Top 4 Online Associate in Fashion Programs for 2019

Are you fashion-forward? Do you eagerly follow the newest trends from Paris and New York? If you are creative in your own style choices, you may have wondered about the possibility of working in the exciting field of fashion. Before you dive in, take some time to consider how a fashion online degree can give you a competitive advantage in the field. In today's consumer-driven economy, the demand for the latest fashion trends is growing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment of apparel designers is projected to increase 3% by 2024, and the demand for designers in wholesale jobs will be even higher. Other opportunities are open in related fields like merchandising and marketing, depending on your interests and educational background.

Featured Online Schools

What Are The Best Online Associate in Fashion Programs?


The New School New York, NY


The New School offers a fashion merchandising degree online program that is considered one of the best in the U.S. This associate in applied science degree is delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. This fashion online degree is ideal for working professional and students with a degree in a different field who want to pursue a career in fashion marketing and merchandising.

Applicants must have earned their high school diploma or GED at least two years or more prior to admission. They must also submit a statement of intent and an analysis of a fashion marketing campaign to be considered. The typical applicants has earned a bachelor's or advanced degree in a field other than fashion, or if they don't have a degree then they have already earned at least 21 credits in humanities coursework. The New School is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


Southern New Hampshire University Manchester, NH


SNHU offers a fashion merchandising degree online that delivers courses asynchronously, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. This program can be completed in 10, 8-week terms (less with transfer credits). The fashion merchandising degree features a comprehensive curriculum with courses on topics like accounting, retailing, textiles, fashion design, marketing, and sales promotion.

Many students choose to take advantage of internship placements and networking opportunities with fashion industry leaders. Recent graduate have found employment as fashion buyers, retail and sales managers, and in a variety of other positions related to vendor relations, merchandising, marketing, and promotions. SNHU’s online degrees are among the most affordable in the U.S. and military personnel and spouses of those on active duty receive a 30% tuition discount. SNHU is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.


Genesee Community College Batavia, NY


GCC offers a fashion online associate degree with four different concentrations: fashion merchandising management, fashion design, eCommerce, and event planning. At least half of the courses in each concentration are delivered asynchronously online through Blackboard, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace.

Each concentration includes 64 credits of coursework and can usually be completed in four semesters. Some students choose to enter the fashion industry immediately upon completion of the AAS degree while others transfer into bachelor's programs at other schools. GCC has entered into articulation agreements with several four-year schools, including the Fashion Institute of Technology and SUNY College at Buffalo, ensuring that students can seamlessly transfer credits earned in their AAS after graduation. GCC also offers an Accelerated College Enrollment (ACE) program, which enables high school students to earn college credits and reduce college tuition costs. GCC is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.


Mesa Community College Mesa, AZ


MCC offers a fashion online associate degree that features an Open Entry program. This associate in applied science in fashion merchandising and design can be completed through Open Entry courses delivered asynchronously online, allowing students to complete coursework at their own pace. Students choose to specialize in either apparel merchandising or fashion design.

The apparel merchandising concentration includes courses on business management, buying, advertising, and marketing; the fashion design concentration includes courses on fashion illustration, textiles, and clothing construction. Students in both tracks can enroll in internships that provide valuable hands-on work experience. This AAS can typically be completed in just four terms. Degree completion rates and course sequences can vary for students enrolled in Open Entry online courses, as these occur at different times throughout the year. MCC is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

How to Choose an Online Associate in Fashion Program

What should you be looking for in a fashion online associate degree? Most students pursue an online two-year degree because of its convenience and relative affordability compared to four-year programs. Therefore, a couple of major factors to consider are the length of the program and the cost per credit hour. Another factor to consider is whether you can take all or most of the courses online according to your own schedule, or whether you are required to attend some classes on campus.

Most students pursue an online two-year degree because of its convenience and relative affordability compared to four-year programs.

Other considerations include the concentrations offered, and how they connect to your own interests in fashion. Some colleges help you secure internships and other hands-on experiences, and you should ask your school's counselor what kinds of professional opportunities are available for graduates of the program. Finally, you should determine whether you want to transition into a bachelor's program and whether you can transfer credits from the associate degree.

Educational Paths for Associate Degrees in Fashion

A fashion online associate degree can be a steppingstone to a number of entry-level positions, but employment opportunities in fashion vary widely depending on the professional area. The fashion industry is highly competitive, and most high-paying positions require advanced training. Recent statistics from BLS about the occupational outlook in fashion suggest that a bachelor's degree -- either in a specialized area like fashion merchandising or apparel design, or in a general business-related major -- may give you access to more professional options, higher salaries, and skills that are transferable across fields.

  • Fashion and Apparel Design

    This degree is usually structured as a bachelor of arts or bachelor of fine arts, with courses in drawing, clothing construction, computer-aided design, color, and textiles. Many programs require portfolios of completed design pieces to present to prospective employers and encourage internships for students to acquire practical experience.

  • Fashion Merchandising

    Several possibilities are available for students interested in earning a fashion merchandising degree online or on campus. This degree combines business skills with the application of fashion industry standards. Topics covered in this program include fashion marketing, retailing, business management, merchandise buying, inventory, finance, and accounting.

  • Marketing

    A bachelor's degree in marketing, or a four-year fashion merchandising degree with a specialization in marketing, includes courses on advertising and promotion, product development, product and pricing strategy, consumer behavior, digital marketing, visual merchandising, distribution, and branding.

  • Business Administration

    This is one of the most versatile of the four-year degree options, providing students with skills that can be transferred across professional areas. The curriculum includes courses in marketing, advertising, finance, accounting, supply chain management, and international business, all of which have direct applicability to careers in the fashion industry.

Career Paths for Fashion Graduates

While many positions in the fashion industry do not require formal educational credentials, a fashion online associate degree can provide you with the specialized training you need to get a foothold in the industry. The field is competitive and salaries vary widely, but many employment opportunities are available. The table below gives you an indication of the possibilities for those who are interested in creative professions like design or photography, or for those drawn to the business side of fashion merchandising and marketing.

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers create the clothing we wear, from casual wear to formal evening attire. They must be artistically inclined and capable of sketching designs, constructing patterns, and selecting fabrics and colors. They also use technical and business skills to oversee the production process from the creation phase through final product delivery.

Median Salary: $62,980

Apparel Technical Designer

An apparel technical designer is responsible for transforming a design into a wearable garment in a variety of sizes. They work with fashion designers and patternmakers to figure out measurements for the sizing and fit across clothing lines, and they advise manufacturers to make sure that the garments are produced according to specifications.

Median Salary: $59,020

Fashion Buyer

Fashion buyers decide what clothing will be sold by wholesale and retail outlets, based on sales forecasts, market trends, and consumer demand. They purchase product lines seasonally and travel regularly to meet with designers, manufacturers, and wholesale and retail clients. They must have a strong fashion sense and the business acumen to predict what clothing styles will be profitable and cost-effective for mass production and distribution.

Median Salary: $63,871

Fashion Photographer

Fashion photographers take the photos used in magazine advertisement, catalogues, and other visual media. They work with fashion designers, models, media publications, and manufacturers, and are often required to travel to fashion shows or other locations. They must be skilled photographers who understand how elements like color, light and angle affect their subjects, and they should have training in editing software.

Median Salary: $43,997

Fashion Merchandiser

Earning a fashion merchandising degree online leads to many employment opportunities at retail and wholesale companies. Fashion merchandisers apply their fashion sense and business training to promote the sale of the latest fashion trends. Depending on the setting, they may be responsible for buying product lines from wholesalers, developing advertising campaigns and promotions, overseeing store displays, tracking sales and inventory, hiring and training sales associates, and expanding the customer base.

Median Salary: $42,729

Job Outlook and Salary for Graduates of Associate Degree Programs in Fashion

If you are interested in pursuing either a fashion design degree or a fashion merchandising degree, the job outlook will be challenging in the decade ahead. However, opportunities are available for those who understand the marketplace. The overall growth in the fashion industry is below the national average, but employment in the wholesale apparel industry is projected to increase, as is the demand for fashionably designed clothing for the mass retail market. A fashion degree, a portfolio, and an internship or other professional experience will set you apart from other job seekers. Those who are willing to relocate to fashion hubs like New York or Los Angeles, or even international hubs like Paris or Milan, may have better career prospects.

Projected Employment for Fashion and Design Careers
Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024
23,100 23,800


The world of fashion offers a variety of rewarding and well-paying career paths, but, like most professions, experience matters. The table below provides median salary information according to years of experience in a few typical fashion industry careers. Salary ranges differ markedly for those in entry-level positions compared with professionals who have decade or more of experience in fashion-related fields.

To determine the best online associate in fashion programs, we looked at the most important factors prospective students, mainly common predictors of future success and a school's commitment to online programs. This boils down to admissions rate, student loan default rate, retention rate, graduation rate, and the percent of students enrolled in online classes. All data points are taken from information provided by colleges and universities to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Each factor is weighted evenly in order to give an objective view and determine the best online associate in fashion programs. To calculate our rankings, we looked at a school's ranking when organized by a single factor, and then averaged each category's ranking to find an overall score: Admissions Rate (20%) + Default Rate (20%) + Retention Rate (20%) + Graduation Rate (20%) + Percent of Students Enrolled in Online Classes (20%) = Final score.