What Can You Do With A Fashion Merchandising Degree?

degree programs in fashion merchandising

Do you have a passion for fashion? Do you enjoy mixing and matching fabrics and accessories to design unique and intriguing looks? What about adding some color to those pretty little cheeks? If so, then earning a fashion merchandising degree may just be the next step in landing the career of your dreams.

Fashion merchandising is a major that focuses on the business side of the fashion industry. It combines elements of fashion design, business, marketing, and retail management to teach students how to effectively manage and promote fashion products. This could involve designing, making, advertising, and selling clothing and accessories – and even cosmetics. With such a wide variety of options in the fantastical world of fashion, it’s no wonder you can do so much with a fashion merchandising degree.

Fashion Means Business

Working in the fashion merchandising industry isn’t just playing with clothes all day. Possessing a particularly creative mind is highly beneficial; but in order to function in fashion merchandising, you may need to explore a number of different subjects that are applicable to the business side of the industry as well. Comfort and function are key to successful fashionable wear, but what do you need to know to keep a successfully functioning business? The curriculum typically includes courses in fashion history, textiles, trend analysis, retail buying, visual merchandising, and marketing. Students also learn about consumer behavior, sales forecasting, and inventory management. Here are some useful skills in the field:

Mathematics. Many people think they’ll never use math again once they graduate from high school. They couldn’t be more wrong. “What do I need math for if I’m working in fashion?” you may be wondering. Well, creating wearable fashions involves a lot of measuring and calculating in order to make sure outfits are proportional or that just enough of a specific ingredient is added to a shocking new shade of eyeshadow. If you want to sell profitably, it’s important to calculate the total costs of your products. To do this, you need to calculate how much the supplies cost you and how much time you and your employees put into each project so that the business is able to succeed. Possessing background knowledge in accounting is also very helpful.

Marketing. Marketing plays an oversized role in the business of fashion merchandising. It’s important to recognize how you’ll sell your creations and what specific audience your products are targeted toward (i.e., athletes, businesspeople, brides). Learning the rules and regulations of licensing is also a crucial part of marketing, because you’ll want to know how to acquire copyrights for your designs or specific products. Public relations in reference to marketing also helps you discover ways to get publicity for your products in order to expand your company presence and, in turn, increase business sales.

Management. If you plan to own your own company or advance within a fashion merchandising company, then you need to understand proper management tactics and skills necessary to run or continue to run a successful business. Working together as a team is crucial, because each individual is gifted in a specific area and has unique contributions to bring to the business. As with any business, it is important that you have excellent negotiation skills and leadership abilities, which can be honed through courses in business management.

Fashion Merchandising Degree Programs

If you are looking at this as a possible degree in your future, you may want to take any business courses available while in high school to help you prepare for the more complex aspects of fashion merchandising. Consult your guidance counselor for further advice on choosing a school that suits your needs and how to go about applying to fashion degree programs at multiple colleges and/or universities.

LIM College offers a number of degrees for students interested in pursuing fashion merchandising, including a Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Professional Studies, Associate of Applied Science, and Associate of Occupational Studies, all in Fashion Merchandising. With a heavy mixture of courses in communications, marketing, mathematics and financing, visual merchandising, and more, the fashion merchandising degree programs at LIM College are designed to educate students on the basics of every aspect of the fashion industry. Much of what is learned in these courses can also be applied to a variety of business positions in other industries, as well, so graduates are able to succeed in any of many industries if they are unable to land positions within such a competitive industry as fashion merchandising.

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising offers a wide variety of majors for those interested in joining the fashion industry, including the Merchandise Marketing Program. Students enrolled in the Merchandise Marketing Program learn everything from the basics of becoming buyers to how to start their own businesses. They also receive the privilege of learning how to generally predict future fashion trends, as well. With visits from executives of popular fashion companies, students receive advice firsthand from successful businessmen and women. These visits are also excellent opportunities for students to gain one-on-one attention from these businesspeople and, in turn, gain amazing networking connections that may help them enter the fashion merchandising industry upon graduating. Students are also educated on how to come up with and present business strategies in order to better the companies they’ll work for and the industry as a whole.

Middlesex County College offers students the opportunity to earn an Associate in Applied Science in Fashion Merchandising and Retail Management. This degree program in Edison, New Jersey prepares students for higher-paying positions in retail, such as retail executives and assistant buyers as opposed to sales associates, by providing them with basic knowledge in business, fashion, and more. Middlesex County College also has a retail laboratory in which students can gain proper preparation for the retail industry. Experience is also obtained through internship opportunities within various businesses. Most associates degree programs can be completed in approximately two years.

Careers in Fashion Merchandising: How Much Money Do Fashion Merchandisers Make in Different Positions?

While earning your degree in fashion merchandising, you should take the time to determine just what career path you’d like to pursue upon completing the degree program. If you focus on a specific career early enough and how much money do fashion merchandisers make, you’ll be able to better shape your education with more courses that revolve around your goal. You can go for you associates, bachelors, or masters of the arts in textile, merchandising, and fashion design fields for these positions.

(Note that most salary data in this article is estimated as of 2021 as there is a lag before it becomes available to report.)

Entry Level Careers in Fashion Merchandising

With an associates degree or a bachelors degree in fashion merchandising and experience gained through an internship or a cooperative education opportunity, you’ll find that you may qualify for one or more of the positions described in this section.

Fashion Assistant

A fashion assistant devotes his or her time to the fashion closet for photo shoots. He or she spends time organizing schedules for fashion merchandise pickup, designating specific people for the job. Fashion assistants may also introduce interns to the fashion industry, and they sometimes contribute information to fashion magazines. A fashion assistant may typically gain this position after earning a bachelors degree in fashion merchandising or fashion design with well-developed communication skills and exceedingly honed organizational skills.

Fashion assistants may start out earning around $21,000 annually, possibly more based on education and experience levels.


Stylists work with individual clients or companies to create outfits and looks that meet specific goals or requirements. They may work in editorial, commercial, or personal styling.

The median annual salary for a stylist is around $41,000, according to PayScale.

Fashion Merchandiser (Visual Merchandiser)

fashion assistant | fashion merchandiser

Customers are more likely to be drawn to stores with mannequins dressed in trendy, new styles on display in front windows, which increases store traffic and, ultimately, boosts company sales; and it is the job of the fashion merchandiser to draw in the customers.

Visual merchandisers are responsible for creating eye-catching displays that attract customers and help sell products. They work closely with buyers and store managers to create a cohesive brand image, in charge of developing specific visuals for stores to display that provide potential customers with ideas of the latest fashion trends. Most companies make it mandatory that their fashion merchandisers possess high school diplomas, but many go as far as to expect those applying for fashion merchandiser positions to possess bachelor degrees in fashion merchandising or related fields. Visual merchandisers are highly organized and have particularly creative imaginations that allow them to develop intriguing, eye-catching visuals to grab the attention of passersby.

Visual merchandisers earn a median annual salary of $40,000 according to Glassdoor.

Fashion Buyer

Fashion merchandising buyers work with clothing manufacturers and wholesalers and are responsible for selecting the products that will be sold in a store or retail chain. They analyze sales trends and consumer behavior to make informed purchasing decisions. Buyers are in charge of buying the store items that will be trending for a given season, as well as overseeing the pricing and maintaining relationships with internal and external stakeholders. They attend a lot of trade shows and fashion shows and are often traveling to stay on top of the fashion trends. To get this job offer, you usually have to have a bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising, business, or marketing.

Depending on the size of the company, experience, and overall responsibility, a fashion buyer’s salary is anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000 or more annually according the the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Advanced Careers in Fashion Merchandising

With a few years of experience in the industry and/or an advanced degree in fashion merchandising or related field, you may be able to land a job in one or more of the careers listed and described here.

Fashion Director

A fashion director, also often referred to as a fashion coordinator, is expected to keep up with the latest trends and those soon to take off in the near future. In order to help promote new designs, a fashion director also arranges for fashion shows and photo shoots that display to the public and other designers the styles and colors of the latest and upcoming fashions. With a degree in fashion merchandising, background knowledge in multiple aspects of business, and quite a few years of experience, fashion directors are capable of having strong impacts within the fashion industry. They are highly organized and possess outstanding communication skills in order to best arrange meetings with sales representatives, develop impressive marketing strategies, and more.

Fashion directors may earn between $39,000 and over $100,000 annually, based on education and experience levels in addition to company size and popularity ratings.

Fashion Marketing Manager

A marketing manager of the fashion merchandising industry spends his or her time developing ways in which to educate the public on the existence and necessity of products of a specific brand or brands sold at a specific department store in order to promote new fashion trends. A fashion marketing manager also oversees the marketing department, ensuring the potential effectiveness of various advertising strategies and making certain relationships within the department run smoothly. Therefore, fashion marketing managers possess excellent leadership and detail-oriented skills and a few years of experience within the fashion merchandising industry. They also have background knowledge in subjects ranging from marketing to advertising to business management and degrees in fashion merchandising.

Fashion marketing managers may earn over $55,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.

Marketing Coordinator

Marketing coordinators work to promote fashion products through advertising, social media, and other marketing channels. They may also be responsible for coordinating events and promotions.

The median annual salary for a marketing coordinator is around $46,000, according to PayScale.

Retail Manager

As a retail manager, you would be responsible for overseeing a store or group of stores, managing employees, setting sales goals, and developing merchandising strategies.

The median annual salary for a retail manager is around $48,000, according to PayScale.

Product Developer

Product developers work closely with designers to bring new fashion products to market. They are responsible for everything from sourcing materials to negotiating with manufacturers.

The median annual salary for a product developer is around $64,000, according to PayScale.

Fashion Entrepreneur

With a fashion merchandising degree, you may also choose to start your own fashion business, such as a boutique or online store.

Companies that Hire People with Fashion Merchandising Degrees

Fashion companies around the world hire people who have fashion merchandising degrees to fill jobs in their specialties. The fashion merchandising industry is highly competitive, so a portfolio that strongly reflects your creative vision and experience gained from an apprenticeship or internship can be particularly appealing to employers.

Winston Retail – locations across the US; hires positions for merchandise coordinators, junior merchandisers, brand ambassadors, etc.

The Gap, Inc. – headquarters in San Francisco, CA, other locations around the globe; hires positions for merchandising specialists, product managers, product designers, etc.

Charlotte Russe – headquarters in San Diego, CA; hires positions for merchandise coordinators, merchandisers, assistant merchandisers, visual designers, etc.

Armani Exchange – headquarters in New York, NY; hires positions for freelance merchandisers, design directors, etc.

Is A Degree In Fashion Merchandising Right For You?

If you have a passion for fashion, consider using your creative eye to contribute to big name designers or department stores by earning a degree in fashion merchandising. Ladies and gents–celebs and commoners alike–across the globe will always be racing to get the most recent looks, striving for picturesque perfection, always looking to dress to impress. That’s why the fashion industry will never go under.

Alternately, hone your skills and launch your own stylish adventure! An MBA may be a good addition for a fashionable solopreneur.

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