Determining which degree is best for fashion design can be a difficult task due to the fact that fashion design has many different branches from its main trunk. It covers everything from learning how to construct garments and creating a full collection during the senior year to merchandising and the business of fashion design.
If you’re seeking to become a full-fledged designer, a bachelor’s degree is the best kind of degree to get in order to work in the fashion design industry. You should also seek out a bachelor’s degree program with an internship at a design or production house to gain practical knowledge of how a collection is made. Everything you learn can be applied to your own design house when you finally decide to strike out on your own.
Methodology: Ranking the Best Fashion Degree Programs
For students who want a serious career in fashion, Bachelor’s Degree Center editors have selected the best fashion bachelor’s degrees from accredited, trusted colleges and universities. Programs are ranked by IPEDS and Niche data, including cost, salary potential, and student reviews.
1. North Carolina State University
The BS in Fashion and Textile Design program at North Carolina State University is a limited enrollment program that combines the art of fashion design with math and science classes. Students are taught how to use the latest in fashion industry technology, traditional design techniques, explore their own personal design philosophy, and how to take advantage of the properties of the latest in fibers for cutting-edge garment design. The program includes a semester spent in a foreign country as a working student in the fashion industry.
North Carolina State University (NCSU or NC State) is a public multiple grant university that’s part of the University of North Carolina system. An average of 35,000 students are enrolled at the university each academic year which makes NCSU one of the largest schools in the country. The athletics teams participate in the NCAA Division I in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
What We Like: NCSU features a sea- and space-grant program for furthering the study of both environments.
Degree: BA in Fashion and Textile Design
2. University of Delaware
The University of Delaware offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising and Management studies that combines the technical aspect of fashion design with the commercial aspect of marketing. Some of the classes include the study of creating a fashion line for mass production, sales and distribution to retailers, how to work with manufacturers in foreign countries, and how to choose textiles for use in a clothing collection. Upon completion of the degree, students are qualified to work in a variety of commercial and marketing roles in the fashion industry.
University of Delaware (UD) is a private-public research university with a sea- and space-grant for research in those fields. It features a main campus in Newark and four satellite campuses in the area. UD is home to eight colleges and five schools that include the arts, health sciences, education, engineering, agriculture, and more.
What We Like: UD is one of only four schools in the U.S. with an art conservation major.
Degree: BS in Fashion Merchandising and Management
3. Iowa State University
The Apparel, Merchandising and Design program at Iowa State University provides students with a well-rounded fashion education that prepares them for entry in a variety of fashion-related fields. The program provides the opportunity to design and produce the annual Fashion Show, learn in facilities that feature the latest in technologies for textile conservation, and view a historical garment collection and apparel production center for hands-on opportunities. Classes are taught by educators who have extensive real-world experience in the fashion design and marketing industries.
Iowa State University (ISU) is a public land-grant research university and is also the flagship university in the public university system of Iowa. The school offers over 100 bachelor’s degree concentrations, 112 master’s degrees, 83 doctoral degrees and a veterinary medicine degree. The student body enrollment averages around 33,000 students each academic year.
What We Like: ISU’s athletics teams are part of the Big 12 Conference and compete in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision.
Degree: Apparel, Merchandising, & Design
4. The Ohio State University
The Ohio State University offers a BS in Fashion and Retail Studies program that focuses on the consumer science aspect of fashion, and has two different degree tracks that include product development and merchandising. The program teaches students how to engage in the psychological aspect of consumerism, understanding how products are created and distributed, and fully understanding the product that’s being marketed. Students also take classes to learn more about textiles, statistics, fashion business, and other topics that support the Fashion and Development degree.
The Ohio State University (OSU) is a public land-grant research university and is the flagship school for the Ohio public university system. An average of 50,000 undergraduate students and 15,000 graduate students attend the school each academic year. The athletic teams, known as the Buckeyes, compete in the NCAA Division I Big Ten Conference.
What We Like: Ohio State carries a sea- and space-grant to provide research in both fields of study.
Degree: BS in Fashion and Retail Studies
5. Michigan State University
Michigan State University offers a BFA in Apparel and Textiles program that prepares students to work in the fashion industry by teaching important skills needed to succeed in the field. The program core puts emphasis on teaching two- and three-dimensional design, creativity, design technology, textiles, and the role of clothing in cultures around the world. One class is devoted to the development and exhibition of a student’s portfolio in order to aid them in their eventual job search. The curriculum puts emphasis on fashion classes in history, culture, and sustainable design.
Michigan State University (MSU) is a public research university that’s part of the public university system of Michigan. It has multiple academic affiliations including a sea- and space-grant for research in those fields. Its athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I and belong to the Big Ten conference.
What We Like: Michigan State is rich in educational opportunities and is one of the top-ranking schools for academic research.
Degree: BFA in Apparel and Textiles
6. University of South Carolina
The BS in Retailing: Fashion Merchandising and Digital Innovations program at University of South Carolina offers two different curriculums that focus on the business and visual design side of the fashion industry. The Retail Management curriculum provides students with the opportunity to enter into the supply chain and retail sales side of the fashion industry. The Fashion Merchandising and Digital Innovations combines multiple aspects that include legal issues, analyzing fashion products for saleability, visual merchandising, and the economics of the retail fashion industry.
The University of South Carolina (USC) is a public research university and is the flagship school of the University of South Carolina System. The school enrolls over 34,000 students each semester who enroll in one of 350 programs of study. The school offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from 14 colleges and schools on its campus. The athletics programs compete in the NCAA Division I and participate in the Southeastern Conference.
What We Like: USc has a sea-grant academic affiliation.
Degree: BS in Retailing: Fashion Merchandising and Digital Innovations
7. Georgia Southern University
The B.S. Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design program at Georgia Southern University features two areas of emphasis in merchandising and design. Both programs overlap each other so that students learn skills and techniques from both areas of focus. The apparel design emphasis teaches fashion illustration, pattern draping and drafting, visual merchandising, and garment construction. The fashion merchandising emphasis focuses on learning how to forecast fashion trends, marketing fashion designs to retail buyers and the public at large, production of textiles and garments and the principles of merchandising.
Georgia Southern University (GS) is a public research university with a space-grant affiliation and is part of the University System of Georgia. The school offers over 140 major programs at the bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctoral levels. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I in the Sun Belt conference.
What We Like: GSU features a strong Greek fraternity and sorority system on its campus.
Degree: B.S. Fashion Merchandising and Apparel Design
8. Oregon State University
Oregon State University offers a BS in Fashion and Retail Studies program with a specialization in either fashion merchandising or project development. Students learn about the production pipelines for textiles and finished garments, marketing research for fashion consumers, sourcing products, planning merchandise, and other related topics. The program requires all students to enter into an internship and also offers the opportunity to study in major cities with an established fashion design industry. Graduates of the program enter into career fields that include product development, marketing, trend forecasting, global sourcing and more.
Oregon State University (OSU) is a public research university that has affiliations including a sea-grant, space grant, and is a national participant in the sun-grant program. It’s one of only four schools in the U.S. to participate in all four research consortiums. Its athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I in the Pac-12 Conference.
What We Like: Oregon State enrolls over 31,000 students each academic year.
Degree: BS in Fashion and Retail Studies
9. San Francisco State University
San Francisco State University offers a BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising program with two concentrations. The Design concentration teaches students how to bring a fashion sketch into being through the patterning and construction of the design, learn how the fashion industry develops, produces, ships and sells designs on a large scale, learn about the history of fashion, and understand how to respond to the needs of consumers. Students who take the he Merchandising concentration learn about the mass production of garments, how to produce garments ethically, how clothing relates to topical issues and cultural norms, and learn how to design merchandising displays and make them appeal to a broad audience.
San Francisco State University (SFSU) is a public university and is part of the California State University system. The university offers 118 bachelor’s, 94 master’s, 5 doctoral degrees, and 26 teaching credentials among six colleges. The school has an average enrollment of over 27,000 students each academic year.
What We Like: SFSU’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division II in the California Collegiate Athletic Association.
Degree: BS in Apparel Design and Merchandising
10. Colorado State University
The BS in Apparel Design & Merchandising program at Colorado State University prepares students to begin their career in the fashion design industry either as a merchandiser, apparel design and production, or product developer. The program allows students to select the career path that suits them best via classes that help them understand the challenges they face and how to make their voice heard in a highly competitive industry. Each fashion design concentration teaches students how to behave professionally and ethically in their chosen field in order to be sensitive to the demands of the world at large.
Colorado State University (CSU) is a public land-grant research university and is the flagship university of the Colorado State University System. It also has a space-grant affiliation and is one of the top schools in research. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I Mountain West conference.
What We Like: Colorado State offers 65 bachelor’s degrees and 55 master’s degrees and 40 doctoral degrees in different fields of study.
Degree: BS in Apparel Design & Merchandising
11. Missouri State University – Springfield
The BS in Merchandising and Fashion Design at Missouri State University – Springfield, combines both merchandising and fashion design courses into one degree. Students learn the technical skills required to design, create a pattern, then construct a completed garment along with learning how to perform the same skills using the latest in fashion design technologies. They also learn about the merchandising side of fashion, how to perform mathematical equations used in the merchandising industry, and how to engage in visual merchandising.
Missouri State University (MSU) is a public university with a space-grant affiliation and is part of the public university system in Missouri. It’s the second-largest university in terms of enrollment with an average of 23,000 students attending each academic year.
What We Like: MSU operates a satellite campus that offers associate degrees, runs a fruit research station, and features a Department of Defense and Strategic Studies program.
Degree: BS in Merchandising and Fashion Design
12. University of Alabama
The University of Alabama offers a BS in Apparel and Textiles program for students who are seeking to become fully-fledged fashion designers. The program begins by instilling foundational design principles into students before moving onto more technical work. Students learn how to sketch designs, then turn those designs into finished garments through pattern drafting, construction and final garment fit and finish. Coursework also includes learning how to use fashion design technology for pattern and textile design.
The University of Alabama (Alabama or UA) is a public research university and is the flagship school of the University of Alabama System. It’s the oldest and largest of the public universities in the state of Alabama. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, education specialist and doctoral degrees through its 13 academic divisions. The athletics teams participate in the NCAA Division I.
What We Like: Bama also features the only publicly-supported law school in the U.S.
Degree: BS in Apparel and Textiles
13. Western Michigan University
Western Michigan University offers a Bachelor Degree in Fashion Design program that prepares students to work in the fashion design industry as a merchandiser or designer. The fashion design and development concentration teaches students how to develop their designs from initial sketch to finished garment, fashion history, how to develop their fashion lines, and use CAD/CAM for pattern drafting. The merchandising concentration involves learning how to buy for retailers, visual merchandising, promotion, and also includes 18 credit hours in the Haworth College of Business.
Western Michigan University (WMU) is a public research facility with a space-grant affiliation and is part of the public university system of Michigan. The school enrolls an average of 21,000 students per academic year and offers 147 undergraduate degree programs, 73 master’s degree programs, and 30 doctoral degree programs.
What We Like: WMU’s athletics team participate in the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision and compete in the Mid-American Conference.
Degree: Bachelor Degree in Fashion Design
14. Southern Illinois University – Carbondale
The BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising program at Southern Illinois University offers two different career pathways: Fashion Design and Fashion Merchandising. Students have the option to take one specialty or the other for their degree concentration. The Fashion Design program teaches and trains students how to create a complete clothing line from sketch to finished pieces, learn about the history of fashion, and how to use the latest in fashion design technology. The Fashion Merchandising concentration focuses on fashion-related business courses, marketing, management, and merchandising.
Southern Illinois University – Carbondale (SIUC) is a public research university and is part of the public university system of Illinois. The school offers over 300 degree programs that include bachelor’s, master’s, PhD, and doctoral degrees. The university has 10 colleges and schools that include business, agricultural sciences, science, law, medicine, and more.
What We Like: The athletics teams compete in the NCAA Division I.
Degree: BS in Fashion Design and Merchandising
15. Dominican University
Dominican University offers a Fashion Design BA degree to students who aspire to become a full-fledged fashion designer. Classes in the program include apparel structure and design, pattern drafting and draping, learning how to use computer-aided design program, fashion illustration and more. The final outcome of the program for students is the ability to create a virtual and physical portfolio as a senior capstone project. Dominican University has extensive connections with the fashion design industry in the Chicago area and offers a diverse array of internship opportunities on top of education in a cutting-edge fashion lab.
Dominican University is a private Catholic university in Illinois and is affiliated with the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters. The school offers certificates, bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, and a PhD in information studies. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division III in the Northern Athletics Collegiate Conference.
What We Like: Over 50 major programs are offered through the Rosary College of Arts and Sciences and 20 programs are provided through five graduate academic divisions.
Degree: Fashion Design BA
16. Illinois State University
The Fashion Design and Merchandising program at Illinois State University is part of the Family and Consumer Sciences department. The program designed to prepare students to work in the retail, distribution and product development areas of the retail fashion industry. Some of the classes include basic apparel production techniques, fundamentals of textiles, fashion promotion, economics of fashion and more. Students haved the option to enter into a traditional fashion design program or fashion marketing. Seniors get to participate in the school’s fashion show that’s held every academic year.
Illinois State University (ISU) is a public university and is part of the public university system of Illinois. The school offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs offered through colleges that include applied science and technology, arts and sciences, business, education, fine arts, and nursing. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I.
What We Like: Over 20,000 students attend Illinois State each academic year.
Degree: Fashion Design and Merchandising
17. Mount Mary University
Mount Mary University’s BA in Fashion Design program is the first four-year fashion design program of its kind in the U.S. Its faculty are industry professionals who have worked at major brand names and designed for major celebrities. Students engage in a traditional fashion design program to learn the technical and business aspects of the industry. They also have the opportunity to travel to New York City or Paris to go behind-the-scenes and visit major fashion houses to learn more about how garments get made at the high end of the industry.
Mount Mary University is a private Catholic liberal arts university located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The school has an average enrollment of 1,500 students each academic year and offers bachelor’s degrees in over 30 degree programs along with eight master’s and doctoral programs.
What We Like: Mount Mary’s all-female athletics teams compete in the NCAA Division III.
Degree: BA in Fashion Design
18. Kent State University
Kent State University offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising program that’s designed to impart a thorough understanding of the merchandising and business aspects of the fashion industry. Students gain skills and competency in areas that include merchandising for apparel manufacturing, development and marketing of fashion goods, fashion theory, retail operations, management and more. The program also offers a study abroad semester in New York City, Florence, Italy, London, U.K., and other major cities with a fashion industry. Kent State also offers a combined degree program with a Master of Business Administration degree.
Kent State University is a public research university and is part of the University System of Ohio. The school enrolls an average of 26,000 undergraduates and 21,000 postgraduates at its Kent campus. The school offers over 300 degree programs including 23 doctoral programs. The school’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I Mid-American Conference.
What We Like: Kent State has a space-grant affiliation for research in space exploration.
Degree: BS in Fashion Merchandising
19. Thomas Jefferson University
The BS in Fashion Merchandising and Management at Thomas Jefferson University prepares students to have proficiency in all aspects of the fashion design industry. The program encourages students to focus on their interests through different curricular options and how to work collaboratively with other students. A student’s first year involves the creation, production and merchandising of the product they designed and helps a student understand how a garment or item goes from inspiration to production. The program has an option to study abroad in a major city with a large fashion industry and students have the opportunity to help with the production of a school magazine and the annual fashion show.
Thomas Jefferson is a private university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It offers over 160 undergraduate and graduate programs in colleges that include architecture, design, engineering and commerce, science, health and liberal arts, and continuing and professional studies. The athletics teams participate in the NCAA Division II in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference.
What We Like: Jefferson enrolls over 3,600 undergraduates and over 4,200 postgraduates each academic semester.
Degree: BS in Fashion Merchandising and Management
20. Northern Illinois University
Northern Illinois University offers a BS in Fashion Merchandising program that covers multiple facets of the fashion design industry. Merchandising students engage in traditional fashion design such as textile science and fashion illustration and classes that relate to the merchandising field such as omni-channel retailing, economics of apparel and textile industries, and social psychology of dress and appearance. Students are required to complete anywhere from 73 to 78 credit hours in Fashion Merchandising. The program is also designed to accommodate students who have earned an AAS in Fashion Merchandising and wish to earn their BS.
Northern Illinois University (NIU) is a public research university and is part of the public university system of Illinois. The school features a space-grant affiliation and offers over 60 bachelor’s degree programs, 70 minors, 79 graduate programs, and 24 areas of study for doctoral degrees. NIU has a total of seven colleges that include business, health and human sciences, law, liberal arts and sciences, education, engineering and engineering technology, and visual and performing arts.
What We Like: NIU’s athletic teams participate in the NCAA Division I and compete in the Mid-American Conference.
Degree: BS in Fashion Merchandising
21. Brenau University
Brenau University offers a BA in Fashion Merchandising degree program to prepare students to work in the retail fashion industry. The program consists of fashion design and business classes to help students build a strong portfolio that helps them find employment. Coursework includes classes that teach the basics of fashion design, traditional business education, fashion merchandising techniques, and an internship with employers in the fashion industry. Students are encouraged to find their own voice in the program and pursue what interests them most within the fashion merchandising field.
Brenau University is a private university located in Georgia. It enrolls over 3,500 students each academic year and offers associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral and specialist degrees in over 50 areas of study. The university has four colleges including health sciences, fine arts and humanities, business and communication, and education.
What We Like: Brenau also offers a 2+2 partnership with Anhui Normal University in China.
Degree: BA in Fashion Merchandising
22. Meredith College
The Fashion Merchandising and Design program at Meredith College offers students the opportunity to take one of two fashion-related career pathways. Students who want to become Fashion Merchandisers share some classes with the Fashion Design majors such as clothing construction and textiles, but also take classes that focus on marketing, learning how to use marketing software, how to buy for retail employers, and more. The Fashion Design curriculum includes some Fashion Merchandising classes as well, and focuses on how to construct garments, make patterns, create fashion sketches and how to use apparel design software.
Meredith College is a private women’s liberal arts college that features a coeducational graduate school. The college enrolls around 2,000 students each academic year for undergraduate studies and about 300 in the postgraduate program. A total of 37 majors are offered along with licensure programs, graduate studies and pre-professional programs.
What We Like: Meredith College offers nine different athletics programs that compete in the USA South Athletic Conference.
Degree: Fashion Merchandising and Design
23. University of Bridgeport
The BS in Fashion Merchandising at the University of Bridgeport is designed to meet the needs of executive training programs in fashion-related organizations. The curriculum prepares students to work in the creative and executive levels of buying, retail management, fashion marketing, textiles and textile design, and more. The program is also designed to give students the option to declare a minor in a related area of study that includes textile design, business administration, marketing and fashion design. Students are required to participate in an internship with retail organizations that are approved by the department.
University of Bridgeport (UB) is a privately owned university and has a space-grant academic affiliation. The school enrolls an average of 3,100 undergraduates and 2,200 postgraduates each academic year. Some of the schools include a chiropractic college, acupuncture institute, public and international affairs, education and business. The school’s athletics teams participate in NCAA Division II.
What We Like: Bridgeport has 14 schools and institutes along with three colleges.
Degree: BS in Fashion Merchandising
24. St. Catherine University
The Fashion Merchandising program at St. Catherine University combines fashion merchandising with required minors in communications and business administration for a well-rounded fashion merchandising education. The course teaches students how to use creative software to aid in their designs as well as the latest fashion merchandising software used by the fashion industry. Students also take classes in environmental studies and social justice issues in order to address the pollution and human rights issues that are associated with garment manufacturing. A 10- to 21-day off-campus study program in major fashion centers is offered as part of the course.
St. Catharine University (St. Kate’s) is a private Catholic women’s liberal arts university located in St. Paul, Minnesota. The school has three schools that include the School of Business, Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, and the School of Humanities, Arts and Sciences.
What We Like: St Kate’s was founded by the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and focuses on women’s empowerment as well as a liberal arts education.
Degree: Fashion Merchandising
25. Albright College
The Fashion and Costume program at Albright College is a Bachelor of Arts degree that trains students how to become a fashion and/or costume designer. Students learn how to design garments for both industries, how to create finished garments that satisfy different needs, draft and drape designs for patterning on software and traditional drafting/draping techniques. Coursework also includes taking marketing and business classes to round out a fashion and costume design education.
Albright College is a private liberal arts college and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. The college offers Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees along with Masters of Arts and Masters of Science. The Princeton Review has ranked Albright College as one of the Best Northeastern schools for 14 years in a row.
What We Like: U.S. News and World Report has named Albright College as one of the most ethnically and economically diverse schools in the country.
Degree: Fashion and Costume
What Kind of Degree Should I Get to Work in Fashion and Design?
Students who want to work on the business side of fashion are best served by starting out with an associate’s degree in their preferred branch of the fashion industry. An associate’s degree covers the topics that employers are looking for in an employee who wants to work as a buyer, marketer, or merchandiser. A student who wants to know more about the construction of garments and how to build a collection should look into a four-year fashion design program to earn a bachelor’s degree.
A four-year fashion design program shows you how to use industry-standard tools, teaches you how to design patterns through flatwork, draping and CAD/CAM, sewing by hand and machine, and how to fit garments. The more robust your garment design knowledge upon graduation, the better your work opportunities.
How Do I Get a Job with a Fashion Degree?
Finding jobs with a fashion degree requirement sometimes goes beyond looking at job listings on a website. The type of degree you’ve earned can affect the type of jobs you can get with a fashion degree. Fashion merchandising, buying and marketing roles are more interested in your ability to make good decisions, follow instructions for layouts, anticipating trends, and sourcing garments that are most likely to sell. Jobs with a fashion design degree are more competitive than other roles due to the fact you have to prove your ability to come up with a design idea, then execute it as flawlessly as possible prior to offering it for sale.
Regardless of which area of fashion you want to work in, you have to have a solid portfolio that highlights your strengths, shows a clear design style, and displays your sample work if ncessary. An employer wants to see a proficiency in fashion that goes beyond the ability to sketch a design. The stronger your portfolio, the better you look during a job interview and increase your odds of landing a position.
The importance of networking in the fashion industry cannot be overstated. The fashion industry is one of tight deadlines, intense pressure, and keeping costs down. An employer who is already aware of your capability to operate in this environment is one who can be confident in your skills and training. A fashion industry employer prefers to have a reliable, steady and easily trained employee that can keep up with the constant pressures and not make major mistakes. Networking is that foot in the door for jobs in the fashion industry.
What Kinds of Jobs are in the Fashion Industry?
Job titles in the fashion industry are many and varied. You can work as a fashion designer, fashion merchandising, fashion buyer, fashion production and management, and even fashion journalism. It’s a field where you can find an employment niche and focus on improving your skills and talents as time passes. Oftentimes, the different kinds of jobs in the fashion industry overlap which enables you to move from one career into another without a lot of adjustment. Following is a look at some of the jobs available in the fashion industry:
A fashion design degree offers jobs that include working as a design assistant, pattern drafter, textile designer, and sample maker. Most fashion designers start out as assistants to established designers in order to put their technical skills to the test before deciding on where their future lies in the fashion industry.
These roles are primarily found at clothing retailers and department stores. The merchandiser plans, sources, designs and plans out displays for the latest in seasonal fashion. The merchandiser can be someone who creates a campaign to be executed at retail outlets in a chain or is the person who sets up the displays.
Fashion marketing combines a passion for the latest fashions and getting the word out to the consumer. Some of the duties of a fashion marketer include creating campaigns, identifying markets, positioning a brand for a specific demographic, and selling fashion lines to retailers.
Clothes start on the design board, then make their way into production. Some designers and retailers have garments made in mass quantity. Fashion production involves overseeing the construction of clothes from start to finish and using the latest in construction technologies to reduce waste and stay environmentally friendly.