Best Fashion Design Schools

Written ByRWM Editors
Table of Contents

If you have a flair for fashion, why not pursue a career designing clothes, shoes and accessories? Fashion design careers can be a fulfilling choice for those with artistic talent, and workers in the field have a dynamic job that includes the following:

  • Studying fashion trends
  • Creating a theme for a collection of clothes
  • Using computer-aided design (CAD) software to draw clothing patterns
  • Selecting materials and working with team members to create prototypes
  • Marketing designs at trade shows, online or to retailers

Fashion Design Specializations

Women's clothing may be the first thing to come to mind when thinking about what is fashion designing. However, designers can specialize in several areas. Here are a few of the various jobs you'll find in the field.

  • Clothing designers may work exclusively on styles for men, women or children. They may further specialize in a specific type of apparel such as outerwear, evening wear or casual clothing.
  • Footwear designers focus on shoes and boots. They may work with various materials to develop styles that combine form and function.
  • Accessory designers are those who make handbags, belts, scarves and hats. As with clothing, designers may specialize in items for women, men or children.
  • Costume designers are employed by theater companies, motion picture and television companies. They may be called upon to create attire that would be authentic in an older era, or they may choose more contemporary designs for a modern-day production.

How to Become a Fashion Designer

Keep the following steps in mind for becoming a fashion designer:

  • Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. Though it may not seem necessary, employers typically expect job candidates to have some formal education.
  • Complete postsecondary training. You might start by earning a certificate or associate degree in the fashion design, and later might consider a bachelor's or even master's degree.
  • Gain experience in the field. Sometimes, apprenticeships are available for fashion designers, and it always helps to keep up to date on the latest trends in the industry.

Fashion design schools not only help students put together a portfolio, but they also teach skills that are essential for working in the industry:

  • Computer-aided design (CAD)
  • Art and design fundamentals
  • Textile and fabric properties

Fashion Design Degree Programs

Fashion designer education requirements can be filled in several ways. While many professionals in the field have a bachelor's degree, you may be able to get started by completing a shorter program first.

  • Certificate: Undergraduate certificates provide an introduction to the field of fashion design. These may cover sketching, graphic design and merchandising. Depending on the school, you can earn a certificate in anywhere from a few months to two years.
  • Associate Degree: Compared to a certificate, a two-year associate degree usually offers a greater level of instruction to those pursuing fashion design careers. The curriculum may include computer-aided design, textiles analysis and patternmaking. Credits from an associate degree may transfer to a bachelor's degree program.
  • Bachelor's Degree: Many fashion designers have a four-year degree. However, some schools won't let people enter a bachelor's degree program directly. Instead, they ask students to earn a certificate or associate degree first so they have a portfolio to submit with their application.
  • Graduate Degree/Certificate: Although not required to work in the field, some professionals choose to go back to school for a master's degree or graduate certificate in order to further hone their skills.

Fashion Design Schools

Fashion design programs are offered by art institutes, community colleges, four-year colleges and universities. More than 350 schools are accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art & Design.

You can also find fashion design schools online. Distance learners may be taught via videos, slideshows and digital documents. Many programs follow a typical college course schedule, but some online fashion design schools offer self-paced programs which can give you as long as a year to complete a class. As with a traditional degree program, check for accreditation before applying.

Career Advancement for Fashion Designers

New fashion designers may begin their careers as assistants to established designers. Once they have gained experience and further developed their portfolio, they may hired to lead a design team. Others may go back to school to expand their skills or to take business classes so they can open their own design business.

Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) 2018-19, National Center for Education Statistics,

Financial Aid for Fashion Design Programs

Source: Scholarship directory data is copyrighted material which is reproduced on this website by permission of CollegeXpress, a division of Carnegie Dartlet. Copyright © 2020 by CollegeXpress.

Fashion Designer Skills and Qualities

To be boost your chances of success in this field, you'll need to develop the following skills and qualities which fashion design schools can help you foster.

  • Critical thinking: Designing clothes and accessories can be challenging. Fashion designers need be able to decipher which textiles and colors go together in a way that is both attractive and comfortable.
  • Service orientation: This skill refers to the ability to understand what people need in terms of fashion and proactively working to meet those needs.
  • Negotiation: Whether fashion designers are part of a team or working directly for clients, they will need negotiation skills to balance their artistic vision with the expectations of others.
  • Originality: Being able to create original and creative designs is one of the hallmarks of a successful fashion designer.
  • Fluency of ideas: Not only does a fashion designer need to be original, but he or she needs to come up with multiple designs. This ability is known as having a fluency of ideas.

Career Outlook and Salary Information for Fashion Designers

When talking about how much do fashion designers make, remember that incomes can vary depending on a person's education, experience and creativity. However, for an idea of what you can expect, average fashion designer salary data is listed below. While the numbers below also show the expected growth nationwide for the occupation, keep in mind that most fashion design jobs can be found in California and New York, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Total Employment
Average Salary
Projected Job Growth
Fashion Designers22,030$86,1101.4%
*2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Professional Resources for Fashion Designers

To keep on top of the latest trends in fashion design careers, stay up to date with the following industry organizations.

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