Becoming a Boot Designer: Careers, Salary Info & Job Description

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Get the truth about a boot designer's salary, training requirements and career prospects. Read the job description and see the pros and cons of becoming a boot designer.
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Pros and Cons of a Boot Designer Career

Boot designers create original concepts, sketches and designs for the development of new boots. Learn about the advantages and disadvantages of this career to see if it seems like the right fit for you.

Pros of a Career as a Boot Designer
No formal education requirements*
Self-employment opportunities (25% of fashion designers in 2012 worked for themselves)*
Frequent, sometimes international, travel to trade shows or to meet with suppliers*
High level of creativity (devising original designs a fundamental part of the job)*

Cons of a Career as a Boot Designer
Jobs are declining (3% job decline is expected between 2012 and 2022)*
Very competitive field - far more people interested in jobs than there are available opportunities*
Considerable variance in salary, and entry-level wages may be low*
Geographical limitations (75% of fashion designers in 2010 were employed in California or New York)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Duties and Description

Boot designers develop original designs by sketching patterns, choosing materials, deciding on heel shape and discerning patterns or colors, all while taking into account the comfort, practicality and aesthetics of the finished product. Designers often use computer-aided design (CAD) software to generate their designs. They may also frequently communicate with other members of a design team while their design is being produced. Boot designers assess and follow the fashion market, observing trends to help them discern what seems to be in demand. Their job may involve marketing final products or promoting their design ideas at trade events or fashion shows.

Some boot designers are self-employed, producing their own designs and products and marketing them to retailers or consumers. As of 2010, 29% of designers were employed by manufacturers or wholesalers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job may call for long hours while readying trade show presentations or making production deadlines. These hours may be especially likely if you're self-employed, since you'll then be working directly under your clients' timelines and demands.

Salary Info and Job Outlook

Boot designer salaries encompass considerable variance according to employer and reputation in the industry. Entry-level wages may be relatively low. In 2014, the majority of those working in fashion design, which includes boot designers, earned between $33,000 and $127,000 annually, averaging $73,690, according to the BLS.

The BLS also reports that employment in the fashion design industry is projected to decline 3% between 2012 and 2022. The jobs that are available are likely to involve stiff competition due to the industry's tendency to attract a higher number of interested applicants than there are jobs.

Career Skills and Requirements

As a designer, you will need a portfolio, which is a compendium of your original designs compiled for presentation. Your portfolio should show off your best work because it often weighs heavily in hiring decisions as well as in academic program admissions decisions.

While jobs in footwear design don't have any formal education requirements, there are other skills you'll need to perform the job successfully. Among these are:

  • Solid communication skills and the ability to work as a team
  • Technological aptitude (must learn and utilize CAD systems)
  • Aesthetic sense, especially regarding color and texture
  • Strong attention to detail
  • Flexibility and adaptation to keep up with the fast-moving fashion industry and changing trends

What Employers Are Seeking

While jobs in boot design don't have any technical higher-education requirements, many contemporary employers are seeking workers with a college degree, usually in fashion design. A willingness to travel is a must, as many design jobs involve traveling (often to other countries) to study fashion trends or approve product samples. Below are a few job postings from actual employers in April 2012 to give you an idea of what employers are currently looking for:

  • A fashion company in New York City looked for a candidate with four to six years of experience designing footwear to develop new design ideas and work in a team environment bringing products to fruition. The job involved international travel and required a bachelor's degree in fashion design or a related field.
  • A design firm in New York City sought a candidate to research and assess customer demand and style trends to support the development of original footwear designs. A college degree, technical and sketching abilities, and the capacity to orient toward a specific market were all required. Regular international travel was involved.
  • A California athletic footwear company advertised for a candidate to conceive original designs and oversee the subsequent production process. The company, which offers products such as snowboard and chalet boots, wanted the hire to develop three basic design themes per season. Experience in the athletic industry and willingness to travel were among the listed qualifications.
  • A New York City apparel company was looking for a shoe designer with five to seven years of experience to participate in product line creation including sketching, choosing colors and interacting with off-site team members. A college degree in design was preferred.

How to Stand Out

Higher Education

Potential employers frequently desire workers with a college degree. Degrees in footwear or accessories design are offered at some specialty schools, and many schools offer certificate programs as well as associate's and bachelor's degree programs in fashion design. If you pursue a program in fashion design, be sure to consider taking any available electives in footwear, boot or accessories design. These kinds of programs involve coursework in design history, materials and construction methods, sketching and developing CAD skills.

In addition to awarding a degree, these programs often include opportunities to develop and expand your portfolio. Your portfolio is one of the strongest tools you'll have to showcase your potential, so you'll want to present what you feel is your best work in a careful and professional format and ensure that any text is error-free.

Work Experience

In addition to acquiring a certificate or degree, something that can put you ahead in the design field is experience. Pursuing an internship can help you break into the business and offer you concrete experience in choosing patterns and colors, working with construction materials and observing the business aspects of the industry.

Other Career Paths to Consider

Graphic Design

If you're attracted to the creative aspects of being a boot designer but are discouraged by the lack of job growth projected in the fashion design industry, you may be interested in pursuing a career in graphic design. Graphic designers often use software and technology to create visual designs for advertising purposes. As with fashion design, the graphic design field is competitive, but according to the BLS, employment for graphic designers is expected to increase by 13%, which is about as much as the average for all U.S. jobs between 2010 and 2020. In 2011, the median salary for a graphic designer was approximately $44,000.

Purchasing Agent/Manager

You could also consider working in a less competitive area of the fashion industry and become a purchasing agent or purchasing manager. Purchasing agents evaluate and negotiate with suppliers in order to procure products for companies and institutions. They may assess and discuss designs and quality. They also discern the likelihood of a supplier's capacity to deliver goods in a timely manner. Being a purchasing agent often doesn't require a college degree, but a bachelor's degree may be necessary to advance to a purchasing manager position. According to the BLS, jobs in this field are expected to grow by 7% between 2010 and 2020. Additionally, in 2011, the median annual salary for purchasing managers was $97,000.

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