Fashion Designer Careers: Job Description & Salary Information

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

Being a fashion designer offers a lot of flexibility in your career options. In this field, you'll have the opportunity to design clothing and accessories for women, children and men. Working in this field means you need to be in touch with current fashion trends and seasonal changes. Continue reading the pros and cons to see if fashion designing is the right career for you.

Pros of a Fashion Designer Career
Choice of freelance, design firm or apparel wholesale employment*
High income potential (average salary in 2014 was over $73,000)*
Versatility in design platforms*
Frequent travel opportunities attending fashion shows and meeting with material suppliers*

Cons of a Fashion Designer Career
Projected employment decline in many industry areas (-3% from 2012 to 2022)*
Fierce competition for existing jobs*
Freelancers may not have consistent work opportunities*
Long production schedules*

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

Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Fashion designers create the styles of clothing that are available for shoppers to purchase in retail stores. Although the fashion designer's job may appear glamorous in the movies and on television, these professionals work very hard and often put in many long hours. Fashion designers study the current and future fashion trends, work with various colors and fabrics, create sketches of future designs and manage the final sample productions of their designs.

Career Prospects and Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall job growth for fashion designers is expected to decline due to a dip in apparel manufacturing employment and high career competition ( This field also has little potential growth because many companies are outsourcing manufacturing overseas.

One area of fashion that is expected to grow faster than others in the coming years is the portion of the industry that focuses on mass markets, such as designs intended for sale in discount chain stores. Fashion designers who choose to focus on this target market should see very promising job prospects. The field of fashion design is somewhat geographically focused. Many positions are based in urban fashion centers, such as New York and Los Angeles. As of May 2014, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for fashion designers was $73,690.

Career Skills and Requirements

A bachelor's degree education is generally required if you would like to enter a career in this field. Many skills can be acquired by attending a fashion design program administered by an art and design school. You may also find that many careers require you to have experience before being hired and an established portfolio exemplifying your designs. According to a sampling of positions from national employment websites, general skills you may need to have can include:

  • Strong attention to detail
  • Strong organization
  • Self-motivation
  • Ability to work with other designers
  • Color and print sense

Job Postings from Real Employers

Depending on your passion, you may be able to find careers working in leather-based, children's, exercise and department store fashion. Although this may not be a completely comprehensive list of the entire field, the following are profiles gathered from a job sampling in March 2012:

  • A Massachusetts fashion leatherworking company was looking for a designer with the ability to manage multiple projects and who follows market trends.
  • A juvenile clothing manufacturing company, also from Massachusetts, advertised for a designer that had a strong knowledge of fabrics and experience working with clothing material vendors.
  • A Florida-based fitness company looked for designers with a proficiency using visual editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator.
  • A famous New York department store was looking for a designer that had accountability skills in trend research, production and merchandising.
  • A New York company was looking for a dress designer that had knowledge of computer-assisted design (CAD) software and experience with dress construction.

How to Stand Out in the Field

If you are looking to separate yourself from the competition, you might want to expand your training and understanding of the processes beyond designing. Depending on your education and school, you may learn additional aspects regarding manufacturing processes, research methods, fabric selection, establishing fashion show offerings, sewing and tailoring. During your education, you may also take courses dedicated to developing a portfolio used for exemplifying why you are the best in your field.

Develop Related Skills

Many related skills can be developed through suggested elective courses from your college of choice. These skills can be found as layout design, retail merchandising structures, knitting, marketing, branding, industry history analysis, sales forecasting and patternmaking. Prior to graduating from your program, you can often participate in internship or apprenticeship opportunities. These hands-on opportunities can provide specializations and professional skills development. Other skills that you may want to develop can include:

  • Finding material alternatives
  • Keeping costs low
  • Designing for comfort
  • Presentation techniques
  • Technical specification development

Alternative Career Paths

The fashion design field has several different sub-specializations. Depending on the field you wish to work in, you may work with various socioeconomic groups, genders and ages. If you wish to focus on a more specific field, accessory design is a field to consider. Within accessory design, you may learn how to design shoes, belts, boots, purses and related accessories. Training in accessory design is very similar to training options for general fashion design.

If you don't want to work for a fashion design company, you may want to consider working in costume design. Working in this field means that you can assist in developing clothing used in stage and movie productions. To be proficient in this field, you may need similar skills used in other fashion design fields. The main difference is that instead of researching fashion trends, you are required to research historical fashion specific to production settings.

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