Students learn technical skills, such as prop building and lighting techniques, along with business and marketing theories and practices. Associate's degree programs in visual merchandising prepare students for entry-level positions as merchandisers at department stores, specialty boutiques, and other retail outlets. Bachelor's programs are also available in several different types for those who want to focus on different aspects of the field of study.
Associate's Degree Programs in Visual Merchandising
Associate's degrees generally require two years to complete. A high school diploma or equivalent is required for admission into associate's degree programs. No prerequisite coursework is usually required. The curriculum of a visual merchandising degree program covers creative techniques for displaying products in addition to marketing concepts used to draw consumers into the retail location. Some programs emphasize fashion merchandising, while others are more general in focus. Topics covered include creating product displays and using lighting creatively to attract consumers. Typical courses may include:
- Merchandise planning
- Visual presentation and displays
- Textiles and fabrics
Bachelor's Degree Programs in Visual Merchandising
At the baccalaureate level, visual merchandising degrees are offered as Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Business Administration and Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees. Similar to associate's degree programs, these programs incorporate technical merchandising skills with business and marketing principles. Some programs focus more intensely on the business principles involved in merchandising. Bachelor's programs typically require four years to complete.
A high school diploma or the equivalent is needed to apply for a bachelor's degree program. While programs typically do not require any specific educational prerequisites, some programs consider previous experience in retail or design when reviewing applications. Many four-year colleges require submission of ACT or SAT scores. Students complete general education requirements and courses covering technical skills, such as digital illustration, and business skills, such as salesmanship. Other topics covered might include:
- Merchandise planning
- Retail management
- Trend forecasting
- Product presentation
- International retailing
Popular Career Options
Visual merchandisers work in a variety of settings planning and implementing visual displays. Other job titles for which graduates are qualified include:
- Marketing coordinator
- Display associate, display designer, display specialist
- Fashion stylist
- Visual manager, visual consultant
- Mannequin or fixture designer
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The mean annual salary in the visual merchandising field was $29,790 as reported in May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The majority of jobs were found with department stores. Other employers include advertising and public relations firms as well as grocery, clothing, and electronics stores.
Those with associate's degrees in visual merchandising may wish to pursue bachelor's degrees in visual merchandising or merchandising management. Some colleges allow for easy transfer of credits to four-year programs.
While continuing education is not required, it can help industry professional to keep up with current trends and changing technologies. Education courses might be offered by professional organizations and associations or by area colleges.
Degree programs in visual merchandising can be studied at both associate's and bachelor's levels. After studying common courses in visual presentation and merchandise planning, students will be prepared for a career as a visual manager, marketing coordinator or fashion stylist, among others.