The fashion industry is constantly evolving, especially as the internet drives consumers to make more online purchases. As this change occurs, the fashion industry needs individuals familiar with the economic climate and consumer behaviors. Graduates with an associate degree in fashion understand technology and how it affects sales. Professionals working behind the scenes understand market trends and work with designers in clothing production. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists a bachelor's degree as the typical level of education for fashion designers. A fashion associate degree prepares students for a bachelor's program. Students can also work in merchandising and help designers with textiles and apparel marketing.

Should I Get an Associate Degree in Fashion?

Fashion associate degree students love the fashion industry and want to work in hands-on environments. People who work in merchandising, marketing, management, design, and sales make decisions that impact the creation, production, and distribution of garments. Many students begin as retail associates, but can move to management positions. Students typically start with an associate degree in fashion and then pursue a bachelor's degree. In a fashion program, students learn technical aspects of business, such as logistics and accounting. With this insight, graduates can eventually manage a company or start their own business.

Students interested in design and garment production need a fashion design degree. Courses teach topics such as garment drawing and fashion history. Concentrations include intimate apparel, menswear, childrenswear, and sportswear. Once students select a concentration, they work with instructors and classmates to conceptualize and design a fashion line. Obtaining a fashion degree opens students up to networking, mentorships, and entrepreneurship opportunities. Schools connect students to internships and help them find job opportunities.

What Can I Do With an Associate in Fashion?

With a fashion associate degree, graduates go on to work in fields such as merchandising and retail management. Management and merchandising programs teach students the business side of the industry, while design programs focus on the creative side of fashion. Students can choose a career working directly with consumers or fellow creatives.

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers use technical skills to create wearable designs for consumers. Many designers use specialized software to conceptualize designs. Designers select textiles and visit manufacturers. They work with production teams to create prototypes and present at fashion shows. Most fashion designers hold a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $67,420

Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

Purchasing agents are responsible for contacting vendors and obtaining products for a store or brand. After several years of experience, a buyer can be promoted to a purchasing manager. This job requires a bachelor's degree.

Median Annual Salary: $66,610

Retail Sales Worker

Sales associates process and sell merchandise for stores. They help managers with inventory by preparing stock. They also assist customers with finding and buying items.

Median Annual Salary: $23,370

How to Choose an Associate Program in Fashion

Students can obtain a fashion associate degree in two years or less. Enrollment status affects the length of a degree. Full-time students take at least four courses per semester, while part-time students take two courses. Many working professionals opt for part-time enrollment, but schools with online or accelerated programs can be a great alternative and offer flexible schedules. Another determining factor is a program's curriculum. Associate degrees require fewer credits than bachelor's programs. When it comes to transfer credits, the school makes the final decision on acceptance. Most schools accept core course credits, but it may be difficult to transfer electives.

Most programs grant credit for liberal arts courses, such as critical reading and writing. In addition to courses, it is also important to consider a school's accreditation status. Credits from regionally accredited schools are generally accepted. Students in a fashion merchandising program usually have to complete an internship. Learners must create projects and present them to course instructors; online students with the same requirements must coordinate meetings with advisors and instructors.

Associate in Fashion Program Admissions

The application process for fashion design degree programs varies by school. Students may be required to submit a portfolio showcasing their work or interview with department administrators. Usually, students apply to at least two schools and make a decision based on acceptance and financial aid. Potential students must be mindful of application deadlines before submitting and mailing applications. If students miss deadlines, their application can get denied. Most schools start accepting applications in August or September for the spring semester, and in March or April for the fall semester.

Admission Materials


  • Application: Students fill out a standard application form with their personal information. Some forms include a section for an essay or personal statement.
  • Transcripts: Schools request your high school transcript to confirm your graduation date, course load, and GPA. Your high school will automatically mail your transcript to the school upon your request and may charge a small fee.
  • Application Fee: Most institutions charge an application fee. The fee is nonrefundable and covers processing costs. Students with financial need qualify for fee waivers.

Educational Paths for Fashion Associate Programs

An associate degree in fashion lays a foundation for students to enter the fashion industry and help companies with design, retail sales, merchandising, and production. Earning a bachelor's degree helps students create their own business or fashion line. Bachelor's programs expand on the student knowledge and improve analytical and technical skills. Below are some educational paths found in an associate in fashion program.

Fashion Merchandising Management

Courses cover consumer behavior, textile theory, fashion marketing, and retail management. Students learn to set and maintain sales goals and create merchandising strategies. They also learn about finding textile production sources within the global market.

Entrepreneurship for the Fashion and Design Industries

This pathway prepares students to launch their own fashion brand. Courses include finance, accounting, marketing communications, and business law. This program focuses on the semantics of creating a business, including pitching ideas, funding, and complying with government regulations.

Fashion Design Sportswear

Students interested in the design and construction of clothes, particularly sportswear, should enroll in this program to hone conceptual and technical skills. Students explore different genres within sportswear like lifestyle clothing and stretch-woven fabrics. Students create garments and present them to instructors.

What Else Can I Expect From an Associate Program in Fashion?

Most programs feature courses that cover the fashion history and hone writing, drawing, and presentation skills. Depending on the concentration, instructors typically expect students to create presentations or prototypes.

Courses in an Associate Program in Fashion

Schools create their own program curriculum depending upon learning objectives and goals. Depending on the program, students may have an internship requirement or a final portfolio. While courses vary by program, they can be found in most curricula. To give students insight into a typical program, sample courses are listed below.

History of Couture Fashion

Students explore the impact of current and historical events on the fashion industry. Topics include modern-day cinema and contemporary art.

Fashion Design Process and Skills

In this course, students learn the principles of design from conceptualization to production. Students develop their own professional identity through projects and learn to employ logical and creative perspectives when creating art.

Fashion Drawing I

Known as a foundational course, students learn the basics of drawing. Instructors use live models to teach students about body proportions and movement in preparation for clothing production.

Color Theory

This course gives a new meaning to color as students examine relativity, the Bezold Effect, clash, and other color theories. Elements from psychology, sociology, and even physics come together to give an in-depth explanation of color effect.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Associate in Fashion?

It takes approximately two years to earn a fashion associate degree. Many programs encourage students with prior work experience to apply. Students in fashion design degree programs can typically transfer college credits from an accredited school. Students with transfer credits tend to graduate from programs earlier.

Depending on program requirements, students can graduate early if they take the maximum number of credits each semester or enroll in summer and winter courses. Some schools offer an accelerated curriculum with students taking 16-18 credits per semester. In most cases, students can transfer up to 21 credits. On average, students need about 65 credits to graduate with an associate degree in fashion.

How Much Is an Associate in Fashion?

Associate programs tend to be less expensive because students enroll in school for only two years, and most learners live off-campus. Schools can charge a flat tuition rate or a flat rate per credit. For flat tuition rates, schools charge a set rate per term. Students pay the rate per semester or work with the financial aid department to create a payment plan. Flat rate per credit programs charge students for a set number of credits, usually 12-18 credits a semester. Again, students create payment plans if they cannot pay the full amount at the beginning of the semester.

Flat rate tuition can start at $2,500 per semester at public institutions and $20,000 per semester at private colleges. Research costs before applying for a program. Online programs may cost less than on-campus courses, and schools can charge different tuition prices based on the program.

Professional Organizations in Fashion

Fashion degree students should consider joining a professional organization. Many fashion associations classify as trade organizations, meaning they work hand in hand with legislators to advocate for trade laws. As members, students gain access to award shows, mentorships, and internships. Most organizations welcome design or merchandising students and help them build relationships with industry professionals.

Council of Fashion Designers of America

Touted as a nonprofit trade organization, CFDA boasts famous menswear and womenswear designers. The council hosts the annual CFDA fashion awards and men's New York fashion week.

Costume Society of America

Established in 1973, this society publishes an annual journal and a monthly eLetter. CSA promotes costume design preservation, research, and education.

American Apparel and Footwear Association

This association focuses on public policy through designer and manufacturer advocacy. AAFA voices fashion industry concerns to leaders in the legislative branch and regulatory committees.