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Degree Overview: Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) Degrees in Fashion Design and Merchandising

Majors Overview April 14, 2015

Get information about Bachelor of Fine Arts (B.F.A.) degree programs in Fashion Design and Merchandising and their coursework, career choices, job and wage outlook, and continuing education choices.

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

Students enrolled in a combined fashion design and merchandising program are taught modes of drawing, making, and marketing clothing for fashion-conscious consumers. Graduates can expect to become adept in every phase of clothing design — ranging from the initial sketch to the finished garment — using the same computer software, materials, and equipment as employed by the industry.

Students also choose clothes that will sell, in addition to learning ways of marketing them in a retail setting. Before they can finally graduate out of the program, prospective designers may be expected to complete a capstone project, in addition to creating and submitting a professional-level portfolio that showcases their talents and skills. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to hold a GED certificate or a high school diploma.


The curriculum includes fundamental classes in drawing, fashion design history, sewing, fashion design elements, and color theory. Over the duration of the program, advanced topics in business law, web design, fashion show promotion, and accessorizing are studied by enrolled students. Core coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Fashion analysis
•Apparel production
•International retailing
•Tailoring and draping
•Fashion sketching

Career Choices

An associate’s or bachelor’s degree would suffice to obtain entry-level jobs in the industry (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). Graduates can seek various jobs with stores, manufacturers, wholesalers, or design firms:

•Assistant buyers
•Retail managers
•Fashion stylists
•Fashion designers
•Visual merchandisers

Job and Wage Outlook

In 2013, the majority of fashion designers brought in an average annual wage ranging from $33,580 to $127,190 (BLS). During 2014 fashion stylists earned between $21,322 and $101,495. Most assistant buyers brought home between $27,952 and $53,758 during that year, while the annual wage of visual merchandisers ranged from $20,712 to $50,377, and most retail managers was in the range of $24,411 to $61,289.

A negative job growth rate of three percent has been predicted for the fashion design industry over the 2012 – 2022 decade, with the best prospects expected to be enjoyed by individuals with work experience and formal education (BLS).

Continuing Education Choices

Those who complete the bachelor’s program may opt to continue their education by enrolling in a graduate program in fashion and interdisciplinary studies, such as Master of Arts (M.A.) in Fashion Studies, Master of Fine Arts (M.F.A.) in Fashion Design, and Society or Master of Arts (M.A.) in Fashion and Textile Studies, wherein they can enhance their grasp of fashion management, textiles, and clothing.

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