The Best Fashion Design Schools and Fashion Industry Salaries and Careers

Best Fashion Design Schools

Deciding where to go to college is difficult for everyone, regardless of what you want to study. This decision becomes even harder when you want to pursue a degree in a creative field like fashion design. There’s plenty of information out there about how to approach the pre-med or pre-law tracks, and there’s tons of resources for people who want to go into fields like engineering or business. However, there is relatively limited information out there for students who want to pursue a degree in the creative fields. That’s why it’s even more important to do your research and make sure that you’re applying to the appropriate colleges/schools if you want to major in fashion design.

Best Fashion Design Schools in the US

Here’s a list of five of the best fashion design schools in the US.

  1.      Parsons School of Design

Parsons is located in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan, and there’s little doubt that the New York institution should be at the top of this list.  Parson’s is probably the only design school that the average person knows the name of – the name of the school is virtually synonymous with ‘Fashion School’ in the average person’s mind. This college is renowned for top-notch teaching staff and its specialty study programs. The number of highly regarded designers that have come out of Parsons is virtually endless, and it’s list of alumni includes such household names as Marc Jacobs, Tom Ford, Donna Karan, and Isaac Mizrahi.

  1.      Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT)

This college is situated in Chelsea (NYC) and the school has had a fashion design program since 1944. Students have the opportunity to study abroad in Italy as part of their studies.FIT offers courses on a broad range of topics, including (but not limited to) the following: fashion and textile studies, accessories design, fabric styling, global fashion management, menswear, and toy design.  The college has an outstanding reputation in the fashion world, and the school has notable alumni like Chris Madden, Calvin Klein, and Michael Kors (although he dropped out).

  1.      Pratt Brooklyn, New York

Pratt’s fashion design program has slowly been climbing the ranks. Fashion industry insiders are increasingly coming to see Pratt as stiff competition for both Parsons and FIT. The fashion shows that Pratt has its students put on are attracting high profile personalities from respected fashion publications like Vogue. Pratt is located in Brooklyn, which is rapidly gaining credibility as a true competitor to Manhattan when it comes to all things fashion.

  1.      Rhode Island School Of Design

RISD is probably one of the most highly regarded design schools in the US, and their fashion program is one of the areas where the school is making leaps and strides. The program is relatively small – typically only about 60-70 students in any given year – this means that students get more one-on-one attention and more personal instruction. RISD also organizes an annual fashion show in the spring that showcases the best of the student’s work.

  1.      Savannah College of Art and Design

SCAD is a well regarded design school that offers programs in many different creative disciplines. The college also offers a unique fashion/design program called Luxury and Fashion Management Program that you won’t find in other institutions. The college has a very popular nine-day annual event called SCAD Style, which gives students the opportunity to interact with and learn from some of the best and brightest in the industry.

List of Top Fashion Schools around the World

This is a list of some of the top fashion schools from around the world (including the US). Keep in mind that this list isn’t in any particular order.

Central Saint Martins London
Bunka Fashion College Tokyo
Kingston University London
Parsons The New School of Fashion New York
Polimoda Florence
Pratt Institute New York
University of Westminster London
Fashion Institute of Technology New York
London College of Fashion London
RMIT University Melbourne
Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art Tel Aviv
Ryerson University School of Fashion Toronto
Stephens College Columbia
Nottingham Trent University Nottingham
Savannah College of Art and Design Savannah/Atlanta
Philadelphia University Philadelphia
Drexel University Philadelphia
University for the Creative Arts Surrey and Kent
Istituto Marangoni Milan
Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology Beijing
Amsterdam Fashion Institute Amsterdam

Fashion Job Prospects and Salaries

best fashion design schools

The fashion field has four main fields that you can explore. These are design, manufacturing, marketing and merchandising. A fashion student can choose to venture into a job as a designer, pattern maker, sketching assistant, stylist, apparel staff, seamstress, dressmaker, marketer, model, photographer, model, and so much more depending on their skills and interests.

Here’s a rough estimate of salaries in the fashion industry:

Type of Job Expected Annual Salary
Model $25,000 – $40,000
Fashion Photographer $20,000 – $65,000
Fashion Salesperson $17,000 – $105,000
Fashion Designer $40,000 – $90,000
Pattern Maker $25,000 – $50,000
Fashion Marketer $55,000 – $95,000
Seamstresses and Tailors $20,000 – $35,000

These salaries will be affected by the company, location, field, experience and benefits.

How to Get Into the Best Fashion Design Schools

Most schools will want to see proof that you have the right creative chops before they’ll accept you into their programs – this is doubly true of the more prestigious schools that we’ve listed above. The primary way that most institutions will judge your passion and creativity for fashion is through the portfolio that you submit. It is therefore important that you start working on your portfolio early, and try to make sure that it’s truly outstanding.

Make sure that your passion and enthusiasm for the fashion world comes through – if you can demonstrate in your application that fashion is your passion, you’ll improve your chances of getting accepted into a top school.

How to Choose the Right Fashion Design Program

There are different types of fashion degrees available and many schools will offer courses that have a couple of combined career options such as management and marketing for fashion that allows you to work in marketing, PR, merchandising, retail management and so on.

When choosing a program consider the career direction that you want to take and ensure the program gives you exposure to that. Also take into consideration if you want to take specific courses such as fashion styling or you want to do a broad course with several career options. When picking a program also take into account the amount of time it will take and how the classes are structured and see if they align with your availability – especially if you want to study at work at the same time.  

When picking a college consider accreditation, the types of degrees offered, tuition and the school’s reputation, industry contacts, and quality of instruction.

When looking for the best fashion design schools for your circumstances, the most important thing to remember is that fit matters more than anything else. The ‘best’ school in a list won’t necessarily be the ‘best’ school for you – you should do as much research as possible, try to talk to alumni and admissions staff, and make your decision based on your academics, how far along you are in your creative journey, and your financial circumstances.

School Location

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of college is the location. When choosing a fashion design school ask yourself if you want to study locally, out of state or even abroad. This will give you a direction on which schools to consider. There are fashion design schools available all over the world. There are design schools in big cities and small cities, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. All these schools will give you a different experience and there is no right or wrong location, it all depends on what kind of college experience you’re looking for. The main consideration will be where you want to work in the fashion design industry after you’re done with your studies. For instance, if you want to work in Paris, then a good design school in Paris probably makes a little bit more sense that a school in the US. Studying in a fashion capital gives you better access to the fashion industry, but a quieter life in a less urban area might work better for you creatively. Weigh the pros and cons and figure out what kind of environment you feel would suit you best.

Tuition and Scholarships

Tuition is another consideration when choosing a school. Art and design programs are typically pretty expensive, so don’t expect tuition to be all that affordable unless you quality for some kind of scholarship or financial aid. Typically, a bachelor’s degree in fashion design will cost you about $36,000 per year, but some institutions can cost up to $60,000 a year (especially if you’re living in NYC). These tuition estimates include tuition and administration fees, books, supplies and room and board.

Fashion Design School Accreditation

The school you settle for should have appropriate accreditation. Fashion design schools are normally accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) or certified regional accrediting bodies. Accreditation is important because it means the education offered meets industry standards. It also makes it easy for you to change schools and transfer your credits if you realize you want to be somewhere else.

The School’s Reputation and Culture

You want to go to a school that has a good reputation. A good fashion school should offer strong instruction in both the theoretical and practical aspects of fashion design, and the school’s culture should work to promote creativity. If you can, try to talk to alumni before applying to a school – this way, you’ll get a good feel for what the culture and reputation of the school is. Even better if the alumni that you talk to are working in the field.


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