Online Degrees In Fashion Merchandising

Do you look at the clothes displayed in windows of shop and think that you would have done it differently? Are you the person your friends ask when they’re looking for bargains on a particular style of clothing? If so, then perhaps a career in fashion merchandising is the one for you.

Fashion merchandising combines the flair and creativity of fashion with the business aspects of the industry. Apart from having an eye for fashion, individuals interested in earning an online fashion merchandising degree should have strong math skills and enjoy working on detailed projects, according to the College Board. Online fashion merchandising degree programs can help students develop these skills so they can have a better chance of succeeding in the competitive fashion marketplace.

Fashion merchandising is a broad term that includes all the steps involved in getting clothes and accessories from designers into customers’ homes. It involves trend analyses, predicting the next hottest looks, evaluating inventory needs and buying clothes and finally marketing them to consumers.

The many different aspects of the process means there are several different kinds of careers you may have – from evaluating customer journeys and designing shop layouts to purchasing and products. You may even be able to land a job hiring designers for a design firm based on their skills!

The roughly $2.4T fashion sector is one of the largest industries in the global economy.

Fashion merchandisers are the heroes working behind the scenes of the fashion industry who help customers access the latest trends. They do this by analyzing customer behavior and planning what and how much merchandise to stock for retail. They may also be involved with negotiating the best price for the merchandise, purchasing it, and building lasting relationships with manufacturers. Depending on their role, they may also be in charge of working with marketing teams to advertise the latest products as well as designing appealing window displays.

The next era of fashion is all about personalization and prediction. With more and more data, algorithms will become trend hunters — predicting (and designing) what’s next in ways that have never been possible.

As with any industry, the fashion industry requires people with different skillsets and expertise to fulfill various roles. An online fashion merchandising degree may allow individuals to work in the manufacturing, consulting, and retail industries among others.

The table below lists occupations related to this field along with along with job openings, average salary, total employment and job outlook for 2018 to 2028, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Career
Employment
Median Salary
Projected Job Growth
Sales Managers402,600$141,6905.1%
Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products1,344,530$71,1101.7%
Retail Salespersons4,317,950$29,360-2.3%
Buyers and Purchasing Agents421,280$69,680-7.4%

Source: 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

The following steps typically outline how you can become a fashion merchandiser.

Step 1. Take art and business classes in high school

Step 2. If you plan on working evenings and weekends, try getting a job in retail to get a feel for the business

Step 3. Research, choose and enroll in a traditional or online fashion merchandising degree program

Step 4. Start building your portfolio while you’re still in school – the feedback you get from your professors may prove invaluable

Step 5. Participate in an internship

Step 6. Opt for an advanced degree if you wish to

Step 7. Design and build your resume

Step 8. Aim to land a job within fashion merchandising field

Step 9. Obtain professional certifications as you gain experience

Online fashion merchandising degree programs are typically available at the associate, bachelor’s and master’s levels. The degree you choose to earn can depend on your interests and career goals. Associate programs may allow you to work in entry-level roles in the merchandising industry while bachelor’s degrees may qualify you to explore more diverse careers including managerial roles. A master’s degree may qualify you for executive positions in the industry.

Fashion brands of all sizes and specialties are using technology to understand customers better than ever before.

What can I expect to learn in an online associate degree program?

A fashion merchandising associate degree online can give you foundational knowledge of the business behind fashion. Students may learn to interpret business spreadsheets, perform basic accounting functions, and gain an understanding of retailing practices. Students may also gain basic knowledge of fashion like design and textiles.

Typical duration: Two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Apart from liberal education classes, core courses can include topics in business and fashion. Some examples of courses you may take are:

  • Basic design and color theory
  • Introduction to fashion merchandising
  • Introduction to visual merchandising
  • Principles of retailing
  • Textiles

What kind of jobs can I get after earning an associate degree in fashion merchandising?

An online fashion merchandising associate degree may qualify you for roles in retail operations management, purchasing, sales, and vender management. If you are already working, it may make you eligible for promotion, or an increase in responsibilities and wages. It may also work as a stepping stone toward a four-year degree. Some examples of jobs you may get include:

  • Sales lead
  • Shift manager
  • First-line supervisor of retail workers
The rise of fast fashion is decimating the biannual seasonality that has long structured the fashion industry.

What can I expect to learn in an online bachelor’s degree program?

An online fashion merchandising bachelor’s degree program can help students learn to combine their eye for fashion with business skills to create effective fashion merchandising planning and marketing strategies. They may learn to identify, analyze and predict future industry trends.

Typical duration: Four years of full-time study

General prerequisites: High school diploma or equivalent

Typical coursework: Topics explore the field of fashion merchandising in more depth than those in an associate degree program. Apart from business topics, core courses you may take include:

  • Fashion research and forecasting
  • History of fashion and costume
  • Merchandise management strategies
  • Merchandise planning
  • Product lifecycle management

Students enrolled in online fashion merchandising degree programs at the bachelor’s level may also need to complete an internship and/or a capstone project.

Possible electives: International retailing; consumer behavior; technology in fashion and retailing

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a bachelor’s in fashion merchandising?

Graduates of online fashion merchandising bachelor’s degree programs may find career opportunities in areas like retail sales management, merchandise buying, visual merchandising, fashion marketing, fashion forecasting, fashion blogging, and textile development. Some examples of job titles include:

  • Buyer
  • Fashion blogger
  • Sales manager
  • Store and product planner
  • Vendor relations specialist
  • Visual merchandiser
Consumers are wising up to the negatives of fast fashion: socially conscious shoppers are embracing the growing movement of “slow fashion,” which focuses on sustainable materials and transparent, ethical labor and manufacturing.

What can I expect to learn in an online master’s degree program?

Master’s degrees are typically of two types:

  • Master of Professional Studies (MPS) in Fashion Merchandising: Typically aimed at those with little experience in the industry, thereby combining traditional master’s degree topics with practical industry specific skills.
  • Master of Science (M.S.) in Fashion Merchandising: A more traditional route that incorporates research skills along with theoretical topics. There are typically designed for professionals already working in the industry.

An online fashion merchandising master’s degree may allow students to focus intensely on fashion retailing, consumer behavior, marketing and/or management. Students can learn about the latest trends and technologies along with gaining the knowledge they need to research problems and come up with innovative solutions for the fashion and retail industry.

Typical duration: One to two years of full-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or a related field

Typical coursework: You may find there is a considerable overlap in the coursework offered within an MS and MPS degree program. Some topics you may study include:

  • Retailing and Service Design
  • Merchandising Technologies
  • Luxury Brand Management in the Fashion Industry
  • Foundations of Fashion PR Strategies and Tactics
  • Retail Supply Chain Analysis

Students may have to complete a capstone stone project as a part of their online fashion merchandising master’s degree program.

Possible electives: Social responsibility, sustainability, and ethics in merchandising; managerial strategies for retailers; digital retailing

What kind of jobs can I get after earning a master’s in fashion merchandising?

Graduates of online master’s degree programs in fashion merchandising may be able to branch their careers into different aspects of the field. They may find employment in areas like fashion styling, fashion production, brand management, and visual merchandising to name a few. Some examples include:

  • General merchandise manager
  • Manufacturer sales representative
  • Merchandise buyer
  • Post-secondary educator
  • Regional retail operations manager
  • Retail corporate executive
With data and AI capabilities, retailers could more effectively match customers’ shopping behavior and preferences, potentially reducing the overall number of returns.

Online graduate certificates in the field are rare and are usually aimed at individuals with fashion merchandising jobs who have already earned a bachelor of fashion merchandising degree. Certificate programs can help such individuals earn some graduate education without having to commit to a full-time master’s in fashion merchandising. These programs can allow those with careers in fashion merchandising focus their skills and enhance theoretical knowledge in areas of their interest.

Typical duration: One year of part-time study

General prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree in fashion merchandising or a related field

Typical coursework: Topics may vary depending on the focus of the program. Some examples of courses include:

  • Fashion and retail theory
  • Global market: dynamics of retailing
  • Research methods in merchandising
  • Retail strategies and merchandise management
  • Retailing and consumerism
The costs of starting a fashion brand have gone down significantly, thanks to technology and e-commerce.

Online doctoral degrees in fashion merchandising are not currently available. However, interested students may be able to consider doctoral degree programs in human sciences or business with a focus on textiles, apparel or retail merchandising.

Accreditation

Accreditation can be an important factor to look at while choosing from the various fashion merchandising degree programs out there. Not only may employers prefer hiring graduates of accredited degree programs but accreditation may also play a role while applying for professional certifications. Additionally, attending an accredited program can be a prerequisite for receiving federal financial aid as well as for the transfer of credits from one program to another.

As fashion merchandising is the business of fashion, you may find many online fashion merchandising degree programs that are programmatically accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) or the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB).

Specializations in Fashion Merchandising

The top online fashion merchandising degree programs may allow students to choose a specialization within the field. Choosing a specialization may allow students to focus their future careers in fashion merchandising in areas of their interest. However, not all fashion merchandising colleges offer specializations so it can be important to thoroughly research your options before choosing a fashion merchandising degree online. Some examples of specialization include:

  • Fashion marketing and visual merchandising
  • Home fashions
  • Merchandising buying
  • Retail buying and planning
  • Styling
As with every other industry, automation and robotics are also coming for fashion manufacturing.

Certifications in Fashion Merchandising

Professional certifications may not be mandatory but they can demonstrate your expertise in the field. They can also demonstrate your commitment to upholding quality standards and staying on top of the latest developments in the field. Certifications can vary depending on your job role, i.e. whether you are working in sales, operations management or marketing for example. Some organizations offering certifications include:

Augmented reality and virtual reality tech are increasingly being deployed to create digital experiences in stores and “in-store” experiences online.

Employment Statistics

Sales Manager

Industries with the highest concentration of employment
  • Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers
  • Automobile
  • Merchant Wholesalers, Nondurable Goods (4242 and 4246 only)
  • Other Information Services
  • Professional and Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers
States with the highest level of employment
  • California
  • Texas
  • Illinois
  • New York
  • Florida
Top-paying metropolitan areas
  • New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
  • Fond du Lac, WI
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT
  • Glens Falls, NY

Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.

Scholarships may help ease the financial burden of attending college. You may be able to find a wide variety of financial aid programs, grants and scholarships for eligible students from federal, state and private institutions. Here are a few that relate specifically to the field of fashion merchandising:

Other resources

Sources

  • 41-1011.00 – First-Line Supervisors of Retail Sales Workers, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, www.onetonline.org/link/summary/41-1011.00, accessed November 2019
  • AS in Fashion Merchandising, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/associate/as-in-fashion-merchandising, accessed November 2019
  • BS in Fashion Merchandising Management, Southern New Hampshire University, https://www.snhu.edu/online-degrees/bachelors/bs-in-fashion-merchandising-management, accessed November 2019
  • Fashion careers: What does a fashion merchandiser actually do?, Fashion United, 2018, https://fashionunited.uk/news/fashion/fashion-careers-what-does-a-fashion-merchandiser-actually-do/2018112940231
  • Fashion Management (MPS), The New School, Parsons School Of Design, https://www.newschool.edu/parsons/mps-fashion-management/?show=program-curriculum, accessed November 2019
  • Fashion Marketing, MPS, LIM College, http://limcollege.catalog.acalog.com/preview_program.php?catoid=65&poid=1021&returnto=5590, accessed November 2019
  • Fashion Merchandising & Management, AAS, LIM College, http://limcollege.catalog.acalog.com/preview_program.php?catoid=65&poid=989&returnto=5590, accessed November 2019
  • Fashion Merchandising & Retailing – B.S., Johnson & Wales University, https://catalog.jwu.edu/programsofstudy/business/fashion-merchandising-retailing-bs/online/, accessed November 2019
  • Fashion Merchandising, BBA, LIM College, http://limcollege.catalog.acalog.com/preview_program.php?catoid=65&poid=991&returnto=5590, accessed November 2019
  • How to Start a Career in Fashion Merchandising, Chron.com, https://work.chron.com/start-career-fashion-merchandising-14368/, accessed November 2019
  • Major: Fashion Merchandising, Big Future, The College Board, https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/majors/business-sales-marketing-fashion-merchising, accessed November 2019
  • Master’s Degree in Retail and Merchandising Online, Drexel University, https://online.drexel.edu/online-degrees/business-degrees/retail-and-merchandising/index.aspx, accessed November 2019
  • Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/purchasing-managers-buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm, accessed November 2019
  • Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/purchasing-managers-buyers-and-purchasing-agents.htm, accessed November 2019
  • Retail Sales Workers, Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/retail-sales-workers.htm, accessed November 2019
  • The Future of Fashion: From Design to Merchandising, How Tech Is Reshaping the Industry, CB Insights, 2019, https://www.cbinsights.com/research/fashion-tech-future-trends/
  • What Is an MPS Degree?, Georgetown University, https://scs.georgetown.edu/what-is-mps-degree/, accessed November 2019
  • What is Fashion Merchandising? 3 Things to Know about the Field, The Art Institutes, https://www.artinstitutes.edu/about/blog/what-is-fashion-merchandising, accessed November 2019
  • What Is Fashion Merchandising?, LM College, https://www.limcollege.edu/academics/what-is-fashion-merchandising, accessed November 2019
  • Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents,
Related Resources & Tools

Online Degrees in Fine Arts

Earning an online degree in fine arts is a great way to begin a career in fine artistry, graphic design, or animation. Learn more about online programs in the field.

 

Online Jewelry Design Degrees

Jewelry design degrees can help you to enter a specialized field. Learn how online degrees in jewelry design can provide you with instructor access and learning materials.

 
Methodologies and Sources