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If you’ve ever dreamed of a career in fashion, a graduate or professional program in fashion design will help bring your head down out of the clouds and land you on the runway. A fashion-design student studies elements like color, fabric choice, and silhouette (are skinny pants right for this season?). Additionally, you’ll gain technical proficiency in computer-aided design and garment construction, patternmaking, draping and sewing. You should carefully consider your career goals when evaluating M.F.A. programs, which will either take a creative or technical approach -– do you want to be a designer or production manager? Or do fashion merchandising or fashion illustration appeal to you? Make sure that the school’s curriculum will meet your future plans.

Classes are extremely hands-on and have students sketching, sewing, and drafting from day one. You can expect to create original garments and present them in a public exhibition or a runway show. Most institutions encourage students to supplement their education with an internship, which is helpful -– maybe even essential –- in making connections and landing a first job. School location, facilities, and alumni connections should also be factors to consider when researching programs.

Degree Information

M.F.A. and M.A. programs in fashion design are extremely rare; four-year bachelor’s programs are much more common. There are also many certificate and associate’s programs that provide students (with or without a bachelor’s degree) with enough basic technical and/or design training to make a career change. These one- or two-year programs are excellent options for someone without prior fashion experience who wants to break into the industry. Students can opt for a vocational school, which focus more on technical skills and prepare students for careers in the mass market (think everyday clothing at the mall), or an art school, which offers more creative classes and prepares students for careers in the higher-end market (think Paris and the runway). Most graduate, undergraduate, and technical programs require a senior thesis or project, which generally means the creation and presentation of a collection in a runway show; some also require a professional internship.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Are you interested in designing outrageous, creative garments or things more appropriate for everyday wear? Does the program emphasize creativity and experimentation or technical and business skills?
  • Does the school have industry connections? A good reputation within the national and international fashion industry?
  • Do students present their work in a publicly-attended runway show? What percentage of students get to participate?
  • What are the experience and connections of the faculty? How does their work fit into your areas of interest?
  • Are you willing to relocate to a major city for school and/or a job? (New York City equals better fashion connections than Salt Lake City, for example.)

Career Overview

The obvious career choice here would be fashion designer along the lines of Marc Jacobs or Tom Ford, but there are many behind-the-scenes jobs available to today’s fashion design graduate. These jobs lack glamour and may never land you on the cover of Vogue, but they are far more plentiful. Creative types could be a fashion illustrator, knitwear designer, stylist, or magazine editor. Those with a head for business might prefer to be a merchandiser or production manager or go into retail. Anyone who is dedicated to the craft of fashion could be a pattern maker, sample maker, or technical designer. There are many opportunities to freelance and entrepreneurs can start their own business.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no career/licensing requirements for Fashion Design.

Salary Information

Since there are many different jobs that fashion design grads may take, it’s difficult to estimate salary. An entry-level assistant designer can expect to earn between $20,000 and $35,000. There are always good opportunities available on a volunteer or internship basis. Anyone wishing to start his or her own business can expect long hours and little financial return –- at least at the beginning.

Related Links
The websites of Vogue and W magazines, provides information on the latest trends and is a great source for runway photos. has inspiring photos from just about every fashion show out there. You need a membership to view the most recent ones, but the older ones are free and plentiful.


  • M.F.A. Courses:

  • Art History

  • Color And Design Theory

  • Computer-Enhanced Fashion Design

  • Conceptual Development

  • Digital Design

  • Draping

  • Drawing And Illustration For Fashion

  • Fashion Design Studio

  • Fashion Design Technology

  • Fashion Illustration

  • Fashion M.F.A. Thesis Associate’S/Certificate Courses:

  • Fashion Portfolio

  • Internship

  • Life Drawing For Fashion

  • Marketing

  • Pattern Drafting

  • Sewing

  • Special Topics In Fashion

  • Technical Drawing

  • Textile Science