Top Fashion Merchandising Schools

The best fashion merchandising schools prepare students to build satisfying careers in the fashion and retail industries. Merchandisers are experts in sales, graphic design, fashion trends and visual marketing. Some skills can be learned on the job, but a strong educational background is an important asset in this highly competitive field.

How do students identify the right fashion merchandising program? A key first step is determining if prospective institutions are accredited by a recognized organization, such as the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD is one of the most common U.S. accreditation bodies evaluating fashion merchandising programs and their parent departments.

Different positions and settings require varying levels of education; there is no unified standard. Many employers expect at least a two-year associate’s degree for entry-level positions. Others, however, will accept an equivalent amount of experience as a substitute. While a four-year bachelor’s degree will enable students to effectively compete, a master’s will net access to the most senior-level positions.

1. Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising

Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandise - San Francisco Location
Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandise – San Francisco Location

A for-profit, private institution operating out of California, the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) offers postsecondary training in areas such as Fashion, Entertainment, Beauty, Interior Design, and Graphic Design. Accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges as well as NASAD, the whole Institute is geared towards the fashion sector.

FIDM students get valuable experience participating in events attended by big names in the business, from Oscar-winning designers to established executives. In style-conscious cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, the school’s exposure to the real world of fashion is exceptional. FIDM says more than 90% of its graduates are hired in their field of study within six months of graduation.

Degree OptionsStudents can pursue an Advanced Study (A.A. or A.S.) degree, a two-year Associate of Arts, or a four-year Bachelor of Science in Business Management. All degree options are offered at the undergraduate level.

Campus LocationsFIDM campuses are located in four different California cities: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego and Orange County.

AdmissionsProspective students will need to complete a “portfolio and entrance” project specific to their expected field of study.

2. University of North Texas – School of Merchandising and Hospitality Management

UNT's College of Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism (CMHT)
UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism (CMHT)

The University of North Texas (UNT) is a well-known public research university. UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality, and Tourism (CMHT) administers one of the top fashion merchandising schools in the U.S.

The CMHT governing board includes major industry players, from The Apparel Group and Fossil to Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus. The College has grown in recent years, with enrollment reaching over 1,500 students in fall of 2011—a 51% increase over the previous six years.

CMHT’s attraction depends on its experiential and global approach. The university offers a range of hands-on learning tools for exploring multiple fashion-driven careers. Here, students are trained in the “global experience economy,” learning the technologies and digital networks pertinent to globalized fashion.

Degree OptionsThe Merchandising division of CMHT focuses on the fashion industry. Aspiring fashion merchandisers will profit from a Bachelor of Science in either Digital Retailing or Merchandising. A master’s degree in Merchandising is also available. Senior internships are mandatory in all CMHT merchandising programs.

Campus LocationsUNT’s and its MHT College are located in North Texas in the city of Denton, which flanks the greater Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.

AdmissionsApplicants must complete an application with an essay and have their standardized test scores forwarded to the UNT admissions office.

3. Howard University – Fashion Merchandising Program

Howard University Founder's Lilbrary
Howard University Founder’s Lilbrary

A publicly-chartered, private university located in downtown Washington D.C., Howard University has distinguished itself as a selective and intimate four-year option among the nation’s fashion merchandising schools.

Howard University ranks 120th among national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. The 7,000-strong university is especially oriented towards providing educational opportunities to Black students.

Howard’s fashion program is offered within the NASAD-accredited Department of Art. A large number of its enrollees enjoy on-campus housing and a supportive residential community—an unusual perk among fashion programs offered in art schools.

Degree OptionsHoward’s undergraduate fashion merchandising program has recently been converted to a design-focused major. The Department of Art now offers a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Design with a concentration in Fashion Design instead of the previous Fashion Merchandising degree.

The new major will cover many of the same materials, including core industry topics, consumers and product development.

Campus LocationsHoward University is located in located in downtown Washington D.C.

AdmissionsAdmission to Howard’s Department of Art requires a 12-piece portfolio submission, as well as a combined SAT score of at least 910.

4. Fashion Institute of Technology

FIT Pomerantz and Goodman Centers
FIT Pomerantz and Goodman Centers

The SUNY-based Fashion Institute of Technology first opened back in 1944 with just one hundred students. It was a torch-bearer meant to drive innovation and formal education in the garment industry. The founders wanted to see “an MIT for the fashion industries.”

Nearly seven decades later, New York’s Fashion Institute retains its lofty goals, and has since evolved into an international institution responsible for updated instruction in a rapidly-changing sector.

Today, over 10,000 students attend FIT both in person and online. FIT is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD).

Degree OptionsAt FIT, fashion merchandising is one major in a diverse curriculum. Undergraduate major options for fashion students include Fashion Industries Marketing, Fashion Merchandising, Menswear, Fashion Design, among others.

Graduate degrees are available in Exhibition Design; Fashion and Textile Studies: History, Theory, Museum Practice; and Global Fashion Management.

Campus LocationsThe FIT campus is located midtown between 7th and 8th Avenues on NYC’s West 27th Street.

AdmissionsAn associate’s degree in Applied Science or its transfer equivalent is a key admission prerequisite to any FIT bachelor’s course of study.

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