The fashion industry is always looking for talented professionals. Fashion designers work in wholesale or manufacturing establishments, apparel companies, retailers, theater or dance companies, and design firms. Aside from design, there are numerous careers within the fashion family such as merchandising, styling, and product development. The fashion industry is a fast-paced arena that is constantly changing. As new clothing technology is developed, so will the need to create garments using new fabrics, and designs for stylish, yet affordable clothing.

Explore Fashion Careers in O*Net

Below you can learn more about the most popular careers and positions within the field of fashion design.

Fashion Design & Related Roles

Fashion Designer

Fashion designers are involved from concept to finish in the development and production of clothing lines. While a few designers are able to work their way up in the industry through on the job experience, these days a bachelor’s degree is typically the minimum requirement for this position. Designers must have an in-depth knowledge of fashion design concepts, sewing, apparel design and garment construction, and be familiar with the different types of textiles and industry trends. Most designers are specialists. They may specialize in women’s apparel, children’s clothing, or men’s wear.

Assistant Designer

Assistant designers are precisely that, assistants. They help fashion designers with every aspect of development and production of clothing lines. Typical duties include developing sketches for designers to work from, preparing presentation materials for shows and clothing demos, sourcing fabric, etc. Assistant designers are not required to have a bachelor’s degree, but many do. Assistant designers often work their way up to become designers.

Design Director

A design director’s main duty is to oversee color, trends, and fabric direction for all product lines. They also manage design teams, supervise the manufacturing process and support marketing endeavors. Job duties include market analysis, trend analysis, predicting future demand, production support and building fabric stories.

Pattern Maker

As their name suggests, pattern makers create patterns and specifications for how each component of a garment should be manufactured and put together. Today, pattern makers often use computer software, CAD and 3D imaging to create patterns and develop specifications. Pattern making skills can be learned on the job, by earning a specialized degree in fashion design, or through a technical training program.

Fashion Industry

Fashion Merchandiser

Many aspiring fashion design students and aspiring designers end up migrating to a career in fashion merchandising. Merchandisers are typically upper-management and high level executives in apparel manufacturing who are responsible for determining which clothing lines, fashion and/or accessories a manufacturer should produce. They plan, research, and determine which fashion trends a company should pursue. A bachelor’s degree in fashion design, fashion merchandising, apparel production, or marketing is typically the minimum educational requirement for this position. Many companies who employ merchandiser prefer to hire candidates with MBAs. Merchandiser can make anywhere from $55,000 to $110,000 a year – or more.

Fashion Buyer

Buyers plan sales, select merchandise to sell, price vendor orders, and monitor inventory. Buyers are experts at budgeting. They’re often given a fixed budget and told to get best return they possibly can. Buyer positions are competitive and typically take years to work into. In addition to a bachelor’s degree, buyers are typically required to complete on-the- job training sponsored by their employer and complete an apprenticeship.

Assistant Buyer

In order to become a buyer, you must first become an assistant buyer. Assistant buyers help fashion buyers select merchandise, write and price orders, interact and negotiate with vendors, and plan and manage a budget. Most assistant buyers have a four year college degree. This position is also highly competitive as it is a stepping stone to becoming a full fledged buyer.

Merchandise Manager

Also known as Divisional Merchandise Managers (DMM), merchandise managers are responsible for supervising merchandise departments and fashion buyers. With a salary ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 a year, this position is one of the highest paid within the fashion industry. To become a merchandise manager, applicants must have a college degree and 5 to 10 years experience as a fashion buyer. Merchandise managers manage vendor relations, develop buying teams, ensure consistent quality, and focus on making sure customers receive the value they expect and are paying for.

Fashion Director

Fashion directors are responsible for having an intimate knowledge of various market trends and using this knowledge to develop effective marketing and branding strategies, and navigating market trends. Fashion directors do a fair amount of traveling and are required to attend the industry’s top shows in Paris, London, Milan, and New York. Fashion directors must be able forecast fashion trends, have strong communication skills, and be experts in design and color. They also develop fashion messaging strategies and manage buying teams.

Visual Merchandising Director

Visual merchandising directors work in retail and wholesale sectors of the fashion industry promoting products, services and image. They dress manikins, develop visually appealing fashion displays, and organize special events to promote brand awareness. They also supervise design and concept production, oversee idea presentation, and manage budgets. They must be experts in color and design, have the ability to manage budgets and be highly creative.

Fashion Editor

Fashion editors oversee the creation, development and presentation of content for fashion related magazines and publications. They’re also responsible for putting together photo shoots, managing teams, staying abreast of industry trends, choosing looks to feature, curating photography and deciding what should be published – and what shouldn’t. They must have exceptional writing skills, be experts in fashion and photography, and have good interpersonal communication skills.


Specialized Websites to Search for Opportunities

In addition to Handshake and other general career sites listed on the main page, here are specific resources that post job and internship opportunities in the visual and digital arts.

Resumes and Cover Letters

Artist Resume

Writing an artist resume requires different content, organization, and formatting than the standard resume. Depending on the particular job and field of interest, artist resumes will highlight a number of skills and include some sections that are not present in a standard resume or academic CV. For this reason, an artist resume may be slightly longer than the standard one-page resume. Some artists might include a link to their portfolios in their contact information. In addition to the standard Education, Experience, Honors and Awards, and Skills sections, the artist resume may include some or all of the following sections depending on your experience level  (as a student and emerging practicing artist, many of of these elements may not be relevant for you quite yet):

  • Bibliography: Includes articles on your work, media interviews, and reviews of your art work
  • Exhibitions and Juried Shows: List the exhibitions you have participated in along with details such as the name of the exhibit, place, and space. You can divide this section into separate categories such as group shows, solo shows, and invitational exhibitions
  • Collections: This section can be divided into corporate collections, private collections, and permanent public collections. Seek permission before referencing the name of the private owner of your work in your resume.
  • Publications, Productions, Shows: For authors and performing artists, you may include a list of your publications, productions, and performances.
  • For more tips on writing an artist resume, see the College Art Association’s “Artist Resume: Recommended Conventions.”

Sample Arts Resume

This resume samples is intended to provide a basic idea of what an arts resume can look like. Your resume may – a typically will – look different. Further, other roles within or adjacent to the visual arts may have unique modifications as well. One of the best ways to figure out how your resume should look is to explore the resumes of other professionals who are working in similar ways to what you intend to do. Many visual artists have webpages with their resumes included. An internet search is an excellent tool to discover resume version in the professional world.

Resume for a “Day Job”

Artists may use a standard resume format when applying for standard positions, and possibly unrelated to your art discipline (administrative positions or other office jobs). Using a standard resume in such cases will give potential employers relevant information about your transferable and administrative skills. Keep in mind the following strategies and tips for writing this version of your resume:

For tips on writing a standard resume, see our Resume How-To Guide.

Cover Letters

It’s a good idea to include a cover letter whenever you send a grant, project proposal, or a portfolio. A cover letter is a general letter of introduction that identifies what you are asking for and what is included in the packet you are sending. Be clear about what you are asking or applying for.  A cover letter can be short, only describing what materials are enclosed and why. A cover letter should never be more than a single page, anymore would inconvenience your reader. A cover letter should set a pleasant tone and introduce the reader to your project and/or practice and your reason for contacting them. Generally a cover letter has three parts: the opening, the middle, and the closing.


Opportunities for visual artists typically require that you have a portfolio to showcase your work in order to help an employer or client get to know your creative work.  It’s most common to present your portfolio in a digital format online but it is still recommended to have a physical portfolio as well, particularly if you are meeting with an employer or client in-person.  Portfolios should express your unique personality and style.

Your portfolio may also include:

  • Cover Letter (specific to the reader and not a generic open letter)
  • Artist Statement
  • Résumé/CV
  • Work Samples
  • Work Samples Description Sheet (unless descriptions are listed directly on the samples)
  • Written Project Proposal (when pertinent)
  • Hand-out materials such as business cards, exhibition announcements, or extra copies of your Artists Statement, Resume/CV

Developing your Artistic and Creative Skills

While the Piper Center is many things, we are not experts in creative talents!  Pursuing a career as an artist means developing your artistic talents.  For students exploring careers in the visual arts and design, it is critical that you talk with arts faculty – your teachers – about your career goals and discuss how your artistic talents are evolving towards those goals.  Faculty are critical to teaching, strengthening, and evaluating the artistic and creative skills needed to succeed as a practicing artist.

Together, faculty and the Piper Center work together to support your career journey.

Faculty can help you answer the questions:

  • What is it like – and what does it take – to be a professional performer?
  • How do my talents and strengths connect to the world of the performing arts?
  • What type of performance career is the best fit for me?
  • How will a career in performance fit into my broader vocation and career goals?
  • Is performance something I want to pursue as a primary career goal or is it something that will augment another area of interest?

Professional Associations and Industry Publications - Fashion

Professional organizations are a fantastic way to explore careers, gain insight into specific industries, and keep up-to-date on relevant news.  Engaging with professional associations and participating in events can help you connect with relevant creative professionals and build your credibility in your area of interest.  Consider using professional associations to develop and enhance your career journey:

  • Search for information related to entering the specific career field.
  • Many associations have job and internship databases.
  • Access current information and news related to your industry.
  • Follow the association on LinkedIn to receive relevant content in your feed and demonstrate your credibility in the professional community.
  • Join as a student member – often for free or at a greatly reduced rate – and indicate your membership on your resume to demonstrate credibility with potential employers.
  • Learn about and participate in networking or industry events to meet and engage with arts professionals.

Select the arts area for a full list of relevant professional associations in the arts.  Looking for a specific association that isn’t listed?  The Professional Association Finder is a great resource for national and international organization related to career industries.