This is one of the niches in the fashion industry where getting a degree is more than advisable. Because fashion merchandisers take care of the business side of things, it’s important for them to have the right preparation in sales, marketing, and finance.
The competitiveness of the industry also influences the need for a degree in order to get your foot in the door. Not only will your resume have a leg up on those who have not studied, but at the right school, you’ll have the opportunity to make contacts within the fashion industry, as well as with your fellow students. Both of these will help you grow your network and aid in knocking on doors when you are looking for a job.
This being said, a degree is not enough to become a successful fashion merchandiser, especially if your goal is to get to the top of the ranks and have decision-making power in trends and buying. You also need to be curious and a self-starter. You must follow trends in the fashion business on your own, have initiative to read magazines, watch shows, and go to industry events. If you are truly passionate about fashion, however, this should be very easy to do, but of course, it will require additional time investment.
WHAT IF I DO WANT A DEGREE IN FASHION MERCHANDISING?
In the case that you are set on a merchandising career in fashion, here are some schools that appear high on US rankings. Keep in mind that there are hundreds of programs out there to choose from, and they range in quality, content, pricing and location.
- Fashion Institute of Technology
Located in New York, this is the “it” school for most things fashion. They offer an A.S. and a B.S. in Fashion Merchandising and Management along with a wide variety of design and fashion-related courses. You can also combine your studies with international exchanges. If you are an in-state student, you are in luck, with tuition at a low cost of $5,200. It’s almost triple for out-of-state at $14,200.
- Kent State University
This school, in Kent, Ohio, offers a bachelor’s degree in Fashion Merchandising, or a 5 and a half year option, where you don’t only obtain your B.A., but also an M.B.A. with a concentration in fashion design and merchandising. Tuition for undergrads currently stands at $10,012 for in-state and $17,972 for out-of-state.
- Drexel University
Drexel’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design, located in Philadelphia, PA, offers a degree in Design & Merchandising and is ranked 3rd in the US by FashionSchools.org. You can also choose to minor in a variety of art and/or fashion programs that the university offers. Yearly tuition here is around $44,646.
- Oregon State University
The College of Business at Oregon State University offers a B.A. in Merchandising Management through the school of Design and Human Environment. You can later go on to get your M.B.A. here as well. In-state tuition is currently $10,037, while out-of-state is $26,537.
- Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising
With two campuses, one in San Francisco and another in San Diego, FIDM offers a number of majors, some Associate, others Bachelor’s degrees, to choose from for aspiring fashion merchandisers. These include Beauty Industry Merchandising & Marketing, Merchandise Marketing, and Merchandise Product Development, along with many other areas of specialization. Tuition stands at an average of $27,855 per year.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
First thing to know is that it probably won’t be easy to start a career, especially your dream one. Fashion is extremely competitive for all of those who aspire to work in the industry, and fashion merchandisers are no exception.
Just like Roberta Gruber advises, begin on the retail floor. Try to work for companies with a big name. It could be H&M, Victoria’s Secret, or Calvin Klein, but choose a company that is well-positioned on the market. While in university focus on your studies, but also try to go up in the ranks and get a key-holder, team lead, or store manager position. Always try to have leading sales in the store.
Later, building a portfolio will be extremely important. You will probably begin at entry-level jobs and must have initiative and put in the long hours if you want to grow faster. At any point in your studies or your career, try to network as much as you can. You never know who will be your next employer, or who might have the inside scoop on the positions that are available.
Finally, have a brand. You are looking to get into the fashion industry which means you have to live up to its standards. Look the part by dressing to the latest fashion, always having your hair and make-up done right, and by using accessories that will interest others. This is an industry where everyone cares how you look, so be prepared to be judged on that.