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Degree Overview: Bachelor of Apparel and Shoe Design Degree Programs

Majors Overview April 10, 2015

Get information about Bachelor of Apparel and Shoe Design degree programs and their educational requirements, coursework, career choices, continuing education choices, and job and wage outlook.

Bachelor of Apparel and Shoe Design Programs

Few schools, if any, offer bachelor’s degree programs in both apparel and shoe design. The Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Fashion Design may include individual classes in footwear design that may be available as a major at one or two schools; however, footwear design is commonly a part of the accessories design program.

Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) Programs in Fashion Design

Students enrolled in an undergraduate fashion program are provided with the opportunity to develop the skills used in the field under the supervision of working professionals. The third and fourth years of the program include upper-level classes aimed at building upon the skills related to construction, draping, pattern development, and drawing that are acquired by students during completion of their lower-level curricula.

Specializations may be offered by individual departments in clothing for special occasions, sportswear, lingerie, and children’s wear. Where a separate degree in footwear or accessories design is not available, additional classes in millinery, jewelry design, and leather goods may be provided. The completion of a portfolio, internship, or senior design project marks the culmination of the program.

Educational Requirements

The completion of a foundation art program is a requirement of students enrolled in some colleges before they are allowed to begin the program (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Admission criteria at individual schools might require incoming students to hold a degree or compensatory credits in a fashion-related area.


Advanced coursework within an undergraduate fashion program is devised to make students adept at creating clothing for a custom design and consumer markets. The curriculum emphasizes craftsmanship, trends, and apparel aesthetics and includes classes in topic areas such as:

•Flat pattern design
•Computerized pattern design
•Illustration or sketching

Career Choices

Design firms and apparel wholesalers that devise mass-market clothing for retail chains and department stores are the most common employers for fashion designers (BLS). Theater, television, and film production companies may also employ designers as technicians and costume researchers. New graduates may also seek custom tailor or personal stylist positions at department stores. They may choose from common entry-level positions in the fashion industry such as:

•Assistant designer or buyers
•Sketching assistant
•Pattern maker

Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) Programs in Accessory Design

Shoes and bags are coveted fashion accessories, and students enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) in Accessories Design are trained for this increasingly important aspect of the fashion industry. Students learn about ways of designing nontraditional, theatrical, and athletic footwear through the use of computer software and conventional drawing materials besides developing a line for a targeted niche.

New courses in sustainability are devised by schools to give students an opportunity to experiment with green design. Educational requirements do not differ from those related to fashion design programs.


Coursework is devised to teach students about creating a range of fashion accessories, including paper drawing and finished products. They also gain a grasp of the place and historical importance the accessories occupy in the clothing industry. Core coursework includes topic areas such as:

•Footwear design
•Collection development
•Computer-aided design
•Sketching for footwear and accessories
•Fashion history

Career Choices

Earning a specialized degree in accessories or footwear design will help students find jobs that involve designing bridal accessories, eyewear, luggage, belts, handbags, and shoes. They may seek other positions such as:

•Assistant merchandise and production makers
•Product-line builder
•Lead pattern maker

Continuing Education Choices

Few schools, if any, offer graduate degrees in fashion design. Programs offered at professional design schools and universities are best suited for those who want to gain more in-depth knowledge of clothing and textiles or aim for teaching jobs at the college level. Schools offer a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Fashion and Textile Studies and a Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) with specialized coursework in fashion design.

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2012, fashion designers in general brought in an average annual wage of $62,680 (BLS). Over the 2012 – 2022 decade, staggering decline rates of 51% in job growth have been predicted for apparel manufacturing professionals (BLS). A more modest decline of 3% in job growth is predicted for designers with degrees in fashion design, in addition to industry experience and strong portfolios.

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