Fashion & Retail Management Degrees: Associate, Bachelor & Online Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management? Find out program requirements, online options and info on courses and fashion and retail management degrees.
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Fashion and Retail Management Associate's and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

If you are fashion savvy and enjoy working in fast-paced environments, an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management might be the right fit for you. Whether you are currently working in retail seeking to get a promotion or want to work in the fashion industry in the future, an associate's or bachelor's program can provide you with the tools and skills you will need to pursue a successful career. If you are busy and are unsure of how you will make time for college, it might reassure you to know that online programs exist for both degree levels.

Most jobs within the fashion and retail management field are expected to grow from 2010-2020 at a rate that's about as fast as average for all occupations during that time, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job outlook for sales representatives was expected to grow by 16% within that time frame, and according to statistics gathered in May 2010 the median salary for sales representatives was $57,000 annually.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in working in management/supervisor positions at retail stores. People interested in opening their own fashion retail store. People who want to work as store or company representatives, advertisers or merchandise buyers.
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Retail sales supervisor ($41,000)*
- Purchasing manager ($58,000)*
- Retail sales worker ($21,000)*
- Sales representative ($57,000)*
- Fashion designer ($65,000)*
- Advertising sales agent ($45,000)*
-Advertising, promotion or marketing manager (108,000)*
- Wholesale and retail buyer ($50,000)*
Time to Completion 2 years full-time 4 years full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Roughly 60-64 credit hours in fashion and business management coursework - 120-180 credit hours in fashion and retail management coursework
Prerequisites High school diploma or GED High school diploma or GED
Online Availability Yes Yes

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (figures for 2010 and 2011).

Associate's Degrees in Fashion and Retail Management

Associate's programs in fashion and retail management are designed to provide graduates with the basic knowledge they need to run a retail business specializing in fashion. Upon finishing an associate's program in fashion and retail management you will possess the skills to effectively manage a business, communicate in the workplace, apply concepts of design to retail displays and hire and maintain employees.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can use the knowledge of business you gain in an associate's program to open your own fashion retail store.
  • Holding an associate's degree in fashion and retail management may give you a competitive edge over applicants when applying for store management and supervisory positions at retail stores, or may qualify you for a promotion at a store where you are already employed.
  • The coursework you complete to earn your associate's degree in fashion and retail management can help improve your interpersonal skills and make it easier for you to communicate effectively in your daily life.

Cons

  • Retail stores do not always require applicants to hold an associate's degree in fashion and retail management and often provide training in-store. This means that the degree could be deemed as unnecessary in terms of time and money spent to obtain it.
  • Holding an associate's degree in fashion and retail management will not guarantee you a promotion to a management position, so you could end up working in a retail sales position, even with a degree.
  • You may be required to complete a significant amount of in-store training that repeats a lot of what you learned during your degree program.

Courses and Requirements

When pursuing your associate's degree in fashion and retail management you will take a variety of courses that are designed to provide you with a well-rounded foundation in the basics of business management. The courses will be geared toward working in a retail environment and will include an overview of the fashion industry and concepts of marketing and merchandising. Some common courses you might take in a fashion and retail management associate's program include:

  • Principles of accounting
  • Supervision techniques
  • Principles of marketing
  • Merchandising
  • Business communications
  • Fashion case studies
  • Visual merchandising

Online Availability

Associate's programs in fashion and retail management can be completed on campus or online. An online program will provide you with the same general coursework and prepare you for the same careers as a campus-based program. However, an online program offers far more scheduling flexibility and will give you the ability to complete your coursework at a pace that is comfortable and convenient for you. If you are already employed in a retail environment and are pursuing an associate's degree to earn a promotion, the flexibility of online learning can make getting your degree easier without having to change your work schedule.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

As you learn about new methods of interpersonal communication in your program, try applying them to conversations in your day-to-day life. Practicing effective communication skills will better prepare you for job interviews after graduation and will make applying those methods to conversations with employees and customers feel more natural once you begin working in a management position.

Bachelor's Degrees in Fashion and Retail Management

Bachelor's programs in fashion and retail management are similar to associate's programs but also require students to develop a strong grasp on the history of trends in fashion. These programs spend more time educating students on the foundations of the fashion industry than associate's programs, making this a potentially good fit if you want to work for a corporation or major retailer. Upon graduating with your bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management you should have a strong grasp of business concepts such as retail math and business operations in addition to knowledge of visual merchandising, product development and clothing design and construction.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Obtaining a bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management could qualify you for higher-level positions within the fashion industry, including work as a brand representative.
  • A number of jobs in the fashion industry do not have a bachelor's degree as a hard requirement and will accept applications from high school diploma holders. Having a bachelor's degree could give you a competitive edge when applying for jobs.
  • The knowledge you gain from coursework in clothing design could lead to work as a fashion designer. When combined with the business coursework you complete, you could potentially start your own fashion brand or boutique store.

Cons

  • The cost to obtain a bachelor's in fashion and retail management can be high in comparison to the median annual salaries for careers in the field, with some schools charging as much as $82,000 in tuition costs for a 4-year program.
  • Most jobs in fashion and retail management have only average or less than average predicted growth rates, according to the BLS. Because of this, you may have difficulties finding a job after graduation.
  • Only a few schools offer retail management programs specifically related to fashion retail, so when looking at programs you may feel as though you do not have a diverse set of schools to apply to.

Courses and Requirements

When pursuing your bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management, your coursework will be designed to give you a comprehensive overview of the fashion industry and how business concepts work at the corporate and small business level. Some programs give you the ability to choose an area of emphasis or specialization within the program, while others only offer a general studies program for fashion and retail management. Some general studies courses you may take during your time as an undergraduate include:

  • Fundamentals of design
  • History of fashion
  • Merchandise management
  • Speech and communications
  • Trends in retail
  • Customer behavior

Online Availability

When pursuing your bachelor's degree in fashion and retail management you have the ability to do so on campus or through an online program. Both will offer similar coursework and provide you with the knowledge you need to pursue a successful career in the industry. An online program offers far more flexibility than a campus program, and you can actually finish your bachelor's degree in three years instead of four through some online programs.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

While enrolled in a bachelor's program, apply for internships working in retail settings or in corporate offices for major clothing brands. An internship will provide you with valuable hands-on experience and knowledge of retail management that cannot be learned in a classroom. Participating in an internship will also give you relevant experience to put on your resume after graduation.

Popular Schools

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What is your highest level of education?

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