Study Textile Design: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a textile design program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of an associate and bachelor's degree and potential careers.
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Textile Design Associate and Bachelor's Degrees at a Glance

In an undergraduate textile design program, you can learn how to turn raw materials into marketable products, whether for fashion or fabric design firms, interior design companies or industrial textile producers. You could even prepare to go into the design business for yourself.

However, your ability to land a job in this industry might depend more on your portfolio than your level of education, though associate and especially bachelor's degree programs can provide you with the hands-on training and work experience generally needed to develop your fashion sense and technical skills.

You should also be aware of employment projections for this field released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Fashion designers working for specialized design services were projected to experience a 40% job growth increase during the 2010-2020 decade. At the same time, however, the number of job opportunities in the apparel manufacturing industry was forecasted to plummet by 58%. These extremes were expected to result in a stagnant job growth rate overall for fashion designers from 2010-2020, according to the BLS.

Associate Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level textile design positions People who would like an extra two years of training for this field
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) - Textile designer (salary unavailable)
- Fashion designer ($74,000)*
Same as associate degree program graduates
Time to Completion Two years full time Four years full time
Common Graduation Requirements Approximately 70-90 credit hours of coursework About 120-130 credit hours of coursework, including an internship
Prerequisites High school diploma and a portfolio of your work; some schools also require essays and letters of recommendation High school diploma; some programs require a performance component
Online Availability Online programs are available in related fields, though rare A limited number of hybrid and online programs are available

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures).

Associate Degree in Textile Design

Enroll in a textile design associate degree program to study the history of fabric as it relates to the marketing of fashion and furnishings. These programs can also provide you with instruction in the latest drafting and weaving technologies. You could even learn how to design and create your own textile line.

Some schools offer accelerated degree options to those who've already completed an undergraduate program in another field. Others incorporate work for actual fashion design firms into the curriculum.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Upon graduating, you'll have assembled the beginnings of your portfolio
  • You can finish your education in two years of full time study
  • Course credits might transfer to a bachelor's degree program

Cons

  • You could be competing with graduates of bachelor's degree programs for the same jobs
  • The majority of workers in the fashion, fabric and textile fields are employed in New York or California, which means you could experience limited employment opportunities if you don't want to live in those cities
  • Competition for design jobs could remain acute because of the large number of talented people drawn to this field

Courses and Requirements

Program coursework is usually divided between classroom lectures and lab or studio sessions. In these sessions, you can study how computer-aided design (CAD) and graphic design software is used to create fabric patterns or control electric looms. You can also spend time working on your portfolio. Other coursework focuses on design concepts and manufacturing techniques. Listed below are some sample course topics:

  • Surface design
  • History of textiles
  • Decorative fabrics
  • Functional design
  • Woven textiles

Online Degree Options

Textile design programs aren't currently available online. Though rare, there are schools offering online fashion associate degree programs that include courses in textile design. These programs deliver the same curricula as their on-campus counterparts via online chats and video demonstrations. They might also offer opportunities for you to complete fashion projects and present your work in student fashion shows.

Stand Out with This Degree

To set yourself apart from the competition, take every opportunity to develop your portfolio, whether by participating in internships or class projects. As you begin to look for a job, this collection of your work will be the most important tool in your arsenal. Potential employers will scrutinize what you've already designed to determine if you're the right person for the job.

You might also want to consider joining a professional organization, such as the American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists (AATCC). The AATCC provides valuable networking opportunities for its student members via national and international conferences and workshops. It also awards prizes and scholarships.

Bachelor's Degree in Textile Design

Textile design bachelor's degree programs include many of the same courses found in associate degree programs. You'll study digital imaging techniques and take lab courses in computer-aided design. You can also practice weaving, knitting, dyeing and finishing techniques in design studios, where you'll receive hands-on instruction in the use of manual and electric looms as well as computerized knitting machines.

However, bachelor's degree programs require additional general education coursework. These programs might also be interdisciplinary in nature and include studies in apparel design, accounting and economics. Opportunities to participate in design competitions could also be available.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Many programs require an internship, providing you with professional experience that could lead to job offers after graduation
  • You can showcase your work to prospective employers in these programs' student design competitions
  • Bachelor's degree programs can include additional instruction in fashion design

Cons

  • A bachelor's degree isn't necessarily required to enter this career field
  • Career opportunities for fashion designers are expected to remain static from 2010-2020, with an anticipated job growth rate of 0%*
  • These programs take four years of full-time study to complete

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Courses and Requirements

Textile design bachelor's degree programs often require you enroll in art history, drawing, color theory or other introductory visual arts courses. Many programs also feature an internship, putting you to work in an actual design environment for course credit. Below are some sample textile design courses you're likely to encounter:

  • History of costumes
  • Knit technology
  • Flat pattern apparel design
  • Digital imaging

Online Degree Options

Some hybrid textile design programs allow you to take general education courses online. Online fashion bachelor's degree programs are also available, though these are even rarer. This is undoubtedly due to the hands-on nature of the degree program.

Stand Out with This Degree

In addition to joining professional organizations or completing internships, you could make the most of your bachelor's degree program by participating in design competitions or presentations. These opportunities are available to juniors and seniors who would like to showcase their work to representatives of design firms, textile mills and clothing retailers.

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