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Q: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field? ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   6 Comments )
Subject: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
Category: Business and Money > Employment
Asked by: deedub-ga
List Price: $100.00
Posted: 20 Feb 2004 13:04 PST
Expires: 21 Mar 2004 13:04 PST
Question ID: 308935
I must provide evidence that one MUST have the equivalent of a BA in
Fashion Design in order to enter the field of Fashion Design. Job ads
that show this requirement, gov't sources, job counselors' advice on
how to begin a career in the field, etc., could all be helpful.

Request for Question Clarification by politicalguru-ga on 21 Feb 2004 08:21 PST
Dear Deedub, 

Are you looking only for a proof of the above, or also for a positive
proof otherwise, that is, that one does not have to have a degree in
order to succeed?

Request for Question Clarification by knowledge_seeker-ga on 21 Feb 2004 12:39 PST
Hi deedub, 

I've got your question locked, and if I can find enough information
for you, I'll provide an answer. However I have a few questions I need
answered to make sure I'm on the right track.

What I'm hearing you say, and correct me if I'm wrong, is that you
need to make a case that you'd have to have a BA or equivalent degree
in order to get an entry-level Fashion Design job in a company -- as
an employee. Yes?

If this isn't what you need, I'll need a clarification. 

Now ... where you live is relevant. Job requirements may vary. For
example I found a website advertising fashion design jobs in Japan,
and none mentioned needing a BA degree. So, are we talking US here or
someplace else?

If you could get back to me on these things (use your CLARIFY QUESTION
button so I am notified of your response), I can work down the right

Thanks --


Clarification of Question by deedub-ga on 21 Feb 2004 17:59 PST
Yes, Knowledge_seeker, you've got it right. I have the assignment of
showing that one MUST have a specialized degree (or equivalent in
education + experience). I know that this is not really a black and
white question, but I have to gather and present all the evidence I
can to support that proposition. This is a US position, specifically
Southern California.


Request for Question Clarification by knowledge_seeker-ga on 21 Feb 2004 18:09 PST
Thank you! That's excellent. 

Ok, I've got your answer about half researched. I doubt I'll be able
to wrap it up tonight (I'm on Eastern Time so it's a bit late here),
but will certainly have it for you tomorrow.

Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
Answered By: knowledge_seeker-ga on 22 Feb 2004 12:40 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Ok here you go deedub!

I want to explain a couple of things before we get started on the actual data. 

You said ENTER the field. This is an important qualifier. Many
employers will accept a 2-year degree or certificate WITH 2 years or
more of industry experience. A few said they would accept a bachelor?s
degree or ?equivalent experience,? which I would take to mean 4+ years
in industry.

I found very few entry-level jobs (they fill fast with recent grads!)
Those I found that accept students offer only unpaid intern positions.

All other US-based jobs (mid-level and up), that I found advertised,
specifically stated that a degree is required in combination with
years of experience.

Some jobs are for Technical Designers and require CAD experience but
not necessarily a degree. As is stated on several of those job ads, a
Technical Designer NOT a Fashion Designer ? see here:

I also found that the big Fashion Design Career Fairs will not even
let you through the door without a BA degree or 2-year degree plus

I think, given these things, it is safe to say that with NO experience
and NO degree, a candidate would not be in the running for even the
most junior position.

Now, there ARE exceptions to this. 

First, as the commenters have pointed out, without a degree a talented
person could just begin to design and start their own business selling
their own clothing line. However this is an arduous (and for most
people impossible) road, and definitely not one that would lead to
income in the short term.

The field of fashion design is more than just drawing pretty clothing.
It is highly competitive and requires more skills and education than
most people realize. A strong knowledge of fabrics, colors, markets,
strong computer skills in design software, and a thorough knowledge of
production is only just the beginning. Also a high level of creativity
and all the right connections in the industry are imperative. An
independent designer?s success would be commensurate with their innate
talent, the amount of self-training they undertake, and their
networking and promotional skills.

Second, I notice that the California Employment Development Dept
indicates that some employers accept (even prefer!) a 2-year
vocational training program. (see quotes and links in CEDD section
below) However, I?m unable to find any job postings to reflect that.
I?m not sure where those types of jobs are being advertised.

Additionally, according to this CALIFORNIA FASHION ASSOCIATION report,
64% of all ?designers and researchers? do hold a college degree.

PROFILE 2004 summary (see page 4)

Ok, so all that said, here is what I?ve found to support your assertion. 


?A bachelor's degree is required for most entry-level design positions
[in design], except for floral design and visual merchandising?..

?In fashion design, employers seek individuals with a 2- or 4-year
degree who are knowledgeable in the areas of textiles, fabrics, and
ornamentation, as well as trends in the fashion world. Set and exhibit
designers typically have college degrees in design. A Master of Fine
Arts (MFA) degree from an accredited university program further
establishes one's design credentials.?

U.S. Department of Labor ; Bureau of Labor Statistics ; DESIGNERS
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement

Also see on that page: Job Outlook

?Despite projected faster-than-average employment growth, designers in
most fields ? are expected to face keen competition for available
positions?. Individuals with little or no formal education in design,
as well as those who lack creativity and perseverance, will find it
very difficult to establish and maintain a career in design.?

U.S. Department of Labor; Bureau of Labor Statistics; DESIGNERS
Job Outlook


California Occupational Guide Number 185

?Well-trained applicants often begin as Design Room Assistants, an
entry-level position that can lead to more responsible jobs in the
fashion industry or they can enter the field as Assistant Designers.?

?Graduation from a school or college that provides specialized
training in fashion designing is recommended??

?Vocational schools offer two-year programs in the fundamentals of
fashion design. Students in these schools may earn certificates or an
Associate of Arts degree in the field. Some industry leaders feel that
community colleges and vocational training schools provide better
preparation than four-year institutions because they are more closely
allied with the garmet industry??

?Typically, vocational schools offer a two-tiered certificate program
complementary to the Associate of Arts degree. A first-level
certificate of proficiency is usually offered to those who want to
enter the field quickly. This short certificate will prepare
individuals to work as Design Room Assistants??

?A first level certificate from a vocational school can gain the job
seeker entry into the fashion industry. Fashion industry employees may
return to school to earn a second-level certificate or an Associate of
Arts degree or attend a fine arts school to learn drawing or design on
a more artistic level?.?

California Occupational Guide Number 185



Warning, these links will change as jobs postings are removed!  If you
need them permanently, copy & paste into a document or print them.
They all originate with these searches.


FASHION DESIGNER -- Supports and/or is responsible for low, medium and
occasionally high complexity toy design projects.

Education Required:
BA with focus in fashion and/or toy design
Experience, Knowledge, Skills Required:
At least 4 years experience in related field




Candidates are required to have a 4 year degree and a minimum of 2
years industry experience - OR - a 2 year degree and 4 years industry
experience - OR - equivalent industry experience. STORE-LEVEL RETAIL


Fashion company seeking designer with 3 to 5 years computer design 
experience, Jewelry design experience a plus. Degree in Fashion Design



Conceptualize new products, manage technical and creative aspects of 
product development, supervise design team. Bachelor's required + 4
years exp in industry (or equiv).


VARIOUS FASHION DESIGN POSITIONS with a fashion design recruiter.  

Education Level for ALL positions: Bachelor's Degree
(see website for listing of job titles and additional requirements)


Education Level: Bachelor's Degree  

Assist Senior Designer with creative direction and fashion design for
fast-growth designer with supportive and exciting corporate culture.


Education Level: Bachelor's Degree

?You will develop and design garments that will strengthen our brand ?
Key duties will be to research domestic and international markets to
identify trends ?assume primary responsibility for setting color
palettes and print selections?

?The ideal candidates for these Designer positions will have 3+ years'
experience in either men's or women's apparel design and expertise in
Illustrator and PhotoShop... A Fashion Design degree, or equivalent

Required Education: Bachelors

?You will design product specific to allocated categories and Reebok
standards. You will conduct market and trend research to keep abreast
of consumer needs as well as future design direction. In addition, you
will be responsible for the creation and delivery of all concept and
presentation boards ?. degree or certification in Fashion Design as
well as 3-5 years previous apparel design experience.?


Education Level: Bachelor's Degree

?Qualified candidate will have 3-5 yrs. design experience, preferably
in childrens, hold a Bachelor?s degree in Fashion Design or related
field, must be detail oriented with excellent illustration/artwork
abilities and excellent taste level in better kids.?


?Education/Experience:  Four Year Degree in Surface, textile, graphic
design, fashion design, or fine arts. 5-8 years of experience with
product design division of retailer or manufacturer or similar
experience within the design field Expertise in Adobe Illustrator and


Education Level: Bachelor's Degree 
Experience required:  5 years minimum in handbag design



Education Level: Professional
Minimum 6 years of experience designing juniors apparel.

?The Designer will create and present concepts, forecast fashion
trends, shop the market and execute design packages for product



?Requires a BS/BA in Design, or a related field, along with a minimum
of 2 to 3 years of experience. A strong design background in athletic
footwear is a must.?



I found this job listing using the hotjobs search for: ?FASHION
DESIGNER? (with quotes) ? all states, all categories.  However, I am
unable to link you directly to the job. You?ll have to do the search
yourself to find it. Sorry.

Responsible to assist the Fashion Designer with the creative direction
and fashion design of Lilly Pulitzer merchandise

Job Qualifications: A four-year college degree is required, preferable
in fashion design.  Two to four years experience in fashion design
with a classic ladies apparel wholesale company is desired.


JOB LISTINGS ? Fashion Design


Design Assistant
Education: BS and/or BA degree



?The intern will observe and assist in the day to day business
operation of this small fashion company and will work directly with
the office manager.

?Job Qualifications:  Open to all undergrads, recent college
graduates, college grads of any age and grad students. Must have
either business or design / art background.?

*note this is an unpaid (?stipend if available?) internship


I decided to take another approach here and check the resumes of
people who are looking for Fashion Design jobs. I would think that if
most of your competition has BA degrees, your chances of getting a job
without one would be slim.

Unfortunately, most job boards require potential employers to pay to
browse resumes, so my choices were limited.



I also thought it would be useful to peruse the profiles of some
leading designers to see if they tended to have BA degrees. Many don?t
mention their education background on their sites, but some do. Here
are a few I found.

Below them is a link to a directory of other Fashion Designers. If you
think this is a useful avenue to pursue, you can check the bios and
profiles of more of them. Note that most of their websites require a
Flash Plugin and are very slow to load.


?With degrees from the Rhode Island School of Design and the
prestigious Chambre Syndicale de la Haute Couture in Paris, Nicole
Miller has an enviable background in both art and couture.?



Mirabelli, one of Canada's most progressive and visionary designers,
studied at the prestigious American design school Fashion Institute of
Technology in New York.



A degree in theatrical design from Birmingham polytechnic. 



?.. Acquiring a diploma from SNDT University in 1985- winning 'Student
of the Year' award for two consecutive years...?

Find bios of other designers here:




?Most Fashion Designers have a Degree or Higher National Diploma in
either Fashion Design or a related Art and Design subject?.

?Very few Fashion Designers gain employment in haute couture firms or
get to produce their own collections. Most work for clothing
manufacturers as commercial designers and produce designs for the mass



?Individuals with a degree in fashion design work as fashion
designers, computer-automated-design (CAD) specialists, merchandisers,
technical designers, findings/trimmings buyers, graphic designers,
stylists, first pattern makers, production pattern makers, sample
makers, pre-production managers, apparel production managers, fabric
buyers,  fabric quality control managers, graders, marker makers,
showroom sales representatives, outside sales representatives, account
executives, entrepreneurs, and company owners.?

TEXAS WOMEN?S UNIVERSITY - Dept of Fashion and Textiles


? Ralph Lauren's Polo empire was founded on a small tie collection
that he sold to Bloomingdales. Helmut Lang decided to open his own
clothing store when he couldn't find a t-shirt that he liked. Michael
Kors built up a network of customers by selling clothes in a trendy
NYC boutique. However, most people find that the best foundation for a
design career is to get a fine arts degree in fashion at a prestigious
school. Besides teaching you the craft, a good school will also add
credibility to your resumé. "We live in a brandname society, and
having the name of a good school behind you really does help ?"?

(click Strategy on this page)

?"Let's be realistic," says Carol Mongo at Parsons, "School's not for
everyone. If you're just looking to get a job in the fashion industry
? not a career as a designer ? you probably don't need to go school."
If you want to work as a seamstress or a patternmaker, the best thing
is probably to apply for an internship at a fashion house and work
your way up. However, there are many examples of famous designers who
started out as interns with no formal training??

??It's also important to note that competition is fierce, and unless
you have personal connections, it's very difficult to get an
internship without an education.?

(click Alternative Routes on this page)


Guide to Career Prospects -- Fashion Designers*

*Many good links on this website. 


?Truly successful careers in fashion design usually begin at top
postsecondary design schools like the Parsons School of Design in New
York, and if you're serious about reaching the top in this field it's
worth making every effort to attend such a school. Further, since a
portfolio review is an important part of the admissions process, you
need to develop a portfolio that demonstrates artistic talent, skill,
and sense of style.?

?Some community colleges offer 2-year fashion design programs, and
many universities offer 4-year programs?.  However, graduates of these
"second-tier" schools will find it more difficult to move into jobs in
the studios of top-flight designers than graduates of the top schools



?It is very difficult to break into this field without attending an
excellent design school where, as well as developing technical
expertise, students are exposed to the culture of fashion design and
develop the networking skills that are essential??





Create an account here to browse jobs ?

A group of recruiting specialists with offices in New York & Los
Angeles that have deep roots in the fashion, home, beauty,
entertainment and graphics industries.

24/7 Fashion Recruitment


So, that should give you a good strong basis for your argument. I?ve
tried to approach it from several different directions in the hopes of
providing you more than one argument. Remember however, as I mentioned
before, it?s not quite as clear-cut as we?d like.

Yes, you could probably get a low-end ?assistant to the assistant?
type job in the fashion industry without a BA degree, but your chances
of developing the skills to really break in to the creative realm of
original fashion design would be limited without the formal training
of a degree program.

This has been a fun project. Not ever having had anything to do with
fashion design world before, I am entirely impressed with some of the
designers? works I?ve seen today.

Let me know if anything I?ve given you needs a clearer explanation.
I?d be happy to clarify.


Search strategy ?

Search via Google and within the major job boards
Combined the terms ?fashion design? and ?fashion designer? with:

deedub-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Just what I needed, and timely too. Thanks!

Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
From: pcventures-ga on 20 Feb 2004 13:36 PST
Although I won't presume knowledge of the fashion world, one thing
I've learned is that lack of a degree should never be a basis for
feeling you're out of the running for a job.
 Making the right connections helps, or if you do something really
unusual that could get you noticed - perhaps producting a local
fashion show on your college campus or in your community?  (OK, I know
it's not the same thing as design, but it's still something splashy
that could only help).
 Always be willing to think outside the box, and never take "no" for an answer.
 I hate this snobber about college degrees.
 I find it ironic that as a freelancer, my degree status is never even
inquired about, yet I know I've done the exact same work that the
employer would have *required* an actual employee to have a college
degree for.
 Unbelievable, and hypocritical.
 Good luck!
Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
From: pinkfreud-ga on 20 Feb 2004 15:08 PST
I think your premise is faulty. Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, Anna
Wintour, Michael Kors, Tom Ford, and many other top fashion designers
don't have degrees.
Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
From: deedub-ga on 24 Feb 2004 09:58 PST
Thank you for your comment. Yes, you're right: particularly in fields
where personal skills, creativity, charisma and chutzpah are
important, degrees are quite secondary. I will pass the message on to
my girl.

But don't worry in this case: it's just a bureaucratic paperwork
matter of job definition. It shouldn't affect her career (or the
careers of her colleagues). Thanks.
Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
From: electradesigns-ga on 16 Apr 2004 21:20 PDT
I just wanted to thank the person who asked the question, and those
who answered it.  I, too have the same predicament.  In order to get a
particular type of financial aid, I must prove I must have a BA in
fashion design to get a good job in the industry.  I went to FIDM in
LA and got an AA, but most of what was taught, I already knew.  I
didn't feel I learned enough to give me the edge over the competition.
 Having talent and skill is one thing.  It's another to know current
computer programs, industry standards, experience, etc that one gets
from getting a four year degree.  Most of my peers didn't really apply
themselves.  They didn't do very good work in my opinion, yet they
graduated with an AA, just as I did.  No one asks you what your GPA is
when you apply for a job.  All the entry level slots are quickly
filled up by these so-so graduates.  I feel, if you are really
outstanding, why not go the extra two years and learn as much as you
can to get the advantage?  True, a lot of famous designers don't have
a BA, but they do have money and connections.  Also, when you really
examine their work, is it all that great?  I want to get a BA for my
own piece of mind, mostly so I know I have what it takes, not just
enough to get by.  It is a highly competitive industry, and like it or
not, many employers just look at your resume and how many degrees you
have.  In order to get the financial aid I need to pay for the
overwhelming cost of a BA in this major, I too, have to prove my AA
isn't enough. It's really all about the red tape.  I'm really glad to
have come across this question and answer, because it was exactly what
I needed.  Thank you.  By the way, would anyone happen to know of any
other schools in the LA area who offer a BA in fashion design other
than AIU?
Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
From: paekche-ga on 10 Jun 2004 18:21 PDT
I'm about 4 months late on this, but the nature of the question
suggests that what the inquiry is really about is whether a fashion
designer (or related position) qualifies as an H-1B specialty
occupation for immigration purposes.  For those who don't understand
what I am getting at - in order to qualify for an H-1B working visa,
the individual must demonstrate that the position for which he/she
will be employed is a "specialty occupation," i.e., one that requires
at least a bachelor's degree in a specific field in order to perform
the duties of the position.  A fashion design position is arguably an
H-1B position, depending upon the complexity of the duties.  It is one
of those positions that must be examined on a case-by-case basis.
Subject: Re: Do I need a BA in Fashion Design to get a professional job in the field?
From: deedub-ga on 14 Jun 2004 11:43 PDT
Paekche is correct: My inquiry is part of the case-by-case analysis to
decide whether this job is one that would support an H-1B visa
petition. It's clearly on the border. Since postings, I've found from
the employer that graphic design is a bigger part of the job than any
other aspect of fashion design, so I may post a new inquiry about that
job. Thanks for your input, everyone.

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