Getting a degree in fashion is a great way to start your fashion career. But before you commit to a specific program, consider the following tips.
#1: Make sure it’s what you really want to do.
The fashion industry seems very glamorous from afar, but remember that starting out in fashion is a lot like starting out in any other industry—you’ll work long hours, have deadline-driven assignments, and likely work a few years as an assistant. None of this is necessarily bad, but keep in mind that it’s not all runway shows and Vogue photoshoots. You need to make sure you’re really interested in fashion before committing yourself to a degree. If you’ve been sketching designs in notebooks, analyzing brand effectiveness, and catering your wardrobe to reflect current (and future!) trends for years, then an education and career in fashion might be a great fit. But if you’ve just become interested in fashion recently, or you’re not fully committed to the idea of a life in the fashion industry, take some time to reflect on what you’re really hoping to get out of a fashion education. If it’s not something you’re truly passionate about, you may want to consider other options.
#2: Narrow down the type of fashion career you want.
There are a lot of different career options in the fashion industry, such as clothing design, textile design, marketing, merchandising, and data analysis. Before you decide to get a degree in fashion, research the educational qualifications listed for different jobs that interest you. Careers in the business of fashion often require you to have an MBA or other master’s degree, whereas careers in fashion data science may not require you to have a fashion-related degree at all; you might be able to get a degree in statistics and supplement with fashion-related work experience. Careers in fashion design almost always require you to have a degree in fashion. Knowing the type of career you want and the type of education required for jobs in that industry will help you make an informed decision about your fashion education. If you’re having trouble deciding what kind of degree to get, talk to different industry professionals to get a sense of what their day-to-day is like.
#3: Learn everything you can about different fashion programs.
To make sure a degree in fashion is right for you, learn everything you can about the programs that interest you. That means doing more than internet research—go sit in on fashion college classes and talk to the professors! If you take campus tours of fashion schools you’re considering, make sure to stop by the advisement center and chat with an advisor about what you’re hoping to get from the program. They should be able to help you know if it’s a good fit for you, as well as help you find some classes to sit in on and professors to talk to.
#4: Decide where you want to get your fashion degree.
Some fashion programs are better than others. To get your foot in the door of the fashion industry, it pays to enroll in a program with a good track record of matching students with internships and jobs. It might be tempting to go with an associate’s degree at a community college, which would be shorter and less expensive than a 4-year degree, but keep in mind that you won’t get the same level of education or resume boost as you will if you get a bachelor’s degree or higher at a high-end NYC fashion school.
#5: Have a backup plan.
Just in case you realize down the road that fashion isn’t a great fit for you, make sure you give yourself other options. Get a minor in something else that interests you, or get some work experience another industry. Luckily, there are also a number of ways to market fashion experience—yes, you can use it to get a job in the fashion industry, but the skills you learn can also be applied to jobs in business, entertainment, academia, etc. If you plan to switch industries, meet with a career advisor for help catering your fashion-focused resume to another type of job.