What Can I Do with a Degree in Fashion Design?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in fashion design. Find information on fashion design careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in fashion design.


It has often been noted that fashion is art that one can wear. Shirts, skirts, dresses and accessories can be more than simple items to keep one warm and covered. Frequently, what one chooses to wear is a statement about mood or personality. The creation of millions of articles of clothing produced and sold annually around the globe is the direct result of the work of fashion designers. From the initial idea in the mind of the designer, through the creative process of sketch, selection of fabric and color, and physical production, fashion designers can spend up to two years in the creation of a single item. Fashion designers must also research fashion trends, develop prototypes, and can frequently be involved in basics such as sewing the final design.

Fashion is also a global industry, requiring the designer to become familiar with being able to communicate with suppliers, manufactures and customers across vast distances. Fashion design typically requires either an Associate or Bachelors Degree. Modern fashion designers must be familiar with such tools as Computer Aided Design (CAD) and business or marketing skills for success. With these skills, a period of internship and long work hours can be expected to be successful.


Individuals with a degree in fashion design have several different areas in which to pursue a career. Designers can be involved in high fashion (haute couture), fashion for the mass market, or the entertainment industry.

Clothing Designers: Creating and producing all manner of suits, dresses, intimate apparel, and outerwear for men, women and children.
Footwear Designers: Creating and producing the myriad of shoes and boots available.
Accessory Designers: Design and creation of additional fashion items such as purses, scarves, and belts that complete an outfit.
Costume Designers: Somewhat different than high fashion, costume designers create and produce clothing and accessories for stage, television and film. Working with directors, costume designers must often research historical fashion for accuracy.

Regardless of the area of specialty, newer workers can expect to be more involved in the more routine and technical aspects of design and production (e.g. sewing) before advancing.

Industry Salary Info

As of 2008, the median annual wage for fashion designers was $61,160. This ranged from a low of $32,150 to $124,780 for the highest 10 percent. Most designers earned between $42,150 and $87,120. While earnings will vary, depending on education, experience, and employer, most individuals starting out can expect lower wages.

The median annual wages in the largest fashion industries indicate that individuals in Fashion management earn $72,560. Those in apparel manufacturing (cutting & sewing) earn $66,000. Merchant wholesalers make on average $61,600, while individuals in Special Design Services earn $59,560. The most stable salaries can be found among individuals working for established fashion firms, as opposed to individuals working on a self-employed or freelance basis. However, highly successful freelance designers have the potential to earn far higher than some salaried designers. Self-employed designers must also be aware of the need to provide for their own retirement and health care benefits.

Job Outlook

In examining future employment trends in the fashion industry, it must be noted that intense competition, coupled with few openings, is the trend for the next decade. Between 2008 and 2018, industry growth in fashion is projected to be a mere 1 percent. Global demand for clothing and shoes, especially in the mass market, will increase as population grows. However, positions for manufacturing (sewing) will decrease as production continues to move outside of the United States.
Fashion design also attracts a fair number of candidates because of the allure associated with the industry. This attraction will only make competition for the small number of available positions that much more difficult for the individual. Design firms that cater to higher-end fashion are projected to have fewer than expected openings, as demand for luxury goods decreases, while the best opportunities will lie in firms catering to mass-market clothing sold in department stores.

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