Fashion Careers: Job Descriptions & Salary Info

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What are the pros and cons of a fashion career? Get real job descriptions, career prospects and salary info to see if becoming a fashion professional is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in Fashion

The fashion industry is a meeting of art, design and business. There are many specialization areas within the fashion industry, but some options include fashion designer, market research analyst, marketing manager and fashion stylist. Here they are, at a glance:

Fashion Designer Market Research Analyst Marketing Manager Fashion Stylist
Career Overview Fashion designers create apparel; shoes and boots; and purses, scarves and other accessories, as well as oversee production. Market research analysts conduct research and study market conditions to make recommendations on effective marketing strategies; they can choose to work in the fashion industry. Marketing managers analyze market research, study trends and develop campaigns to increase consumer interest in a product; they can choose to work within fashion. Fashion stylists use a knowledge of fabric, design and trends to act as image consultants for clients in need of projecting a certain physical appearance.
Education Requirement None required, though most have an associate's or bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree, but a master's degree is preferred Bachelor's degree, though a master's degree can give one an edge None required, though most have an associate's or bachelor's degree
Program Length 2 years full-time for an associate's; 4 years full-time for a bachelor's 4 years full-time for a bachelor's; 6 years full-time for both bachelor's and master's 6 years full-time for both bachelor's and master's 2 years full-time for an associate's; 4 years full-time for a bachelor's
Certification None Voluntary None Voluntary
Experience Requirement May land an entry-level position with no experience; most designer openings require 5 years of experience In general, 1-2 years of experience in sales, business or marketing; fashion industry employers more commonly request 8-10 years of experience 1-5 years experience in advertising, marketing or sales in general; fashion industry employers typically request 5-10 years of experience May land an entry-level position with no experience; many employers may require five years of experience
Job Outlook for 2012-2022* Expected decline (-3%); -700 less jobs expected Much faster than average growth (32%); 131,500 additional jobs expected (for all industries) Average growth (12% increase); 25,400 additional jobs expected (for all industries) Information not available
Yearly Salary $73,690 (mean salary in 2014)* $68,700 (mean salary for all industries in 2014)* $137,400 (mean salary for all industries in 2014)* Between $34,019 and $80,514 (10th-90th percentile in 2015)**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Payscale.com

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers create original garments, accessories and footwear through a detailed and personal artistic process. Typically, designers begin by sketching their designs. Then they select their fabrics and test prototypes on models before the final garments are constructed. Many fashion designers use CAD software to facilitate visualization and adjustments. If the design is to be mass marketed, the designer will most likely oversee this process.

Duties include studying trends, creating prototypes, marketing designs and developing collections for fashion shows. Designers work long hours, especially as deadlines approach. While many designers work with established fashion houses, some experienced designers with an entrepreneurial spirit choose to open their own retail stores and sell the products created by their own company. Growth opportunities for designers are available for those who are self-employed or employed by specialized design firms. California and New York are where most salaried fashion designers work.

Requirements

A formal education is not required for fashion designers. Associate's and bachelor's degrees are available, and although many designers do complete a degree or at least a handful of relevant courses, they typically gain the bulk of their knowledge and expertise through work experience and on-the-job training. Internships are highly recommended in this field. Many designers start their careers working under experienced designers as pattern makers or assistants before advancing to roles with more independence and responsibility. Neither licensing nor certification is required.

In November 2012, some employers of fashion designers were looking for the following:

  • A designer and retailer of maternity apparel was seeking a designer to work at a Pennsylvania office. Responsibilities included developing products that reflect current trends, sending fashion information packages overseas, researching the fabric market, sketching new designs and ensuring the proper fit and construction of products. Requirements included at least five years of experience as a designer of women's apparel and experience with software design programs, PC design and high-end fabrics.
  • A women's apparel and shoe design company based in Manhattan wanted to hire a designer with an associate's degree and five or more years of experience. The designer would be tasked with creating a complete collection under the direction of the creative head while also supervising a design assistant and intern.
  • A fashion retailer located in Los Angeles advertised for a designer for the sleepwear department. Developing new sleepwear and casual lounging garments each month for young consumers was a main job duty. In addition, this position required designers to work closely with various teams and use technology to produce quality products within the budgetary and time allowances. Candidates needed to have more than five years of experience in fashion design and to be proficient in Microsoft Word and both Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop.

Standing Out

To stand out as a fashion designer, you should develop a strong portfolio of your designs and ideas that showcase your talents and creativity. A degree in fashion design in combination with a double major or minor in fashion merchandising could help you start your own company. In addition, you could seek internships with prominent fashion houses to gain valuable work experience and make highly beneficial contacts.

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts can choose to specialize in fashion. They collect data related to the industry in order to forecast trends and develop effective marketing strategies. While most are employed by consulting firms and work on a per-client basis, some companies do hire in-house market research analysts. Professionals tend to work alone at their computer while conducting research, writing reports and designing presentations. As deadlines approach, this job can become stressful. However, this field is growing at a much faster than average rate in comparison to all other occupations, so employment options may outweigh that con.

Requirements

To become a market research analyst, you'll need at least bachelor's degree in marketing, communications, statistics or general business. If you want to work in the fashion industry, a degree in fashion design or fashion merchandising is also appropriate. Some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in business administration, market research or marketing for prestigious research positions. Internships are also highly recommended.

In November 2012, some employers of market research analysts in the fashion industry were looking for the following:

  • A retail company in Illinois wanted to hire a market research analyst to collect customer feedback and develop a customer modeling system. Responsibilities included analyzing feedback and reporting on trends to deliver excellent customer service and enhance customer loyalty. Candidates needed a bachelor's degree in statistics, marketing or economics as well as a solid background in market research and analytics. Eligibility requirements also included a minimum of three years of experience.
  • A women's contemporary fashion house in Los Angeles wanted to hire a senior corporate merchandise manager to conduct market research, track the progress of the competition, analyze market trends and determine product placement. Candidates were required to have at least ten years of experience in either buying or retail merchandising. A bachelor's degree in either business administration or fashion merchandising was also required.
  • A handbag and accessories company based in Indiana was seeking a director of global forecasting to monitor and forecast all distribution channels. Duties included managing buying strategies, merchandise planning and demand. In addition, the position required mentoring and training a forecasting team. Candidates needed to have a bachelor's degree in fashion design, retail merchandising, business administration or marketing. Strong analytical skills and 8-10 years of experience in management, merchandise planning and demand planning were required.

Standing Out

You should develop strong statistical analysis, mathematical and data skills to stand out as a market research analyst. An internship in sales, marketing, promotions or business administration could also be beneficial. In addition, you'll have a better chance of standing out in this competitive field by earning an advanced degree in a related field. Knowledge of the fashion industry and consumer behavior would also be advantageous to land a marketing position within fashion.

Voluntary certification is available through the Marketing Research Association: its Professional Researcher Certification (PRC) requires that you join the association and pass a qualifying exam after completing three years in the workforce. Continued education courses and biannual renewal are required to maintain the credential.

Marketing Manager

Marketing managers work with other department heads and lead the marketing staff to generate product interest with consumers. Duties include collecting data, analyzing findings, negotiating contracts, creating effective pricing strategies, identifying potential markets and forecasting future revenues. Professionals typically enjoy a comfortable work environment in an office. They usually have a full-time work schedule but may work 50 or more hours weekly. As a marketing manager, you may be expected to travel frequently to meet with clients or attend trade shows.

Requirements

You'll need at least a bachelor's degree to become a marketing manager. In addition, work experience is required to advance to this position. Employers prefer those who have experience in marketing, sales or promotions within the fashion industry. Neither certification nor licensure is required.

In November 2012, some employers of marketing managers were looking for the following:

  • A major beauty company and direct seller of jewelry and accessories with worldwide influence wanted to hire a marketing manager. The position was based in New York. Duties included achieving sales objectives, building a strong brand identity, developing a strong financial strategy and analyzing product performance. Candidates were required to have a bachelor's degree and 5-7 years experience in brand marketing. In addition, strong computer skills and experience in the fashion industry were necessary.
  • An apparel retailer in Massachusetts was looking to hire a manager of marketing to create and implement strategic planning programs. Duties included working to meet initiatives, overseeing advertising plans and building an internal advertising team. A bachelor's degree in marketing, advertising or communications and at least six years of experience in an advertising department were required to qualify for the position, though 8-10 years of experience was preferred. At least three years of management experience was required as well. Fashion sense was necessary.
  • A premium fashion brand in New York sought a marketing manager to develop long-term relationships with customers. Developing a retail loyalty program, creating a brand experience for customers both online and in-store, driving member acquisition and monitoring customer migration were main job responsibilities. To meet eligibility requirements, one needed a bachelor's degree in business or marketing and 5-7 years of experience in retail marketing.

Standing Out

To stand out amongst your peers, consider earning an advanced degree in market research, marketing or advertising. Graduate degree programs in fashion marketing and management are also available. Courses in statistics, mathematics, economics and finance can prove advantageous. A deep understanding of the fashion and textile industries can also help you stand out in this career.

Fashion Stylist

Fashion stylists help clients with their physical appearance or advertising campaigns by recommending clothing and design concepts based on current trends. Many fashion stylists work with public figures, politicians, fashion houses, entertainment companies, magazines and advertising departments, often collaborating with hair, makeup and wardrobe departments to create effective visual images. Others are employed in retail and help individual clients with their clothing purchases and appearance needs. Duties include designing a look for clients based on their requirements, often within the parameters of visual media.

Requirements

Education requirements for fashion stylists vary, although most employers prefer to hire candidates with at least an associate's or bachelor's degree in fashion or a related field. Fashion stylists need strong fashion savvy and attention to changing trends. Communication and interpersonal skills are also necessary to best serve clients.

In November 2012, some employers of fashion stylists were looking for the following:

  • An e-commerce corporation wanted to hire a fashion stylist for its fashion and apparel department based in Brooklyn. Duties included supporting the lead stylist with on-figure apparel imaging, organizing shoots, training new hires, building relationships with the buying and operations team, presenting seasonal trends and maintaining the styling closet. Candidates needed at least five years of experience in a commercial photography environment, as well as a degree in fashion design, merchandising or marketing and a strong online portfolio. Strong attention to detail, knowledge of apparel on-body styling techniques and proven experience in a high-volume studio environment were preferred qualifications.
  • A retailer in California wanted to hire a fashion stylist professional with experience in commission sales and an entrepreneurial outlook. Candidates were required to have strong customer service skills, the ability to work in a fast-paced environment and teamwork skills. Responsibilities included meeting or exceeding sales goals, gaining an understanding of available products, demonstrating product knowledge to customers and occasionally working the floor on nights and weekends.
  • A retailer in Florida was looking for a stylist and professional shopper with at least five years of experience in retail management or retail sales, although experience as a personal shopper was preferred. Candidates needed a record of success in sales, strong communication skills, experience with suggestive selling methods and the ability to increase sales with social media. Duties included establishing customer relationships, engaging in monthly comparative shopping and working with corporate advertising and sales promotions.

Standing Out

To stand out as a fashion stylist you may want to consider becoming a member of the International Fashion Stylist Association (IFSA). Membership fees are due annually, though a cheaper option is available for students. The IFSA offers a newsletter on current trends, provides a code of ethics for professionals in this field, and provides various workshops throughout the year. In addition, IFSA membership provides discounts through certain retailers, professional development programs and a job center to help you gain employment in this field. By attending the annual International Conference of Fashion Stylists, you can participate in continuing education courses and network with other professionals.

Certification is voluntary, but can increase credibility within this competitive field. For instance, the Association of Image Consultants International (AICI) offers both certification and membership benefits. A fashion stylist is considered to be an image consultant with a focus on physical experience; therefore, membership through the AICI can be extremely beneficial. There are three levels of certification offered by this institution. The first level requires a computer-based examination, and you can advance to the higher levels through experience and relevant training offered through the AICI. You can also earn the Fashion Stylist Certification through the Fashion Image Institute.

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