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Unleash your inner creativity with a career in the fashion industry. If you don't know where to start or how to get your foot in the door, consider an online fashion degree program.
Many options allow you to work on your own schedule. You’ll discover the many facets of the industry and prepare for a role after graduation.
Benzinga is here to help you evaluate your options so you can identify an online fashion degree program that meets your needs and goals.
Quick Look: Best Fashion Degree Programs
- Southern New Hampshire University
- Johnson and Wales University
- Central Michigan University
- Lindenwood University
- Academy of Art University
- Fashion Institute of Technology
- Old Dominion University
- Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
- LIM College
- Penn Foster College
Why Choose an Online Fashion Degree?
The career opportunities for fashion degree holders are endless. You can pursue a role as a fashion buyer, designer, merchandiser, retail manager, textile designer and the list goes on. Plus, the salaries are competitive so you can live comfortably. Many jobs in the industry allow you to travel around the nation or go abroad while you do what you love.
Want to work independently? That’s also an option — many designers have launched their own boutique firms and earned a hefty income.
How to Choose an Online Fashion Degree
Keep the following in mind as you explore online fashion degree programs:
How is the online fashion degree program perceived by industry leaders and top employers? What is the job placement rate for alumni? How do they feel about their educational experience? These are just a few questions to ponder as you evaluate the reputation of an online fashion degree program.
It may take some time to read reviews and locate job placement rates. However, doing so gives you valuable insight into the reputation of the school and online fashion degree program you are considering.
You want a program that’s flexible and tailored toward nontraditional students with busy schedules. All lectures, coursework and supplemental resources should be available online 24/7 so you can access them on your own time.
Also, be mindful of how instructors deliver the material. Online fashion degree programs that fuse video lectures with engaging assignments and hands-on projects allow you to get the most out of your learning experience. If there’s a field experience or internship requirement, you can hone your skills even more in a practice setting and work out any kinks before you embark on your career.
If the program offers specializations, that’s another significant benefit. You have the option to enhance your degree and align it with your career goals.
Cost of Attendance
It’s rare to find many colleges and universities with the same rates for tuition and fees. However, all your preferred options should have a comparable annual cost of attendance. If you find that some online fashion degree programs are far more pricey than others, it may be best to eliminate them from your list.
Jobs Waiting for You with a Fashion Degree
Here are some of the top career opportunities awaiting fashion degree graduates.
Fashion designers create unique designs for accessories, clothing, costumes and footwear. They handle the creative process from start to finish and collaborate with other designers to develop prototype designs.
This role also entails monitoring fashion trends to identify designs that appeal to consumers, acquiring fabric samples and embellishments from trade shows, showcasing ideas to creative directors and marketing final designs to both retailers and consumers.
On average, fashion designers earn $73,790 per year. This equates to $35.48 per hour.
If you want to work in a retail setting, a retail manager role may be a good fit. You’ll be responsible for coordinating and overseeing the activities of retail sales workers. Beyond basic oversight, retail managers are sometimes responsible for completing accounting, budgeting, personnel and purchasing related tasks.
In 2018, the median pay for retail managers was $45,830.
Wholesale and Retail Buyer
Wholesale and retail buyers acquire merchandise for a steeply discounted rate and sell to consumers for a profit. Other job duties include identifying purchasing trends and examining the sales records and historical price points for select garments to gauge potential profitability. You may also be tasked with executing purchasing per contractual agreements and communicating with sales personnel regarding new products.
The average annual salary for wholesale and retail buyers is $60,040 per year.
Best Online Colleges for a Fashion Degree
We know how challenging it can be to find the best online fashion degree programs. Benzinga has done the legwork for you and compiled a list of the best options. You will also find a review of each program to help you make an informed decision.
1. Southern New Hampshire University
Southern New Hampshire University offers an online Bachelor of Science in fashion merchandising management. You will cultivate business and merchandising skills and gain valuable insights on timeless styling strategies.
Classes are led by industry experts who are well-versed in fashion and can provide you with invaluable nuggets of wisdom. Fashion merchandising management majors take the following core courses:
- Fashion Research and Forecasting
- History of Fashion and Costume
- Introduction to Fashion Merchandising
- Merchandise Management Strategies
- Merchandise Planning
- Strategic Fashion Management
- Supply Chain Management
- Sustainability in Fashion
- Textiles and Color Theory
- Consumer Behavior, Retail Sales Promotion or Visual Merchandising
- Global Consumer Culture, Global Sourcing and Apparel or International Retailing
- Principles of Retailing, Retail Management or Technology in Fashion and Retailing
Students also complete a fashion merchandising internship to get real-world experience in the field.
You need 120 credit hours to earn your degree. SNHU allows you to transfer up to 90 credit hours from an accredited college or university.
2. Johnson and Wales University
Considering a management, marketing or merchandising role in the retail industry? A Bachelor of Science in fashion merchandising and retailing from Johnson and Wales University may be a good fit.
Acquire advanced skills from some of the best in the industry through interactive courses. You will also develop skills to help you excel in the field. Students complete the following core classes:
- Introduction to Retail and Fashion
- Retail and Fashion Lab
- Retail Math
- Strategic Planning in the Fashion Industry
- The Textiles Industry
There's also an internship or directed experiential education requirement to successfully complete the 121-credit hour program. It’ll prepare you for a career in fashion forecasting, merchandising, promotion and buying. You can also work in showroom management, retail marketing, visual merchandising and textiles.
If you want to enhance your degree to align with your career goals, consider minoring in Human Resource Management.
3. Central Michigan University
Earn a Bachelor of Science in fashion merchandising and design from Central Michigan University’s Global Campus. You can specialize your degree by selecting the product development or visual merchandising concentration.
The program requires you to complete the following core courses:
- Advanced CAD for Apparel
- Apparel Design Analysis
- CAD for Apparel
- Dress and Culture
- Fashion Retail Management
- History of Western Dress
- Introduction to the Fashion Industry
- Introduction to Textiles
- Textile Analysis
Product developers play an integral role in the development and sale of new fashion lines. If you choose the product development track, you will complete these classes:
- Apparel Product Analysis
- Apparel Product Development
- Experimental CAD
- Fashion Design: Illustration
- 3D Printing and Fashion
Upon completion, you will fully understand the lifecycle of new products, which includes sourcing, production, marketing and sales.
Visual merchandisers design stunning presentations to entice consumers to buy. The visual merchandising track requires you to take the following courses to master advertising, branding and display in both retail and virtual settings.
- Advanced Visual Merchandising
- Apparel Presentation Technology
- Fashion Advertising and Promotion
- Introduction to the Visual Arts
- Visual Business Communication and Digital Media
- Visual Merchandising
You need 120 credit hours to reach the finish line and earn your degree.
4. Lindenwood University
Lindenwood University features an online Bachelor of Science in fashion business and entrepreneurship. It covers the essentials of running a fashion-based business and bringing the up and coming trends and styles to the runway.
Students also learn the basics of business and fashion through a series of classes, like:
- Business Law I
- Digital Apparel Production Management
- Fashion Business and Entrepreneurship
- Fashion Business Capstone
- History of Costume to 1900
- History of Costume from 1900
- Introduction to the Fashion Industry
- Principles of Financial Accounting
- Principles of Finance
- Fashion Design Practicum
You will also complete an internship so you can implement and sharpen your skills before entering the field as a fashion professional.
5. Academy of Art University
Want a university that offers a variety of online degree programs? Look no further than the Academy of Art University. Choose from these options:
- Bachelor of Arts in fashion journalism
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion marketing
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion merchandising
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion product development
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion styling
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in costume design
As a distance learning student, you can tailor your study schedule around your other obligations. You will have access to the same support that traditional students enjoy and use equipment and software that prepares you for the workforce.
Courses are led by accomplished faculty who can connect you with industry influencers. Each program also mandates that you complete a final thesis project to showcase your expertise.
6. Fashion Institute of Technology
A component of the State University of New York, the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) offers online degrees in fashion business management and international trade and marketing.
You can earn an online Associate of Applied Science in fashion business management in just 1 year. This program is designed for individuals who already have 30 hours of college credit under their belt from a qualifying institution. It is designed to equip you with the skills needed for a merchandising role in buying, creative fashion presentation, marketing, retail management, sales and product development. The following courses are required:
- Advertising and Promotion
- Contemporary Retail Management
- Fashion Business Practices
- Fashion Merchandising
- Fundamentals of Textiles
- Introduction to the Fashion Industry
- Introduction to Fashion Marketing
- Merchandising Math Applications
- Product Development
- Team Development Workshop
If you choose to earn a Bachelor of Science in international trade and marketing, you should have at least 60 hours of college credit. It’s a 2-year program that prepares you for a management position in global fashion, global marketing or international trade and includes these core courses:
- Global Marketing
- Global Sourcing
- Import/Export Regulations
- International Business Transactions
- International Trade
This program also requires you to complete a senior internship in career planning, international trade practicum or elective courses.
7. Old Dominion University
Interested in learning the mechanics of retail manufacturing and wholesale? The Bachelor of Science in fashion merchandising from ODU Online is worth considering. It’s a component of the Darden College of Education and Professional Students and the Department of STEM Education and Professional Studies.
The curriculum delves into marketing, planning, procurement, target market research and analysis. You will also learn how to interpret business results and create tailored solutions to effectively serve both consumers and retailers.
You’ll also complete an internship to implement your newfound skills and knowledge in the field. This preps you for a degree as a fashion designer or as a marketing, sales, purchase and supply chain manager.
You need 120 credit hours to successfully complete the program. ODU Online allows you to transfer up to 90 hours from an accredited college or university.
8. Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design
Get an online Bachelor of Fine Arts in fashion design from the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design. It covers accessories, CAD design skills, couture construction, the history of fashion, product development and management, sustainable fashion and textile science.
Instructors are some of the most accomplished professionals in the industry. They offer valuable knowledge to help unleash your inner creativity and help you flourish as a fashion designer.
Past students have transitioned to rewarding careers. Many work as CAD artists, design assistants, graphic fashion designers, print coordinators, product designers, product development specialists, pre-production assistants, production managers, stylists, technical designers and textile designers.
You need 123 credit hours to finish the program.
9. LIM College
Position yourself for lucrative opportunities in the fashion industry with an online degree from LIM College. LIM College offers a Bachelor of Business Administration in the business of fashion or fashion merchandising.
Students who choose to major in the business of fashion must complete the following core courses:
- Applied Concepts in Merchandising
- Digital Tools for Fashion Presentations
- Fabric for Fashion
- Product Development and Merchandising
- Product Lifecycle Management
- Retailing: Global and Omni
- Sustainability and the Future of Fashion
- Business of Fashion Senior Capstone
This track is most ideal for transfer students who have already earned 60 credit hours from a qualifying institution.
Prefer a degree in fashion merchandising? You will complete the same courses as business or fashion majors but will also need to take:
- Visual Communication
- Fashion Merchandising Senior Capstone
You can also select a track as a retail buyer as you plan to enhance your degree.
Both programs require you to complete an internship and senior co-op to earn your degree.
10. Penn Foster College
New to the world of fashion? Start off on the right track with an online associate degree in fashion merchandising from Penn Foster College. This self-paced program focuses on the development, marketing, merchandising and promotion of apparel.
While working through the coursework, you will also sharpen your creative, business and fashion skills. The curriculum includes general education courses and the following core classes related to business fashion merchandising:
- Basic Accounting
- Business and Technical Writing
- Introduction to the Fashion Industry
- Color Theory
- Consumer Behavior
- Fashion Promotion
- History of Fashion
- Internet Marketing and E-Commerce
- Introduction to Textiles
- Merchandising Math
- Merchandising Planning and Buying
- Product Development
- Retail Management
Consider this option if you want an online learning experience that’s affordable and prepares you for an entry-level role in the fashion industry.
Find the Right Online Fashion Degree Program for You
Pursuing a career in the fashion industry is both challenging and exciting. You can land a job without continuing your education but earning an online fashion degree gives you an advantage over the competition. Employers will know that you have the foundational knowledge and hands-on experience, which makes you even more valuable.
When you’re ready to get started, check out our list of recommendations. These programs cater to individuals with varying backgrounds who need flexibility while continuing their education. You will also find that they are hands-on, affordable and teach the skills you need to thrive in the fashion industry.
Southern New Hampshire University Online
SNHU Online Offers:
- Flexible schedules
- Affordable tuition
- Online tutoring
- Access to electronic research materials
- Specialized academic advising
- Supportive online community