Fashion Design & Merchandising

Do you love fashion?  Are you usually the first in your group to spot the latest clothing trends? Is Project Runway one of your favorite reality shows? If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, a college major in fashion merchandising and a career in the fashion industry may be a good match.

While many people picture clothing designers when they think of the fashion industry, designers actually play a relatively small role in keeping the fashion industry running.  In addition to designers, the fashion industry relies on professionals with skills in areas as diverse as researching and predicting fashion trends; marketing and advertising; sourcing and production of textiles, clothing and accessories;  and retail operations.  Across the supply chain, the U.S. textile and apparel industry directly employs more than 4 million people, and contributes $350 billion to the U.S. economy each year. Globally, the fashion industry accounts for $2 trillion in sales annually.

A major in fashion merchandising can help you prepare for a career in this fast-paced, creative industry.  As a fashion merchandising major, you’ll study how clothing, textiles, and accessories are designed, produced and marketed to consumers.  Most programs begin with a class that will introduce you to the fashion industry and then move to classes in specific aspects of the industry, from design to production to retailing.  Depending on your program, you may supplement the courses in your major with additional courses in business and communications.  Some colleges allow students to specialize in a particular part of the industry, such as textiles or apparel, while others give students the chance to combine fashion merchandising with courses in specialized areas such as fashion design or fashion advertising. Typically, the classes in this major will have a strong “hands on” learning component; instead of just writing papers about how the fashion industry markets clothing, you’ll be asked to develop advertising plans and ads for class assignments. 

Most colleges offering fashion merchandising majors also offer off-campus study programs in fashion capitals such as New York or Milan to give students in-depth exposure to the industry.  Internships at fashion and retail corporations are also encouraged and some fashion merchandising programs require internships as part of the major.  Stronger fashion merchandising programs often have connections within the fashion industry that can help students land these highly sought- after internships.

Fashion merchandising majors will be prepared for a wide variety of career paths after graduation.  Typical entry level job titles include assistant buyer, production assistant, marketing specialist, retail analyst, and visual merchandiser.  According to industry research, most entry level positions will have starting salaries of between $45,000 and $55,000, depending on position and company.  Mid-career managers can expect salaries in the $70,000 to $100,000 range, and senior executives often see salaries in the $150,000 or higher range, depending on their area of specialization, skills, and experience. However, a fashion merchandising major provides strong business knowledge and skills that can be applied to other businesses, so graduates are not limited just to positions within the fashion industry.  


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