CAREERS

FASHION DESIGNER

Securing a career in fashion design may sound like just a dream, but with the right education and commitment to your craft, you can become a fashion designer and put your passion to work. Read on to learn more about today's fashion designer degree requirements, salary, job description and more.

Fashion Designer

If you're looking into becoming a fashion designer, here's some quick detail on the primary duties that come with a career in fashion design:

  • Studying fashion trends and anticipating the "next big thing" in apparel
  • Working with other designers to develop prototypes
  • Using computer-aided design (CAD) programs to create design files
  • Visiting manufacturers or trade shows to stay on top of available fabrics
  • Presenting design ideas to your creative director or to the public at runway shows

Where do fashion designers work?

Close to 20 percent of fashion design professionals are self-employed, either as freelancers or entrepreneurs, but fashion design careers can take shape in a variety of industries:

  • Apparel, piece goods and notion merchant wholesalers
  • Motion picture and video industries
  • Apparel manufacturing
  • Cut-and-sew apparel manufacturing
  • Specialized design services

How to become a fashion designer

Most people looking to work in fashion earn a degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. Fashion designer degree requirements can vary, but some may allow you to take online courses that can better align with your personal schedule.

The typical pathway to a career in the industry follows a simple set of steps:

  1. Earn a high school diploma or equivalent
  2. Complete a bachelor's degree program that includes courses like pattern design, apparel construction principles, collection design and global production and trade. Read about the top fashion design schools to learn more. 
  3. Build a portfolio that showcases your skills and personal style
  4. Send out applications and attend industry events to find the right employment fit

Of course, some employers in the field may have different or more specialized requirements. The above steps are a common route to jobs in fashion, but they don't apply to every single fashion designer career available.

Exams and licensing for fashion designers

As it stands today, there aren't any official state or federal licensing requirements for fashion designers. It may help, however, to attend a fashion design degree program that's accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), an industry organization that certifies the educational programs at more than 350 U.S. schools.

Important skills and abilities for fashion designers

  • Originality, or the ability to branch out from conventional wisdom and create exciting new designs, is one of the most important traits for fashion designers
  • Oral comprehension can help you better understand when your clients, creative directors or the public give you feedback on your designs
  • Coordination gives you the ability to adjust your actions and approaches in relation to the needs or actions of others
  • Fluency of ideas is the ability to generate numerous ideas about a single topic, accumulating a long list for later evaluation
  • Active learning can help you understand the implications of new information as it relates to your current situation and potential future

Fashion designer salary and career outlook

As with any job, pay and job outlook for fashion designers varies by experience, education and location. Here's an idea of the job growth and salary for fashion designers in the coming years:

CareerTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean WageProjected Job Growth Rate
Fashion Designers18,940$78,8703.1%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Professional Organizations

Organization dedicated to create a cooperative working environment for fashion designers and related professionals.
World's largest retail trade association has members across the US. and in 45 countries.
Nonprofit trade organization consists of more than 500 of the foremost fashion designers in the U.S., including Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Vera Wang, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and other notable fashion icons.

A career as a graphic designer might be right up your alley. Check out graphic design programs you can complete in under two years, and more to help your quest to become a graphic designer.

Sources
  • Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, accessed September 28, 2018: Fashion Designers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm; Fashion Designers, Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2017, https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271022.htm
  • Fashion Designers, Occupational Information Network, accessed September 28, 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/27-1022.00
  • Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design, Texas Woman's University, accessed September 28, 2018, http://catalog.twu.edu/undergraduate/arts-sciences/fashion-textiles/fashion-design-ba/
  • Accredited Institutions, National Association of Schools of Art and Design, accessed September 28, 2018, https://nasad.arts-accredit.org/directory-lists/accredited-institutions/