How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Fashion Designer?

Fashion design degrees help to prepare designers for the workforce.
i Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images

If you enjoy looking through fashion magazines and get inspired by clothing and accessories, you might consider pursuing your interest in fashion design. Even though a college degree isn't required to become a fashion designer, education and hands-on experience can make you a more qualified candidate for job openings in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, most fashion designers have some formal education where they learned design skills and computer-aided design technology to equip them for the designing process.

Associate's Degree

    An associate's degree in fashion design, fashion merchandising or another design-related program can help you stand out as a job candidate. Most fashion design associate degrees take two years to complete and include hands-on training with digital drafting equipment, industrial-grade knitting machines and computer-aided design, or CAD, programs. Familiarity with modern designing software and textile manufacturing equipment can prepare you for jobs in the industry.

Bachelor's or Master's Degree

    Some art schools offer a bachelor's of fine arts in fashion and a master's of fine arts in fashion for those who want advanced degrees. According to the Academy of Art University, advanced degrees "provide students with a global vision that combines excellence in design, artistic vision and innovative technology." In addition to classes in design, merchandising and textiles, an advanced fashion degree includes coursework in communications, art history and cultural influences. Most bachelor's degrees take four years to complete, and master's degrees take between five and six years to complete, assuming a student takes a full-time class load.


    Regardless of educational opportunities, the BLS reports that many fashion designers gain their initial experience in the fashion industry through internships or by working as an assistant designer. Hands-on experience through an internship allows you to train under a practicing fashion designer to observe skills, trends and designing procedures used by professionals. First-hand experience increases your knowledge of textiles, clothing designs, accessories, colors and computer technology. Depending on the situation, training might last anywhere from a few months to a few years.


    According to the BLS, the median annual salary for fashion designers was $73,900, as of 2011. Fashion designers who worked for the motion picture and video industries had the highest mean wage of $101,000 per year. Employment of fashion designers is expected to experience little to no change from 2010 to 2020, so job growth is slower than the average 14 percent growth for all industries. The BLS reports that fashion designers in the apparel manufacturing industry are expected to face declining employment.

the nest