Fashion Designer: Career Definition, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for fashion designers. Get the facts about salary, degree requirements and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Fashion Designer?

Aside from natural artistic ability, fashion designers likely need training through a formal program. Fashion designers study industry trends and figure out which ones might appeal to consumers. They may use programs computer-aided design (CAD) to develop their designs. These professionals must work with manufacturers to select fabric and other designers to create a prototype. Often they present their work in fashion or trade shows, and then sell their designs to retailers or directly to consumers. Fashion designers can specialize in clothing, accessories or footwear. It generally takes six months from the creation of a design to product production, and fashion designers typically oversee the entire process.

Find out general career information about fashion designers through the following chart.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Fashion design, fashion merchandising
Key Skills Artistic, creativity, attention to detail, computer literacy
Job Growth (2014-2024) 3% *
Median Salary (2015) $63,670*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Do as a Fashion Designer?

As a fashion designer, you'll design clothing, footwear or accessories for consumers. You begin a design project by selecting a target market and researching trends. Then, you'll sketch design concepts, select materials, create prototypes and oversee production as your designs come to life. The entire design process can take up to two years. You may choose to design multiple types of products or only clothing, accessories or footwear. You may design for the mass market, create high fashion custom designs or design costumes for motion pictures.

Your job duties might change with experience. You may start off as a pattern maker or assistant designer, doing more manual work. As you gain experience, you'll direct workers who sketch, make patterns, construct samples and produce finished products based on your visions.

What Kind of Job Outlook Is Predicted?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of fashion designers would increase 3% during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). International manufacturing of clothing contributed to a decline in apparel manufacturing, but demand for fashion designers in the wholesale apparel industry should increase. You can expect a lot of competition when seeking employment. To maximize your chances of finding employment as a fashion designer, apply with companies producing fashion for the mass-market rather than with companies catering to the upper class that produce high-fashion items.

What Educational Prerequisites Should I Consider?

According to the BLS, most employers prefer to hire designers who have an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion design or a related subject. While enrolled in a fashion design program, you'll take courses in sewing, computer-aided design (CAD), color theory and fashion illustration. Other courses may include draping, pattern-making, textiles and design. Business, marketing and merchandising courses can be helpful, especially if you want to work for yourself. Toward the end of your course of study, you'll put together a portfolio of your best work and present your designs in a fashion show. While in school, you may participate in internships or study abroad to gain more experience.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Similar careers include jewelers and precious stone and metal workers, graphic designers and art directors. Jewelers and precious stone and metal workers only require a high school diploma or equivalent, but often acquire extensive on the job training. These workers design, repair and sell jewelry, as well as appraise gems and jewelry. Graphic designers and art directors require at least a bachelor's degree. Graphic designers design and create visual concepts that are then used for visual media like advertisements or magazines. Art directors develop the visual style of magazines, television productions and more.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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