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Colleges and Schools for Fashion Merchandising

Fashion merchandising is a broad industry that requires a strong sense of style and trends, in addition to business training. A successful career begins with formal training at a fashion merchandising school, and obtaining a fashion merchandising degree can open up many opportunities in this diverse field. Students can learn about industry trends, marketing, event planning, and product development. Most students choose careers in a management role or working with major apparel manufacturers and designers. Some may choose to own and operate a boutique of their own.

Job Description and Responsibilities of Fashion Merchandising School Graduates

Graduates of fashion merchandising schools can choose to pursue a range of careers. In most cases, they are required to have strong business background and marketing skills, along with predicting styles and trends. These schools train students to:

  • Work with a team of fashion industry professionals
  • Learn how to make decisions and take risks
  • Develop key marketing skills
  • Learn about sales and promotion
  • Predict styles, trends, and patterns of the industry
  • Handle media communications
  • Work with designers and create wardrobes
  • Evaluate the needs of a target market or demographic
  • Work with photography, magazine layouts, and other media materials
  • Promote runway shows and learn the guidelines of the industry
  • Attend fashion shows
  • Manage retail outlets and setting up store displays
  • Negotiate with suppliers

A fashion merchandising degree can best prepare students for a variety of careers in the multi-million dollar industry. Students not only learn about fabrics, patterns, and style but are also exposed to marketing and product development. Fashion merchandising careers are available through many of today's leading brands, media organizations, and corporations.

Skills Needed for a Career in Fashion Merchandising

Fashion merchandising careers combine a passion for business and fashion, and finding the right balance can lead to a successful career. Colleges can prepare students with skills such as:

  • History of fashion and past trends

  • Current industry developments

  • Problem solving and analysis

  • Budgeting

  • Identifying customer needs

  • Strong communication skills

  • Basic computer skills

  • Marketing and brand awareness

  • Creative thinking

  • Basic accounting skills

  • Trend watching

  • Color theory and design basics

Career Options For Students of Fashion Merchandising College

Multiple opportunities exist in the field, with studies leading to a position as a:

  • Fashion Merchandiser
  • Store Manager
  • Fashion Event Planner
  • Importing or Exporting Agent
  • Product Developer
  • Retailer
  • Fashion Advertising Agent
  • Merchandise Manager
  • Buyer
  • Fashion Designer

Fashion Merchandising Courses and Training

Fashion merchandising schools offer specialized training and unique curriculums for a comprehensive education. While a fashion merchandising degree can be obtained at a variety of colleges, many students gain a significant amount of experience from working directly in the field. The fashion industry is competitive, and those with experience through a steady career path are most successful. A typical associate program will include a variety of courses that balance business and design. Common courses include:

  • Pattern Making
  • Textiles
  • Retail Merchandising
  • Marketing
  • Introduction to Design
  • Color Theory
  • Fashion Business Practices
  • Industry Trends
  • Merchandising Basics
  • Fashion Show Production
  • Computer Applications

Schools and colleges require a high school diploma for admission, and programs can range from two to four years in length. An associate's degree program can prepare students for a career in accessories, costume designs, fashion design, and footwear. Common courses include apparel design, history of fashion, and instructional courses in sewing. Some schools also offer a masters in fashion merchandising.

Bachelor's degrees are also available. These programs offer more extensive education and training, and students learn key skills in marketing, advertising, consumer psychology, retail buying, and retail management.

Fashion Merchandising College Accreditation

The majority of fashion merchandising colleges are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Fashion Merchandising Careers: Potential and Employment Prospects

While the fashion industry continues to grow as a multi-million dollar industry, employment of fashion designers and fashion-related careers is expected to grow slower than the national average through 2014. Jobs that concentrate in the areas of design for the mass market are expected to be average, and as competition increases, the job market can become even more difficult to establish a career. Still, the industry is attractive for those interested in marketing, advertising, and product development. Students who receive comprehensive education through an accredited college and gain experience in the field can create their own business or work as a buyer, consultant, or independent designer.

Median annual earnings for fashion designers were $55,840 in 2004, and $72,450 for purchasing managers and buyers in 2004. Related occupations include:

  • Interior designers

  • Product demonstrators

  • Assistant designers

  • Event promoters


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