July 15, 2016
Fashion merchandising is a key ingredient in the economic strength of established brands and up-and-coming labels. Creativity and business sense are foundational skills, but learning how to trend-watch, analyze consumer behavior and apply historical data are also critical components behind any success story.
If you have a flair for fashion and an interest in making a career out of it, you may be considering a degree in fashion merchandising. Schools and colleges offer a range of degree programs to get you into the fashion business with the knowledge and know-how you need to succeed.
Fashion merchandising schools and programs vary widely in their offerings. To help you make the right decision - you'll be spending a lot of time together - the College Board outlines some basic questions to ask of any academic institution. They've been slightly modified here specifically for those pursuing a fashion merchandising education:
Is the school accredited?
Does the school have a dedicated career team?
Will that career team help you find an internship?
What kind of access (and assistance) will you have to the school's libraries?
Does the student community suit you?
Fashion merchandising student Gladys Stocks found everything she was looking for in Southern New Hampshire University's (SNHU) online AS in Fashion Merchandising. SNHU is a regionally accredited university with a dedicated career team for its online students and 24/7 access to learning resources - and it had the academic programs she was looking for. But it was the enthusiasm of the student body that sealed the deal. "I felt like the students were genuinely happy...being a part of this community," said Stocks, who had been attending a school that didn't give her "that warm and fuzzy feeling" prior to pursuing her degree with SNHU.
Core courses in fashion merchandising immerse students in a variety of projects that offer real-world perspectives. Anticipate projects rather than papers. This is attractive for many students who learn by doing and by applying the theoretical to actual examples.
Be sure basic business courses on selling and promoting fashion in the retail industry are part of the curriculum. Look for courses that help you define target markets and manage the design and production of products. Why do consumers make buying decisions? A course on consumer behavior will also serve you well and your fashion merchandising career well.
How much of the curriculum will focus on the business behind fashion; how much on creativity? Find out about field trips and webinars featuring speakers who work in the industry, too.
Fashion merchandising students have a number of academic levels to consider: associate, bachelor's or master's degrees. Different schools have different offerings. There are fashion merchandising schools dedicated exclusively to that fashion trade and there complete fashion merchandising programs within traditional universities like Southern New Hampshire University, which also gives students the flexibility of one of the best-ranked, innovative online learning platforms in the country.
What do employers look for? Most entry-level fashion merchandising positions require at least an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising or related field. These programs balance the business side of fashion merchandising with the creative aspects. Here's what you can expect if you enroll in either an AA or BA program:
An associate degree, like the online AS in Fashion Merchandising from SNHU, includes courses in design and color theory, textiles, retailing and marketing. The goal of the program is to prepare you for entry-level careers in buying, visual merchandising, sales and vendor relations in retail or wholesale settings.
A bachelor's in fashion merchandising, like the online BS in Fashion Merchandising Management at SNHU, helps you cultivate your own sense of style and gain a firm grasp of business strategy. You'll delve deep into fashion marketing, color and textile theory, consumer behavior and retail operations, planning and management. You also learn how to identify what styles sell and how to present visual cues that prompt buyers.
Current SNHU BS in Fashion Merchandising Management student Shaundreka Hearne is already working in the field, doing exactly what she loves to do. Hearne, who is launching her own brand, credits the knowledge she's gaining in the program to help her business get up and running the right way. "As a startup, so many things can be confusing.... To have the proper knowledge is comforting," Hearne said.
The opportunities for fashion merchandising experts are many, and they are growing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, through 2020, employment opportunities are expected to increase by 19.8 percent for first-line supervisors in clothing and accessories stores,*and the Washington Post put retail sales on it's list of Top 20 "Job Jackpots."
Earning a degree from an accredited school like SNHU can position you to compete for the most sought-after jobs in the field, including: buyer, visual merchandiser, sales representative, vendor relations specialist, store and product planner and sales manager.
SNHU students and alumni have landed positions with such well-known companies as: Coach, Timberland, Reebok International, Gap Inc., Kenneth Cole, Macy's, Saks Fifth Avenue and Jessica McClintock.
Tuition varies widely among fashion merchandising colleges and programs. Factors include public versus private, in-state versus out-of-state, online versus on-campus. SNHU's online degree programs are among the most affordable in the nation. Financial aid packages are available to those who qualify. There are also a number of scholarships available to fashion merchandising students. In addition, SNHU, one of the top military-friendly schools, offers discounts up to 30 percent for active-duty servicemembers and spouses working toward an online degree.
Once you've found the program that suits you best, it's time to apply - the first step toward realizing a bright future in fashion merchandising. SNHU makes it easy. With no SAT or ACT score required and no application fee, there are no barriers to learning more about what you love to do.
Start by contacting SNHU. An admission counselor is available to answer any questions you may have. Click here for more information or apply today.
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