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Online Education (fashion Retail Management Degree)
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The fashion industry is relatively volatile, and the success of a business depends upon the fashion acumen of its management, accurate reading of the marketplace and the overall health of the economy. There are a number of online associate's degree programs in fashion design, marketing and merchandising available for students interested in deepening their understanding of color, textile and fashion, learning the fashion retail trade and developing marketing skills.
Distance learning associate's degree programs in fashion merchandising generally offer fully online courses, and completing them should take full-time students between 12 and 24 months. Admission is open to high school graduates, but some programs require applicants to have completed as many as 21 undergraduate credits to fulfill general education requirements.
Students need a computer with multimedia capabilities and a fast Internet connection in order to view lectures, complete assignments and communicate with teachers and fellow students. A webcam and microphone are needed for programs that require student participation in live lectures or forums. Some computerized design, rendering and simulation tools may require either a Windows or Mac computer.
All programs offer courses in color, textiles, design and marketing, but the short duration of an associate's program tends to limit management training classes to the basics. Some programs work with students to set up internships with local design firms or retailers. Sample courses include:
Color Theory Course
Color theory includes the physics behind colors and pigments, and the relationships between the different colors on the color wheel. Students learn industry terminology, principles of color theory and how texture influences the perception of color.
Design Development Course
This course explores stages of design development from concepts to flats and croquis drawings. Students are given opportunities to experiment with different styles of fashion sketches.
Merchandising Mathematics Course
Students learn basic accounting and other calculations useful in merchandising and financial planning for the retail environment. Concepts covered include markup reports, sales analyses, seasonal planning and gross margins.
An understanding of fibers, fabrics and yarns is vital to success in the fashion industry. This course presents an overview of fabrics, construction methods and colors, along with their effect on styles and trends.
Career Information for Graduates
Employment in the fashion industry is cyclic, seasonal and influenced strongly by the overall economy. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that wage and salary positions in retail jobs would grow by 11 percent during the 2008-2018 period, slightly faster than the average of all U.S. jobs. Design jobs were predicted to grow slowly, and competition is likely to be keen. Workers with at least an associate's degree in fashion or retail were likely to have the best job opportunities.
Jobs for workers with an associate's degree include textile designer, fashion designer, retail store associate, assistant fashion buyer, window dresser and manufacturer's representative.
Continuing Education Information
Most courses in online associate's degree programs may be applied toward a bachelor's degree program in a related fashion, retail or marketing field. However, on-the-job experience continues to be a reliable way to develop a portfolio, build business experience and learn the trade.
Online bachelor's degree programs in fashion merchandising are less prevalent than associate's programs. At the bachelor's degree level, online programs add increased depth to the design and marketing coursework covered by associate's degree programs, but the emphasis is on business management as it applies to design and merchandising. Programs are likely to originate from a college's business school rather than its arts or design schools.
Students could expect to complete a distance learning bachelor's degree program in four full-time years of study, although some accelerated programs are designed to be completed in three. Courses are generally all-online and students are encouraged, if not required, to arrange work-study jobs or internships in businesses located near their homes. Some programs require a digital camera and related image manipulation software for completing assignments.
Most on-site programs require applicants to have completed several art and design courses, or submit a portfolio of relevant artwork. Distance learning programs are less likely to include these requirements.
Course and Class Information
Courses in fashion, merchandising and business are geared to help students improve critical thinking, communication and decision-making skills. Course subjects include:
Brand Management Course
Successful management of brands can radically increase a firm's profitability. This course discusses the acquisition and development of brands, and the responsibilities of a brand manager.
Merchandise Planning Course
Businesses need intelligent ways to manage merchandise. Techniques to plan stock, assess competitive markets and make economically sensible forecasts are presented. Students learn when situations may call for pricing strategies to be aggressive or conservative.
Fashion Event Planning Course
The fashion industry uses many types of events to promote their products. Topics include selecting an event to complement the product, planning for all contingencies, coordinating the publicity and anticipating potential complications.
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