How to Become a Fashion Designer

Overview & Salaries

To become a fashion designer, you’ll likely need at least a bachelors degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising. Fashion designers are typically more on the creative side of the field while merchandisers have a sense for actual business metrics. While this field is fairly competitive and working your way into an available position can be tricky, those who are passionate about fashion should start by identifying a specialization option. These can include formal wear, intimate apparel, swimsuits, outdoor wear, casual wear, footwear, etc.

Annual salaries for fashion designers may vary depending on your experience, education level, and expertise. In 2012, the average annual salary for fashion designers and/or fashion merchandisers working in the U.S. was $62,860  per year.

For more information on what parts of the country have the most opportunity for fashion designers, click through to our Best Places to Work tab for information on the number of people employed and average salary in each state.

Discover the Best Cities and States to Work in Fashion Design

As expected, the state of New York leads the nation in employment for fashion designers, where 7,180 are currently working statewide, and making an annual mean wage of $81,450. California is second in employment, with 5,720 fashion designers occupying positions within the state, and earning an average yearly salary of $71,060.

The top 5 city areas that are employing fashion designers include:

  • New York – White Plains Metropolitan Area (7,140)
  • Los Angeles Metropolitan Area (3,920)
  • Santa Ana – Irvine Metropolitan Area (560)
  • Nassau – Suffolk, NY Metropolitan Area (220)
  • San Francisco – San Mateo Metropolitan Area (210)

Employment and Salary Information for Fashion Designers

Use our interactive map below to find out which areas of the United States are currently experiencing the greatest amount of growth and job availability for graduates looking for a career in Fashion Design. The associated information has been gathered from the Bureau of Labor statistics, representing data collected in 2012.

Employment and Information Data for Fashion Design

Why Become a Fashion Designer?

The fashion world is a global industry that caters to pretty much everyone on the planet. Fashion is universal whether you have style or not, you are in some way involved with the fashion industry, and the need for people who can come up with creative fashion styles is still present. So what is the incentive for pursuing a career in fashion?

  • It’s an industry that’s rapidly growing. In 2010, there were 7,855 businesses in the apparel manufacturing industry, employing 157,587 people.
  • It pays well. The average annual salary for a fashion designer or fashion merchandiser in the U.S. is around $62,000. (2012)
  • You’ll work with like-minded people. Surround yourselves with experts and designers who share your fashion passion and collaborate with them on a daily basis.
  • You’ll work with your favorite brands. No longer must you drool outside the windows in front of Barney’s!
  • You’ll get to travel and attend cool events. Whether you’re visiting different store locations or simply sitting runway-side at your favorite fashion show, you certainly won’t be bored.
  • Free Stuff. That’s right. Free clothes! Free style advice! Free fun!

Fashion Design: What You Need To Know

While Fashion Designers and Fashion Merchandisers can use a variety of skills and expertise to advance their career, a basic understanding and working knowledge of the following skill sets below will go a long way to set yourself apart from other candidates.

  • Industry Sewing
  • Draping and Garment Construction
  • Fashion and Technical Sketching for Design
  • The Basics of Pattern Drafting
  • Fashion Business and Merchandising
  • Creative Design and Direction
  • Digital Fashion Design and Pattern Drafting
  • Collection Development

Feel like you’ve got a lot to learn? Get more information about fashion design careers, degrees, and applicable courses from one of the schools below.

Degree Options for Fashion Design Careers

Fashion Design Certificate
Fashion design certificates can range greatly in terms of course work and duration, but in general, these programs are for students looking to enhance their skill set or apply specific facets of fashion design to their current creative careers.

Associate of Arts in Fashion Design
An associates degree in a fashion specialty prepares students to work in many different sectors of the industry, many of them entry-level, and provides hands-on experience in design, illustration, computer and presentation skills.

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Fashion Design (BFA)
A four-year degree offers students a greater diversity of educational opportunities from gaining fashion design experience to learning about the business aspect of the industry. These programs also offer students to experiment with different fields within fashion design. If you’re looking to take your fashion design career all the way, a Bachelors degree may be the best option.