of study and may require a thesis, independent study or capstone project. Some include a required course in academic writing and research.

Courses may also address the following topics:

  • Costume history
  • Social and psychological theories of dress
  • Archival and museum management
  • Fabric identification
  • Surface design
  • Flat pattern construction

Master of Science in Textile Chemistry

Master of Science (MS) programs in textile chemistry are geared toward students interested in textile technology. This study relates to industry, environmental impacts of manufacturing and the use of textiles in medicine. These programs generally require 30-36 hours of advanced study which can be completed in two years. Programs with lower credit-hour requirements often call for completion of a thesis.

Coursework may emphasize polymer chemistry and techniques of mass production as well as mass-production methods for adding qualities such as permanent press and flame retardancy. Course topics may include:

  • Fibers, materials and polymers used in non-woven textiles
  • Polymer science
  • Bonding techniques for non-woven materials
  • Fiber formation
  • Dye and color
  • Yarn and its manufacture

Master of Science in Textile Engineering

MS programs in textile engineering are sometimes interdisciplinary, encompassing engineering, math and physics, and may be taught by faculty from different colleges within one university. Textile engineering programs focus on the design of electrical and mechanical devices used in manufacturing textiles, as well as supply-chain control, thermal science, fluid dynamics and pollution prevention. Programs generally require 30-36 hours of study, are completed in two years and might call for a thesis or capstone project.

Coursework often focuses on the manufacture, properties and structures of woven and non-woven materials. They also build skills in the mechanics of material production and statistical analysis. They may examine biomaterials, which are used to heal and treat deformity in the human body. Typical course topics also include:

  • Material mechanics
  • Knitting machines
  • Dyes and dimensional stability
  • Optimization of manufacturing process and quality
  • Product development

Ph.D. in Textiles and Clothing

Doctoral programs look at textiles and clothes from a historical, behavioral, social and psychological perspective. They focus on how human behavior intersects with the marketing, distribution and consumption of textiles. Students entering with master's degrees could be eligible to graduate in 3-4 years. In addition to coursework, students might have to complete a dissertation and take a final oral exam.

Coursework often focuses on the science of consumerism. Students are trained to use statistics and other methods to conduct original research in the field. Courses may include:

  • Methods of research in textile marketing
  • Consumer science of textiles
  • Theories of consumerism
  • Marketplace behavior
  • Global markets for textiles
  • Global production of textiles

Ph.D. in Textile Science

Another option is a Ph.D. in Textile Science. Ph.D. students must engage in interdisciplinary thinking, demonstrate the ability to conduct original research and make significant contributions to their field. After completing required coursework, which may include as many as 60 hours, Ph.D. candidates often take a 2-part written and oral qualifying exam, submit a dissertation proposal, research and write a dissertation and defend it before members of the faculty. Such programs often have a 6-year time limit.

Coursework may focus on:

  • Textile engineering
  • Mechanical engineering

Salary Info and Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), textile designers face keen competition for jobs, due in part to the glamour of the design profession (www.bls.gov). Graduates may opt to work as museum curators specializing in textiles. Curating is a growing field, but these positions are highly competitive as well. Those with highly specialized training will have better opportunities. In 2019, the median annual wages of curators in all areas of museum work was $54,570. Fashion designers made a median salary of $73,790 in 2019, according to the BLS. Chemists saw median annual earnings of $77,630 in 2019.

The 2018 median annual salary of industrial engineers was $87,040, according to the BLS. Employment of industrial engineers is expected to experience faster than average growth of 8% during the decade 2018-2028.

Graduates of Ph.D. programs in textile science may find employment in industry, government agencies and universities. In the textile and material engineering fields, they may find jobs at the top of the industry pay scale. The top-paid ten percent of industrial engineers saw annual earnings of $132,340 or more in 2018, according to the BLS.

With a master's degree or Ph.D. in textiles, an individual can choose from a multitude of occupations, from fashion designer to textile chemist.

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