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Best Online Fashion Merchandising Degree Programs

Explore the top schools with online fashion merchandising degree programs, including those at the undergraduate and graduate level. Learn what courses are included, how long programs take and what careers they can lead to.

Best Schools for Online Fashion Merchandising Programs

To determine the best schools for online fashion merchandising degree programs, you should consider factors such as cost, admission requirements, program length and flexibility.

1. Fashion Institute of Technology

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
New York, NY $6,110 73%

The Fashion Institute of Technology is accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design Commission on Accreditation (NASAD) and has a student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1. Students have tuition rates of $2,595 to $3,535 per semester for full-time study (in-state) and can choose between an associate's degree or bachelor's degree program relating to fashion merchandising:

  • Associate of Applied Science in Fashion Business Management: One-year online program that is open to students with 30 credits of college coursework; includes courses in fashion merchandising, team development and fashion marketing.
  • Bachelor of Science in International Trade and Marketing for the Fashion Industries: This two-year program is available to students who have earned an associate's degree or 60 qualifying credits and includes courses in global marketing and sourcing, import regulations and international trade.

2. Framingham State University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Framingham, MA $11,100 94%

Framingham State University offers an average class size of 20 students and participates in Quality Matters (QM), a voluntary program that sets strict quality guidelines for online course design. The school has an online Master of Science in Merchandising program that is open to students with any bachelor's degree and competitive GRE scores. The program consists of 11 courses, including core courses in merchandising research, global marketing and retail strategies. Students in the program have a tuition rate of $1,290 per course and can choose a thesis or immersive practicum as their degree capstone.

3. Central Michigan University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Mount Pleasant, MI $12,960 95%

Central Michigan University has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission for more than 100 years and has an online student body that's 8,000 strong. The school offers two merchandising bachelor's degree programs online, both of which have tuition rates of $417 to $434 per credit.

  • Bachelor of Applied Arts in Fashion Merchandising and Design: This 120-credit program offers concentrations in visual merchandising and product development and requires students to select a minor within their studies: Athletic Coaching, Geography, Political Science or Psychology.
  • Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising and Design: This program also offers concentrations in product development and visual merchandising but provides a more in-depth exploration of merchandising topics through the 120-credit curriculum.

4. Southern New Hampshire University

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Manchester, NH $31,136 75%

When it comes to supporting online students, Southern New Hampshire University is killing it -- the school offers 24/7 tech support, one-on-one academic advising, an online writing center, tutoring services and dedicated career counseling. The school offers two undergraduate programs in fashion merchandising, which have a tuition rate of $320 per credit hour for all students.

  • Associate of Science in Fashion Merchandising: This 60-credit program includes courses in design and color, fashion merchandising and marketing and retail sales.
  • Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising Management: Consisting of 120 credits, this program offers courses in fashion sustainability, fashion management, merchandising and textiles.

5. Johnson & Wales University-Online

Location Tuition & Fees (in-state) % Receiving Financial Aid
Providence, RI $13,365 67%

Johnson & Wales University offers all programs entirely online through the fully-featured ulearn portal, plus 24/7 pop-in tutoring. The school has both an undergraduate and graduate program in fashion merchandising, both of which have per-credit tuition rates of $330 (undergraduate) and $763 (graduate).

  • Bachelor of Science in Fashion Merchandising & Retailing: This 121-credit program includes business courses, such as those in finance and operations, as well as major classes in strategic planning, textiles and fashion retail.
  • Master of Business Administration - Global Fashion Merchandising & Management: Also integrating business and fashion, the program includes 36 to 42 credits and includes courses in fashion ethics, marketing and fashion merchandising theories.

Note: All table data above is provided by the National Center for Education Statistics; tuition represents the undergraduate rate for the 2019-2020 school year. Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions.

Overview of Online Fashion Merchandising Degree Programs

Online fashion merchandising programs provide students with knowledge of fashion trends, business and marketing through primarily or fully-online coursework. Depending on their school and course, students may be able to access and complete items at their convenience each week (asynchronous), or they may need to log in for scheduled components (such as live presentations).

Specific characteristics of online fashion merchandising degree programs, such as length and admission requirements, vary based on the degree level. The table and sections below note some of the characteristics of each fashion merchandising degree level.

Fashion Merchandising Degree Comparison

There are graduate and undergraduate options for online fashion merchandising degree programs, which are compared in the table below.

Associate's Degree Bachelor's Degree Master's Degree
Degree type Undergraduate Undergraduate Graduate
Program length (full-time) 2 years 4 years 2 years
Admissions Requirements Diploma/GED Diploma/GED Bachelor's degree
Core Courses *Fashion merchandising fundamentals
*Textiles
*Fashion Marketing
*Fashion Retailing
*History of fashion
*Fashion forecasting
*Retail planning
*Understanding the textile industry
*Fashion management
*Merchandising management
*Global markets
*Sustainability in fashion
*Merchandising promotional strategies

Fashion Merchandising Associate's Degree Programs

Online associate's degree programs in fashion merchandising are typically open to students who have a high school diploma or GED, although some programs require students to have already completed some college coursework. Students usually complete these programs within two years of full-time study but those who have already earned college credits can often transfer them into the new program an finish in around one year. Fashion merchandising associate's degree programs typically include general education courses, such as English and history, as well as business and fashion courses. Some of the courses commonly included in online fashion merchandising associate's degree programs are listed below.

  • Fashion Merchandising Fundamentals - Students learn fundamental practices and principles that are used in developing and pricing various fashion goods in online and retail markets.
  • Textiles - This course explores different textile materials and colors and includes an overview of textile characteristics such as construction, fibers and finish.
  • Fashion Marketing - Students learn about general and fashion-focused marketing topics, including segmentation and targeting, brand images and market research.
  • Fashion Retailing - In this course, students explore the roles and needs of retailers, including events planning, visual merchandising, sales productivity and consumer experience.

Fashion Merchandising Bachelor's Degree Programs

Online fashion merchandising bachelor's degree programs usually take four years of full-time study to complete and are open to students who have a high school diploma or GED, although some schools require students to already have an associate's degree. Students who do not need an associate's degree for their program but have some prior college coursework can transfer qualifying credits into their online bachelor's degree program; transferring in courses decreases the total number of classes (and credit hours) needed and thus also decreases the total completion time. As with the associate's degree program, bachelor's degree programs in fashion merchandising combine general education courses with program-specific courses. Fashion merchandising bachelor's degree programs include those courses listed under fashion merchandising associate's degree programs as well as many of those listed below.

  • History of Fashion - This course examines fashion through history, including materials and major styles, to understand what influences affect current fashion developments.
  • Fashion Forecasting - Students learn how to recognize and research fashion trends, including textiles, colors and styles, as well as how to create forecasts based on their findings.
  • Retail Planning - This course teaches students how to apply research and analysis to retail operations to strategically plan purchases of products for use in retail.
  • Understanding the Textile Industry - Students dive deeper into textile topics and learn about textile manufacturing and processes and relevant textile logistics for the fashion industry.
  • Fashion Management - This course provides a comprehensive overview of management practices and strategies in fashion as well as topics such as distribution and inventory management.

Fashion Merchandising Master's Degree Programs

Online fashion merchandising master's degree programs are open to students who have completed a bachelor's degree. These programs typically take around 2 years to complete (full-time) but students can finish sooner if they take more courses per semester and/or have qualifying transfer credits. Master's degree programs consist of more focused curriculum rather than a broad mix of courses like undergraduate programs. Some of the courses that are frequently included in online fashion merchandising master's degree programs are listed below.

  • Merchandising Management - Students learn strategies and implications for merchandising management as well as topics such as business plans, positioning and technology use.
  • Global Markets - This course explores global market topics, including trading, international risk, tariffs, trade agreements, globalization and global market regulations.
  • Sustainability in Fashion - Students learn about sustainability issues and theories in fashion as well as current sustainable practices, social responsibility and ethics.
  • Merchandising Promotional Strategies - This course presents merchandising theories and practices as well as strategies for sales, advertising, media usage, budgets and image.

Accreditation for Online Fashion Merchandising Programs

When a school is accredited, it signifies that the school has passed quality standards set by the accrediting organization. Accreditation is voluntary and schools have to pay to be reviewed for approval. The standards involved can vary by accrediting agency, but often include things like curriculum, faculty experience and graduation rates. There are nearly two dozen accrediting agencies, six of which are regional. Regional accreditation is typically preferred because it's often associated with higher standards and credits from regionally accredited institutions transfer easier than nationally accredited ones. There are several benefits to attending an accredited institution, as noted below.

  • Quality: Accredited schools have been certified, so to speak, by meeting quality standards, and should provide students with a higher quality experience.
  • Financial Aid: Some types of financial aid (including federal aid) are only available to students who attend accredited schools.
  • Transferability: Credits from an accredited school can typically transfer into other college programs while those from unaccredited schools may not.

How to Become a Fashion Designer

There are several steps involved in becoming a fashion designer, including education and portfolio development.

Step 1. Earn Your Degree

Fashion designers typically obtain a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising and design. These programs include useful knowledge of fabrics, textiles, image and trends.

Step 2. Build Your Portfolio

Before, during and after your degree program, it's a good idea to develop a portfolio of designs. When being considered for positions, employers will want to see a showcase of your skills.

Step 3. Gain Experience

If your program doesn't include immersive experiences, you can benefit from fashion internships. These give you first-hand experiences in fashion operations and development.

What Can You Do with an Online Fashion Merchandising Degree?

There are several different careers that graduates of online fashion merchandising degree programs can pursue, which are summarized in the sections below.

Fashion Designers

Fashion designers design original fashions, including footwear, clothing and accessories, using sketches and various textiles. Their duties can include researching trends, using design software, attending trade shows and presenting designs to directors and trade show attendees. Fashion designers, as noted above, typically have a bachelor's degree in a related subject and relevant experience.

Art Directors

Art directors oversee the visual styles of different productions, including magazines and movies. They usually have a bachelor's degree and work experience in a related experience. A fashion merchandising graduate, for example, may move on to become an art director of a fashion magazine. Their duties would likely include creating the look of the magazine, approving images and reviewing page layouts.

Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers

These managers plan and oversee programs that are used to increase interest in services and products. They collaborate with art directors and other staff and plan, oversee and analyze advertising campaigns. They typically have a bachelor's degree and related experience. Those working in fashion may oversee advertising for apparel businesses and a variety of other organizations.

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives have various educational backgrounds but benefit from programs relating to their industry. Optional certification is available from the Manufacturers' Representatives Educational Research Foundation. Representatives in the fashion industry may contact retailers to explain products and determine prices.

Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents

These individuals buy and sell products for various organizations and work with suppliers to solidify contracts. Those working in fashion may purchase textiles and other supplies and maintain accurate financial records of transactions. They often have a bachelor's degree and related experience and can benefit from voluntary certification (such as the Certified Purchasing Professional certification).

Sales Managers

Sales managers can work in business-to-business settings or business-to-customer settings and usually have a bachelor's degree along with sales experience. Fashion merchandising design graduates may be responsible for overseeing retail stores, purchasing products, assigning sales objectives and maintaining current sales trends within their organizations.

Job Title Median Annual Salary (2019) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Fashion Designers $73,790 1%
Art Directors $94,220 1%
Advertising, Promotions and Marketing Managers $135,900 8%
Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives $63,000 2%
Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents $69,600 -6%
Sales Managers $126,640 5%

All career data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics