Fashion design is one lucrative field that requires a lot of hard work, rigorous training, and education. Online fashion programs are available for those who wish to pursue a career in garment technology, fashion design, and fashion merchandising.
This $3 trillion global industry offers unlimited opportunities to those who are seriously pursuing a career in fashion (Fashion United, 2021). Based on data from the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, in 2021 the salary range of the highest-paying career options in this industry is from $104,000 to $180,000 annually.
But before all that, the first step you must take is to earn a fashion degree and develop all the necessary skills you need to become a professional in the field. In this post, you will find a detailed discussion on fashion degrees, where to get them, and how much an online bachelor’s degree in fashion costs. The post will also give you an overview of the various career options that you can choose from.
When COVID-19 started threatening lives and was declared a pandemic, schools and universities across the world were forced to close and stop campus activities. The education sector in most countries then had to take the necessary leap from face-to-face instruction to remote learning. As a result, online learning saw significant growth over the recent years, becoming a $226 billion industry in the year 2020 (Cision, 2021).
For post-secondary institutions, this means offering online degree programs to battle class closures and dips in enrollment. Universities in the United States, in particular, have adopted online learning approaches, enabling students to earn their degrees without having to set foot in a physical classroom. As such, numerous distance learning programs are giving rise to a new class of online degree holders and academic achievers.
Many studies suggest that online education brings various benefits to all kinds of learners. For instance, the study “The Effectiveness of Online Education during Covid 19 Pandemic—A Comparative Analysis between the Perceptions of Academic Students and High School Students from Romania” published in Sustainability 2021, highlights the efficiency of online education. Butnaru cites, “the effectiveness of online education has shown a number of advantages due to increased flexibility and learning opportunities: easy access to experts, exposure to educational environments, a wide range of types of courses, and joining student communities.”
As educational institutions discover the advantages of online learning, colleges and universities continue to expand their online class offerings to fit the academic needs of both traditional and non-traditional students. According to the latest online education statistics, 33% of post-secondary institutions will continue to offer online and remote course options even after campuses have resumed their normal operations (Educationdata.org, 2020). This only means that online education is here to stay, providing students with the option to pursue their degrees online.
So whether you are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree, or you want to increase your knowledge about a specific area of study, there are now plenty of online degree options that you can choose from. Online degree courses can provide a pathway to your academic needs, allowing you to advance your skillset for applying to future jobs.
While it is true that there are employers who prefer traditional graduates, most of them are not at odds with online degrees in general, especially since online education is now an emerging trend during the pandemic, it is only understandable that the number of nontraditional graduates has increased significantly in the past years.
As a matter of fact, 47.6% of hiring managers consider online education as important and are likely to hire more online degree holders today due to the ongoing pandemic (Future Learn, 2021). With an online degree, you can pursue various employment opportunities within your respective field.
Source: FutureLearn (2021)
Unlike from a decade ago, online degrees now hold almost the same value as a traditional degree. As more schools worldwide embrace online education and offer remote learning programs, online degrees are deemed credible and respected in many parts of the world. In fact, a survey by Wiley Education Services reveals that 72% of employers say that college and university degrees, whether online or traditional, serve as an important factor in the hiring process (Wiley Education Services, 2021).
A bachelor’s degree in fashion prepares you for a variety of exciting career opportunities in the field. Typically, a fashion degree program gives a strong focus on topics like design, art, textiles, and computer-aided design. With a degree in fashion, you can explore career options as a fashion designer, merchandiser, planner, stylist, and more. However, before you decide whether an online or a traditional degree is the ideal program format for you, it is best to understand their similarities and differences.
As a practice-based discipline, fashion degree programs require access to physical resources, like fashion studios, sewing machines, and a wide selection of fabric and textiles. This posed a challenge for fashion schools to adopt online learning approaches—after all, fashion degree programs involve more practical and hands-on courses fit for a traditional learning experience. For instance, students of a traditional fashion degree get to have a firsthand tactile experience that involves the comparison of colors and textures, observation of various materials, and the like.
In recent years, however, most universities and colleges have adopted innovative solutions to provide quality education to students majoring in fashion. Through virtual teaching formats and digital iteration of studio experiences, online fashion degree programs eliminate the need for physical resources and enable students to engage with new course methodologies.
Accordingly, an online bachelor’s degree in fashion mostly follows a similar structure as a traditional degree program, except that usage of physical resources varies from little to none. As an alternative, online fashion courses utilize modern 3D solutions, which allow students to create and design virtual prototypes of various types of clothing and garment.
Throughout the program, most of the students’ time is spent working on a mixture of individual and group projects. Students also learn through lectures and smaller group seminars, web-based workshops and demonstrations, group critiques, and one-to-one online tutorials.
Also, an online fashion degree program may require students to participate in online class sessions of real-time demonstrations. Most of the courses provide discussion forums that cover topics such as fashion retailing, merchandising, marketing, and more. In addition, students will come across several pattern-making and draping courses, which will be taught through tutorial and demonstration videos.
For students seeking hands-on skills, online classrooms could present particular challenges. According to a survey published in Fashionista, fashion majors are lamenting their lack of studio time and access to facilities, with nearly 24% of students indicating that they have had no access at all to physical resources while enrolled in an online fashion degree program.
Comparatively, a survey conducted by Business of Fashion indicated that 83% of fashion students were generally satisfied with the teaching method in a traditional degree program. Meanwhile, 83% were also happy with their library and study materials, and 76% commended their buildings and campuses (Business of Fashion, 2017).
Source: Business of Fashion (2017)
Nonetheless, educational leaders of fashion schools are confident that the introduction of digital tools to academic curricula will ensure the continuity of students’ education on fashion degrees. For instance, most fashion schools have now activated all theoretical and demonstrative lessons online, with the support of 3D virtual prototyping solutions and e-learning platforms (Fashionista, 2020).
As a result, students can now participate in online classes from anywhere in the world and share their digital design and pattern files with lecturers. An online learning program also allows students to access lectures, course materials, and class discussions based on their preferred schedule.
An online bachelor’s degree in fashion will introduce you to the fundamentals of fashion design. In the program, you will learn how to develop, design, and make clothing out of different textiles. You will also develop practical skills and technical knowledge in other areas, including fabric technology, fashion illustration, pattern cutting, computer-aided design (CAD), and garment construction.
To complete the program, most universities usually require students to submit practical and written coursework. In some cases, you will have to complete a major final-year project, like organizing a fashion event, creating a fashion magazine or fashion line, presenting in a catwalk show or static exhibition, or developing research-based marketing and corporate strategies for a fashion business. You will also have to produce portfolios of your 2D and 3D work that you can present to your employers in the future.
Generally, online degrees are much cheaper than traditional degrees for a variety of reasons. For instance, some schools that solely offer online degrees have fewer expenses to incur since they do not have a lot of buildings and properties to manage, and they have fewer staff members that they need to pay each month.
This allows universities and colleges to offer cheaper tuition rates for online degrees compared to traditional degrees. To give you an example of how much an online fashion degree costs, a report by the Career Igniter indicates that the estimated undergraduate expenses for online students vary from $22,086 to $57,000 (Career Igniter, 2020).
In comparison, a traditional degree in fashion costs around $36,000 on average. This estimate includes tuition but not other fees that you have to factor in when attending a traditional campus, which could include books, supplies, room, board, transportation, and campus activity fees.
Online education at the collegiate level is just as good and valuable as traditional degrees. Although there are key differences when it comes to learning formats between the two, online and traditional degrees still follow a set curriculum that aims to hone your academic and practical skills.
According to a report published by the University of the Potomac, 77% of educators believe that online education is just as good as the quality of education in a traditional classroom setting (University of Potomac, 2020). As remote learning becomes a norm in today’s education landscape, online degrees are also becoming a normal part of a professional’s path to skills training and self-improvement.
The cost of an online degree in fashion varies greatly depending on the type of school you are attending and the additional expenses that you might need to pay before completing the program. For instance, you will find lower tuition costs in exclusive online schools than at traditional universities offering online programs.
Accordingly, online degrees in fashion usually cost around $9,600 to $28,890. This is much cheaper than the tuition and fees of fashion degrees on traditional campuses, which cost about $13,000 to $60,000 per year (Career Igniter, 2020).
To calculate the total cost of a fashion degree, you also have to factor in the amount of money you will need for fashion materials. Unlike in a traditional fashion degree program, you will have to use your own sewing machine and other creative materials at home for the required hands-on courses. You might also need to pay an additional cost for the modern tools that you will use in visual designing and 3D garment construction.
Although a degree is not always necessary in the fashion industry, it can still give you a competitive edge in the field. As a matter of fact, most employers nowadays believe that a college degree is an important deciding factor when hiring a jobseeker. In a recent survey conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, data indicates that 82% of executives and 75% of hiring managers consider it very important to complete a college education.
Source: Association of American Colleges and Universities (2018)
As an online degree holder in fashion, there are plenty of career paths that you can explore. For instance, you can find a job as a fashion designer, stylist, or fashion buyer, or you can choose to start your own fashion line and become a retail manager and merchandiser.
Aside from the exciting career opportunities, the financial rewards are significant too, with most fashion jobs paying an average of $75,810 per year (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Some of the highest-paying career options in the fashion industry include creative director, design director, PR specialist, marketing director, and fashion buyer (Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, 2020).
Other than that, a career in the fashion industry leads to a glamorous life. In most fashion workplaces, you will be surrounded by creative people who enjoy expressing themselves in the most artistic and stylish ways. There will also be chances for you to work with famous designers, stylists, models, and celebrities.
Earning your degree is the first step to establishing a successful career path in the fashion industry. However, most schools and universities may require you to submit important documents before gaining admission to a degree program. The following sections discuss in detail the admission and general requirements you have to prepare as you apply for an online degree in fashion:
Source: PayScale, 2021
As a practical and immersive discipline, fashion degree courses are made up of lectures, workshops, and demonstrations that are best taught through videos and visual presentations. Thus, you will need a laptop or desktop computer with an abundance of good features, like a dual-core processor, a good video card. and an updated OS. Aside from those, having a microphone, headset, and webcam will also be useful in completing your online courses.
In some cases, additional hardware will also be required, such as a drawing tablet and a digital camera. These will come in handy when you need to accomplish design and other visual projects.
Moreover, you will most likely use computer-aided design (CAD) software in some courses so it is best to have a device that can run such programs. Some of the required minimum specs for a CAD software include 8GB RAM, 1 GB GPU with 29 GB/s video card, 2.5–2.9 GHz processor, and a hard drive with at least 7GB free.
As colleges and universities moved their courses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it took a while for students to fully adjust to the new norm of online classes. According to a report by Educationdata.org, 43% of traditional students had never taken an online class before, and after shifting to online education, 59% indicated that they are satisfied with their online courses (Educationdata.org, 2020).
Source: Educationdata.org (2020)
In an online fashion degree program, you will come across courses that can help you develop the required skills as a fashion specialist. Depending on the school and the instructors, you can be given customized courses specific to your specialization, or you can use the established courses that the institution offers.
Here are some of the core courses you can expect in a fashion degree program:
Accreditation is a critical factor in determining the validity and relevance of a fashion degree. Therefore, choosing an accredited fashion degree program ensures that the education you receive meets or exceeds the industry standards developed by experts in the field. Programs from an accredited school also allow you to transfer credits should you choose to change schools or advance your degree level at another school.
For fashion and art-based programs, the main accrediting body is the National Association of Schools of Art & Design (NASAD). To ensure the highest quality of educational standards, NASAD annually evaluates the faculty, curriculum, and equipment of fashion schools and degree programs.
Teaching methods for online fashion degrees can vary based on the school and program. Mostly, you can find two kinds of teaching methods for distance learning—asynchronous and synchronous.
In an asynchronous instruction format, students can view their lectures, access educational materials, and collaborate with their instructors on their own time. This method is ideal for students who cannot attend scheduled sessions and want to work through courses at their own pace.
Meanwhile, the synchronous teaching method supports real-time learning and discussion and aims to replicate live, traditional coursework. In synchronous courses, instructors often use a range of modern tools, such as web conferencing tools, streaming video platforms, and individual or course-wide live chats.
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Although most online degrees are generally cheaper than traditional degrees, you still have to be wary of the additional costs that are not included in the published prices. For instance, there are some schools that charge application and technology fees on top of tuition costs. If you are not careful in adding up all fees and related expenses for your degree, you might end up paying more expensive tuition due to unanticipated school charges.
It is also important for you to check if your chosen program asks for any on-site requirements. For example, there are some online schools that require students to visit the campus and attend classes in person for a short period before completing the program. Ideally, choosing an online school located at your distant locale can help avoid substantial spending on transportation, meals, and accommodation.
As fashion continues to occupy a central role in today’s economy, the industry becomes notoriously fast-paced and competitive. Within the field, competition is tight for aspiring fashion designers, stylists, and merchandisers. Thus, earning a fashion degree has become a serious pursuit for many students seeking creative and rewarding employment opportunities in the industry.
An online bachelor’s degree in fashion can be your ticket to making your mark as a professional in the field. Compared to non-degree holders, you have better chances of getting your dream job, especially since you will be facing cutthroat competition in the industry. As a fashion major, you will develop the necessary skills required to fulfill your role in the specialized field that you have picked.
In case you also want to explore other online programs, you can check out our guide to the best online degrees.