Some of America's notable fashion designers -- Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Vera Wang, Ralph Lauren -- have crafted many of the most sought-after brands in retail. Some of these designers got their start at fashion schools. Kors, for instance, attended Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, while Jacobs cut his teeth at Parsons School of Design in NYC.
Students interested in careers in the fashion industry can use the information gathered below to gain insight into 10 of the best colleges for fashion design degree programs. Educational pathways range from professional certificates to bachelor's degrees in fashion design, the most common educational obtainment for aspiring designers or fashion merchandisers. Students who complete a fashion design degree program have a journeyperson's understanding of fashion design and production, as well as a strong foundation in business to help launch their careers.
Read on to learn more about our 10 featured colleges, as well as additional helpful information, such as career outlook and scholarships for fashion majors, and common career paths for program graduates.
Best Colleges for Fashion Design Degree Programs 2018-19
Students interested in pursuing on-campus or online fashion design degrees can use the information compiled below for insight into fashion programs at 10 of the top U.S. colleges and universities for fashion design degree programs. We gathered data from the National Center for Education Statistics and created a unique methodology to rank each school. Keep reading to learn more about these 10 institutions, or click on the button below to learn more about how we created this list.
Our top institution is located in the heart of New York City's internationally recognized Fashion District and is the second member of the State University of New York System. The institute's curriculum is focused on programs in fashion, design, communications, business and art.
Fashion design was one of the first degree programs offered when the college was founded in 1944. Curriculum includes study in patternmaking, sewing, draping and computer-aided design and covers the entire garment-making process from conceptualization to finished product. FIT offers one- and two-year associate degree plans, as well as bachelor's degrees in the following areas of fashion design: children's wear, intimates, sportswear and formalwear for special occasions. It also offers associate and bachelor's degree in fashion business management, as well as an M.F.A. in fashion design.
FIT's cost of in-state tuition ranks No. 1 among these 10 best fashion design colleges. At $5,230, it's less than half of the next most-affordable school. It also had the highest graduation rate at 75 percent.
Our second college is located in Boston and was founded in 1873. Total enrollment in fall of 2016 was just under 2,000 students. The college created its fashion design program in 1907, making it one of the longest-running fashion programs in the U.S.
MassArt's B.F.A. program in fashion design requires 120 credit hours to complete and includes 42 credit hours of study in fashion design, 18 credits in studio design principles, and 12-18 credits in art history. The program teaches students how to produce innovative new clothing designs with a full understanding of color, texture, line and silhouette. Students also learn business fundamentals of apparel production, manufacturing and marketing.
MassArt places third in these rankings based on its high 72 percent graduation and 71 percent admissions rates among other factors in determining the top colleges for fashion design programs. Classes also have a low 9:1 student to faculty ratio.
This for-profit art school was founded in San Francisco in 1929. The school has the most fashion programs of any institution in our rankings, including online fashion design degrees.
Academy of Art University offers on campus or online associate degrees in fashion, as well as degree options in fashion marketing, merchandising, costume design, styling, knitwear, textiles, management, branding and journalism. Associate of Art programs require 66 credits to graduate, while the B.A. requires 120 and B.F.A. requires 132. The Bachelor of Fine Arts program also requires 36 units in the program core and 30 in the student's chosen major. AAU also has both M.A. and M.F.A. programs in fashion.
The university features an open admissions policy and had the highest graduation rate of any institution in these rankings at 54 percent.
Located in Philadelphia, this independent college for art and design places fourth in our rankings due to its high graduation and admissions rates. Students also might expect a great deal of discussion and interaction with professors due to the college's low 7:1 student to faculty ratio. Moore also had the second-highest number of fashion degrees conferred to students among our 10 best colleges for fashion design programs.
Moore College of Art and Design offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts program in fashion design. Students must complete 126 credits, including 55.5 in the program major and 42 credits of liberal arts courses, to satisfy degree requirements. Students regularly visit studios and showrooms in Philadelphia and New York City to gain insight from experts in the fashion industry.
Our fifth school, a private art and design school college located in the upscale Westchester neighborhood of west Los Angeles, was the first art college in the city. About 1,100 students enroll at Otis each year. The college has a great 90 percent admissions rate, and also had the third-highest graduation rate in our top 10.
Otis College of Art and Design offers an undergraduate program in fashion design, as well as a concentration in costume design. Coursework has been designed around sustainable design principles, and students also have the option of pursuing a minor in sustainability. Students can transfer up to 63 undergraduate units into the college's fashion design program.
Otis College had the highest cost of tuition among these top schools at $42,314.
This private school is located on Beverley Hills' famed Wilshire Boulevard. The school prides itself on its tradition of modeling curriculum after European fashion schools that teach separate pattern design and fashion design programs.
Beverly Hills Design Institute offers associate and bachelor's degrees in fashion design, as well as the same two pathways in pattern design. Curriculum in the fashion design program consists of 192 quarter credit hours of study, including 54 quarter credits in general education classes. The program is for students interested in careers as designers, stylists or executive positions in the fashion industry. The pattern making program, meanwhile, focuses on advanced pattern making techniques to prepare graduates for potential patternmaker/head pattern designer positions. The program has the same 192 quarter-credit requirement for graduation.
This private for-profit college was founded in Los Angeles in 1969 and has additional campuses in Irvine, San Diego and San Francisco, all in California. The schools offers a wide range of associate degrees in the fashion industry
Programs include Associate of Arts degrees in fashion design, fashion knitwear design and apparel industry management. FIDM's associate degrees in fashion and fashion knitwear require 90 total units to complete. There's also a 57-credit professional designation for students who already hold a college degree but want to shift careers to fashion design.
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising also offers a Bachelor of Science in apparel technical design, as well as advanced professional programs in advanced fashion design, menswear, theater costume design, and international manufacturing and product development.
This large state university in Montclair, N.J. places in these rankings based on its solid 66 percent graduation and 70 percent admission rates. The university was founded in 1908 and had an annual enrollment of about 21,000 students.
Montclair State University offers bachelor's degree programs in fashion studies and retail merchandising and management, as well as minor options in fashion design and fashion merchandising. Curriculum for the fashion studies major focuses on the design, production and sales of fashion apparel, merchandise, products and services. The program requires 81 credits in the program core, as well as 18 credits in fashion electives. Students often combine the major with a minor in entrepreneurship, business or communications.
Students enrolled in fashion programs at MSU have access to a state-of-the-art design studio with sewing machines and a historic costume collection from which to draw inspiration.
Fashion Degrees Programs and Common Career Paths
There are many different paths people take as they begin their careers in the fashion industry. It's common for many prospective fashion workers to complete a bachelor's degree in a fashion-related field to gain a well-rounded educational foundation in principles of design, merchandising, textiles, production and computer-aided design. Students also have an opportunity to build a portfolio of their work and designs, a key tool in showcasing their talents to prospective employers.
For aspiring fashion designers, curriculum covers a wide range of crucial aspects in fashion, from drawing, design and patternmaking fundamentals to construction and fabric analysis. Students are immersed in the historical perspective and future trends of the fashion history, as well as the art of design and science of textiles. Furthermore, many programs combine fashion curriculum with study in business and communications, which diversifies students' knowledge and potentially increases their value to prospective employers -- designers need to know the costs to create garments and how much they should sell for.
If you're hoping to train for a fashion designer career but don't want to leave your current job to do it, some universities offer fashion design degree programs with the option of online courses. Studying online can help you keep your schedule organized in a manageable way and broadens the range of schools to which you might apply.
Career Outlook for Fashion Majors
With a heavy focus on international production of clothing and apparel, employment growth for fashion designers in the U.S. is expected to be a fairly slow 3 percent through 2026, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports. However, employment is expected to increase by 22 percent for fashion designers working for mass market retailers.
Job prospects are best for designers with a formal education and strong portfolio of work, the BLS notes. Job opportunities historically are best in the fashion centers of New York and Los Angeles.
PROJECTED JOB GROWTH(%)
Financial Aid and Scholarships in Fashion
Federal financial aid programs can help students fund tuition for fashion degree programs. However, there are many different scholarships students can pursue that can offset tuition fees. These include the YMA Fashion Scholarship Fund, which presents approximately 200 annual scholarships of $5,000, as well as four merit scholarships of $30,000 to $35,000. The scholarships are offered at 60 partner schools, including several of the colleges in our top 10.
The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising offers several scholarships to fashion students, and it also partners with notable brands to offer a wider range of scholarships. Other scholarship opportunities are typically available from major retailers as well.
To be included in these rankings, all schools must meet the following initial criteria for the specific subject being ranked.
- Offer an undergraduate degree (either associate or bachelor’s) in that subject.
- Have awarded at least one degree or certificate in that subject in the most recent year of IPEDS data available.
Based on those criteria, we ranked all 2-year and 4-year schools in IPEDS that reported data for all of the following points. Ratings are calculated on a 10-point scale, using the weights specified.
- In-state undergraduate tuition & fees, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Graduation rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Accessibility, based on admissions rate, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Institutional spending, based on two equally weighted factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Instructional and academic support expenses per full-time enrolled student
- Instructional and academic support spending as a percentage of all expenses
- Student-to-faculty ratio, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Flexibility, based on the following factors, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Percent of students enrolled fully or partly in distance education
- Whether the school offers programs that can be completed entirely in the evenings and on weekends
- Whether the school offers academic and career counseling
- Whether the school offers job placement services for students who complete their programs
- Whether the school offers any alternative tuition plans, such as a payment plan or guaranteed rate
- Size of program, based on how many of the degrees and certificates awarded in 2014-15 were in this particular subject, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Related subjects, based on the number of similar topics for programs in relevant CIP codes that are offered at any level, National Center for Education Statistics, 2015
- Note: Only one campus per institution is included in this list. If a school has multiple campuses, only the campus with the highest ranking is shown.
- Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2016-17, National Center for Education Statistics, http://nces.ed.gov/ipeds/
- Most Recent Cohorts (All Data Elements): 2016-17, College Scorecard, U.S. Department of Education, https://collegescorecard.ed.gov/data/
- Fashion Design, Fashion Institute of Technology, http://www.fitnyc.edu/fashion-design/index.php
- Fashion, The Art Institute of Indianapolis, https://www.artinstitutes.edu/indianapolis/academics/fashion
- Fashion Design B.F.A., Massachusetts College of Art and Design, https://massart.edu/degree-programs/fashion-design-bfa
- Fashion Design Undergraduate Programs, Academy of Art University, https://www.academyart.edu/academics/fashion/undergraduate-degrees
- Fashion Design, Moore College of Art & Design, https://www.moore.edu/academics/bfa-programs/fashion-design
- Fashion Design, Otis College of Art and Design, https://www.otis.edu/fashion-design
- Bachelor of Arts in Fashion Design, Beverly Hills Design Institute, https://www.bhdi.edu/academics/department-of-fashion-design/bachelor-of-arts-degree-in-fashion-design/
- Fashion Design, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, http://fidm.edu/en/majors/fashion+design/
- Fashion Studies, Montclair State University, https://www.montclair.edu/academics/fashion-studies/
- Fashion, O'More College of Design, https://www.omorecollege.edu/fashion-design/
- Fashion Designers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/fashion-designers.htm#tab-1
- School pages, accessed September 28, 2018: Textiles and Clothing, Graduate Studies, University of California Davis, https://textiles.ucdavis.edu/graduate; Costume Design, Undergraduate Conservatory, DePaul University, https://theatre.depaul.edu/conservatory/undergraduate/costume-design/Pages/default.aspx; Apparel and Textiles, B.A.T., Kennesaw State University, http://catalog.kennesaw.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=24&poid=2991&returnto=2008; Program: Apparel, Textiles and Manufacturing [BS], Eastern Michigan University, https://catalog.emich.edu/preview_program.php?catoid=25&poid=11647; Textiles and Apparel Management, Graduate Studies, University of Missouri, https://gradstudies.missouri.edu/degreecategory/textile-and-apparel-management/